12. March 2014

Goodbye, Sweden. Goodbye.

Everything has an end. Such has my student life in Stockholm. The last days give me a chance to sum up my roughly twenty months in Sweden.

Little time is left for me in Sweden. It is therefore time to thank my friends, it is time to reduce my blog posts about Sweden, and it is time to pack my stuff. I want to make one thing clear, though: there are virtually no push-factors driving my decision to leave Sweden.

The purpose of this post is to sum up some of my experiences during my studies in Stockholm. Thereby, I hope to provide some information and inspiration for students who might continue in my footsteps, i.e. in the rather recent double degree program in computer science between Technische Universität München (TUM) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

When I arrived at KTH in August 2012, the atmosphere was very welcoming, also due to the active student unions. The motto of KTH is vetenskap och konst (science and art), and as far as I am concerned, KTH kept this promise. The annual Fyrverkeriorkester performance is an outstanding example for art on the university campus.

Master studies at KTH, however, do not only consist of watching clone troopers patrol the campus. The courses at KTH provided quite a challenge, not only from the course content, but also from the different format than I was used to from my home university. The academic year is divided into four periods. This division resulted in fewer courses in parallel. But they were also more compact, giving few opportunities to acquire missing prerequisites. Some short course reviews are available in my Erasmus exchange report, which I wrote after the first ten months.

My program allowed me to spend 25% of my credits on learning Swedish. This is a particular nice feature. Without this opportunity, it would have been difficult to find the time to embrace a new foreign language. My article series (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on learning Swedish summarizes my experience. While the 25% budget was a great opportunity, I am convinced that universities should focus on providing the students with resources to learn the language rather than taking the classic approach of frontal instruction. Compulsory attendance and the presence of a single native speaker is harmful in my opinion. Hopefully, new instructional approaches will take over soon.

Apart from my studies, I was able to discover a little bit of Stockholm, Sweden, and Scandinavia. If you ask me, nature is definitely Sweden’s biggest gem and seems to attract a lot of like-minded Germans to come to Sweden. Even Stockholm, where most of the Swedes live, has awesome nature, such as the famous archipelago.

I have experienced most of the archipelago in winter rather than in summer. This is because of a new hobby I started when coming to Sweden: long-distance ice-skating, something that is rather unknown in Germany (Langstreckeneislauf). These ice-skating tours went over lakes and the Baltic sea (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

Stockholm transforms with the seasons. One can swim or bike in the summer, or hike around a national park (1, 2). Autumn overwhelmes with an excess of colors. An off-season visit to the archipelago is almost a magic experience. In short, Stockholm exceeded all my expectations regarding its surrounding nature.

Of course, Sweden does not only consist of Stockholm. While I stayed in Stockholm most of the time, given my commitment to my master studies and the opportunities close-by, I managed to get a glimpse of the rest of Sweden on a journey to the mountains in the north of Sweden. This is a place that is refreshingly wild as compared to what one is used to from densely populated Germany.

Also, when I realized that I have seen only a small part of Sweden in my first months, I decided to discover Sweden by bike. A self-experimenting trip from the west coast to the east coast (summary, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5).

There is much more to say about Sweden. There is much more to say about the people here who helped me. There is much more to do in Sweden. There is much more … but this is not the right place to write and do something about it. Thank you, Sweden. Thank you for all the difficult, and all the great times. It was worth it.