Chloé Joly, a graduate management student from Grenoble EM, talks about her experience at Stockholm University.
September 2012: Packing the suitcase. Three bulky sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves… Little summer dresses, nope must forget about that. I’m leaving for the good old north now- Sweden! I expect I shall be facing a cold winter surrounded by many blonds of Viking blood. I chose Stockholm because I wanted to know more about it after making a Swedish friend from my class in first year. The Nordic countries are appealing and trendy places to visit: besides the famous Ikea from those Njut! marketing campaigns (translated to “enjoy and have fun”), you see the beautiful photos of the landscape, hear about the famous Swedish style, and also about the success of their social system. So many things that tempted me!
The arrival, by plane (Ryanair), took place without any difficulty. I had reserved a youth hostel in the old town of Stockholm, or Gamla stan as it is known, a few days before finding accommodation through the housing office. On the way out of the metro, I find myself right at the edge of the water and discover the point where Stockholm is outlined by the sea! The districts are carved over the island and each one is unique. What pleased me the most in this capital are the colors: the sunlight is incredible, the deep blue sky, the orange, yellow, and red houses are magnificent.
A few days later, I recovered the keys to my student apartment at Lidingö. There are several student residences offered by the university. It is almost impossible to find accommodation by yourself in the heart of Stockholm. Lidingö was a new residence located in the trendy area of Stockholm. These were big apartments of 25m2 with a balcony and private kitchen, and a breathtaking view of the forest. After a year in a similar place, it is very difficult to find another place that is as serene. Life in the residence was very pleasant: everyone was always visiting each other, doors were left open, with summer barbeques on the balcony. A true haven of peace!
Concerning the university, you find yourself in the same context. It is located at the edge of a lake and very pretty. Classes follow an Anglo-Saxon model: not too much attention to attendance, but a lot of individual work and files to hand back in. Generally, you have some lectures, then seminar work.
There is no big culture shock because we are in Europe. However, the culture is, all the same, very different than ours. The Swedish are very “standard”, in the rules, in consensus, and sometimes you want to ask them to just relax. Sometimes they are not able to be frank or push themselves forward. I remember one seminar where one of the groups was clearly good and worked hard, and at the end of the module, the professor asked who thought to have received an A and nobody from this group dared to raise their hand. Another cultural aspect that is just as disconcerting is their male-female equality relationship. Everywhere in society, this is pointed out, even in the ways of seduction. A man will not make the first move towards a woman he likes generally, and will not necessarily open the door for her or pay for a drink. Here is another little funny story carrying on this point: during a seminar, my team and myself carried out a test on the manager, and when we were speaking of the manager, we were saying “he” in reference to the masculinity of the word manager in French. One of the female students then reproached us for not using “she” and started to lecture us on male-female equality.
There are many things to discover in Stockholm and you must take advantage of each season. The Swedish have many customs that dominate social life. Santa Lucia in Christmas and Valborg at the beginning of the summer are only some examples. You must be aware of what happens in the city. In winter, do not miss the following: the Christmas markets, the singing, the lights, all this magic that surrounds the city.
However, you cannot miss out on skating on the frozen lake or taking a leap into the open gap in the frozen lake after the sauna. However, you are warned that the long nights are not easy to live with. The lack of Vitamin D has to be controlled so you won’t suffer from the blues when it becomes dark at 3pm. The spring though is a genuine renaissance: the days go on and on and on until you realize that it becomes dark at midnight and that at 3am in the morning, you are already woken up by daylight. Nature is reborn, the sunsets are incredible with their pink and orange colors. We have passed many nights out on the beaches of Lidingö Island around a campfire and watching the sunset.
Stockholm is really a destination that is worth it, as long as you love cinnamon !