It is that time of the year again, when every one starts to fear that the darkness and silence of the winter has initiated to creep in. But my observation and feelings regarding Autumn in Gothenburg have been quiet pleasant. It was in this same season that I first landed in Gothenburg, and therefore I associate the Autumn season as my first real contact to Sweden.
It has been a shame that I did not get the time and opportunity to visit Botaniska during my stay in Gothenburg so far. So last weekend me and a friend of mine decided to go for a stroll there. The motivation to do so came from a refreshingly bright and sunny day, which is quiet unique at this time of the year. So off we went walking towards Botaniska, enjoying every bit of the rejoicing weather and the soothing breeze. On our way we spotted various signs that were staring right at us, vividly announcing the arrival of Autumn. Among them were the beautiful trees, laced elegantly with red leaves that seemed to be gasping their last breaths before they fall off just to be reincarnated in the next spring. The street was carpeted with a layer of leaves that had already fallen off, and as you walk over them you can hear the rather pleasant sound of crispy flakes cracking under you, something very characteristic of this season.
We entered, via a gate that led us straight in to the woods. There is a walking track that you could follow and find your way around. The feeling of walking through the woods was very natural and lifted our moods. One feels close to nature and appreciates the subtleties in the beautiful setting of the woods; the types of trees, their look, shape, orientation, types of berries, small squirrels sneaking in around the trees and many other small details which you otherwise fail to notice in every day life. Soon we were in the central part of Botaniska, where they had an exhibition of different types of flowers. We then passed by a busy restaurant inside the premises that was, not surprisingly, filled with people enjoying the sun on a Sunday afternoon.
The most interesting aspect was the exhibition of different types of apples and pears. It was very startling to see the number of varieties displayed, each with a slightly different shape, color and taste.Each type of apple has a small tag next to it telling about how it is bred and the date the breed was first cultivated. Some of the types are available in the market while other are still off the shelves and are in the labs being modified to find the best combination. It was very heartening to see small kids and families taking great interest in such an exhibition.
We finally sat down to take-in some warmth from possibly, one of the last appearances of the sun this year. We had some coffee and snacks and strolled back to Chalmers, to work a bit on our courses. A relaxing and memorable outing indeed!
Johanneberg Campus is always abuzz with some kind of student activity for one reason or another; recruiting new members for committees, publicising events, celebrating milestones or just giving away free fika, one thing or the other will always catch your eye especially on and around Teknologården. This week thus was no surprise, when there was loud music and a bunch of sutdents hustling around the Chalmers Tram outside the union building. But this time around it seemed a little different, something more grand than just free fika was about to happen. You could see sutdents wearing construction helmets, wood panels and logs lying around and construction equipment being changing hands. So I tought I would dig in a bit deeper to see what is all the hussle about.
As it turns out it is an annual event called the Chalmers Structural Design Challenge. Second year students from A, V, AT and AE sections participate in a competition where they have to design a bridge across A-Dammen (fountain next to the A building). The challenge is to come up with innovative and exciting designs of bridges and the students are encouraged to think ot of the box. Each team is designated certain amount and type of materials and they have to make the most of these resources to build the bridge. A qualified jury then evaluates the bridge on three criterion: technology, functionality and aesthetic beauty. The construction site is usually the area out side the V and A building. Different groups take up spots in that area, set up a work station, put on some music and set themselves into action. Each group has a small pstreamer with the description of thier idea, put up somewhere around their workstation, just to let the ones passing by know what is the activity about. Traditionally, to prove the strength of their bridge each team has to pass over the bridge with all members on the bridge at a distance of almost 2m form one another. It is not a surprise that each year many teams end up falling in to the pond, when their bridge fails to sustain the load of the entire team and collapses. This however is not what the event signifies, the effort, the creativity and efficiency with which these bridges are constructed makes each participant a winner anyway. Índividual reports are also handed in for the design of the bridge and at the end there are scintillating prizes and events for the participants to cleberate their success and participation in this unique event.
The idea is inspired from ambition of strengthing ties between the university and the industry. Every year the event is sponspored and supervised by many different and well known construction companies like COWI and NCC. Usually, the employees of the sponsoring companies make up the jury along with teachers from architecture and civil engineering departments at Chalmers. Each year witnesses a new range and variety of designs. The fact that the students are encouraged to experiment says alot about the approach to teaching at Chalmers; emphasis is always on learning and not on ”what if this dose not work”. The students participating are still nery young in their evolutiona as engineers and the fact that they create an entire bridge from scratch is commendable. The enviornment around the event is festive and very inviting, it is not like a ususal boring sceince competition at school.
I am glad that these students had the chance to assess their thinking patterns as engineers and their team work skills so early in their education. Such events pave way for companies to spot which universities are producing graduates with adequatre arsenal to stand up to the challenges of the future. Looking at the names and number of companies that sponsored this challenge, it seems Chalmers enojys a great reputation in the construciton industry and is going stronger by sitcking to events like these ! Since most of the information related to this Structural Design Challenges is in Swedish only, I wanted to make an effort-with this article-to reach out to all the international students who find such events interesting. Hope it helps!
Pictures by: Hanna Säterskog
As the CIRC reception approaches its end, I hope all international students have created memories and stories that they would share and cherish for many years to come. Being a CIRC member myself, I enjoyed every bit of creating this magnificent experience for the students and working as a team with other talented, motivated and passionate students who along with me formed the core committee of CIRC’ 14.
Although every event was a success in itself, but there were some that stood out and are worth a mention, as I re collect my memories of this term’s reception. Since we cater to a bunch of students alien to Swedish culture and Chalmers traditions, we tried to create an evening where they could get the taste of both in one go. It was named the Swedish sittning, in line with the rich culture of sittningar at Chalmers. This is something very traditional to Chalmers; sitttningar are a get together where people enjoy their meal, are entertained by performances from participants (called gyckels) and at the same time sing and dance to create a light atmosphere deluged with laughter! In this particular sitting there was a ‘Swedish table’ which was occupied by a few Swedish Chalmerists. Their table was intentionally placed in the centre of the room so that every one could see them perform. Each of them was dressed in a manner that depicted a traditional Swedish event, attire or mannerism; lusia, mid summer, Christmas, Easter, vikings all were part of this spectacle. These students prepared a small song, which they sang as they walked down the stairs in to the dinning hall and sang for a few minutes in front of the dazzled bunch of new comers. The food served was also a glimpse of Swedish cuisine in a nut shell; potatoes, lingon berry jam, different types of sill, salad. It was a buffet so you could fill your belly up sit back, mingle and enjoy the evening. The same night it was birthday of one of the very dear CIRC members, which we celebrated together with a sweet little cake and birthday greetings in both English and Svenska!
The other stand out success was the Park hangout. A event that sounds rather simple in its name, and was set very early in the reception. The aim was to make the students know each other better before all the parties and hectic studies kick off. It was a chance for them to find acquaintances and friends that they can hangout with and with whom they can experience Gothenburg. All the phadder groups gathered in Slottskogen, where they were treated to some light food and introduced to Swedish games like brannboll and kubb. We were pleasantly surprised with the overwhelming response of students; more than 400 people showed up to make this event a ravishing success. This just emphasized the point that midst all the partying and glitter of going abroad, the basic ingredient to get to know people by one to one conversations should never be lost. We were glad that we gave a channel via which such a relax interaction could take place.
It is a rather special feeling when you can be the gateway of information for such a large number of curious people, who are eager to learn and explore. Such a platform is a unique opportunity for an engineering student, and I am glad I got the chance to be there. The idea of volunteering while studying full time in a different part of world, did sound scary at first to me. But since making the choice of joining CIRC I have lived through and learned so much, that I feel proud of making the call of joining it in the first place. It taught me alot about the Swedish work ethics and culture, how do people work in groups and non-existence of any hierarchical fear while you work. It goes without saying that I got to listen and talk to people of so many nationalities that I have lost count now, and I never would have known subtle aspects of other cultures, languages and lifestyles if I would not have met, in-person, such a diverse batch of people.
The finale this weekend would draw the curtains on Autumn reception and soon we will hand the torch over to the next board of budding CIRCers. It has been a thrilling journey and time seems to have flown past. I hope that in the future this committee goes from strength to strength and continues to comfort the new students with a warm welcome to this wonderful university!
The autumn term has kicked off and all the students are slowly settling into the hectic but rewarding routine of managing the work load at Chalmers. Structural design is one of the two courses that I chose this study period and it began in a rather refreshing style with a study trip.
The trip was organised to get us acquainted with design of movable bridges. We went to three different areas, Trollhatan, Vannersborg and Uddevalla and visited a total of 5 bridges. Each one of them was unique in nature; the concept behind the design, the execution, the operation and the history were a few of the numerous interesting aspects of every bridge that we visited. We were provided with salad and sandwhices to keep us motivated and in good mood. Apart from our teachers a person who works for the city administration accompanied us to make this experience more thorough.
The first was Railway bridge in Marieholm, a swing bridge that pivots on its centre and opens up a dual channel for the ships to pass by. The bridge is interestingly the only artery connecting the port area to Gothenburg city and thus to rest of Sweden. They are planning to build an identical bridge a few hundred metres down the river to share the load and to provide an alternate passage in case of unforseen circumstances occur or an accident happens on the first bridge. As the story goes, the architect originally assigned to design the bridge never showed up during the planning phase of the project. The project manager, being a civil engineer in a few moments sketched how the piers of the bridge should like. The piers ended up being constructed that same way and they are standing strong to date!
The next bridge was Kungälv bridge near the fortress in Gothenburg. It is sitting in a very serene and scenic surrounding. It was an open able steel bridge, that has earned significant value over the years as part of the area’s history and heritage. It is part of a route that was a major highway before, called the highway two. Earlier people had to take ferries across the river, but this bridge made the life easier and the highway traffic more fluent.
Next in line was the rail bridge in Trollhattan. The steel truss bridge can be moved vertically upwards to allow the ships to pass through. It is quite an amazing sight to see a massive hefty deck rising upwards. The machinery however performing the vertical lift, is believed to be worn out and poses some occasional problems in the operation of the bridge. The design however has been carefully carved out to ensure that it blends well with the surroundings and the view is not blocked by the bridge deck. In the vicinity of this bridge was a typical Folkets Park, such parks are present in almost every city all over Sweden. Not so much now, but Folkets Parks were once the a hub of activity especially suring summers. According to our professor, the roots of the celebrated music culture of Sweden lie in these Folkets park, because people use to gather here, sing and enjoy music, and this is from where many great musicians discovered their talent and ability.
The next destination was Vannersborg, where we saw perhaps the most interesting bridge of all, but the aesthetically the worse at the same time. It had a huge over head counter weight that looked like a gigantic garbage container, to help it open. The paint was wearing, the steel rusting and the negligence in maintenance of the bridge was apparent. There are plans to replace it soon, but that takes nothing away from the brilliance of the concept. As the bridge opens, the counter weight squeezes in beneath the pivot over which the structure revolves. The elastic electric cable over which the train runs just sags down under the counter weight. The main bridge deck rises and slides smoothly into the the steel channels provided to accommodate movement of the bridge deck. The pictures would make the functioning clearer. The sight looked like one of the characters of a Transformers movie, where a apparently dead metallic mass breaks into motion and changes shape.
The last destination was the a pedestrian bridge in Uddevalla, that was apart of a promenade along a cliff. It blended very well with the surroundings and the walk along the cliff was very relaxing. We reached there around sunset, so we were lucky to see the dying rays of the sun glimmering on the surface of the calm sea water. We stayed there for a while listening from our teacher about the architectural and aesthetic brilliance of the bridge before we took the bus home after a long but captivating study visit.
The dipping temperatures and the cool breeze have started signalling the arrival of winter. Soon, we will have to bring out heavy jackets and gloves to conceal ourselves from the piercing cold that awaits us. But there is not much that one can complain about, since the brilliance of the Swedish summer pretty much makes up for the darkness of the winters.
The closing weeks of the summer vacations were laced with a broad spectrum of activities, each of which were unique in nature and allowed you to experience a novel aspect of the Swedish culture. The highlight was the Kulturkalas, which brought Gothenburg to life; it seemed to have lit a spark in an otherwise subdued ambiance of the city. People flocked towards concerts organised around the city. Avenyn was deluged with people who were in pursuit to attend the concert of their favorite artist. The commendable aspect was that all the events were for free and the traffic system was very well managed despite the discrepancies owing to the event. Many major roads had to be closed to make room for the large crowds showing up for concerts, but commuting through the city was still not an inconvenience and the public transport seem to flow smoothly via the alternate routes set up by the administration.
There was an international market at Brunnsparken in which you could browse through items that were characteristic to different countries in the world. This market was a miniature global village, showcasing the diversity and variety around the world in a nutshell. Food, clothing, souvenirs all were there to keep you entertained while you stroll through the numerous stalls.
Another event that I went to was a 5km race organised by a private company. It was not part of the Kulturkalas, but both events were held during the same week. The catch was that you were showered with colors while you ran. So by the time you finish you look like a rainbow in the shape of a human being!! I volunteered to assist the team organizing the event. I had to join them in giving out packages to the participants; each package comprised of a t-shirt, sun glasses, wrists bands and many more goodies! Since most of the participants were Swedish, I got a golden opportunity to practice my spoken Swedish, and I can proudly say I grabbed the chance with both hands. I was interacting with the participants, asking their tshirt sizes, giving directions, answering queries, allt på svenska!! Wohooooo!!!!! Those who are aspiring to learn the language might be able to relate to the feeling of pride and accomplishment that you feel when you can hold a 45 second long conversation in Swedish without feeling uncomfortable. Certainly a very productive and fun day.The volunteers were treated with free pizza and got to participate in the race for free, which I thought was a smart business idea on part of the organizers and an exciting incentive for the volunteers. The race attracted a huge crowd, which was a mix of people from different age groups and was a big success.
The Autumn term now begins at Chalmers, and soon all of us would go back to the familiar routine of mounts of course work, assignments and exams. I hope all of you had a relaxing summer, and are pumped up to excel this semester! Lycka till!
As alot of people in Gothenburg would have noticed, there are some significant changes being made to the tram line and road right outside Chalmers. Being a Civil engineer my-self I was compelled to notice the details of the work being carried out. Of course a mere gaze is not sufficient to know much technical details but the planning and execution has been commendable.
Coming from city with a population almost as large as that of Sweden, I would never call the trams stop outside Chalmers “crowded”. So it fascinated me that, why invest so much money in extension and widening of adjacent roads. I think that is where the trick lies in the ever so smooth functioning of traffic in Sweden; planning in advance. As I talked to some of my mates working in the same industry, I was pleasantly surprised to know how government projects are planned well ahead in time to avoid inconvenience for the citizens.
The safety standards, as with any other civil engineering project in Sweden, have been exemplary. There is an auxiliary lane for pedestrians well protected on the top, for them to pass under a bridge that is being renovated. The markings and diversions are very clear and easy to spot. Access to Chalmers is still open by foot and has been neatly carved through the construction site. As an observer you would not spot the personnel on the site being in a rush, or the site being over staffed and nobody seems to be in a hassle. That can be attributed to the closely chalked out plans created well before the project started. So, one can work at a comfortable pace and with a calm mindset and do not have sweat over the possibility of missing deadlines. Of course the risk of unforseen delays looms over, but it is greatly reduced if enough thought and effort has been put into the planning stage.
As the start of the autumn term approaches, I sincerely hope that the project is completed, to allow for students to commute smoothly. It seems to be making progress at an appreciable rate. As a student at Chalmers my-self, I think this effort of easing the traffic load outside Chalmers is commendable since it would save an important chunk of time in the busy school life of all Chalmerist.
Pictures by Michael Nystås
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.