First Year Reflections on Master in Sustainable Development

Last week I finished my first-year study by submitting the online evaluation for Interdisciplinary Course which was taken in SLU. If you have not yet know about my study, it is called Master in Sustainable Development (MSD) which is a joint program between Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The last course was satisfying as I learned a lot about academic writing and working with other people, basically the course really fulfilled my expectation of being a thesis preparation, sort of.

Honestly, I am not yet finished with the course as I am still doing some revisions for the group work report. Oh, you can watch how I roll this week on Snapchat (@studyinsweden), to see how a student in Sweden is having summer break while being involved in projects (spoiler alert: it does not look like summer break). Our Instagram account is a good place to see what summer feels and looks like in Sweden. Yet, I think this is a good time for me to jot down the things that I feel and think regarding my study so far, here they come:

1. More intuitive for students with social science background

My classmates come from various backgrounds, from tourism to engineering. I observed that those who studied social sciences (such as humanities or political science) enjoy the lectures and assignments more than those who are not; I might be biased though. To be honest, I never read a scientific/academic paper until last year when I started this program, let alone writing one. That was why I experienced struggle in doing the assignments and following what the discussion in class. Each assignment felt like another frustration. Gladly, my friends in the class are very supportive and kind that I overcome this obstacle with ease. Also, practice makes it easier (not perfect, there is no such thing as perfection, nej).

2. Exclusive class (read: living in the MSD bubble)

No, my class is not like those in Gossip Girl. By exclusive, I mean that we are living in an MSD bubble (or so we called it). In the real world (or fighting climate change), not everyone will share the same value as you have – meaning that your approach and understanding in tackling the problem will be different. You will stumble upon many obstacles when you are working with other people and their expectations/goals do not match yours. Perhaps they do not have the same considerations as you are in using disposable cutleries, or considering various aspects (environment, social, economy, etc.) before making a decision. Not only me, but my other classmates also feel the same thing. It feels like in every discussion we are echoing the same thing.

Image by Lina Sun
Image by Sims Meyer-Rodrigues

3. Limited choice of available courses

On one hand, students want to be able to study the courses that interest them. On the other hand, the course coordinators want to make sure that the students who attend their course have the same level of knowledge regarding the topic, after all, it is a master level course. I heard from one of my program coordinators that she had been trying to make more courses available for my programs, but it is not easy to persuade the course coordinator to admit students with a broad background.

Sometimes we end up picking up the garbage (kidding!)

4. Sharpen that critical thinking

I realized that I criticized more about almost everything that comes to my daily life (be it a tacky product commercial, or a quote in a book) which is an improvement, I would say. Looking back, the education culture where I grew up did not cultivate this skill and it is such a contrast change when I moved to Sweden. As I mentioned in the first point above, this change was not easy but it was not impossible as well. In my opinion, critical thinking is an essential skill in life regardless of your study.

Are you interested in seeing other reflections by first-year students? See what Francesco and his friends said about it here. You can also share your thoughts and feelings regarding your study as I am also keen on reading your reflections! If you have questions regarding my study, you are also welcome to write it in the comments section or send me an email. In the meantime, enjoy the summer!

[Featured image by Jody R. Hanindyawan Handoko]


Written by Sania

07 Jun 2017