Month: July 2017

Graduate Studies in Sweden: Seven Common Myths – By Margaret McIntyre

Like many students in their final year of university, I was faced with what seemed like the fork in Frost’s famed divergent road: finding gainful employment (good luck!) or applying to graduate school.  The latter option, for me, felt most natural, since I’m one of those slightly odd people who loves conducting research and analyzing data in my spare time, pouring over dusty tomes in the library for hours on end, and taking detailed, color coded notes during lectures. With this in mind, I set aside my pile of job applications and cover letters last summer and began to search for the Master’s program best suited to my personal and professional goals.

Initially, I focused on American schools with highly rated, specialized programs corresponding to my research interests. Narrowing down these diverse interests to just one preferred field of study, however, proved more difficult than I’d initially anticipated, and one look at each of the program’s price tags left me hyperventilating over glimpses of my well-educated, albeit extremely impoverished future.

There had to be a better way. Sensing my frustration, a professor and mentor of mine suggested I consider graduate programs overseas. I wasn’t exactly opposed to the idea, having spent a semester abroad during university, but I was clueless as to where or how to begin the research and application process for foreign schools.

A quick google search for “graduate studies abroad” produced several thousand results and a variety of opinions on the subject. Unfortunately, being inundated by information didn’t seem to answer many of my questions. Even once I had decided on schools in Sweden and initiated the application process, I often felt alone and overwhelmed, since so few of my peers chose to pursue graduate school overseas and it seemed like a riskier, perhaps even foolish endeavor.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?  If you’re reading this post right now, you might be considering graduate studies in Sweden and looking for application advice or general guidance from fellow students. When I was in your shoes, I wish someone more experienced had come alongside me to debunk the following myths pertaining to graduate programs abroad:

  1. The application process is too complicated.

Multi-step? Yes. Complicated? No.  You should definitely do your best to stay on top of deadlines and keep application materials well-organized, but the process itself isn’t any more involved or difficult than it would be for your typical American school. The most confusing aspect is that you might have to submit some documents online to and others by mail to individual schools – that’s it.

Should you be accepted to a Swedish Master’s program, you will need to apply for a residence permit, a personnummer, and other identification and immigration documents (at a later date). Once again, if you keep track of all applicable deadlines and ensure your supporting materials are easily accessible and well-organized, everything is very straightforward.

  1. There won’t be programs applicable to my field of study.

You might be surprised! Swedish schools offer international Master’s programs in diverse disciplines – more than 980 programs are currently offered in English, many of which are highly ranked in terms of scope, content, and rigor.

Both one-year and two-year plans of study are available, each including compulsory and elective coursework and culminating in a research-based Master’s thesis. Thus, you are able to develop advanced theoretical and applied knowledge in your field, while also gaining increased familiarity with subjects pertaining to your specific research interests.

  1. My GRE score isn’t competitive enough.

Again, surprise! When it comes to the application review process, many Swedish schools take a more holistic approach than their American counterparts. I didn’t even sit for the GRE and the program to which I was accepted (MSc in Political Science) evaluated international candidates based on their undergraduate coursework (transcripts) and thesis.

These requirements do differ from one program to another, so be sure to check online or consult with your admissions officer for information specific to your application.  As a general rule, however, don’t allow a less than stellar test score to hold you back. Put yourself out there, apply, and see what happens – worst case scenario, you’re told “no,” but you can always try again!

  1. I don’t speak any foreign languages fluently.

Speaking as an American, here – while fluency in more than one language is certainly a wonderful thing, there are plenty of reputable programs offered in English by schools outside the US. Uppsala University alone features nearly 50 English-language Master’s programs, with more than 80 different sub-specializations.

English is often sufficient for day-to-day life outside of the classroom, too – many Swedes speak and/or understand English quite well, so you needn’t worry about mastering Swedish prior to your departure or facing a severe language barrier upon arrival.

That being said, knowing at least the basics of the primary language in your host country makes long-term integration much easier. There are numerous web-based resources readily available to those interested in studying Swedish, including the Swedish Institute’s free distance learning course. For even more practice, try browsing news articles on Swedish-language websites or listening to radio programs streamed online.

  1. It’s too expensive.

If you’re thinking primarily about the cost of living, you might be correct in this assessment – sometimes, you’ll have to budget a little more for food and rent and transportation while studying overseas than you would in your hometown. Generally speaking, however, I’ve found that it’s actually far more affordable to pursue a Master’s diploma abroad than it would be in my home country.

One year of tuition for an American program relevant to my field of study, for example, demands a jaw-dropping $39,000. This doesn’t cover books, rent, food, or transportation costs (particularly inconvenient if you have to purchase and maintain a car due to non-existent or unreliable public transit infrastructure).

In contrast, thanks to a generous tuition scholarship from Uppsala, I’ll only be paying $36,000 total for a two-year program (including living expenses and related costs/fees) AND I’ll be able to fulfill a lifelong dream of living abroad, immersing myself in a new language and culture.

  1. I don’t know anyone.

This is intimidating, I get it – I’m not the most outgoing person by nature and few things make me feel as nauseated as does forced small-talk with strangers.  If you’d told me several years ago that I’d pack up my entire life into 80 lbs of hand luggage and move across the ocean on my own, I would have laughed in your face and called you crazy. That just wasn’t “me.” Yet here I am, preparing to embark on my second solo-stint in a foreign country, and I’m a little nervous, yet exponentially more excited.

Living on your own might be a huge step outside of your comfort zone, but the opportunities for personal growth are endless. Besides, in a university setting, you’ll be surrounded by fellow international students who can easily relate to what you’re going through (and who will likely become your new best friends!).

Few experiences teach you more about yourself, your worldview, and your limitations and strengths than several years spent studying or working abroad… if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover that you know far less than you once assumed, yet you’re far more competent and confident than you ever could’ve imagined.

  1. Employers won’t consider a degree earned abroad valuable.

Last, but not least, it’s seems to be a common perception that employers in your home country will hold degrees earned abroad in low esteem. Perhaps local universities are also trying to steer students away from foreign schools, citing accreditation concerns, inferior rankings, and return on investment figures.

Educational standards do vary, even among institutions within the same country, so evaluating diverse schools on the same sliding scale is often impossible; however, depending on the program, numerous international institutions have an excellent reputation, emphasizing collaborative research and faring very well in global rankings.

While factors like rankings and name recognition are certainly important to consider, and vital to positioning yourself for future success in some fields, I would argue that an international education is especially attractive to many employers in today’s globalized society. Not only are you exposed to new material and teaching methods in a foreign classroom, but you’re also introduced to a new culture and way of life.

By pursuing a graduate education abroad, you’ll meet a diverse range of people, gain independence, learn to appreciate nuances in language and culture, and develop a global, more informed perspective on your area of study, your home country, and the world at large. (Check out these statistics on international education and employment prospects, if you need even more encouragement!)


Best of luck in your future endeavors, wherever they may take you, and if you have any questions about studies in Sweden (or life in small-town Texas), feel free to reach out and say hej 🙂


On my way to Uppsala – Kanishk Kumar

How I ended up with the decision to pursue my Masters:
It was during my last year of undergraduate studies in 2016 that I decided it was time, time to decide what I want to do in future and as a teenager its not at all easy. Indian families and parents have very high expectations about their children’s education and careers. My father never forced me into anything but I knew he had high hopes from me. It was a very difficult time for me. Finally after a lot of thought, I finally decided that I would like to work in the field of Renewable Energy in the future. So in order to do that, I needed to upgrade and enhance my knowledge, my know-how.

Why Uppsala University?
The next task on the list was to decide on the country I would like to study in and looking for support on my work field in the future. The quest of seeking the perfect place for my Masters ended when I read the news that Sweden’s government want Sweden to be the first fossil fuel-free country in the world. I went through the list of top universities in Sweden and found Uppsala University. Not only that but my friend’s grandfather studied from Uppsala University and he assured me that it would be a great place. “Good Education is important but Experience and Exposure matters more. It’s how you learn LIFE.”

Destination Sweden Seminar:
It was like a dream come true when I received my acceptance letter on 22nd of March 2017. Soon I was invited to “Destination Sweden” at the Embassy of Sweden.
Many of my friends have gone for their masters abroad but this “Personal Touch” through the interaction with the representatives of Uppsala University which I got, worked like a charm and each and every question and query on my mind when I reached for the seminar were acknowledged and answered in the best way possible. All thanks to Lina and Hannah for travelling out here all the way from Sweden.

Residence Permit Application Process:
It was the most seamless and easy visa process I have ever known.
1. Fill the application form online.
2. Attach the necessary documents.
3. Pay the application fees.
4. Go to the embassy on the given timings and get done with your biometrics.
5. Wait.
After about one and a half month, I received my Residence Permit Card.

Welcome Kit:

Its the small things and the gestures that make all the difference. A Welcome letter, Uppsala Map, Student guide and the most important thing, The Bumper Sticker. Being a collector of bumper stickers, you guys had me right at that very moment. Cheers.

What am I doing now?
To be very frank, there is a lot to do for preparing to move to Sweden. Researching about the local customs, learning Swedish(Duolingo for now), various cities and places nearby, some laws that I am not yet accustomed to, talking to people who are already there for their valuable experience and tips. Visiting the doctor will be next as we’ll need to carry prescription for the medicines we are taking with us. Shopping is sometimes fun and sometimes a really tedious task.

There are some things that I think we all should carry:
1. Electronics: Lan Wire, Wi-Fi Router, Travel Adapters(the power outlet switchs in Sweden might
be different from where we are from)
2. Medicines: Some general medicines, First Aid kit and Vitamins.
3. Spices, Pickels,etc
4. Basic Stationary stuff
5. Utensils: Cooker(Must for all the Indian subcontinent students), some spare gaskets
5. Clothing: Winter clothing is something that we should buy in Sweden, formal clothing, formal
shoes, Towel, small sewing kit and a traditional wear for the occasion.
6. Basic Tool kit

I think that will be all.

My plans for future:
I am a clean energy visionary for the better future. In the future, I would like to work on an off-grid local Renewable Energy plant. It will help me with my goal of a clean future. Maybe even a Ph.D. but who knows where I will be after 2 years but one thing is for sure, I will be working in a multinational company or an Energy Consultancy that works on this path. But for now I am eagerly waiting to travel to Sweden on 18th August. A month seems like a lifetime of wait.

See you all soon. Signing off.

Exchange student interview: Phurpa Tshering

It is not often that our undergraduate exchange students get the opportunity to present their own paper at a real scientific conference. However, Phurpa Tshering from Bhutan together with Dekar Lhamo (Bhutan) and Lu Yu (China) did it under the guidance of their professor, Anders Berglund, who works at our Department of Computer Science. We contacted Phurpa to ask him some questions about his adventures.

  1. First of all, congratulations! Being an Exchange student and getting papers accepted for a scientific conference is an amazing achievement. How did this happen?
    Thank you so much. I and my co-author from Bhutan were undergraduate exchange students for six months at Uppsala University. We took Computer Education Research Course under Prof. Anders Berglund. For the course requirement three of us (my other Bhutanese friend and co-author Lu Yu from China ) developed one course project which talks about Bhutanese beginner IT students. After the completion of the course, Professor Anders encouraged us to write it as a scientific research paper. Where four of us agreed on it and jointly developed it as a scientific research paper.
  1. Can you explain your research in laymans terms?
    Until now no research in Bhutan talks about Bhutanese Information Technology education. So our research mainly shares about beginner IT students from Bhutan. Where we try to explore the ways that beginner IT students in Bhutan learn C programming. And what we found was Bhutanese students also have similar learning styles to that of western students. The only difference is most of Bhutanese IT students tend to learn programming by memorizing and we also found that students are really depended on the teachers and classroom notes. Moreover it seems most of beginner students don’t have computer knowledge.
  1. How are you now preparing for the conference and when/where is it?
    After the completion of course all authors of our paper where in different parts of world two in Uppsala and two in Bhutan but in different states of the country. Therefore meeting was not possible for discussion. So we used online discussion forums like Gmail and Facebook to make our paper ready for the LaTICE 2017 conference which is going to be held at Hong Kong University from April 20 to 23rd.  We finally met a day before the presentation at Hong Kong and did rehearsal for our presentation.
  1. Do you have time to enjoy yourself while in Sweden or is it just study study study?
    Yes there was time where I felt exchange is all about work work and work when I had all assignment, projects in same time.  Most of the time I use to stay at home completing my course works. But there was also time where I had great moments from the warm welcoming Nations of Uppsala University during special days like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Also enjoyed with many international friends during weekends.
  1. What did you do in your spare time?
    Well everything was memorable for me being from developing country and reaching in worlds well developed country like Sweden. I was really happy and surprised to see warm people from Uppsala University who set welcome desk right at the airport to welcome us that was really not the thing I expected (I would say this is something other countries should learn). Most of the weekends I spent by biking around different places of Uppsala with some international friends.
  1. Finally, what are your future plans after graduation?
    In Bhutan we only have handful of people who have done masters in any field. Most people set up highest level of education as undergraduate. But my plan is to be one of those handful of people who did masters in Computer Science. And if I am lucky enough I would love to continue my masters at Uppsala University.  I am also planning to contribute at least one research paper in every LaTICE conference hereafter.

    We wish you all the best of luck!


Footnote: The paper is not yet available online but the title is How do first year students learn C programming in Bhutan?