Christina Schlager is a student of the Bachelor of Social Work and spends her semester abroad in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg. She sends greetings from Sweden and shares her experiences during her semester abroad with us.
Why did you choose this particular partner university?
Scandinavian countries have always fascinated me, especially because of their beautiful landscapes and unique culture. During my studies at the MCI, Sweden often struck me as a very progressive welfare state with a modern social system that is far ahead of other European countries in terms of gender equality. When I saw that the University of Gothenburg was a partner university, I did some more research and was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of spending my semester abroad there.
How do you like the university city? How do you experience the culture of the host country?
Gothenburg is a very diverse city with a lot of greenery and nature. Swedes often seem distant at first, but they are friendly. They are also known to speak good English, which I can confirm and makes it easier to get along. Gothenburg has many students and especially many exchange students. In my courses there were mainly international students, which meant that I came into less contact with people from Sweden.
Otherwise, Gothenburg, like Sweden in general, is relatively expensive and I had to manage my money very well. The Erasmus grant was enough for the rent in the dormitory. Otherwise, however, the high cost of food and especially restaurants and cafes. Since I had money saved up, I also had the opportunity to explore the country a bit. I visited Stockholm and Malmö and was also in Denmark, which I can highly recommend.
Where do you see the biggest differences between your host university and the MCI?
While there are many different courses with few ECTS at the MCI, the University of Gothenburg offers courses with 15 or 7.5 ECTS. I took three different courses during my semester abroad: Gender Studies, Political Science and Social Work.
What is it like to do a semester abroad in Gothenburg/Sweden during COVID-19?
Although stores and restaurants were always open in Sweden, at the beginning of my time abroad the lectures were all online. In October, I had a few opportunities to attend seminars on campus, but this was not mandatory. From the beginning of November, all lectures and seminars were on campus, which I was very happy about.
I was glad to have the opportunity to enjoy my free time besides lectures and go to a café or visit a museum. Sweden had taken a different approach to COVID compared to most European countries. The case numbers were always much lower in Sweden than in Austria. However, at the beginning of winter, the numbers increased in both countries. While there was a lockdown again in Austria, no measures such as a mask requirement were introduced in Sweden and everything remained open. However, in relation to the rising case numbers, I have sometimes felt unsafe when no one wore a mask on public transport and no one ever checked whether someone had been tested, vaccinated or recovered.
What has been the biggest challenge so far during your semester abroad?
Since my semester started already at the end of August, I was able to experience a beautiful late summer/fall in Gothenburg. The rest of the time it was unfortunately very rainy, which is typical for Gothenburg and unfortunately affected my mood. It is also not to be underestimated that in winter it gets light very late and dark very soon, which was very challenging for me at times. I tried to take advantage of the few hours of sunshine as much as I could and spend time outside every day.
In conclusion, I can say that my semester abroad in Gothenburg was a good experience.
Christina Schlager on the road in Sweden. ©Chihiro Komeno