If you have ever crossed paths with me you might know that I’m into food: whether it comes to eating it, talking about it or (attempting) cooking it, you will have my full attention. So my fascination with trying dishes from different places is only a logical extension of such. Studying abroad has opened countless doors for this interest of mine, with discovering Swedish culture through food, eating new things in the countries I have visited while on vacation, and by the bond-strengthening method of making international friends cook for me.
So this time the turn was for Taiwanese food, which came in a format other than usual. I found out that NCTU Europe, a group of students with the mission of promoting exchange between Chalmers and the National Chiao Tung University, was organizing a snacks night. This meant that for only 30 crowns I would be taking my first delve into Taiwanese cuisine. So of course I couldn’t resist 🙂
During the evening we had presentations with recipes from all the 10 dishes that would be served, each one by the master chef who prepared it. Afterwards we proceeded to taste their creations. While I thought that the ingredients to most recipes where similar, I was surprised to taste the differences in them. Many of the dishes were meat based, but two that stuck out were rice balls filled with meat floating in a multi-ingredient soup, and what can be described as a yummy noodle omelet.
However, the absolute highlight was being reunited with my long lost love, the only item from Taiwan that I had actually tasted before: Boba tea. To make it short (and spare you of all my obsessive praise towards it), boba tea is tea with milk and chewy tapioca balls. It originated in Taiwan and has spread in popularity over the world. I used to have it often back in my island, but had never had one prepared by a citizen of its island of origin. And while delighting myself in its flavor, I discovered as a sample of Taiwanese humor that boba is actually slang for big breasts.
The most fun part of the night was sharing with students that were somehow related to Taiwan. There were people who were either born there, had been there to study or just took the jump to move there for no reason and being back to Sweden wanted to remember the good days. Listening to their stories was a great way to know more about the place. The whole thing ignited somewhat of a Taiwan craze in me: I have since been to an Asian supermarket to pick up some ingredients and have dedicated this week to perfecting homemade boba tea. And I heard that NCTU Europe organizes monthly events, so you can also join them to learn a little bit more about Taiwan! We will probably see each other there!
(All pictures credited to NCTU Europe)
It was another venture as we chose to take our networking programme to another angle. This time I and a few colleagues decided to add to our list one of the largest and oldest organisation in the world. Our destination this time was to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Our journey started on Monday March 23rd, 2015 with a bus trip to Copenhagen followed by a two-hour flight to Switzerland. We were sixteen in number blended with students from other parts of Sweden. We had to rest on the arrival day Monday. Tuesday, our first meeting kicked off with the Senior Legal Adviser, and United Nation Representative of the International Commission of Jurists.The discussions and questions featured United Nations programme on economic, social, cultural, and business rights. Our discussion also highlighted human rights issues in parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia. In the afternoon, we join the human rights session at Palais Wilson where we attended the 113th session of human rights council. The session was on Human right in Monaco. At 17:00 we decided to embark on the pre-planned networking events with law students from the Geneva Academy.
The next day, Wednesday morning we proceeded with a meeting at the UN offices with the President of Geneva for Human Rights Adrien-Claude Zoller, who is also in charge of Global Training. The meeting started at 9:00 -12:00 focusing on global politics and human rights. We then progressed in the afternoon to the Human Rights House Foundation where we discussed current global security, human rights, and the current political situation in Europe. It was a unique day as we tested our brains on global politics, world leadership, and current affairs.
On Thursday, we decided to have a general tour at United Nations offices. The tour started at 10:00am and lasted for one hour. Later we went to the association for the prevention of torture who were waiting for us. Our discussion with them featured torture prevention in society and various mitigation strategies.One discussant was a Swedish who was excited to see students from her country.
Friday morning was our returned date and by 9:00 we were already at Geneva airport ready for our flight back to Sweden via Copenhagen. It was an interesting experience blending human rights, global politics, law, engineering and above all creating a global network.
More photos from the trip
The prospect of starting to work after graduation can both be stressful and exciting. The last few weeks have been such a mixture of contrasting emotions because it was during this time that I got my first job interview in Sweden, as a ”projektingenjör” in Trafikverket. Not only was this my first interview in Sweden, it was the first ever in Swedish language.
It was a worthwhile and memorable experience. I read and asked around a bit of how interviews work in Sweden and got considerable input from friends and acquaintances. I prepared some questions that are generally expected in such situations, for example, analyzing your strengths and weaknesses. The challenge was not so much as to what I should speak about, it was to express my ideas in a clear manner in Swedish. I browsed through all the notes I had made over the last year or so in my Swedish classes, and tried to cram in in as much vocabulary as possible in to my head. Lastly, I did a few practice drills in front of the washroom mirror and was all set to face the music.
The interview afternoon kicked off with a presentation about the company which also focused on the future prospects for new employees and what they expect to get from a newly graduated student.The interview it self had all that I had expected. Pleasant and friendly personnel, with questions related to my personality and aims in life. It was comforting to see how every single person at Trafikverket was appreciative of what ever Swedish I could speak and gave me time and space to think before I could formulate a reply.
There was also a simple logic test which every candidate should do. Out of 180 candidates who appeared that day, 45 were to go through to the next stage.
Luckily, I made the cut and have been called to the final set of interviews in Stockholm. Every candidate would have to do a small presentation about himself/herself, do an interview and write another logic test. I can already feel butterflies in my stomach. All the hard work and energy put into learning the language can possibly pay off now. It is an uphill task but nonetheless exciting. Will come back in my next blog with my story from Stockholm!
For the second year, consecutively, I was at the conference which from the outset might seem like something to do with digging, as I had mentioned in my post last year, Gräv, means to dig. This edition of the investigative journalism conference was organized in the lovely city of Jönköping, which lies kissing the tail of a big blue patch on the Swedish map – the second largest lake – Vättern.
The conference was preceded by a day-long workshop for the participants from the Swedish Institute. The workshop was a focused training and interaction event from expert journalists. Nils Hanson from the SVT, Sven Bergman and other popular speakers from the Swedish media facilitated exciting workshops, covering topics ranging from how they conduct scoops, to tips on journalism to us, and interaction with an assorted bunch of invited journalists from different countries. There were two journalists from India; I had worked indirectly with one of them, but had not met. Serendipity it seems, that I met the journalist from Bangalore here in this conference, who also happens to live in my proximity back home.
The conference was over two days, on the 20th and 21st of March. With new insights and inspiring sessions from investigative journalists, who have many a times risked their lives to report stories shared their experiences in lectures through the two days. More scintillating were the interactions between sessions. Heartrending stories of struggle from Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and other troubled zones of the world were the focal point of most of the sessions.
As I hold interest in digital security and internet freedom, I was curious to extract some opinions from the event, and I ran a survey on the increase in awareness about digital security post Snowden revelations about mass surveillance. The survey seems to affirm my hypothesis, about which I will soon write in detail on another platform.
As with last edition of Grav, I return enriched with new experiences and tools, and more importantly abundant inspiration.
It’s close to two years since she made her journey from India to Sweden for her studies at Chalmers University of Technology. Poornima Joshi is now in her final semester pursuing a Master’s Programme in Software Engineering. She is always actively involved in a number of events besides her busy class schedules at the University. This week I had an opportunity for a one-on-one interview with her to find out more about her reflections at Chalmers and her next plans. This is what she told me.
Introduce yourself and what are you studying at Chalmers?
My name is Poornima Joshi. I come from Bangalore, an IT city in India, and I am studying Software Engineering Master’s Programme.
Why did you choose to come for studies in Sweden and Chalmers, in particular?
Typically, an IT student’s dream is to go to Silicon Valley, California. But I chose to come to Chalmers when I met an interesting Swedish lady, a representative of Chalmers in Bangalore. She told me that in Sweden people always follow their heart and give themselves chances. And Chalmers University of Technology was the chance given to me. I followed my passion to study exactly what I was looking for in the Software Engineering Master’s Programme. And of course Volvo, a Swedish company having a strong base in India was a big part of it too.
You have three months to complete your Master’s studies, what are your next plans after Chalmers?
I plan to look for a challenging job that suits my profile and passion. I believe it will open me to the beautiful world of flat structures and its brilliant contributions to science and technology.
Could you please tell us a few of your memorable experiences at Chalmers?
The student union and course structure is the most influential part of my studies. The course is designed in a shockingly surprising structure where the class projects and assignments including open exams and presentations ensure that every student in the class becomes a master of the subject. And the student union just complements the course work bringing out the best in every student.
Any experience from student events?
I had been the Vice President for Public Relations on the Board of European Students of Technology at Chalmers. It is an association that exists under the student union to collaborate and learn to work in an international environment. Well, the most interesting thing I had to deal with; in my mandate was to build a strategy for sustainability keeping in mind the future of the association on a long term basis. At my age and experience, it seemed like a herculean task. However, it was a great learning experience. I also learned to deal with fluctuations of peoples’ motivations and commitments as I fought with them myself. It was a truly multicultural international environment with more than ten nationalities. We had to bridge a gap between them all to achieve a common goal.
What advice would you give to candidates who are considering coming to study at Chalmers?
A typical thing that every student would do before coming to any university is to check ranking. But trust me – once you’re at Chalmers it doesn’t matter. What if there exist high ranks universities? You would already be in a top class education. Chalmers does not just give you a degree – it gives you an education! A lifetime experience!
When you enter any building at Chalmers, one sight that is common, but weird, is to see broad planks of good wood bearing theses that are nailed to them! EDIT building, where I now live (exaggerating!), has these on every floor. I had missed asking the reason for this tradition with my Swedish friends, and learned about it today.
There was an official Thesis Nailing ceremony, or Spikning, and I gladly dragged one of the administration employees to talk me through the custom. I was initially of the opinion that this was just a Chalmers-only tradition. Turns out, it happens in almost all Swedish universities. When the thesis is ready, and has been approved of, the final nail to the process of getting a PhD seems to be this ceremony, where the student nails his/her thesis onto one of the planks with their supervisor’s approval.
I thought it was metaphorical, befitting the agony of slogging through the 4 years of research was being vented out by nailing the thesis to the wall. Then I discover it has been a tradition since the 15th century. Mainly practiced in regions of Europe, where Lutherian Protestant version of Christianity made its way. As with everything about religion, Sweden gladly perpetuates the traditions, and leaves most of the divinity behind. Martin Luther in the 15th century, nailed his 95 theses on church doors, which then gave rise to the Protestant reformation. Since then, nailing people’s work in public spaces, for others to read and leave it behind seems to have become a norm to disseminate one’s ideas. And, more than 500 years later, as PhD theses are fully grown and approved ideas, it seems quite natural to nail them onto these walls!
When you next time spot these crucified theses, be glad to be witnessing a tradition going on for centuries!
Winter sports are a spectacle to behold. Hailing from the tropical zone, it was quite an experience to witness my first winter, or should I call it semi-winter sporting experience. Semi-winter because the snow is all actually gone, and the venue where we were spectators to world snow boarding competition in fact had old, or artificial snow. The event was AleInvite, just outside Gothenburg.
Irrespective of the quality of snow, the thrills of snow-boarders performing mid-air acrobatics, after being thrust mid air by the momentum of sliding off the slope was scintillating. The stunts were reminiscent of the wake-boarding competition I had written about few months ago. But, in this event the terrain was more realistic, and gravity was unpardoning on the ones who mis-landed. The participants were from different northern hemispheric countries, and many have been champions at some or the other international stints.
Witnessing these sports does enthuse me to want to try out some milder form of winter sports. This venue, 25 km outside Gothenburg, in fact offers basic terrain for rookies like myself to practice skiing, and full experience under controlled environment for the next level skiers. In case I last another winter here in Sweden, I shall certainly try that! Until I post my own feats on snow, relish these clips and pictures from the event.