Makin’ Bank as a International Student in Sweden

Krona would be more accurate here.

A question I often get from eager applicants back home is “how on earth can you afford to live in Sweden?” Although KTH has been gracious enough to waive my tuition fees, that still leaves me having to account for some 7000-8000 or so SEK each month for accommodation and living expenses. It’s a very valid inquiry when you stop to consider that food and housing are 17% and 74% higher in Stockholm than in NYC respectively. The answer? Lots and lots of online freelancing work and geographical arbitrage.

In “The 4 Hour Workweek,” one of my all-time favorite personal development books, visionary Timothy Ferris describes the New Rich- people who make their own wealth anywhere, anytime. In today’s digital day and age, working from home isn’t just possible, it’s gosh-darn lucrative if you stick to it like you would a regular day-job. Any sort of talent that can be put to good use helping others is a well of untapped potential. Whether you doodle, write or code, there’s a market out there that wants what you do.

The beauty of this sort of online freelance work is that it’s completely cordless and remarkably flexible. Coming to Sweden wasn’t as much as a problem as it would have been if I was going to be job-searching from scratch. When I arrived here, completely ignorant of the Swedish language, I would have been hard-pressed to find a day job that would both not need Swedish and be accommodating to my schedule as a full-time student.

So, if you’re fresh off the boat and looking to earn your keep in Sweden, here’re some options:

Freelancing Sites

Websites like Freelancer, oDesk and Elance are all excellent places to have an online profile if you’re good at things that can be done remotely, like coding a website or writing up a specifications document. Think of things that you’ve already got a solid foundation in and work up from there. Like all things in life, the secret is that there really is no secret. The more time, effort and thought that you put into this, the more you’ll get out of it in return.

Mystery Shopping in Sweden

Do you love shopping? How about detective work? “Assosia” and “AB Better Business World Wide” are just two of a handful of companies that offer freelance work opportunities as a “mystery shopper” in Sweden. TL;DR: You go into a store, order or buy something based on a specific set of instructions, then evaluate the responses of the store attendants. Not only is not being Swedish acceptable in these sorts of jobs, it’s celebrated! Mystery shopping jobs are a great way to go out and see the sights while making some cash in the process.

Contacting your School

If you’re a fee-paying student there’s a good change your Swedish school will have some sort of support network setup to help you find a job- ask and ye’ shall find! Linköping U and KTH both offer their fee-paying students chance at a job that’s manageable alongside studies.

The Stockholm Startup Scene

Have what it takes to take on school and a real job while making the world a better/more interesting place? The Stockholm start-up scene is booming. Schools in Sweden often have incubators that allow you to start your own project or assimilate with other visionaries looking to start projects of their own. Best of all? The basic rule here is that if you make it, it’s yours.

No matter what your into, there’re some excellent opportunities to at least break even during your stay here in Sweden. Covering your living costs, at least, has been proven possible by this single test subject here. Good luck!


Written by Mohamed

22 Jan 2015