Swedish stories: let me introduce you to a new series of interviews with international students from my university. The first person I talked to is Bianca, a 23-year-old girl from Italy, currently studying in Malmö. I will try to find out a little bit more about her life in Sweden.
A: What were your expectations before moving to Sweden? Did you have any concerns or worries about coming to Malm?
B: Well, I guess I expected a very modern and developed country. You know: innovation, equal rights… I only heard great things about Sweden. My only concerns were that it is going to be very cold and that the food is going to be bad.
A: And were those expectations met?
B: Haha, no! It is not as cold here in the south as I thought it will be. And food it is not worse than in Germany, just more expensive.
A: Ah, Germany. I know it is not your first time studying abroad. You moved from Italy to study for a Bachelor’s degree in Germany. You have been an international student for a while now. How do you think it changed you? Is it an important part of your life?
B: Definiatelly. I love the fact that I am constantly surrounded by people from different cultures, speaking different languages and with different perspectives. It has become such a big part of my everyday life that I couldn’t even imagine right now combing back to a place where everybody is the same nationality, grew up in the same town and went to the same school. International environment became a natural condition for me. It is not just a background to my education. It actually changes the way I learn and deepens the subject of the study itself.
A: Now you came for the Master’s degree to Sweden. How would you compare the experiences of being an international student in Germany and Sweden?
B: The first thing that comes into my mind is that everyone speaks English here! It is easier to feel integrated because of it. In general, those two are very hard for me to compare. In Germany I was studying in a way smaller university, so it was a different context. You could say that there was less variety there. Here we have much more internationals… my entire class is composed of international students.
A: And what about Italy? I guess there is a lot of cultural differences between Italy and Sweden? Can you name the most prominent ones?
B: When it comes to making friends – in an international environment you have to be very patient with people and always have in mind that the way you perceive specific behaviour might not be the same as the person meant. There is a huge difference between Italians and Swedes in a way they interact with each other and sometimes it can be a bit frustrating, but at the same time it is forcing me to be more open to people. Maybe it is harder to build a relationship with Swedes, but if you manage it is not a superficial one.
A: Ok, enough with comparisons. Tell me more about your life in Sweden. I know that you live in a kollektiv – a shared apartment – how is that working for you?
B: It was clear to me when I arrived here that finding the right people to live with would be my priority when looking for an apartment. Now, after 5 months of living together I really feel like my roommates are like my family. We watch movies together, sometimes we cook together, we share chores… and conversations about life on Sunday mornings. Also weekly arguments we have about keeping the kitchen clean. All these things make me feel rooted in a place that I haven’t have any connection with before.
A: And how did you find this apartment?
B: Blocket.se is a pretty great platform when you want to avoid waiting lists and fees. I found an ad on blocket from a kollektiv looking for a “cool” person and decided to give it a shot. And the rent is not so much high in comparison to many Italian cities. On the other hand if you find even a part time job, wages are way higher than in Italy, so all in all it is affordable.
A: Oh, so you have managed to found a job?
B: Yeah, I work 8 hours per week as a graphic designer in a multinational engineering company. Luckily, a teacher of ours posted about this open position a few weeks after I started my program. The corporate language is English, so I didn’t need any Swedish. And I actually ended up working together with my classmate who also answered to the ad.
A: We are running out of time – after all, we both have projects to work on. Let me ask the last, maybe the most important question. What is your overall experience of living in Sweden? Are you happy with your decision to apply for a Master’s program here?
B: Absolutely, I am 100% happy with this decision. Literally, there is not one thing that I would like to change in my life at the moment.
If you have any additionals questions to Bianca feel free to post them in the comments!