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"Come with your heart and mind open"

Ana Cuoco from Brazil took the challenge and decided to study on exchange in northern Sweden. Although she was somewhat hesistant at first, she has no regrets about doing something out of her comfort zone.

Why did you choose Umeå University?

At first, Sweden wasn’t my first option, because coming from Brazil the weather seemed very challenging and the cultures are very different. But the first results I got from my exchange applications were from two universities in Sweden, and I had 24 hours to decide if I wanted to come or not. I took the challenge and said yes! But I had to make a choice: a university in the south or Umeå University. I was very afraid of coming to the north because of the cold and the darkness. But when I saw pictures of the city and the campus, how big they are in science, and the huge amount of local and international students, I decided to go all in for the winter experience and I was sure the semester would be exciting.

What do you like most about your studies in Umeå?

That Umea is basically a student city.  Not only do you get the chance of meeting people from many different countries, but you will also see students everywhere. It makes the city alive.

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in Sweden?

Education in Sweden has way less pressure. You have one course at a time so you can focus more on that topic. There is more independent study time and even free time, and the relationship with the teachers is very relaxed and without a hierarchical feeling.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your exchange experience?

Adapting to the lifestyle. Starting over in a place where everything is different from my country was hard sometimes. Trying to express myself in another language and meeting people with different cultures (even though most of my friends are not Swedish, they are still from Europe) made me really afraid of not being able to connect with people. But soon you realize that most people are very open and excited to make friends. Also the weather after November made me shift to a more indoors routine, which was very new to me and it’s still something I’m dealing with at the moment. Tying to take it easy with my routine by balancing days with lots of activites and chill days is what's working for me so far.

What has been the most memorable moment so far?

It is impossible to pick just one, so a few unforgettable moments for me were:

  • Seeing the northern lights above my head in lake nydala almost made me cry
  • My first heavy snow
  • Traveling with friends
  • Seeing a moose in nature while on a hike in Abisko
  • Ice bathing (it’s a must!!!)

What do you do when you are not studying?

I like trying different sports at IKSU (sports facility on campus) and all winter sports possible, playing ukulele, going out in nature, hanging out at student dorms, going to parties, and having fika. 

What are you favourite spots around Umeå and/or campus?

Lindelhallen, Lake Nydala and IKSU.

What will you miss most about studying here at Umeå University?

Being able to discover new things about the Swedish culture and landscape with my friends.

What would you say or what advice would you give to another international student thinking of attending Umeå University?

Come with your heart and mind open. It will be completely different from what you know, and it might be a little scary at some moments. But if you are open to relying on these new people that are also coming here for the same experience as you, and you go for trying new traditions and seeing new places, it will definitely be worth it and a life-changing experience!

Name: Ana Clara Cuoco Casimiro
Home University: Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
Major subject of study: Biology
Favourite Swedish word: Smörgås
Favourite custom in Sweden: Fika
Three words to best summarise your time in Umeå: intercultural, friends, winter

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Published: 2022-12-21