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Published: 25 Aug, 2021

Hundreds of international students have arrived in Umeå

NEWS This week, around 500 international students from all over the world are arriving in Umeå to study at Umeå University. Ruchitha Wijethunga, Lingci Wang, Ming-Yu Chen, Pascalle van den Heuvel and Theresa König are five of the excited students who were welcomed at the airport at the beginning of the week. There they also received information about COVID-19 in collaboration with Region Västerbotten.

Text: Camilla Bergvall/Jessica Bergström Grahn

Although not everything is as usual due to the pandemic, the atmosphere is recognisable from other years when international students arrive at the airport. Many are happy and relieved to finally be there, others a little moved and slightly nervous about finally being able to start their studies - and a new phase in life - in a completely different part of the world. One who has traveled far is Ruchitha Wijethunga from Sri Lanka, who will study the master's programme in Biomedicine. He never hesitated to leave despite the pandemic, and chose Umeå University because of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the discovery of Crispr-Cas9.

“I have been dreaming of coming to Sweden for a long time, so this is actually a dream come true. And I really believe that genetic scissors are the future of genetics and medicine, so I want to gain more knowledge in that area. I want to be able to give something back to the world,” he says.

Pascalle van den Heuvel from the Netherlands and Theresa König from Austria are also exchange students. Both chose Umeå partly because of the language.

“I have heard that you are good at English, and I look forward to practicing that. Then some of my friends who have been to Umeå on exchange said it was the best time and encouraged me to take the chance. Before I was a little nervous, but now it just feels good, especially after the welcome out here,” says Theresa.

New knowledge through exchange

Most international students who arrive are part of various exchange programmes and normally stay for one or two semesters. Unlike last year, the number of exchange students is now almost the same as before the pandemic. Ingrid Svensson, head of unit at the International Office, is pleased that the figures are turning up again.
 
“For a university at the forefront, it is very important to have an international perspective in both education and research, and here the exchange students are an important piece of the puzzle. Internationalisation provides a greater understanding of the complex world we live in and also leads to new knowledge to be able to address various societal challenges,” says Ingrid Svensson.

A welcome with safety precautions

On site to ensure that the reception runs smoothly, several staff and students help welcoming the international students. Student Salih Saleh informs and guides the new students on site.
 

“It feels exciting to be part of and welcoming the students. Everyone is very excited exploring a new city and they have such energy. It's very fun to hear what their plans are for the fall,” says Salih Saleh.
 
In addition to receiving their keys and getting information about the university and the city of Umeå, students also receive important information about COVID-19. Several different measures have been taken to reduce the risk of the spread of infection. In a normal year, the reception takes place at the Infocenter on Campus, but now the students are welcomed directly at the airport. All the employees who are on site wear face masks and gloves. Containers with hand sanitizers are scattered, and an important task is to ensure that the distances are kept in the queue and that the students arrive one by one to receive their key envelopes. For those who are not fully vaccinated, it is possible to take a test kit, something that the university has arranged in collaboration with Region Västerbotten.
 
“We have made about the same preparations as last autumn and this spring, and were also well prepared that the spread of infection could increase after the summer,” says Ejvår Falck at the Housing Office.

Twice as many buses

After the students have picked up their keys and any test kits, they are transported in pre-booked buses to their respective student areas.
 
“The journey is short, but to ensure that the students can sit scattered, we have ordered twice as many buses as normal for certain arrival times,” explains Ejvår Falck.

Lingci Wang and Ming-Yu Chen walk out from the airport together. Their absolute first impression is that it is cold, "but on the other hand we had expected it". Both are here on exchange studies, Lingci Wang from Hubei University of Economics and Ming-Yu Chen from National Taiwan University.

“I love Sweden, and I want to experience a different way of life. I also would like to see the northern lights,” says Lingci Wang.

Both are impressed with the reception at the airport.
“It was really great, everything was well prepared,” says Ming-Yu Chen.
 
For them, as for others, a digital introduction to Umeå University and the City of Umeå that will take place during 25-27 August, now awaits.