Living the pandemic as an immigrant

Hey guys!

The past couple of months were not easy. I had ups and downs, more downs to be honest. To be away from my country in the middle of an global virus outbreak was not what I imagined for my last semester as a master student at Linköping University. The thing is that every immigrant must deal with the reality of the country in which they resides and that of their country of origin. It is not just because I do not live in Brazil that I am not concerned with what is happening there.
In addition to the news from Brazil, I need to keep track of what is happening in Sweden, since it is the pandemic here that affects my most immediate reality. Living away from your friends and family it is especially hard in this time since they are an important part of your emotional support. Thinking about my hardships I decided to list below some things that have helped me and that maybe can help other people in the future. Being a student abroad can always demand  we be prepared for situations like this (I hope not another global pandemic, but challenges to be faced with the same courage)

O que refugiados e imigrantes no Brasil nos ensinam durante a ...

Painting by Congolese artist Lavi Israël, based in Brazil, inspired by the coronavirus pandemic

1. Limit the time you spend on the internet reading news or on social media, too much information can be a trigger for anxiety.
2. Use and abuse video calling resources, you can almost feel like you are close to that person you like so much. I spent countless hours sharing my afflictions with family and friends.
3. Also try to rely on your local network. Even if it is not very large, as it is sometimes difficult to establish deep bonds when you move, it is important that you have at least one person with whom to share your local context, something that perhaps those who are not living in the same country as you won’t understand.
4. Don’t push yourself to be productive. In a context of crisis, even in one that requires us to stay at home all day, the mental burden can take its toll. All of those concerns that I discussed above will affect your ability to work, and that’s fine. Respect your time and make room for a necessary adjustment without feeling guilty.
5. Don’t be afraid to share your situation with teachers and ask for help if needed. I was very open about my concerns and the teachers here were very open and understanding, I managed to extend deadlines and adjust schedules without any major problems.
6. Do things you like, and binge Netflix for a whole day doesn’t count. It is important to find things that will really ease your mind and bring you more energy. Go to the bottom of your soul and find out what these are.

I hope my reflections will warm someone up there. It is not easy, but this too shall pass.

Stay safe and healthy.

Layla

Christmas in Sweden

I know its January 2020 already and christmas is so last year right now. But in the name of the best time of the year, I decided to start this new semester talking about this period I love so much and that it has gained new meaning for me since I arrived in Sweden. For most of my life, christmas have been connect to summer time, that is, extremely high temperatures, beach, sunburns and so on. Needless to say my first christmas in Scandinavia (last year I went home for holidays) was completely the opposite. Being in Sweden for the whole month of December made it possible for me to experience Swedish traditions and a new christmas vibe. Together with the darkness of mid November, the city starts to be full of christmas light and decorations, that actually remain to date and can be seen until beginning of February. Many specific traditions come together with this period, including specific foods and beverages. Here I will list some of these traditions (no categories adopted):

1. Julmust: christmas soft drink Sweds LOVE. Too sweet for me if I must say.

2. Lussebullar: Safran roll with raisins and a soft taste, I love this one.

3. Pepparkakor: Gingerbread cookies in all shapes and formats.

4. Jultomte: christmas caracter that precedes Santa Claus and is inspired by nordic folklore

5. Window christmas lights: big stars and candles lights are all around Swedish windows during this time. Definitely makes darkness easier.

6. Glögg: hot wine with spices, raisins and almonds. It’s delicious

7. Julbord: the christmas table with all types of Swedish christmas foods, hard to hold yourself.

More than these traditions, I have realized christmas in Sweden is about taking the time to be with your loved ones in a more recluse and reflective moment, enjoying inner time and coziness. Definitely my favorite time of the year. I feel renovated for 2020 and everything it might hold for me.

Sustainable living in Sweden

Maybe you have already heard (many times?) about how Sweden is the paradise for sustainability. The country commonly is at the top when it comes to sustainable practices and goals, and this was indeed one of the reasons why I decided to study here. Nevertheless, in my perception, our current global economic system is based on maintaining a lifestyle that could’t be more unsustainable: overconsumption is driving to the complete depletion of natural resources. In many aspects, while living in Sweden, I could really see its ambitions towards a more sustainable society, for example a lot of investments in developing new and green technologies, as well as better habits and incentives for societal transformation. Most of the waste produced here is recycled or used to produced energy. To do so, the system is extremely efficient and well stablished. When you live here it is way harder not to recicle then to recicle: everything is already in place for you to just follow the rules. In countries like mine it is the complete opposite, one really needs to go after of having a more sustainable living.

In Linköping you will separate all you trash: organic waste is put on this green bags.

Besides waste handling, other aspects of sustainable consumption can be diet choices and buying habits. Concerning diet, and more specifically meat consumption (once the production of meat is one of the main drivers of environmental damage), in Sweden you can find a no number of vegetarian/vegan options in the supermarket, it is really impressive all the substitutes they have made available here. Sweden is really trying in this way, I have been to many events where the only food options are vegetarian. Why not give people a hand in transitioning to less meat, right? Also, one thing I have noticed about eating vegetarian in Linköping for more than a year is that even if vegetables  are usually more expensive than in other countries, it is always cheaper than eating animal products. Always.

Some of the endless vegan options you will find here

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, I have found that buying habits in Sweden are maybe its biggest weakness. Here consumption in high, either clothes or furniture, swedes are amongst the biggest consumers in the world. However, at the same time, Sweden also has great options to escape this culture, such as buying second hand. Buying second hand is a big thing in this country, and I love it: it is more sustainable and you can find really great deals. I guess all societies have its contradictions and ways in which it could do better. Nevertheless, in Sweden sustainable living is really at the center of many discussions and you will find more opportunities than never to engage and experience it.

 

Images: google images.

The courses of my second and third semester

 

Last year I wrote a post about my first semester as a master student in the science for sustainable development programme at LiU, speaking a little about the courses I had and my impressions about them. Today I decided to do the same with the courses I had in my second and beginning of third semester, once this hasn’t been over yet. my general impressions about these two periods are very positive, I felt the topics addressed in those courses became more complex and elaborated, also demanding more from us students. At the same time, the mixture between social and natural sciences were sometimes confusing and overwhelming once we had to conduct both types of approaches in parallel. Nevertheless, I see the outcomes as very rewarding specially given the broad spectrum of content we have covered. Here are some commentaries about the three courses I had during this period:

Analytical Frameworks in Sustainability Studies

I really enjoyed this course because we had the opportunity of going deeper into social sciences analytical frameworks such as political ecology, resilience theory, global chain analysis, life-cycle analysis and degrowth, theoretical perspectives I had not so much structured knowledge about, but that are essential for a critical view over sustainable development. The classes usually consisted of a literature list, which gave a good basis about main concepts and ideas, followed by seminars and group discussions. Besides this part of the course, we had lab activities regarding analysis of soil contamination, which involved group work for the elaboration of a report. There was also secondary assignments involving GIS and life-cycle analysis. The final evaluation was an essay on a chosen topic that could be related to any of those discussed during the course.

Sustainable Resources Management

This course was for me sort of a continuation of one of the courses we had in the first semester, this time going deeper in some issues. We discussed water, soil, food and the nexus between such elements, usually following the same format of seminars and group discussions. There was also laboratory experiments related to biogas production, GIS assignments and field trips, which were very interesting since we visit the Swedish forestry and an organic farm near Linköping. The examination was based on two assignments related one to biogas and one to water, and a final paper that should address topics concerning resources management. I, for example, wrote about the aspects many related to organic agriculture. An interesting thing was we had to do a Pecha Kucha presentation about our paper (I had no ideia what it was before this course) which consists of five slides in five minutes, pretty challenge right?

                               

Designing Environmental Studies in Sustainable Development

The autumn semester started with a short yet very relevant course about methods concerning research design in environmental sciences. During approximately one month we covered topics such as interviews, focus groups, statistics and text analysis, including assignments related to such methodologies. The final examination included designing a research proposal, indicating the field of study, its relevance and how the research would be approached and conducted. I took this chance to already develop my thesis idea, and possibly it will serve as the basis for my studies in the final semester next year.

The rest of the third semester I am spending in an internship (which I will talk more about in another post) and developing research skills liked to qualitative methods I hope to apply for my thesis.

Now you guys can have sort of a complete overview of the masters in science for sustainable development. Hope I can help someone out there in their decision of pursuing a masters in this field. If you have any doubts just reach me out in the commentaries.

All saint’s day in Sweden

In Sweden, the all saint’s day is a national holiday, called Allhelgonahelgen. This day is celebrated worldwide in different forms., and maybe in your country there is a specific way of remembering this holy day with its roots in the catholic tradition. In Brazil it is also a national holiday, but i have to say, i don’t feel we celebrate that much, at least there is not a general consensus on how to do it, neither a national tradition in relation to this day. Well, in Sweden it does. During Allhelgonahelgen, that typically happens on the 1st of November in many places around the world, most Swedes take the day off to meet with their family, eat together and go to the cemetery to light candles and remember the loved ones that have been gone from this world.

      

      

I must confess I already have a especial attraction to cemeteries, nothing creepy, just like the quietness (obvious) and peaceful landscape, besides the sense of being in a place with a lot of history: imagine all the lives resting under your feet (maybe that ended up a little creepy, sorry). Nevertheless, I was kinda excited to go to the cemetery at night, and it was truly a beautiful experience. There was almost nothing but candles light all around. The complete darkness, although is was only 17 pm (cough, cough..it’s Sweden in November), among the trees and graves, made me feel like something special was happening in there. I enjoyed so much this day and how such ritual made me think and contemplate the dead, while watching swedes offering kinda of a memorial to those past lives. I felt here the cemetery is less of a taboo maybe, and definitely a experience worth to take.