My exchange journey as a student in Umeå, Sweden

What to do in Umeå?

• Discover the city center
Umeå is a quaint city where everything can be done by foot or by bike. It is a young and dynamic city, thanks to the university which contributes enormously to its openness to the world. Umeå is also modern with its shopping centers such as the recent Utopia mall or the municipal library, and its many museums (guitar museum, women’s history museum, contemporary art museum, etc.) and cultural events have earned it the title of European Capital of Culture in 2014! As if lost between sea and forest, the landscapes of Umea are an invitation to contemplate the landscape and architecture and to reconnect with what is essential (the famous “lagöm”).

• Take a fika break at Nya Konditoriet
One of my favorite places to have a fika, a sweet break with friends, is at Nya Konditoriet, where they sell the best kanelbulle and chai latte in town! But if you are a sweet tooth, give a try to every cake, it’s worth it!

• Do some sport at IKSU, one of the biggest European sport complexes!
The big advantage of the Umeå University is its closeness to the IKSU complex. It is one of the biggest European sport complexes where you can do as many sports as you want with a subscription. There is gym obviously but a lot of unexpected sports such as beach volley inside, dance, judo, climbing, and also pilates, yoga, steps, and many more.

• Go to see an ice hockey game
Being in Sweden is the opportunity to discover a national sport not so popular in France but very famous and appreciated here: the ice hockey. If I went as a real tourist, having no notion of the rules of the game, I really liked the atmosphere, the ambiance, and the show! It wasn’t just a sport, but rather a real choreography! If I had been able to see some matches on TV during my dad’s afternoons watching sports, seeing it in real life was absolutely nothing like it: the speed of the team changes (which is done on the fly, unlike football for example), the precision of the gestures to catch the puck, the speed of the game, the waving of the twocolored scarves, the agility of the players, the show of the referees, the music, the audience, the chants, the cheddar popcorn and the tiny hotdogs… I almost felt like I was watching a ballet on ice, and I came out of it amazed! I can’t wait to go see a women’s team play next time!

• Walk around Nydala lake
I must admit that my favorite activity in Umeå is walking around the lake of Nydala. Through every season, it is stunning and different each time you go. In Autumn, you can admire the colors of the Autumn and the leaves falling so fast while doing a barbecue with some friends. In Winter, you will walk on the frozen lake, ice skate or cross-country, even taking an ice bath if you are brave! It is also the best place to admire beautiful auroras in the night sky.

• Near Umeå (by bus or car)
Do not hesitate to visit the next areas of Umeå. There are a lot of beautiful hikes to do such as in Grossjön, Tavelsjö, Bjornlandet, visit the moose farm but also the national park of Skuleskogen, take the train to go to Luleå or Jokkmokk, the Sami village…l

Visit of Stockholm

We were just on holiday on the 17th of December when we packed our backpacks and took the night train down to Stockholm! It was a very fun experience and much more eco-friendly than flying, even if it took longer. I’d like to say that the 8 hours of train travel went by very quickly, but that would have required me to sleep… which of course we did very little despite choosing the sleeper option! The sleeper cars consist of 6 beds, and the customers seem to be divided according to their age as we fell in with young people of our age. Being rather social, I of course started the dialogue and we got on well, exchanging our cultural differences between French and Swedish. Around 1am, I think, we decided that it was time to “make” our bunks, following an Ikea-like instruction manual (a few glimpses are available in the sublime video edited by my roommate below, not to be missed: https://youtu.be/eVWCUGz7quY).

This article was written by Aline Smeeckaert

Sustainable Mobility Workshop (April 14, 2022)

GEM’s first Sustainable Mobility Workshop was held earlier this month on 14 April 2022. Jointly organized by the Centre for International Affairs and the Sustainability Hub, the workshop brought together around 40 attendees including students, staff, associations and a local university. The discussion centered on the environmental impact of international mobility. The session presented GEM’s Carbon assessment with a focus on the impact of travel and transportation (which represents 64% of our emissions!). The presentation was then followed by a quiz that challenged some of our pre conceived notions and further explained the notion of carbon footprint and what it represents at both individual and collective levels. Attendees were then invited to calculate their own travel emissions and discuss the various options to reduce the carbon footprint of their experience abroad (before, during or after their mobility) .

Certainly the most exciting part of the session was the creative game activity facilitated by Isabelle Patroix, manager of GEMLabs playground. In small groups within a fixed time limit (7min/3min slots), the participants were invited to brainstorm on a given theme and create the basis of a board game. The engagement and results were outstanding: 5 games created in 7 minutes on subjects linked to international mobility, such as “Go Green Go” or “Guess my trip”…!

The objective of this workshop initiative is to bring more awareness on these issues and create momentum within the school to share more tips & good practices around sustainable mobility, and we look forward to continue working with everyone on this topic.

Life at Sasin School of Management, Bangkok

Sasin is the School of Business in which we study during our Transco. The building is huge, very modern and located in the center of Bangkok, near the Siam and MBK shopping centers.

What does Sasin look like?

Sasin is a very high-tech and comfortable place: classrooms are equipped with microphones for each student, and there is a full setup in order to video tape and register the sessions. All of the courses can be taken online, so you can find in every classroom three big screens for those  who are not physically present.

To enter, you must go through face recognition (Sasin REALLY is into high-tech!)
Typical Sasin classroom

The building comprehends numerous rooms dedicated to the students: small ones with whiteboards to work in teams, bigger ones with sofa, fridge, musical instruments, table football to relax (yes, I know it’s fabulous). In Sasin free coffee, tea and hot chocolate, beverages  are readily available that are really appreciated during the thirty-minute break we have between each half of the courses.

You can buy food and eat it in Sasin’s cafeteria which is called the Food Lab (the food is good, a bit expensive and takes a long time to be prepared though). If you prefer a smaller snack, there are also vending machines.

Sasin also has a shop where you can purchase all kinds of goodies showing rabbits (the totem of the school -so cute). Even better: there is a no-waste shop at the ground floor, where you can buy hand soap and washing powder .

How are the courses organized at Sasin?

During our stay at Sasin we go through 3 different modules. In each module, we can select various courses (2 is recommended), knowing that the ones taught by a Gem teacher are compulsory. Some of the courses include a final exam, some are based on continuous grading, but all of them require us to carry out at least one team project. At Sasin most of the courses take place on the afternoon or in the evening (until 9:30 pm). On average we have class for three hours and a half each day. 

Working with Thai students is a great experience, as they truly are hard workers and perfectionist, but it also requires commitment from ourselves!

Team meeting in one of the numerous Sasin workrooms

The Gem courses are untitled “Social Innovation and Design Thinking” and “Comparative Business Environments”.
For the Thai courses, you can choose among the followings: “Investments”, “Marketing and Consumption”, “Family Business”, “Business Strategy”, “Data science and analysis”, “Branding” and “The age of Disruption”.
What is very convenient at Sasin is that there is a period of time during which you can choose to drop out of a course if after one or two sessions you figure out it does not suit you, and then register for another one instead.
Also, we have about one week of holidays in March, and two in April.

What about other Sasin students?

Through the classes and the numerous team projects we have to carry out, we are able to meet the other Sasin students. Most of them are Thai but we are not the only exchange students. All of them speak English very well, and are older than us, as we follow an MBA program. The other students have already worked or currently have a job, quite often in their family business (very common in Asia). Sometimes after the night classes we get together  and chill out in one of the relax rooms, as the school closes after 11 pm.

Shared dinner with other students

What activities can we take part in at Sasin?

Two weeks ago, Thai students organized a Sasin Sports Day, where various programs and alumni competed against each other in badminton, football, basketball, and fun games. As exchange students we could participate too, and it was so much fun!

Sasin staff also organizes numerous activities for the students: visit of temples, lunches, trip to Phuket etc. All of those, except the trip, were free (thank you so much Sasin!).

Sasin posted a memory on Instagram about our visit of The Great Palace

In case of any problems or questions we can reach out to teachers or Sasin staff through Line (Thai messenger), and they are very responsive.

Conclusion: Sasin is a great place for exchange students! Teachers, other students, and administrative staff are all very welcoming.

This article was written by Lisa Montaldo.

Live the NYC experience with us through photos and commentaries

Hi guys and welcome on Mainly International !

So we both really enjoy taking photographs everywhere we go, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of our pics! Please enjoy the description that goes with it, we hope it will give you a great insight on what you’ll see if you enroll for this Transco!

Just before we begin: DO NOT hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, please, it will be a huge pleasure for us to help you on anything. Drop us a message on Facebook!

To begin with, here is Miss Liberty with wonderful colors behind. This is the kind of sunsets that you get every evening in NYC, whenever the sky is clear! There is a stunning view on the statue of Liberty right by our campus, you’ll just have to walk cross Wall St to get there, and enjoy this kind of sunset with friends 😉

Careful with the weather though! Bring layers, NYC can be sunny, but it only starts being warm by March. Expect freezing temperatures for the first two months! (See next photo)

Alright, this is not New York, its Boston (you’re a crazy nerd if you spotted it was Boston). But the photo’s nice isn’t it? It illustrates quite well how the weather can be even on the 1st of March!  The east coast is cold, not gonna lie, but it’s part of the experience.

Oh and about Boston, it’s just a few hours drive away from NYC, hop on a flixbus, and spend the weekend there! Visit Harvard and the MIT, taste great beers in local breweries, and enjoy all the cute neighbors there is. Same for Philadelphia and Washington, they are just a few hours away!
Make sure you visit other cities when you come here, you will have plenty of time to do so, schedules are tremendously light, so you can enjoy NYC, but also neighboring cities or countryside.

Let’s go back to New York, if you’d like, cause that’s what we’re here for! Something we really enjoyed was going for basketball, hockey or baseball games, they are sometimes very accessible, and the ambiance will make you feel like a real new yorker!
Here’s a photo of Barclay’s centre (see picture below), home of the Brooklyn Net’s, we recommend going to Madison Square Garden too!

Something else you might want to do is admire the great views over Manhattan from the free Staten Island Ferry, which brings you to a shopping mall (overrated in 2022) and to a 9/11 memorial. The view is NICE! (see picture below)

Last but not least, New York is full of incredible museums, like the Met, the MoMa, the Guggenheim and so many others… Most of them are are free for NYC residents (or pay what you wish) so we highly encourage you to take advantage of this! You can even chose to go several times as once will probably not be enough to cover everything (especially for the Met). Collections are simply amazing and so diverse, you will definitely find something to your liking.

This article was written by Nicolas Ridoux and Tom Clouaire

A green start to my Erasmus experience as an exchange student in Sweden

If you experience climate anxiety, granted in my case it’s a passing feeling that nevertheless returns regularly triggered by specific situations, consciously avoiding flying greatly helps in easing it. And even if you don’t suffer from that kind of anxiety, opting for a more sustainable alternative could create a feeling of true accomplishment and satisfaction, and only adds to your experience abroad. In fact, one of the reasons why I chose to go on an exchange to Sweden, and in particular to Gothenburg, is because of its reputation as a green city. As such, I wanted to start my Erasmus adventure accordingly, which means that while there were direct flights from Paris to Gothenburg (at least 2 per week), I chose a more sustainable means of transport to go to my host city.

I know that one could be skeptical about the safety and degree of comfort of choosing the long-journey option over the shorter and seemingly more convenient option. I went to Gothenburg first by train from Paris to Hamburg, Germany, and then by bus from Hamburg to Gothenburg, in total, the journey took around 20 hours, which is not that long. Granted I say that while I had experiences with long journeys by train beforehand already (I always go from Grenoble to Warsaw by train, which is an almost 24 hour journey), but there are ways to make the journey more comfortable. When looking for trains from Paris to Gothenburg, I was careful to choose an option where I was sure I wouldn’t be prevented from sleeping during the night, I made sure that I would be in a train/bus during my “sleeping time” and that I wouldn’t have to change trains during the middle of the night. By doing so, I would argue that the journey was just as comfortable as going by plane, since even though it took longer, I was able to avoid the hassle of having to make a long journey to and from the airport, and of having to arrive at the airport several hours before departure to check in and send off my luggage.

And finally, even if that’s not necessarily the main advantage, choosing the more responsible travel alternative ended up being the less expensive option, since not only you don’t have to pay for the luggage (I had 2), but you also benefit from the Erasmus green travel grant. In total, the journey cost me around 130(to which should be subtracted the amount given by the grant). The trick is to check out all options, to divide the travel into two or three stages, as in don’t buy a tickets for the whole journey at once (for example, buying a ticket for Paris-Gothenburg is more expensive than buying a ticket for Paris-Hamburg and then Hamburg-Gothenburg, or for Paris-Copenhagen and then Copenhagen-Gothenburg).

And so, for all the reasons listed above, and also because choosing a more responsible means of transport could constitute an amazing adventure on its own, I did exactly that. I even had the opportunity to board a ferry from Hamburg to Denmark, unfortunately it was already dark outside, but the experience was still wonderful, and I did debate spending perhaps a whole day in Copenhagen but sadly I the current situation with Covid-19 made it a bit difficult (in January Sweden was requesting from everyone who wanted to enter the country a negative covid test done less than 48 hours before crossing its borders).

This article was written by Chau Anh Nguyen