I got the opportunity to interview four international students, all the way from the Netherlands and Germany to France. Two of them are Erasmus exchange students, while the other two are studying international master programs. One thing they all agreed upon was that one reason they came to Sweden was because of the nature and amazing outdoors it offers.
To welcome Erasmus students there is an introduction week with events, but most events take place in Linköping. For the students studying in Norrköping it is difficult to always commute to Linköping for the events and to buy tickets. The school bus (campusbussen) does not run later than 6/7 pm, and taking the train every time becomes too expensive. One student expressed that when she started to study in Norrköping, she knew more about campus Linköping than campus Norrköping. For the international master programs the introduction week did not even include social events, just projects regarding the program.
Since Linköpings University is not an ”international university”, the teachers and students all speak Swedish and almost all of the students are Swedish. This applies to the courses the exchange students take. The go to language in class is Swedish, and the teachers are not strict about language preference. Students often get to choose between Swedish and English, which means that the international students now and then have to sit and listen to a presentation in Swedish, which they learn nothing from. They even have to occasionally raise their hands to mention that they are exchange students, who do not speak Swedish. When the teacher then announces the class to switch from Swedish to English, it becomes very noticeable that the international students are there. All eyes are on them. This can also cause them to feel like a burden, because other Swedish students look disappointed when switching to English.
All of the interviewees expressed the feeling of the Swedish students not being curious about them. No one comes up to them and directly asks them questions about who they are, where they are from and so on. This causes them to interact mostly with other international students, since it feels easier because they are in the same boat. This is a two way street, but it may be that you are more nervous when you are new to the class. However, when the international students themselves ask questions to Swedish students or have been involved in group works with them, they describe them as super friendly, easy going and positive! They love the fika pauses and the relaxed environment. This differs from many students back home, the students here are more relaxed and even more helpful.
The international students would like the bridge between the Swedish students and international students to link more together. They want to be more integrated into Swedish culture and to the country, which becomes easier with Swedish friends. Right now the two student associations they rely on are ISA (International student association) and ESN (Erasmus student network). Unfortunately there is simply not enough information in English about the other student associations. So, even though they want to join student associations, they do not receive enough information about what it is and how to be involved. One student described that it feels like two separate spaces, the Swedish speaking and the English speaking. She feels like the LinTek section does not include international students much.
- “The teachers are super approachable, thoughtful and adaptable.”
- “The classroom environment.”
- “The students are more relaxed, there is not as much stress about schoolwork.”
- “I love how we study group work! I have noticed that Swedes love the fikapaus, they think it is very important.”
- “I love being able to bike to school and all of nature. I really want to stay here. I have met a few Swedish friends, took a while but I have them now! Makes me feel more integrated into the country.”
- “The calmness and stress free vibes!”