International Relations Office
Outgoing Exchange Students
My SEP Experience
Faculty of Science
SEP to Lund University, Sweden
Like many of my friends who often mistook Sweden for Switzerland, I also knew nothing much about this Scandinavian country except that it is in Northern Europe, very cold and somehow rhymes with ‘Switzerland’!
The Swedes are a very warm and friendly people. They take pride in ensuring that all foreign guests to their country are well taken care of. I was greeted at the Lund train station by a bunch of Swedish mentors who were there to welcome exchange students like myself! They carried my heavy luggage and drove me all the way to the International Housing Office to draw my keys to my new room! They even escorted me all the way to my room a few streets away!
Then, there was a need to adapt to a new world without hawker centers and coffee shops! No more can one rely on packed food to settle all three meals! Meals outside of home will cost at least 8 dollars per meal. A Big Mac costs about 4 dollars plus and a cheap meal in a restaurant can cost up to 10 dollars! A student would not be able to afford having meals outside of home every day! I had to learn to cook for myself in order to survive on the budget I had for the six months in Sweden! It was fun learning how to fry an egg, cook meat, and peel potatoes! And of course, eating the burnt stuff after a failed attempt to cook something decent. But it got better with time and soon, I picked up another important life skill.
Finally, there is the cold weather in Sweden. I went to Sweden during winter and the air was so cold and dry that I was bleeding from my nose for weeks after my arrival. But this was not entirely a bad experience for I got to play with snow often and see beautiful mountains and hills covered with snow over there! Besides, the cold weather made the Swedes and I appreciate the warm sunshine during spring and summer more with the greenery and warmer climate! The Swedes play hard in summer! Now I can understand why Westerners love sunny weather and sports a lot!
Studying in Sweden and particularly in Lund University was a refreshing change from the kind of studying environment we have here in Singapore. Over there, students are expected to greet their lecturers by their first names, although I still preferred to address them as Sirs which never failed to annoy one lecturer! He got used to that eventually.
From my personal experience, I feel Sweden is a wonderful place to go for an exchange programme The Swedes are very warm and hospitable. And there is so much to see and experience in the culture there. I got to experience first-hand the manner in which the Swedes celebrate Labor Day with a bond-fire and “passive” demonstrations, the traditions they follow in celebrating Easter, the annual choir singing to commemorate university day and the parties they throw in student pubs as a means of socializing amongst friends. I also got the opportunity to taste some of their traditional food fare like the Swedish smorgasbord, kottbullars (meatballs) and smoked elk.
I have come back home gaining more than I sacrificed for my time spent during my stay in Lund. Compared to my friends who have never been to Sweden, at least I know Sweden is not equal to Switzerland and can proudly recite the Swedish phrase, “Jag forstor lite lite Svenska!”