First hiking trip!

Sweden never stops amazing me with the beauty of its nature; I’ve already said it once and again and again. Add that to the very convenient Allemansrätten (a law that allows you to camp almost anywhere), sprinkle a long weekend in the middle of it, and there you go: the idea to go hiking for the first time was born!

Me being an absolute beginner made things interesting on a few counts: First of all, we had to decide on a path that was attractive but not too long. Pilgrimsleden came to be the chosen one, a 56 km trail that circles around a sizable portion of small lakes. The trail also happened to be close to Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden and third largest in Europe. Then came the matter of equipment: I already had some reliable shoes, but none of the things that would allow me to sleep in the wilderness. Since I knew that your loyal student ambassador Raghu had also camped for the first time in Sweden, I took his kindness and borrowed a sleeping bag and mat from him.



Ready for action!

The adventure was awfully fun, I was taught the details of how to make a fire, participated in the momentary panic that comes with losing sight of the track, gained a few scratches here and there, but only one fall – which makes me quite proud. What I found surprising is that even if everything looks similar on the map (lake, rock, forest, rock, forest, lake), once you were actually walking you could see how much the landscapes varied along the trail. We came across high points watching over hundreds of pines, forests that were very thick and therefore very dark, long lakes with pristine water, small muddy ones, villages, streams, and sadly, many areas where forestry had gotten rid of a big amount of trees.

The proud fire that I (kind of) helped to produce.

The pretty fire that I (kind of) helped  produce.


A magical sight

My final observation is that, presumably due to hunger and fatigue, during this trip I had the most delicious apple of my life. I figured that it was all a perfect balance between hard work and small pleasures.

The trip was abruptly ended by the realization that the nights were too cold for the kind of equipment we had. Nonetheless I would repeat the experience, of course with a little bit more preparation. If you get the chance, definitely try to make your own hiking trip in Sweden!



All pictures by P. Cegielski

Unstable Swedish sun

Over the last few days I have been unjustly woken up by that bright character that managed to scape Gothenburg for most of winter: you see, it happens that around here there is not such a thing as constant sunlight hours. Over winter it can be that the sun hasn’t risen by the time you go to school, and is already down by the time you come back home. Now that both of our feet are into spring, sunlight hours keep extending and extending; and these days sunrise is happening around 5 in the morning while the sun is still somewhere in the sky by 9 pm.


It was late when this was taken! Picture by P. Cegielski

When you have such a dark winter as here, it is almost mandatory that by the end of it you’ll be desperately craving some of that heavenly warmth. And as much as I did, it is still disorienting for me to go from total darkness to total brightness in such a short time. When it’s spring or summer I always end up going to bed very late because, in my country, the latest you would have sunset is around 7 pm. So independently of when it gets dark here in Sweden (be it 4 pm or 11 pm), my body will assume that it’s 8 pm. And then in the morning, being woken up by the sun in my face at such early hours is, well… let’s say unpleasant.


So in my second spring/almost-summer here, I continue to develop my little seasonal coping techniques. My windows have integrated blinds but it has become time to put up the curtains as well, since the closed blinds are no longer enough to mask that early sun. And in the evening, if I’m home I delude myself by closing the blinds by 8 pm. That way my body thinks it’s dark out there, and can achieve a semblance of orderly sleep. All of this daylight musings have led me to conclude that maybe one of the reasons that Sweden strives to be lagom is to have some moderation in something… because let me tell you, there is nothing moderate about the seasons here!

The magic of Holland!


Last week I got the opportunity to visit Holland, luckily my trip was during the same time as Holland would celebrate the Kings day and also the tulip gardens would be in full blossom. So understandably there was a lot to see and explore and thus began my quest.

Amsterdam despite being famous for many other reasons, is also famous for being the city of canals. Owing to this fact the city has a unique layout and feel to it; a rather pleasant mixture of modern infrastructure and lifestyle merged with old appearance and facades.



Amsterda: Rightly called the city of canals




In Amsterdam we got to discovered a rather unheard but fascinating place; museum of florescent art. A couple had collected natural samples, while travelling to different parts of the world, of rocks that glow under UV light. They had also set up some artificial florescent structures and narrated the rather intriguing history about the use of florescent materials over the years.



Florescent painting


Some florescent art

Some florescent art


Rocks that naturally glow under UV light

Rocks that naturally glow under UV light

The next aim was to bike to Keukenhof to see the mesmerizing tulip fields and the flower garden there. It is open only 8 weeks a year and has around 800,000 visitors during that time. We biked around and hour to reach Keukenhof  and instantly realised it was worth the effort. This years theme was Van Gough, so there were exhibitions depicting his work and also a small area where his portrait was made out of flowers.


Saw an innocent by-stander while cycling to Keukenhof









Van Goughs portrait made out of tulips






The last leg of the trip was experiencing the Kings day celebrations. The entire city comes to a still and the roads get deluged with people, music and festive activities. A wave of orange color swept the city as there were celebrations, laughs and joy all around.


A view of a street deluged with people



Parties on the boat is a norm on the Kings day




Visit to Prague!

Towards the end of March, I got the opportunity to travel with the rest of my fellow V section students to the historic and beautiful city of Prague. The V section organises a trip to a different country every year. The price is discounted to facilitate the students and encourage them to sign up for it.

This was my first time travelling with the V section, and I am very glad I made that choice. The arrangements were well organised and the accommodation was comfortable. We traveled on a bus to Prague, passing through Denmark and Germany and stayed in a hotel which was situated in the heart of the city. The bus ride was a long 18 hours, but the experience was definitely worth it. We were seventy students in total, and two students shared a room. We reached Prague at around mid-day and then settled into the hotel.

Hotel room in Prague

Hotel room in Prague

Out on our first stroll

Out on our first stroll

There was a sittning organised on the first night, that was laced by some fancy food and some typical Chalmers traditions. The evening then unrolled as all students set out to explore the city. The weather the first night was not the best, but it stopped none from taking a stroll around the town and enjoy the mesmerizing views.

The next morning we had a guided walking tour of Prague where we got interesting insights into the history of the city and also the background behind many of the breath taking structures in the city. Top of the list was the Charles Bridge, which was deluged with tourists. It is the oldest stone arc bridge in the world and stands testament to many monumental events in the past.


Charles Bridge in the background


We also walked across the astronomical clock and were able to take some bird-eye shots of the city from the top of that tower. Next in the list was the artistically crafted dancing house, that simple signifies what innovative thinking and a progressive mind-set accomplish. An absolute must visit is the castle in Prague, because that is where you would find the classic Prague feel; narrow roads and alleys, paving way through brightly painted huts oozing a sense of originality.

The astronomical clock

The astronomical clock

Birds-eye view of the city

Birds-eye view of the city

The city is small but filled with things to see and experiences to crave for. We went to a church, located an hours train ride from Prague that had a skeleton architecture inside. First time that I saw something like that and I was totally bamboozled.

At the Bone Church: A chandelier made of bones

At the Bone Church: A chandelier made of bones

On the last night of the trip we were treated to a boat tour of the city, which also including a buffet on the boat. It was a a relaxing evening, where everyone got a chance to see the city from another perspective and need less to say it was yet another spectacle to cherish. Hope you liked the pictures, and plan to visit Prague if you have not already done that!

Typical old-European touch in the streets of Prague

Typical old-European touch in the streets of Prague

In front of the dancing house

In front of the dancing house

An interior made of ice. Did not find the Iron throne so, took an Ice throne instead.

An interior made of ice. Did not find the Iron throne so, took an Ice throne instead.

The gift that keeps on giving

Picture by Andres Cuaran


Part of the fun of taking courses in Chalmers is that it is very unlikely that you will only attend bland lectures without any additional learning resources. Many courses include one or more study visits that allow you to see in live action what you were learning over the passing of the trimester. In the same manner, during the course you might find out about conferences or additional lectures. And if you’re lucky enough, you might stumble upon the gift that keeps on giving, meaning having a teacher that will continue to send you information relevant to the course in case it spikes your interest.

I was lucky to find one of those teachers through the Sustainable Transportation course. Apart from the fact that the course was wonderfully organized, full with diverse lectures about the environmental impact of transport and plenty of expert speakers, we also got a teacher that was very concerned about students getting the most out of the course. So even a few months afterwards, this teacher extended the invitation for students to volunteer in the VREF Conference About Urban Freight, which took place in Chalmers’ Lindholmen Campus. Some of us had the chance to help out with practical tasks during the conference. As a reward, we received some extra cash (which is always good as a student) and the chance to listen to the conferences and be able to mingle with authorities, companies and academia who work with urban freight. An all-winning situation! At Chalmers, the learning doesn’t stop when the course ends.

If you wish to read what was discussed during the conference, feel free to browse here.

Almost there!

A few weeks ago I made a post about my first interview in Swedish. The number of international students interested in Chalmers has been on the rise of late so therefore my expereince, I feel, can help find answer to the two most common questions among the international community at Chalmers; is it possible to work here after studies and can one learn enough Swedish in two years to do so? I would therefore continue to the second half of my story.

I got called for a second interview at Traifkverket Stockholm office. I reached there a night before, since I needed to be at their office at eigth in the morning. The day was divided into three sessions; two written tests, a presenation about ”An event that changed my life” and an interview. The day kicked off with a small presentation by Trafikverket about the recruitment process and the prospects of working with them. We were 15 students in total, and were split into two groups.


Trafikverket office in Stockholm

Trafikverket office in Stockholm

The first test was a rather simple personality test where you were supposed to rank eigth things-in descending order-that can describe you as a person. But each thing should be described in no more than a couple of words Then eigth things that other people think are your personality traits. It was a rather fruitful excercise which drives you in a mode of self analysis, like you would have never experienced before. It is tough to evaluate yourself and come up with adequate words to describe your own personality. This test was followed by a logical test. Now, this is where things got tough for me; the Swedish language in that test was very advanced for me and I felt so disappointed sitting there. I remember saying to myself ” I took a seven hour bus ride for this disastrous test, I am not going to make it !!!”. Well, I did not have much of a choice so I tried my best and answered as much as I could. There were 5 different texts, and after each text there were questions,  which were supposed to test your analytical and logical thinking pattern.

Then came the presentation. Perhaps the most inspisring part of the day was when each candidate was given a small tutorial about how can they make the presentation more impactful and personal. I found that very useful and many tips would stick with me for life. The four minute presentation went smooth, I felt I was in a good flow of speaking Swedish. The flow just carried on and I managed the post-presentation question answer session pretty well I tought. The questions were related to my personal life, and my goals for the future.

The last part of the day was another interview, where your performance from all the different tests you had done during the recruitment process were discussed. There were five 5 tests in total, and no surprise I scored terrible in the last one. But, this is where I tought I was treated fairly and I felt I was competing on a level playing field; the person doing the interview skipped this test in my evaluation, since he felt that it was not designed as a language test so it dose not reflect my competence in Swedish language and is thus to no avail. This was a confidence booster for me. I was very tired by then and was not as energetic as I was in the first interview. But I think I managed to express my ideas. The questions were again related to personal life, but were meant to dig in deeper into how I am as a person. Surprsingly, I was asked what the strengths and weaknesses of my dad were! Totally caught me off guard there, I did actually laughed for a moment and continued to answer!

Now, I await a final repsonse from Trafikverket. Wether I make the cut or not is not the most important aspect at this point. I think the experience has been very exciting and something that would help me evolve as a person and hopefully contribute in handling interviews successfully in the future! Lets hope for the best! Sorry, but I was so nervous I forgot to take pictures so there are not any in this post!🙂

Culturally Gothenburger, finally.

The first glimpse of Gothenburg I ever caught was in a promotional video, which I happened to see during my application process way back in early 2013. And the city simply floored me then, I fell in love as I was landing, and I’m still happily (whispers) away from my home – Bangalore. This could be because I have been a horrible geography student, who did not quite know any natural features to look forward to in the city, and the only thing that stuck to my head during my European history lessons was Renaissance! Further, the  movies of Luis Buñuel  and the Swedish genius film maker Ingmar Bergman I had watched, only strengthened my stereotyping of Europe, to be some sort of a grand canvas for creative art and human expression.

When I arrived in Gothenburg – No, I was not a bit disappointed. Gothenburg still matches my mental image of a culturally rich, European city image. Now, after 1.5 years here and having experienced the culture in terms of people, architecture, music performances, theatre and art galleries, one lacuna that had remained and had not completed my experience as a Gothenburger was of not having savoured an opera performance, with a live orchestra playing along. I have seen the Gothenburg symphony orchestra play, but it was in an open park and on a rainy day. I won’t even start complaining about the acoustics.

That's a portion of the Opera house. No, I wasn't trying to be artistic. It was the only stock photo I had of the opera house :)

That’s a portion of the Opera house. No, I wasn’t trying to be artistic. It was the only stock photo I had of the opera house🙂

This being the state, a colleague in my thesis room and I just randomly were talking of operas, and decided to check what the Gothenburg Opera House had in store for us. We have now seen an opera, and a two part musical, already, and are preparing for the third show later this week. Meaning we found a jolly good deal. The Opera house, considerately offers student packages with heavy discount. It varies from season to season, and we are easily paying less than half the actual prices of the tickets as part of this package. Even if not the package, there is normally youth and student discount of 25% on most shows. If you are looking for many, but semi-bourgeoisie experience at the Opera house, opt for the student package. For popular shows, the seating is not the best, but the ambience and the performance usually compensate. On the other hand, if you are looking for the wholesome experience, that I attribute as the full bourgeoisie experience, then you can opt to purchase the normal tickets (with student discount), for a show you would REALLY want to watch, and it will be worth every krona you pay!

I will not talk about the shows themselves here in detail. Maybe will write a deeper post about it on my personal blog. But to give you an overview here’s a quote from the art director of the Gothenburg Opera Dance company, where she, Adolphe Binder, encapsulates the experience they want to immerse their audiences in: ”We must examine our areas of discomfort (in the performances). Through this our audiences become ‘partners in crime’, rather than simply consumers”.

Experiencing live music is still one of those joys that makes the analog world real, amidst the digital chaos we live in. Don’t miss a chance to live it.