How I learned how to be a normal human again. – By Su Fang

Here’s what normal humans do: they can go to the grocery store, cook their own food, exercise, socialize, sleep, and not be constantly stressed while doing all those things.

I really hadn’t realized just how stressed I was at my home university until I came here and found myself thinking, “Wow, I have time to make myself a proper meal and eat it? NICE. What, you mean I could get 8 whole hours of sleep tonight? SCORE. Wait, a whole hour of free time that I could do whatever I want– go to the gym for an hour, sing in the shower for an hour, eat Swedish candy for an hour? ALRIGHT!”

… and then it hit me: this is what being a normal, healthy person is supposed to feel like.

While I think that any change of environment would have helped me come to this realization, I think a huge factor was the academic environment and attitude here. I’m currently taking two courses, one that’s a ‘100% study load’ and another that’s a ‘25% study load,’ and I usually have 10 hours of class each week, give or take. Most of those class hours are seminar-style rather than a lecture, and pretty much all of the work is done outside of class in the form of readings, to prepare for the seminars. By no means is the environment lazy or unmotivated, but it feels much more focused on student learning rather than testing and “efficiency.” Looking back at it now, I’m realizing the extent to which my home university is focused on this “efficiency”: fit as many students in a lecture hall as possible, cover as much material as possible in the class period, and transition to your next class within 10-15 minutes.

At Uppsala, my classes are usually 2 hours long in total, with a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of class. That’s really not all that different, time-wise, from the “breaks” at my university, but the attitudes surrounding the breaks are entirely distinct. Here, the breaks are to clear your mind, stretch your legs, get some coffee, and ask your friends about their weekend– not so you can power-walk to your next class and quickly stuff your face with some yogurt because you’re always in a be-as-productive-as-humanly-possible-mindset.

The breaks did take some getting used to though. I actually found them really annoying at first. (Because come on, if we’re going to be here for another 45 minutes, we might as well just get on with it…) But then I started realizing that my brain gets a little pouty after 45 minutes and just refuses to continue absorbing information. So, much to my chagrin, I’ve started giving my brain the breaks it demands, and it turns out that doing nothing for a little while is really helpful for doing everything else later on. Seems pretty silly that I had to move to the other side of the globe to learn how to a) do nothing and b) be a normal human, but without a real change of pace, I’m not sure that I would have otherwise.



  1. Nyambura

    Thanks for sharing your experience.It is a nice article,practical too.

  2. Kryx

    This article dose touch my heart. Because I faced the same situation in my home university, classical Asian university. I really look forward to learning how to be a normal person like you do. =)

  3. Heather Watkins

    This article really spoke to me. I studied a masters in Sweden before, from 2011 until about 2014, and my anxiety ended up getting the best of me so I had to return to the States. I’m coming back this autumn though, and couldn’t be happier about it. While Uppsala’s programs do expect a lot of hard work, Sweden as a whole seems much more focused on life as a whole. It’s such a contrast from the way things are done culturally in America and I always loved that aspect of student life so much. I had time to explore my own interests, be social, and most of all, REST when I needed to.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Elien

    Oh Su! All the memories of my exchange in Uppsala are coming back. With you as a great part of it! Wonderful young lady ?

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