Theresa and Stefan, why did you choose Umeå University?
Stefan: As we are both very interested in the Swedish way of life and very close to nature, we wanted to experience the fascinating and colourful beauty of Scandinavia for ourselves. Another very decisive point for our Erasmus semester in Sweden was certainly the relatively stable situation surrounding the Corona pandemic in the host country. Which can now be clearly confirmed when looking back.
Where do you see the biggest differences between your host university and the MCI?
Stefan: The biggest differences are definitely in the very theoretical learning approach at Umeå University and the relatively high practical approach at MCI | The Entrepreneurial University. Another big difference was that the courses at the host university are not run parallel until the end of the semester, but are lined up in monthly blocks, finished with exams. Compared to the MCI, the exams were with four hours very long. We also noticed right from the start that fellow students there don't interact as much and don't have the "family-like" relationship we're used to at the MCI.
What is it like to spend a semester abroad in Sweden during COVID-19?
Theresa: To be honest, we noticed almost nothing of the pandemic in Sweden. We only wore the mask at the airport upon arrival and departure. It was also very unusual at the beginning, for example in the supermarket, that no one was wearing a mask or keeping their distance from each other. Despite no restrictions, everything worked out wonderfully. It was all the more unusual for us to be confronted with all the strict measures when we got home.
How do you like Umeå?
Theresa: We were both very positively surprised by the city. For being quite an unknown city, our expectations were definitely exceeded. In general, Umeå is similar to Innsbruck; the high proportion of students, the countless bicycles, the fact that everything is easily accessible, or the large river "Ume älv". The city is also very close to nature. You can quickly get to the famous Lake Nydala, go hiking in the woods or kayaking. What surprised us, however, was that the cost of living, especially food, was much more expensive than we were used to. So we had to calculate exactly and think properly about what we would cook. But there was one thing we always had the necessary money for - so-called "Fika": a very well-known tradition of the Swedes, namely a coffee break with friends during which one Swedish cinnamon buns "Kanelbullar" are served.
What was the biggest challenge during your semester abroad?
Theresa: For me, it was the increasingly shorter days, down to a maximum of three hours of sunshine. And the sun wasn't high, it was just about to set all the time. So you had to organize yourself to make sure to go out into the fresh air while it was still light. Thanks to the many friendships I made during my time in Umea, I was never in a bad mood despite the short days! :-)
Stefan: At the beginning, the challenge was adjusting to the English-speaking university routine, which I got used to quickly after just a few days. Towards the end of the semester, however, it was the "never-ending" darkness. However, I was able to cope with this mentally thanks to the very intensive time at the IKSU - one of the largest sports facilities in Northern Europe that the city has to offer.
Theresa and Stefan, thank you for your exciting insights into your semester abroad!