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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Bibliotek and Study

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I suppose the most important place for a student is the library (bibliotek). When I was doing my bachelors degree I avoided it at all costs, but  I now feel like the library is my second home. Even more worryingly, I actually did a celebratory dance, when the book I had requested came into the library.

I use both the university library and my local library. Living far away it helps to use both, usually for different things.

Valla Library (Linköping)
Valla library is located unsurprisingly on Valla campus, in D hus. It was one of the first building I went into when I came to the university as it’s next to the Zenit building, which houses the international office. Along the side of D building is a small park, which you can see from the windows if you pick the right seat. It took a little while to get my student ID set up,  a necessary but painful task (as the student service desk is always so busy).

The library is great, there is space to work in groups (which I have often) and desks where you can find more solitude. Coffee is permitted but food is not. I have found that lunch is a good time to find a quiet table as most people are eating somewhere else. Most of my lectures are in the Key building which is opposite so lunch is also a good time to go across to the library to return books or collect new ones. If you request books online they can be picked up from the front of the library. In the first term, the students on my course were given a library talk ,where we were told how best to use the online library system. All of the staff that I’ve spoken to in the Library have been so nice and helpful and there’s such a calm atmosphere; it’s a great place to find a corner to sit and study or even take a quick power nap between lectures.

Hultsfred Library

Hultsfred is my closest town with a library. When I first moved I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to join the library without a personal number (Swedish identification number) but in fact all I needed was a letter with my address.

I don’t have an internet supply at home- most of the landlines were taken out when WiFi became popular in Sweden- so I use mobile data. This is fine for most things- checking my email, etc. but when I need to download large files I usually go to the library. It’s always warm in there and the people are really kind.

In the last few years a lot have immigrants have moved to Hultsfreds Kommun so it’s not unusual to hear people speaking languages other than Swedish, often it’s English that I hear. This was actually quite a relief when I first got my library card as I was worried that communicating would be impossible. It’s good to practice my Swedish with the library staff, knowing they all speak English and are very patient with people who don’t speak Swedish.

In addition to the internet, which has been a life saver, Hultsfreds library has a printer. Until beginning my masters I hadn’t realized what a difference reading off of a screen makes, opposed to paper. Printing costs 1kr per sheet of black and white or 3kr for colour. The price for black and white is the same at the university but I haven’t yet set up a printing account there.

Another perk of having a local library card is having access to Swedish language books. When I first arrived I borrowed ‘Colloquial Swedish’ to help me learn. This was helpful along with watching Swedish films. I can rent films from the library too. In actual fact most films are in English with Swedish subtitles but children’s film are normally dubbed and there are some Swedish films. Some of the Swedish films have been really good, others not so much…  I’m viewing them as an additional facet to my Swedish education.

 

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Visiting Kalmar

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Sweden is twice the size of the UK yet its population is more than 6 times smaller. Linköping is the 7th biggest city in Sweden- this gives you a clue as to the general size of towns and cities.

Linköping is a lovely city but I’ve not actually spent that much time there. Most things that I need, I can get in the village where I live or towns near by. I do feel like I missed out on some of the perks of city living- mainly being able to meet up with friends, but the benefits of living in the countryside are great. One of things my husband and I noticed most when we first arrived was the quiet. The countryside is so peaceful and calm. The landscape is beautiful too and we have enough space outside to play badminton and to sit out when it’s warm. At night the stars are clear and we see incredible animals moving in our woods.

Despite enjoying the countryside, I wanted to see some of the other cities, to see how they measure up to Linköping. Kalmar is the closest city to where I live. Before visiting I was curious about it, I had read that it was once voted Sweden’s best summer destination. It is situated on the south east coast of Sweden and a train runs there from Linköping, taking about 3hrs.

When we visited (in early October) the weather was bright and sunny but being a coastal city, the breeze made it feel colder that it probably was. We found a parking spot and made our way to the water front. It was there that we saw the famous castle. The castle was not open for tours inside but we were able to walk on the battlements and read about it’s rich history, as well as look in at some of the shops. There was also a restaurant in the castle that looked (and smelt) great. In the winter, a market is held inside the castle wall, on two weekends in December. Unfortunately because of deadlines I didn’t get the chance to visit it this year but it’s on my ‘to do’ list for next year. I’ve heard it’s really good.

The castle is absolutely stunning and the gardens near by are beautiful. They are situated on the shore and from the battlements, beaches can be spotted. I can see why Kalmar was considered such a good summer location. The water was crisp and clear and the scenery was gorgeous.

 

After looking at the castle we walked around the town. The town is not very big but it has some nice shops. It also has a really good sweet shop! In the summer, we were told that bands play in one of the squares which I hope to see next summer. We also looked at the cathedral (pictured left) and the Land museum. Kalmar has both a land and a sea museum as well as a large art gallery. On my next visit I think I would like to visit the gallery. I’ve read that the light in Kalmar has proved to be source of inspiration to many artist- this is some thing I can definitely believe.

At lunch time we had to choose between a number of restaurant but in the end, because the sun was to nice, we decided to get a take away pizza and sit at the water’s edge.  I would definitely recommend visiting Kalmar- it was much quieter than an English city, and smaller but beautiful full of incredible history.

 

 

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Keeping Warm

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When I moved to Sweden I knew it would be cold. I was not too worried about this- England isn’t exactly warm- but before leaving the UK lots people (friends and family) kept buying me warm clothes and reminding me to be wary of the weather.

When we arrived in Sweden in August, it was actually one of the hottest summers on record. In fact it was so hot that most of the grass in our garden had dried up and gone brown.

In September it started rain a lot but the weather remained warm. Despite the warmth, the rain made me realise that the weather could change quickly, and it might be sensible to get some fire wood.

The wiring in our house is old so, while we have electric heaters, my husband and I thought it would make more sense to use the fire place and stove. Like most houses in Sweden we have a wood fire in our living room and a wood stove in our kitchen, that can be used for cooking (though we’ve not tried it yet). The challenge we faced, not speaking Swedish, was here to buy fire wood.

Not long after we arrived in Sweden we met the previous house owners. (They had come to check that everything was working in the house and that we were settling in ok.) We asked their advice about where to get fire wood and it turned out that they owned a saw mill. They were, at that time, taking down a wooden building and the wood was going free. They offered it to us, and the use of their car and trailer. In the end we collected three trailer loads of wood! The photo shows just the first load.

I made a shelter to keep the wood dry, which turned out to be very important as the autumn brought a lot of rain. My husband and I got stuck in cutting the wood down and storing it in the shelter.

When the weather did change it took a little bit of practice, lighting the fire as quickly as possible in the morning and remembering to keep it burning. Luckily, the insulation in most Swedish houses is much better than in the UK so once the fire burns out the room usually retains the heat- even over night if we close the doors.

Having lots of fire wood meant keeping warm inside was not a problem. My other worry was keeping warm out side. I was also worried about my car. Luckily I have a garage where I can keep my car, which means I don’t have to scrape the ice or snow in the morning but I keep a scrapper in the car in case it snows while I’m out. To be fair, this has only happened a couple of time but it’s sensible to have a scrapper anyway. I also made sure all of the liquids (engine coolant and screen wash) contained anti freeze. Most of the anti freeze sold here works at -18 but they sell others that work up to -40 degrees. So far my car has worked fine in the cold. Our coldest day so far was about -14, though I know that some winters it can reach -20 in this part of Sweden. The other thing that was really important to know, was that in November it becomes a legal requirement to fit all cars with snow or ‘all year round’ tires.  This is essential, driving on ice would not be fun without them. Driving in the snow and ice was scary at first but the roads get gritted so often the ice doesn’t stay for too long. Of course when it first snowed I drove REALLY carefully and slowly but I adapted fairly soon.

As far as keeping warm outside goes: get a good coat, hat, gloves and scarf. And remember layers!

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Food

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Moving to Sweden, I was a little worried that either the food would be horrible or crazy expensive. I had checked this online but you never really know until you move somewhere.

The food is great. Living on a bit of a budget means I have not had many chances to try traditional Swedish cuisine but those things that I have tried have been lovely.

In the first term students on my course were invited to a whole day ‘workshop’ where we listened to a range of talks form various speaker from all over the world. Because the workshop ran all day, food was provided. When we first arrived we were greeted with coffee (or tea) and open sandwiches of cheese or ham. At 11 we had ‘fika’ (a Swedish term that means a break for coffee and cake). At 12.30 we had a buffet lunch which consisted of a salad bar, warm sausages and bread. There were more cakes. biscuits and coffee, as well at cold drinks including beer. In the afternoon we again had fika. I had been under the impression that Swedish food came in small portions and was very healthy. This is partially true but the love of fika outweighs most attempts at healthy eating. When I see all the slim Swedes tucking into piles of cake I am always surprised.

Swedish  cakes are delicious but quite different to English ones. Often the ‘cakes’ have a texture that is much more like a croissant or ‘danish’ pastry, rather than sponge cake.   The flavours are also different, in many of the cakes I have tried there are spices such as cinnamon, or saffron. At Christmas saffron in especially common. Nuts are also fairly commonly used in cakes. My husband is in love with ‘kanelbullar’- a traditional Swedish pastry that tastes strongly of cinnamon.

Most shops sell items very similar to those I am used to in England, including cakes and bread. A friend on my course pointed out though that the range of bread sold is perhaps more limited than in other parts of Europe. I suppose this is true as it is usually only larger supermarkets that sell anything other than sliced bread.
Another friend on my course, who happens to be Swedish, revealed that she bakes her own bread. Feeling inspired I gave it a go. I have had some success though I’m not sure my bread is as good as hers. However it was probably cheaper than buying a fresh loaf from the supermarket and it definitely beats sliced bread.

The two most ubiquitous supermarkets in Sweden are coop and ICA. Most small towns have one or the other, if not both and in Linköping you will easily find a number of each. Both stores offer student discount cars which are a good way to save a bit of cash.

I enjoy baking so I’ve made a lot of cakes while living in Sweden but I’ve not yet had the courage to make any traditional Swedish cakes. I’m a little worried my attempts will be awful- besides it gives me a good excuse to keep trying cakes when I see them in the shop or while enjoying fika with friends.

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