The View from the Outside: Fellow Exchange Students and their Experiences – Kyran Penny

Having been in Sweden for almost three months now, I can safely say that I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here. Like with anything, studying abroad has its ups and downs, but the fact that I’ve moved so far out of my comfort zone and met so many amazing people from all over the world effectively offsets any disappointment that might come my way. Although there’ll be many people who, once this is all over, drift out of my life as time goes by, I know that some friendships will stay with me for the rest of my life. That, to me, is the fundamental essence of going abroad.

“I know that some friendships will stay with me for the rest of my life. That, to me, is the fundamental essence of going abroad.”

Since I tend to talk about my experiences whilst studying abroad, I thought that I’d try to expand a little and ask other exchange students about their time in Sweden. They’ve answered four questions as follows:

  1. Why did you choose to study abroad?
  2. What are the major differences between your home university and Uppsala University?
  3. Has anything about Sweden or your studies surprised you?
  4. Would you recommend going abroad and why?

First up is Lifi, who studies Physics at Heidelberg University, Germany. He chose to study abroad because he felt like he was rushing through his studies and had to take advantage of the opportunity while it was still available. In terms of differences between Uppsala and Heidelberg, the workload back home is much heavier but the student life in Sweden is more present. There is also much more reliance on individual studies rather than being taught everything in lectures. This is also probably the most surprising aspect of Swedish university life, but the speed at which winter sets in was also unexpected. Lifi would definitely recommend going abroad as it gives you the opportunity to see how other people study your subject and is a chance to meet new people from different walks of life.

Second is Seb, who also studies Physics at Heidelberg University in Germany. Studying abroad was a chance to visit somewhere brand new, to meet new people and to get to know a different culture. He says that the size of the classes and other teaching methods, such as online lectures are the main differences between Heidelberg and Uppsala, as well as fewer assignments for each module. Unsurprisingly, the cold weather has surprised him, alongside the amount of effort Swedes put into their outfits when on a night out. Seb would recommend spending time abroad as it presents a new challenge and is a once in a lifetime experience. Adjusting to a new country and meeting new people has broadened his horizons and he ended his paragraph with a heart-eyes emoji, so I think that says it all.

 James is next, he majors in Business at Queen’s University in Canada. He says that his school back home is one of the only to offer a semester abroad which was one of the reasons he chose to go there and studying abroad also presented a once in a lifetime opportunity. Taking modules sequentially rather than all at the same time has proved to be one of the biggest differences and the way in which the classes are very preparatory reading-based is something that took him by surprise. He says that his school did lots to prepare those who were going abroad before they went, but the reserved nature of Swedish people was unexpected- however, on a night out they really come out of their shells. If your university gives you the chance to go abroad, take it. You’ll create lasting friendships with people from across the globe and learn not only about the culture of the country you’re in, but also of those who you surround yourself with.

Lastly, Isaac is a Teaching major at Seattle University in the USA. Expanding his horizons, and becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable were his main reasons for coming abroad. The main differences between Seattle Uni and Uppsala are the settings, going to a small university situated in a massive city with only around 7,000 students in total is almost the opposite to here in Sweden, where the university is in a small city, but has over 40,000 students. One of the main surprises has been the amount of international students he’s met, but that it has probably been the best part about the exchange. Lastly, to quote ‘100%, it’s a life changing experience.’

When writing out these answers, not only did I realise how similar each one was, but also how they almost perfectly reflect my opinions about spending time abroad. Bearing in mind I’m not even halfway through my time here, it is pretty special to already experience the feeling of missing somewhere, despite still being there.


Read more from Kyran here

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