Settling In

Frances Wulf, Exchange to Malmo University
Semester 2, 2017

 

At first I was a bit apprehensive about an exchange semester. I was worried about whether I’d be able to make friends, understand the content in classes, constantly worried about the language barrier, whether I would have enough money, and if I’d be able to survive in general. However, almost everyone in Sweden speaks immaculate English and are usually willing to help you when you are in need. Additionally, although a lot of people talk about the high cost of living in Sweden, but realistically, the cost of living is not much different to that of Australia.

 

One of the most difficult things that I didn’t anticipate needing to adjust to was the direction in which everyone drives. Constantly looking the wrong way before I crossed the road cause a lot of strife for both myself and the cars around me. However, as time has progressed, I have gotten used to being on the right hand side of the road and biking has helped a lot.

 

One of the first things to do in Malmö is get yourself a bike. Malmö is a very flat city, and regardless of your fitness level or the length of time that has passed since you had last ridden a bike, biking is the most efficient way of getting around. Malmö is a city made for bikes, with bike lanes on almost every sidewalk. Personally, I purchased my own bike so I had the freedom to bike whenever I wanted without restraint, but a good alternate and cheap option is Malmö by bike, where you have unlimited access to bikes for one hour, before it must be returned and you can take another.

 

The Swedish education system is very different to the Australian system. Swedish tertiary education is free, and as a result, the amount of face-to-face class time is significantly reduced. At the moment, I am only required to undertake one unit whilst on exchange as the whole unit corresponds to a full course load (or 30 ECTS). As a result, I find myself in the unique position of having a lot of free time. After working 5 days a week for a year to save money for exchange, having free time was a foreign concept to me and has taken a while to get used to.

 

Whilst at first not having anywhere really to be was fun, the novelty quickly wore off. Luckily living in the international university housing meant that there is always someone willing to do something. Going on impromptu bike rides to random places, having floor dinners and movie nights also prevents boredom from seeping in.

Having a lot of free time also means that you are able to plan a lot of side and weekend trips to different countries. Being in Sweden has made me realise how isolated Australia truly is. Malmö, in particular, is only 30 minutes away from Copenhagen in Denmark and you can take a day trip to the city with ease. Being able to fly for 90 minutes and be in another country is also such a foreign concept.

 

If you are thinking about undertaking exchange, I would highly recommend it. Learning to live out of your comfort zone with people from all over the world and hearing their different experiences has helped me to truly appreciate the life that I am able to live, both here in Malmö and Australia.