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A Master Program in Sweden

Earlier this year a SESL student Sasha Koptyaeva has been enrolled to a Master program at the Linköping University in Sweden. She shares her first impressions with us.

I live in Norrköping. It’s a stunning small campus where all the time something happens: exhibitions, fairs, concerts, or film festivals. For example, an International Food Market will open there soon, where you can try food from different countries. My dormitory is located in the center of the city, but the city itself is so small that you will get to a countryside just after walking a mile in any direction.

The locals are very friendly and they speak English. Many people here keep a healthy lifestyle. In the daytime you can see many people in the streets and in the parks who went out for a run (and some of them even with prams). Most people cycle through the city. There are so many bicycles in Sweden that it’s just impossible to get to the University buildings at times, all spots are occupied with parked bicycles! Everyone drinks a lot of water and people always carry plastic bottles with them, because they can use plain tap water for drinking (and the Swedes are very proud of this).

At first I was surprised by the schedule: it listed just three seminars a week. I thought it would be easy to study. How wrong I was. The Swedish education system is very different from the Russian one. In Sweden, each month is occupied with just one course and ends with an exam. Only after that the next course starts. This way, you can immerse into the study subject and study one field in depth. Only after getting my reading list for the course I realized what I got into. For each seminar, we had to read anywhere from 200 to 400 pages of recommended references! Even though I started reading them in advance, while I still was in Russia, this didn’t help much. For one thing, it’s impossible to read everything a month ahead, and for another, there’s no sense to do this: you have to get back to the things you’ve already read before. Now, every day I rise up early and read before the seminar; and when I get back from the university, I start reading for the next seminar. And this goes on and on every day.

In addition to the main program, I attend seminars of the laboratories and centers located in my campus, and I try to participate in all of their public events. My Master's program has been organized by the laboratory and REMESO (Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society). Also, I am very interested in the research carried at the IAS (Institute for Analytical Sociology) under the guidance of Peter Hedström. In this semester I attend additional courses from the IAS. I’ve already read “Introduction to Analytical Sociology” and began to read the “Social Network Analysis” course. As a result, studies take all my time, but everything that happens here is incredibly fun.

There are 30 students on the same Master’s program here, and only five of them are Swedes. Other students are Syrians, Germans, Finns, Chinese, Icelanders, Italian, to name just some, with very different experience. Before my Master’s program, I was studying migrants in a SESL project; and here, one of these students worked with migrants directly, lived in Palestine and Iraq; others have survived the war in Syria and have a first-hand knowledge of what it is. But we are all friends in this program and everyone here is focused on their studies.

Social life in Sweden is full of various activities. The main of them is Fika, which means a break from work, or a coffee break, during which people gather together in cafes, drink coffee and talk. I and my classmates try to gather every day, mostly for the evening Fika, where we discuss the study texts and many other things about our life and studies.

I really like to live here in Sweden and to be a Master student. Everyone here speaks English and they are always ready to help; if they don’t know something, they would always call their friends and ask them; they would always help, even if it might take much time. Every day, when I talk to my friends, I am still fascinated with one simple thing: we are all from different countries but all of us are united by the same wish to learn and to do something useful together.