Lauren - Lund University

B Science/ B Commerce
Semester 1, 2016

Academic Experience

I took two masters-level Plant Science courses which were taught in English – each one accounted for two Level 3 courses at UQ. The main difference I noticed was the number of contact hours we had – generally speaking, 3 hours a day was standard, with an occasional day off. Lectures also weren’t recorded. While it did mean there was less flexibility when it came to uni work, I was able make good friends within my class and get to know the lecturers well. The other main difference is that Lund divides its semesters into two halves, so I only had one subject at a time, which meant I could really focus on that one topic. Through the longer contact hours, smaller classes and only having one subject at a time, I felt that there was a much greater emphasis at Lund on understanding the content rather than just being able to make it through the exam.

In specific regards to science, the practicals were very different to those at UQ – less preparation by lab technicians was done for us and they usually ran for a full day, sometimes with follow-up procedures and measurements being completed or taken. The lab sizes were restricted to 8 people and the tutor was usually the lecturer for the topic that the lab work was related to so you were working quite closely with experts in the field. The second subject I took had no laboratory work but instead several excursions to fantastic field sites, which meant we got to see and learn more about Sweden without having to do our own travel!

Personal Experience

The Swedish university towns of Lund and Uppsala both have a unique set up that allows you to maximise your involvement in student life with minimal effort. Students pay membership to be part of StudentLund, which allows them to become a member at one of eleven Nations. Nations are best described as a mix of a residential college and student association. Being part of one in no way restricts your ability to work for or participate in events of another Nation, so you’re able to meet a lot of people along the way! Nations organise dinners, lunches, breakfasts, sports events, pub nights and club nights and these are all listed in an app. My friends and I spent a lot of time at Nation events, both working and attending. It was a great experience and was a key way to meet local students, which was difficult otherwise as I only lived and studied with international students.

The language was never a barrier as everyone (and I mean EVERYone) speaks English to a very high level in Sweden and in Nordic countries in general. While this means I came home speaking very little Swedish, the opportunity to improve it was there had I wanted to take on the challenge, and it also meant I was able to get to know local students better through having a common language for communication.

Accommodation 

Although Lund technically doesn’t have a campus, I lived on the southern side of town in a studio apartment, which was a bit further from the university buildings than most of the other student housing, though the block I lived in only had in it international students. I was hesitant at first because I wanted to have some form of shared space to meet people, though this was not an issue at all in the end and an advantage if anything because I had a very social corridor so I could have some down-time if I needed it. I’d advise to submit preferences for housing in Lund ASAP to have a better chance of getting one of your choices. While I was lucky, I have heard of accommodations like mine being very unsocial in the past and I think that could have had an impact on my overall experience.

Budget

If you’re thinking of going to Lund, be prepared to part from your beloved flat whites (it’s a big call, I know), because good coffee is pricey! Other than that, groceries were comparable to Australia, as was rent, depending on the accommodation you’re allocated or arrange privately. Sweden is said to be expensive, though this depends on what you compare it to – Australia is also quite expensive when compared to other mainland European countries, so it's not as big a shock to Australian students as it is to other European students. Because Lund has such a large student population and so many Nations, there are a lot of ways in which students can get good deals (e.g. $6 Nation lunches). Public transport was expensive, however bicycles were the go-to form of transport 24/7.

Travel can also be kept cheap, depending on how luxurious you are and where you go - if you travel in groups, I'd recommend AirBnB for accom modation as this can often be cheaper than hostels, and RyanAir is definitely the chosen airline for most students (it also very conveniently flies in and out of Copenhagen Airport, which is just a short 40-minute train ride away).

Professional Development & Employability

Post-exchange, I can say I have developed a much better understanding of various cultures and how those cultural differences translate into behaviours in people. Being able to interpret different approaches to situations, views or communication styles in a wider context can definitely minimise conflict and lead to better team dynamics, in my experience. I personally would say I have become more independent and confident at handling situations by myself and my organisational skills are at an all-time high following nearly seven months of living and travelling abroad! I’d also say I’m more aware of how quickly time goes by and to make the most of every day.

Highlights 

The real highlight for me was the people I met on exchange. When you move to a place about which you know nothing and where you know no one, and you’re with a group of people who are all in that same boat, you are able to make great friendships really quickly. I was privileged to meet students from a vast number of different countries and backgrounds with whom I still shared a like-mindedness, and many of which I call genuinely close friends.

The lifestyle in Lund is something I will no doubt also miss – daily fika with friends (if you don’t know what this is now, you will when you arrive!), riding your bicycle through the 1000-year-old town to get to class and hanging out in the botanical gardens whenever the sun comes out are daily customs that you simply can’t just find anywhere. I also loved being able to travel with friends to lots of places in Europe for a weekend!

Top Tips

My top tip is the following: Don’t let worries about missing out on things at home stop you from going – some opportunities in life don’t present themselves twice and you're life at home will always be waiting for you at the other end of your trip. Experiencing a country through studying there and discovering new places for the first time with new friends is one of those opportunities, in my opinion. If you are lucky to to have the chance to do it, go on exchange and give it all you’ve got. Get involved and remind yourself every day that the number of days you have to spend there are limited – I promise you, they fly by so quickly! If you go to Sweden, join a Nation, fika whenever you can, ALWAYS lock your bike and prepare for the semester of a lifetime!