Ernesto G., Sweden – Lund University (Statistics and Data Science)

On a a Swedish rock on one of the oldest towns in Sweden, Sigtuna!

ACADEMICS

What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? 

As a fourth-year Statistics and Data Science major, I took one major class, two G.E. classes, and one language class. For the most part, the G.E. classes are very similar to the ones you take here at UCSB but a lot more immersed in the culture with field trips and hands-on learning rather than just reading texts. My major statistics class was very similar to the ones I take here at Santa Barbara in terms of class structure with weekly homework with the exception of just a final and no midterm. Much of the learning was expected to be done on your own with class time being dedicated for questions and clarification. All my classes were in English with the exception of my language course being mostly in Swedish so you can learn the language. For the most part, academics in Lund are very much like in UCSB but with more self-learning to be expected. 

What was your favorite class abroad? 

My favorite class abroad was my Swedish culture class due to the different lecturers, different field trips, and projects we had.  The class was different every week with a different topic and different professor every topic. We learned things from history to foods to music to economics with professors who were experts in their respective fields. One of our assignments was to go out and enjoy Fika with classmates and observe how locals interact with each other and figure out why it is such a big part of the Swedish culture. We also had field trips at museums so class took place outside a classroom often. The class was also a great opportunity to get to meet other international students since it was a class only offered to international students. Much of what I know of the Swedish culture I owe to that class that not only had us read about the different cultural phenomena but experience it as well. 

Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience.

One of the highlights and most memorable experience I have from being abroad was volunteering for the student nations. These student nations are similar to sororities and fraternities expect that these nations are open to everyone and all you have to do in pay $15 to StudentLund and you are able to attend any nations’ events. The Nation I became a member of was Västgöta Nation which is one of the biggest student nations in Lund. They have all sorts of events that they put on and you can help run. During my time as a Lund University student, I volunteered at Västgöta Nation’s metro club on Wednesday and it became an experience like non-other. Volunteering at Nations is a great way to get to meet Swedish students and get to see how they experience their time at the university. During my volunteering experience, I was responsible for attending the front door, the coat room, and even the kitchen! You get to create friendships with local students and get to hear what their life at Lund. Being a Latino student, many of the students I volunteered with were intrigued by my Mexican heritage and asked me many questions about how my life is like back here in the States. Every event is different I would definitely recommend getting involved with the student organizations and clubs as well for it is the best way to be around Swedes and practice your Swedish language skills!

Lund University’s main library in the Fall.

HOST INSTITUTION

How would you describe your host institution?

Lund University is much bigger than UCSB in terms of the student population and physical space. Lund has around 42,000 students enrolled with about 26 libraries! The buildings are all very different as well with some dating back to 1584 and some as new as the early 2000s. The beauty between old and new architecture is something you can only get when attending Universities as old as Lund University.  The campus is much more spread out with different departments being located in different areas of the city. Sometimes you need to take the bus from one building to the next if you don’t want to walk for 20 minutes. Depending on where your classes are, you can be from 2-20 minutes away from the city center so walking to a restaurant or Cafe is very doable. The nearest airport to Lund is Copenhagen Airport which is a 35-40 minute train ride from Lund to CPH so it is relatively easy to travel when living in Lund.

Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

Along with many different courses that are offered at Lund, there are also many different clubs and organizations one can get involved with from sports clubs to reading clubs, Lund has something for everyone! One can also join the Student Nations and get involved with the various volunteering opportunities offered to them. There is never a shortage of things to do while attending Lund and meeting locals will definitely bring much more immersing experiences. 

Enjoying the summer sunlight from my apartment balcony before the dark winter.

HOUSING

Describe your housing situation.

My housing situation abroad was very different from anything I have experienced here at UCSB. I lived in student apartments called Eddan which is more of communal apartments in the sense that you share a common living area along with a kitchen. I had my own room with my own restroom and shower so I did not have to share the bathroom. Every person in the apartment building had their own room with their own bathroom. The kitchen was equipped with all the big appliances you need and pots, pans, and silverware needed. You were provided a bed, desk, and wardrobe big enough for all your stuff. The rooms were big as well which made living abroad much more at ease. The student apartments where I was living were only for international students so you get to meet students from all over the world and I was fortunate enough to be living in with another UC student next door. The laundry room is located on the basement floor and you have to reserve the room in order to use it. You have a 3-hour window to get all your washing and drying done. Sometimes the room is booked for a whole week at the beginning of the week which can make washing stressful sometimes but if you book on time it is a lot easier than doing laundry at UCSB. Using the machines is free and all you have to pay for in the detergent and softener. Rent at the student apartment is MUCH cheaper than rent in IV or student apartments here at UCSB. I paid only half of what I do here and I had my own room, bathroom with shower, and all utilities included so living abroad is much more enticing than living in SB. The only downside I would say would be the distance from the apartments to the university or town center. Depending on which building your class is located in, it can be a 10-20 minute bus ride to get to campus and depending on where in the city center you are going, the trip can be from 20-25 minutes. With buses passes almost every 5-10, traveling by bus did not seem much of a hassle though. If you are riding a bike, it can be from 15-20 minutes to campus, depending on your leg muscles, and to the city center, it is about a 15-minute bike ride since most of it is downhill. The housing is guaranteed through the application process but you do not get to choose where you live, you are told to put your top three choices of living accommodation and LU Accommodation will try its best to meet your needs. Overall I was very pleased with my housing situation and would love to have the same experience here in SB but sadly, living costs in California are much higher than they are in Sweden.

A stroll in the town square before the rain hits.

FOOD

Where did you eat most of your meals?

Lund University does not have dining commons like UCSB does here but they do have cafeterias and cafes in many of the department buildings where you are able to buy a meal for about $7-$10 depending on what you get. You can also go to the center of the city and have one of the many cuisines the city offers! One of the most popular places that locals grab something to eat at is at Lundafalafel! There is also a dumpling house restaurant that makes AMAZING dumplings. But my favorite spot to go to was the Surf Shack at the center of the city. It is a burger place, much like The Habit, but you create your own burger and can add additional toppings for a small fee. It was a place that reminded me of home so I would go once a week! It can get a little pricey depending on what you buy but if you go during the lunch special, you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for about $9. With all the foods to choose from, it’s very tempting to go out and eat every day but with the friends you make, you learn different cuisines you can make at home and it is a fun way to learn about another culture! I found myself mostly cooking a meal at my place with my friends or at their place enjoying the warmth of the indoors and having a blast sharing recipes!

How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

The average meal at Lund varies on the time of day you go. Most places do not open until 10 so lunch could range from $10-$15 but with student discounts, you can get a very delicious meal for a cheaper price. I hardly ever went out to eat dinner at a restaurant so I do not know the average price of a dinner plate but Nations always sell food for around $6-$10 during certain hours so going to them to eat is a money saver. I would recommend cooking food and making enough to last you two to three days if you are on a budget because eating out daily can get expensive. I would mostly make food or get together with friends and we would make dinner and have some leftover for the next day so we won’t have to buy food in town. Cooking at home is well worth it and since it’s cold and raining in the winter in Lund, going outside was a hassle so making food and keeping warm indoors was the move!

Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

Sweden is one of the leading countries when it comes to supporting vegetarians and vegans with their diets! Even Mcdonalds have more vegan options compared to the U.S. In almost any restaurant or fast food place you go into will have vegetarian and or vegan options so there was no difficulty for my friends, who were vegan, to find places to eat. Because Sweden is a very welcoming society, everyone feels welcomed and food diets are no exception! 

Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining moment abroad was one of the first days when we met other international students. Us UC students decided to get together for a potluck and decided to invite some of our floormates who were from other countries. We had an amazing time telling them all about California and learning about their home countries. After dinner, we played board games and it was fun bonding and learning about a different culture through food and games. Dinner times created a lot of long-lasting memories in which I will never forget!

What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

The food I miss the most from Sweden is the Marabou Chocolate. It is unlike any chocolate I have tasted before. I have tried chocolates from all over the world but nothing compares to Sweden’s Marabou! In ICA, they sell Marabou bites infused with Oreos and I filled half of my personal bag with bags of the chocolate to bring back home. Sadly they did not last me long and now I will have to find a way to get some delivered to me.


HOST CITY

Describe your host city.

Lund is a medium-sized rural city that is full of history and has something for everyone. Sweden as a country as a whole does not have a big population so by Swedish standards, Lund is considered a medium-sized city. The cobblestoned streets make it seem as if you’ve traveled to the past but with an H&M in the center of the city, you’re reminded that you are in the modern world. Everything you need you can find in Lund except for the big brand stores but all essentials can be found in Lund. Since Lund is mostly a college town, you will find that there is a big diverse population with, of course, Swedes having the highest population. Lund is so inviting and welcoming that when you go out and travel, you will find yourself missing Lund and it will feel like home to you. Surrounding Lund is farmlands and in the summer they make for great scenery when you’re biking with your friends to Dålby Lake. As a bike-friendly town, you will see that almost everyone is on a bike and you will wish that your hometown could be more like Lund.

Was it easy to get around?

With great transportation systems and various bike paths, getting around in Lund is very easy. With the bus app, you are able to purchase bus passes and keep them safely on your phone and the same app can be used to by train tickets to travel around the Skåne region! Bike paths that connect your apartment to the city to the school make it really easy and encouraging to bike every day and get your heart pumping. There is no excuse not to go into town or see a friend so its safe to say you won’t be missing your car!

Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

Swedes are known to be some of the nicest people in the world and Lund is an example of just that. You will feel really safe and comfortable living Lund and being out at night will feel really safe. The environment in Lund is very welcoming and you will feel safer being in Lund than it is being in Isla Vista. There is no pickpocket problem, nor are there many threats towards Sweden so you will always be safe. That being said, you should always be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are and always take precautions because there is no such thing as being too safe!

What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

Some of the best things I got to do in Lund were going to the park and play sports with students from all over the world and even local school children who wanted to partake in our activities. Interacting with locals and learning about the culture from different people is something one can only do in a different country and experience it first hand.


HOST CULTURE

Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

One of the cultural experiences I got to witness in Lund was their famous Fika break. Fika is a word Swedes use to describe their coffee break but to them, it is much more than just a coffee break. Fika is also a time you get to relax and socialize with others face to face and enjoy a cup of coffee with freshly made pastries. Fika is so much ingrained into the culture that big corporations, such as IKEA and Volvo, implement Fika breaks into their workday to increase productivity and the flow of ideas. Fika is also one of the first words you will learn from the Swedish language and will want to continue it back home.

How did you handle culture shock?

The Swedish culture is not much of a day and night difference but it does take some time to get used too. I found it easy to learn about the culture and fall into Swedish society by going in with an open mind and eagerness to meet local students. Making friends with the Swedes is easy and it helps that they are very welcoming. My advice would be to just go in with an open mind and a willingness to try new things!

What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of their culture is the way they all look after one another and really do their best to help each other out. Swedes believe in what is best for the greater good so you learn how they have benefits for everyone from children to elder citizens. Swedish students do not have to worry about paying for school and so their only focus is on getting good grades and working in their community to better it for themselves and others. 

FC Barcelona vs Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.


TRAVEL

Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

Throughout my time abroad, I traveled to many different places but the experience that stands out the most was the time I flew to Barcelona and explored the city on my own. I grew up speaking Spanish so going into the trip, language was not one of my worries but because Barcelona is part of Catalonia, which has an entirely different language on its own, I tried to learn a few words but obviously a few lessons were not enough to hold a full conversation. As a child, I loved waking up on the weekend and watching FC Barcelona play and one of my favorite players of all time is Lionel Messi, so getting the opportunity to see him play in person was one of my top priorities before I left the United States. I visited Barcelona in November, the month in which Lund only received around 14 hours of sunlight in the entire month, and walking off the plane to 60-degree sunny weather was such a joy. As soon as I got on the metro to the city where my hostel was located, I began hearing the Spanish language with accents much different than I am used too and I was like a child at an amusement park eager to get to the city and meet new people. The main reason for my trip to Barcelona was to go see Messi and FC Barcelona play but it soon became a much more learning experience getting to talk to the Spanish people and learning more about them. I was a little nervous traveling on my own but my experience would not have been the same and I was able to do anything I wanted since I was by myself and on my own time. Going to one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world was a dream come true and seeing the team win and being with other fans is an experience of a lifetime. I left Barcelona reluctantly but hopefully, I have to opportunity to go back and maybe start a whole new life in the Spanish country!


REFLECTION

Malmö music festival with new friends!

What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

One of my biggest fears going abroad was not knowing anyone who was also in the program but shortly after arriving in Lund and going to orientation, I learned than many other students were on the same boat as I was. It didn’t take long to make friends and meet people who even came to UCSB and it was even easier to make friends with other international students who did not have the same number of their peers in the same program as the UC students did. 

What was your biggest challenge abroad?

The biggest challenge abroad for me would be the weather. Living in Southern California for the 22 years of my life, I did not know what real winter felt like and so when the seasons changed, I got to experience the change in temperature and see the leaves change color. At first, the cold and rain really brought my mood down and I did experience a bit of seasonal depression. All I needed was the help of a good jacket and warm clothes and I was able to shake off the weather and enjoy my time abroad. 

How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I have definitely been more aware of my carbon footprint and try my best to not be so wasteful. I have also noticed a decrease in my urge to purchase materialistic goods that I do not need since Swedes are very Anti-Capitalistic so they do not really shop how Americans do. I am more aware of others and how my actions can have an impact on their day so I try to be a lot more open to new ideas and listening instead of just being all about me. The Swedish culture has also shown me how much better life can be when the country all works together for a better life and so I aim to improve the social welfare of my community one step at a time. 

What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

My advice to future students is to have an open mind and try your best to learn the local language because it will enrich your experience so much more!


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