“Without challenging myself to complete this journey, I would have been completely unaware of my ability to function independently in a foreign context.”
Program: : Umeå University Exchange, Spring
Student’s Majors: Social Work; Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies
Academic Life: I took a total of two courses throughout the entirety of the semester. Professors asked to be addressed by their first names, and they generally sat at conference tables with the students instead of standing in front of the classroom. The teacher-student relationship was much more casual; we would often take coffee breaks together and chat about things outside the realm of the course, as if we were colleagues or friends rather than teacher and students. Though I was only required to physically be in class for an average of four hours a week, I was responsible for completing an additional 20 hours worth of work in the form of reading and individual assignments each week. The completion of additional work was necessary for active participation in group discussions, without which, I would have been unable to pass each course.
New Experiences: I was the first member of my family to study abroad, so navigating all of the application processes and Swedish systems was both literally and figuratively very foreign. I have learned that I am soooooo much more brave than I would have previously given myself credit for. Taking a chance and diving into something completely unfamiliar was pretty understanding of my own abilities, and a heightened sense of self-confidence.
Advice for Someone Considering Umeå: There were a total of five American exchange students at Umeå University during my time abroad, and it really forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and befriend individuals who were different than me. While I forged strong relationships with naive Swedes, the international climate also gave me the opportunity to build friendships with students from around the globe.