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“Make as many friends as you possibly can because that will make your experience so much easier”

Cara Erb from Canada came to the university as an exchange student to experience the Swedish educational system and living in a smaller city.

Home university: University of Calgary, Canada
Major subject of study: Sociology
Favourite word of the Swedish language: Lagom (translates to “just the right amount”)
Favourite custom in Sweden: Lighting candles in the window
Favourite thing about Umeå University: How close-knit everything is and the lack of hierarchy between students and teachers
Three words to best summarise your time in Umeå: Opportunity, Welcoming, interesting

Why did you choose to study at Umeå university?

I knew that I wanted to go to Sweden and I was given the choice between Stockholm and Umeå. I chose Umeå because I wanted to experience a smaller city, since I come from a huge city. Back home I am studying to become a teacher and I think it’s really important that I go and experience another educational system. Sweden and the Nordic countries in general are known for having the best educational systems so I wanted to see how they “do school” and maybe implement some of what I experienced when I become a teacher.

What do you like most about your studies in Umeå?

When I first started studying here I noticed that the Swedes love group work and I was a bit sceptical. That opinion has since changed and now I love the group work – participating in seminars and discussions with a group of like-minded people. I also like the teaching style, it’s more relaxed than back home – less hierarchical. I love that you don’t have to take five classes at a time – it’s so much easier balancing one or two classes.

Have you participated in the Buddy Programme?

Yes, I have, I’m part of Buddy Group number 10. I haven’t been involved with the programme recently but I did go to a couple of their first events. I think the Buddy Programme is a really great feature of the university and a great way to start the semester. I know a lot of people who have created great friendships through the Buddy Programme.

Where do you live and what is it like to live there?

I live in Berghem in a student corridor. I have my own room and bathroom and then there’s a shared kitchen and living room. It can be challenging to share a kitchen with other people but that’s also where I met most of my friends so the experience has been all around awesome.

What has been your most memorable moment so far?

Learning how to cross-country ski. I´m from Canada but I have never skied before because back home it’s expensive and hard to access. In Umeå you have Fritidsbanken where I can rent skis for free and then walk 10 minutes to the forest and go skiing. So that was a really amazing experience.

Can you describe some of the cultural differences you have experienced between Umeå and your home city?

I noticed that the culture here is a lot more relaxed. You enjoy walking or biking to work and going to take a nice fika (traditional Swedish coffee break with something sweet to eat) for an hour or two. I also noticed my first time here that you walk on both sides of the sidewalk, or sometimes just on the left side. Whereas back home we always walk on the right side. I think that's really funny.

What do you do when you are not studying?

I like to take walks around Berghem, where I live, usually taking pictures since I’m into photography. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends in my corridor and talking about what it’s like back home. Maybe go out for some drinks, go bowling or go to downtown Umeå. And also doing some sightseeing, for example I’m going to Finland (Vaasa) next weekend.

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

My advice would be: Put yourself out there! Join a Buddy group, join a club or IKSU to make new friends. Make as many friends as you possibly can because that will make your experience so much easier. And a heads up that you better like coffee or tea or other hot drinks.

Cara Erb
Where are you from?
Calgary, Canada
Where do you live?
Published: 2022-04-27