Studying at a Swedish University & Writing a Master’s Thesis

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Some of the Best Things about Studying in Sweden

Creator: AntonioGuillem
Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto
Copyright: AntonioGuillem

This year has gone by so quickly but there have been some really great aspects of study in Sweden. I have met lots of great people and made new friends, which is probably what has made studying in Linkoping so enjoyable. I am going to share some of the best things about doing my master’s in Sweden,  which might be different in other countries:

  1. The tutors have always been prepared to answer questions and have encouraged them, even in the middle of lectures. (While doing my bachelors in the UK I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to interrupt a lecturer part way through a lecture to ask question.)
  2. The course modules don’t over lap. This is such a joy, not to have to think about more than one topic/ module at a time. I have found it so much better to focus on one module, complete the assignment/ final paper and then move on to the next.
  3. The seminars are compulsory but the lectures aren’t. This felt like it was the opposite to the UK but now I don’t know why it would be. It makes perfect sense to make the seminars compulsory, to make sure everyone has done the reading and understands. Not everyone learns best by listening to a lecture so it also makes sense that these are not compulsory (although attendance is strongly recommended).
  4. The content is most important. When writing essays for my bachelors I felt like the format, referencing and structure of essays were considered to be the most important aspects for getting a good grade, even if the content/ ideas were poor. This always seemed weird and maybe I tried harder with these things because I found them more challenging, but this year I realised that the content and ideas within an essay are the most important thing- the other aspects are essential but only as a means of clearly presenting ideas.
  5. January is a time to rest. Perhaps because it’s darker and colder in Sweden, and because a lot of people go skiing, January is a long holiday. Over the Christmas break my sister (who is studying in the UK) had loads of work to do but I could relax and enjoy the holiday a lot more.

Writing a Master’s Thesis

Amazingly, it is time to begin writing my Master’s Thesis! I finished my last taught module last week and I now have 7 weeks to write my thesis.

The tutors on my course have been helpful, so far we have already had two seminars to discuss our thesis topics. The first seminar was in February where we have to think of thesis subject and give a 5/10 min description of this topic. In February, I had no idea what I would write my thesis on so I was not too happy about giving this presentation, however it was successful in making me look ahead a pick a suitable topic. Since then I have actually changed my mind about what topic to research for my thesis- I am not looking into Nudge theory- but I might not have chosen this, if not for the early seminar in February. We had a second seminar two weeks ago where we presented our ideas again and this time we were encouraged not to change them. We were also assigned a supervisor to help us with our thesis’.

So far the best advice I can offer, and that has been offered to me is:

  • Pick a topic early- you can always change your mind.
  • Choose a topic that interests you- you don’t want to get bored.
  • Choose a topic that is relevant- master’s thesis’ are published on Liu E-Press which can be accessed by future employers or other scholars so you want your topic to match your interests.
  • Begin research and reading as early as possible- you can never know too much.
  • Look into PhD and job opportunities before choosing a topic if you think you would like to work in the same field- it is good to know what areas are of interest in the relevant academic spheres.
  • Plan carefully- having a plan is always helpful, even if you don’t follow it.
  • Ask your supervisor for help if you get stuck.

Liu E-Press, where theses are published.

When I chose my topic I didn’t really consider all of these thing but I am happy with my choice. I think it is always best to start things early  (which is something that teachers and parents always say and students and children never do). I feel like I may have missed out in some of the opportunities to study for a PhD because I didn’t take it seriously as an option until I was too busy to apply for one. PhD research proposals also take a long time to write- bear this in mind if you consider applying for one. The tutor’s on my course were happy to write letter’s of recommendation and to look over research proposal- which is also such a valuable resource, if it’s offered.

A great place to look for philosophy or Ethics PhD places is on the Liverpool List. It’s easy to follow on face book too. 

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DIY (Do It Yourself)- Renovation

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Our office ‘to be’ full of packing boxes and without walls.

When we moved to Sweden I was excited but full of anxiety. Things seemed too good to be true but I did have a few legitimate worries.  one of the things I was most apprehensive about was the renovation work needed on our house.

The renovations we knew about when we bought the house but after the excitement of buying our own house we realised it came with responsibilities. One room in our hose especially needed work- since it had not interior walls!

While I was excited to renovate and keen to start, if a little daunted, there was one major problem…  neither I nor my husband had ever done it before! On top of this, we were attempting DIY for the first time in a foreign country, where neither of us spoke the language.

Our first major hurdle was finding a supplier. We needed wood, boards, paint, screws… the list goes on. We began with simple google searches but we soon realised that the cost of having building supplies delivered is NOT worth while, especially if you live in the countryside. Instead we toured the industrial estates of our nearest large town and found a shop there- Jem and Fix!

Jem & Fix are a Scandinavian equivalent of B&Q. They were the perfect place to buy pretty much all of the things we needed.

Website link: https://www.jemfix.se/

Our second problem was getting things home. Jem & Fix do deliver but their deliveries were similarly priced to other companies so this was no good. Another possibility was to borrow a trailer. This would have been perfect and doesn’t cost a penny, however I drive a small hatch back (not the best car if you live in rural Sweden) which has no tow bar. Our solution was to buy a rook rack (tack raker). This was a whole challenge in and of itself but once we had it we were able to get supplies back to the house.

Wall boards completed

After finding a place to buy supplies and finding a way to get them home, we had the challenge of actually renovating. This in some ways was easier than the first two steps. We added extra insulation and then put up wall panels. I had the ‘fun’ job of papering the walls- my husband refused. Finally we were able to paint and I fitted a wall plug.

We know our work is far, far from Sweden’s finest but we definitely think our office is improved. The final steps will be to add a more permanent floor covering- maybe carpet which is not at all popular in Sweden, strangely- and maybe to add some more personal touches. But, I now have a place to study, which makes me quite proud to look at when I compare it to when we first moved in.

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Fat Tuesday

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Lucia- another Swedish tradition, on the 13th December girls dress this way and sign traditional songs.

What is fat Tuesday and why do Swedes celebrate it?

I am not a religious person in the slightest although I am fascinated but theological ethics and cultural traditions that are born often from religion. Until 2000 Sweden’s official state religion was Lutheran Christianity. This is the reason for many of the traditional celebrations held in Sweden, despite most citizens now claiming to have no religion or atheist persuasions.
Fat Tuesday marks the beginning of Lent- a time when many christian fast or give up something in the lead up to Easter. In England this is usually called ‘pancake day’. The idea being that all fatty or indulgent products get eaten before the Lenten fast.

Semla in ICA

In Sweden, stead of making and eating pancakes they eat Semla. Semla are bready buns cut open and filled with an almond paste and whipped cream. They sold them at the university and I saw them in the local ICA. I was given mixed reports so I thought I better try one. They are quite heavy in texture and the almond paste tasted a little like marzipan. Some people love them and some hate them. I have to admit, I’m not 100% convinced- I think I’ll stick to pancakes next year!

 

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Weather in Sweden

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Having now lived in Sweden since August I feel like I’ve seen most of the Swedish seasons. All of them are beautiful but my favourite so far is the one just starting- Spring.

Summer

Before moving to Sweden and buying our house my husband and I visited. We stayed in Stockholm in June, travelling from there to Linköping and also to Mörlunda, where we now live. This was our first trip to Sweden and we were amazed. Stockholm was not what I expected, it was older, prettier and hotter! We were well aware that we were visiting at a time when the whether was untypical but none the less it surprised just hot hot Sweden could be. We were able to walk around the city in shorts and vests, even in the evening where it stayed light until about 11 o’clock. Our hotel room was not equipped to deal with the heat and we actually had to use wet towels to keep us from over heating in the night.

Sun in Stockholm

While the weather was unusually warm we were also told that the sun in Sweden feels different. This sounds odd and a little clichéd but the heat in Sweden is not the same as the heat in England. Temperatures of about 20 degrees in the UK might still require you to wear a jacket but where I currently live in Sweden, he air is so still that 20 degrees feels amazingly warm. I was expecting also to experience sunburn at some point over the summer- an inevitable hazard, having fair skin- but I didn’t. Perhaps this is because it feels warmer, the inclination to put on sun cream before getting burnt to a crisp kicks in.

Autumn

The autumn this year was stunning and seemed to go by very quickly. The weather stayed mild until well into October, I was actually reading some of my course literature outside in the sun up until October. When the weather did change it change rapidly. We had a few morning of freezing mist and thick frost. The leave on the trees began to change colour and eventually fall. It was beautiful to see the range of colours from bright greens to deep reds. This process probably only lasted a few weeks before it felt like winter.

Winter

The most difficult thing about winter was the longer nights. This is not so different from the UK but the day were a little shorter. Now that its becoming lighter I realise how nice it is to have longer evenings. In the middle of winter it was totally dark by about 4 pm and I always woke up in the dark, the sun rising about 8 or 9 am.

The cold of winter was certainly colder than in the UK but it felt crisper and fresh. When it snowed the landscape looked beautiful and the light levels actually improved as the snow reflected the little natural light from the sun. The snow made it brighter in the day but also at night. The moons glow on clear nights was reflected by the snow. This made going places in the evening, when the sun had set, much nicer than when there wasn’t snow.

Spring

The spring sun, desperately trying to thaw winter ice, at Valla Campus.

We are now approaching the end of February and the beginning of March and I am optimistic that Spring is no its way. We have had some beautiful days of sunshine. I was nice to see that I am certainly not alone in my appreciation for the weather. Last weekend, when the sun was really shining, there were far more people in town. I noticed that far more people were smiling and making eye contact. There was a strange feeling of optimism in the air. Incredibly, a few day later it snowed again! The following week was warmer though and the snow melted. These strange fluctuations on weather means that there are not too many sign of green new life but I have a feeling it wont be long. I can’t wait to see Spring fully underway.

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Linköping University Events

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Coming back for the Christmas break I realised I had only two more modules (Environmental and Animal Ethics and Biomedical Ethics) and my thesis to complete. After that my masters would be complete! This was quite an exciting thought but it also made me realise that I should be utilising my time as best as possible and take advantage of the opportunities that come with being a student.

Global Weeks

In November Linköping university had ‘Two Global Weeks’. During this fortnight there were a number of lectures and events that discussed topics of globalisation and sustainability. This was perfect timing for the people on my course as we had just started a new module: Globalisation and Global Justice. I attended some of the lectures with friends from my course, it was fascinating to learn about the ways in which organisations work to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals. It felt like some of the lectures were aimed specifically at my course: during the Global Weeks we had to deliver a group presentation on UN Sustainable Development Goals and another on International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO). During the the Global Weeks I learned so much about these things.

It was interesting to learn about global issues and sustainability while in Sweden. Coming from England I was aware of some climate change issue and government and private initiatives to recycle more efficiently. In Sweden however recycling is taken far more seriously. Sweden is the widely consider the world leader in recycling and recycling technology. One lecture by an employer of IVL explained how decisions about recycling in Sweden were made, how systems developed and the success they’ve had. There is still much work to be done.  In Sweden attitudes towards sustainability are very positive. Most people seem to take the issue of climate change seriously and make an effort to ‘do their bit’ for the environment.

 

 

In the Name of Confucius 

A friend on my course invited me to a film screening at the university. I love watching films and was interested to find out what type of movie might be shown on campus. She told me the title of the film but with very little other information I went, curious of what the evening would entail. The film was a documentary entitled; In the Name of Confucius. The documentary was about an hour long, followed by a Q&A session with the writer and director, Doris Liu. The film was about the setting up of Confucius Institutes in many (mainly western) countries. These institutes teach Chinese language to people of all ages. Some institutes are situated in schools or universities, either as a single class room or larger department. Initially I didn’t see why this would be an issue but as the film unfolded it explained how the institutes are funded by the Chinese government, usually giving schools, universities or school boards large sums of money. The large amounts of funding from the Chinese government make it difficult for schools to refuse having Confucius Institutes. When we look at the education of Chinese citizens, especially in rural locations, we can see that there is a lack of funding. So why does China pay for the education of western students in other countries? The documentary director believes it is a means of ingratiating western societies, a means of soft power and positive propaganda. The documentary also showed how the contracts of Chinese teachers, working at Confucius Institutes prohibit the practice of Falun Gong- a set of exercises similar to yoga.

The documentary was interesting but the Q&A was fascinating. As well as teaching me a lot about the current Chinese regime, it made me think about what we accept without question in western societies, how the media can be uses as a tool and how history has shaped the world as we know it today.

Basic Income Lecture- Jurgen De Weispelaere

In October I studied for a module called ‘Social and Political Philosophy’, in this module we learned about different schools of thought, concepts of justice, equality and liberty. We also had a seminar that touched upon the idea of ‘Basic Income’. Very simply, Basic Income is a government given sum of money; it is is given to all citizens of working age, regardless of their income or situation. Basic Income is not a new idea but in the last ten years their has been a growing interest and research on its feasibility. A study in Finland, where people were given a basic income, has just finished and the results are being eagerly awaited by interested parties.

Last week I received an email that told me that a leading Basic Income researcher, Jurgen De Weispelaere, would be in Linköping to discuss his research. I attended the lecture, as did a few other people from my course. The lecture provide further insight into the arguments for and against Basic Income.

One of the best things about being a student (again- as a masters) is having the opportunity to attend events such as these. At the university there are so many interesting events to attend which spark interest and debate, As a student of Applied Ethics, who could ask for more?

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