Living in Sweden has been and continues to be a rich blend of novel experiences, amazing revelations and small adjustments in lifestyle. It feels like a perpetual process of growth and self exploration, and I am incessantly reminded of the fact that how little I know about this world and myself.
The first main eye-catching feature you would notice is the amazing tradition of calling the teacher with his/her first name. Now this accounts for something more than just the existence of a friendly relation between the student and the teacher. It shows how humble and down-to-earth the teachers are despite being stalwarts in their respective fields of work. Many international students will relate to this observation of mine. I have the experience of working with teachers who are almost bursting with pride and self galore and are very stiff and arrogant in dealing with their students. This hampers the learning process more than I first realized. The feeling that you will be welcomed when you walk up to your teacher to talk about any matter that might concern his domain of work, is comforting and fuels the analytical and reasoning processes in your mind. I felt the difference after studying at Chalmers and feel lucky to have experienced this. Their are no barriers in stirring up a discussion or a debate with a teacher if you are curious to learn more and want to dig deeper on a particular topic.
There is another interesting chapter in this series of discoveries related to the classroom culture in Sweden. During my bachelors I lived in a hostel or a dorm, as some people call it, and to be honest I really miss just waking up and walking to the classroom in the same clothes that I slept in. Just brush your teeth, wash your face and off you go. Some of my friends even skipped the ‘washing your face’ part and showed up for lectures. Very convenient, time efficient and no body ever felt the need to dress up to meet your friends and mates whom you see every day. I guess that is the reason why I have always felt that my fellow students at Chalmers were dressed too properly for a lecture about engineering. I have always been a huge fan of Swedish work ethics and the sense of wholeheartedness with which they go about their business. But, I felt a little strange when I saw that some of my mates put on their best clothes for the morning lectures at 8 . But I am learning quickly, and now I do put on a fresh pair of jeans every morning in an effort to become more Swedish in my way of life. It is not as if anybody cares about the way you dress, or would comment about your shabby dressing, because Swedes are too nice for that, but it is just the feeling of being alienated a bit in a lecture hall filled with people with well combed hair.
Since you are in Sweden, you do not talk much during lectures to each other. Theoretically it is good, everyone should focus on the lecture but I think it is good to relax and pass around a funny remark or a random observation just to ease the mind off a bit from the rigorous mathematical calculations. Many would disagree, I suppose, but I miss being able to do so in classrooms. After coming to Sweden I have started feeling very strongly about coming late to lectures. Since everybody else is on time, I am always greeted with a stare from over 50 students, each time I enter late even if it is just a couple of minutes. Not a good feeling, I assure you, when the teacher takes a pause as you enter and then you walk up to the last bench tapping your footsteps in the deafening silence.
And the list goes on. These are just a few impressions from one aspect of a new life abroad. I am catching up to the new trends in my student life, and trust me it is fun. You will string together countless memories from the small silly mistakes you make when you first arrive and would learn a bunch of new things and ideas that can help you become a better professional and more importantly a better person.