This post was contributed by Kai Fleischman, a Global Ambassador for fall 2020. Kai is a Computer Science major studying abroad in Stockholm Sweden. Stay tuned throughout the semester as Kai shares his experiences abroad!
Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan
As one would expect, all my classes are online. This is not true for every student at KTH, I know many people who have in-person classes. The KTH campus – a dense cluster of buildings with modern interiors and old-fashioned, brick exteriors – is left completely open for all KTH students to visit in the face of COVID. The campus is about as full as one would expect it to be if there wasn’t a pandemic.
This seems outrageous but Sweden does not have many new daily cases nor many formal rules on the capacity of buildings. Many people here do a good job of taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID and people are mandated to stay at home if they have any symptoms at all.
That being said, I feel safe going to campus, and there are many benefits in doing so. For one, commuting to campus presents the opportunity to study and watch lectures with other people in my courses. Additionally, being on campus is necessary for attending in-person meetings that aren’t delivered on Zoom, and for accessing printing resources and group rooms to practice presentations. Least essential of all, but most importantly to me, being on campus makes studying abroad a reality. I truly feel like I am a student at KTH every time I walk onto campus from the subway station. On the other hand, staying at home and being productive simply doesn’t work for me. In order to be the most effective in my studies, I need physical separation of life and work as being at home makes it difficult to switch my brain off of home-mode: wanting to do anything else but work. If I were to stay home for all my courses, much of the benefit of studying in Sweden would be lost.
Aside from the looser COVID restrictions, in many ways being a student at KTH is not much different than being a student at UT. There are certain characteristics of a university student which can be found in students around the world. Every student needs to study, every student needs to complain about studying and every student needs to cope with the stress that comes with studying.
Additionally, there is a wide variety of students at KTH much like there are at UT. For example, there are students who do not want to spend much time studying at all, particularly because they are abroad and want to “make the most out of their experience.” On the other hand, I know international students who take the complete opposite stand – we came here to study and so we shall study hard. This last statement is completely true and something I had to be reminded of during a meet up with a dedicated, hard-working international student from India. A huge part of why we came here – or at least why I came here – is because KTH offers courses from renowned professionals that I would not be able to take at home. These particular courses are especially important because they are the last ones I will take before graduating and they will influence where I go next in my life. In fact, I remember how thrilled I was to register for the courses I am taking today at KTH, how the courses catered perfectly to my exact interests within Computer Science.
Living in Stockholm, I have this constant struggle to make sure I’m dedicating enough time to my studies but also that I am taking advantage of my time in a foreign country. Often, I’m biased towards exploring Stockholm and engaging in recreational activities, but then I feel guilty for not studying. Or when I’m studying, reminiscing about all the memories I’ve already made and planning my next events, I feel like I’m missing “the point” of Studying Abroad. Striking the perfect work-life balance will be one of the most difficult problems about studying abroad, and I anticipate covering more on this subject in future posts.
I recommend to future travelers the following: practice creating a schedule of work and life the semester before you go abroad so you have experience in doing so. Secondly, don’t feel bad about spending time studying and dedicating a lot of time to your courses. There are plenty of people that came here to study. If you find studying by yourself difficult, try scheduling regular meetups with people in your classes. In return, reward your hard work by doing those fun abroad activities and continue doing well.
More to come…