“Make as many friends as you can because it will make your experience so much easier” – UCalgaryAbroad

Cara Erb went to Umeå University as an exchange student to experience the Swedish education system and live in a small town.

This article is courtesy of Umeå University who profiled UCalgary student Cara Erb during her exchange.


Favorite word in the Swedish language: Lagom (translates to “just the right amount”)
Favorite custom in Sweden: Light candles at the window
My favorite things about Umeå University: How tight everything is and the lack of hierarchy between students and teachers
Three words to best sum up your stay in Umeå: Opportunity, welcoming, interesting

Why did you choose to study at Umeå University?
I knew I wanted to go to Sweden and was given the choice between Stockholm and Umeå. I chose Umeå because I wanted to discover a smaller city, since I come from a big city. Back home, I’m studying to become a teacher and I think it’s really important that I discover another educational system. Sweden and the Nordic countries in general are known to have the best education systems, so I wanted to see how they “do school” and maybe implement some of what I experienced when I became a teacher .

What do you enjoy most about studying in Umeå?
When I started studying here I noticed that Swedes love group work and I was a bit skeptical. This opinion has since changed and now I enjoy group work – participating in seminars and discussions with a group of like-minded people. I also like the style of teaching, it’s more relaxed than at home – less hierarchical. I love that you don’t have to take five classes at once – it’s so much easier to balance one or two classes.

Have you participated in the Buddy Programme?
Yes I did, I’m part of Buddy Group number 10. I haven’t been involved with the program lately, but attended a few of their first events. I think the Buddy Program is a very cool feature of the university and a great way to start the semester. I know many people who have made great friendships through the Buddy Program.

Where do you live and what is it like to live there?
I live in Berghem in a student corridor. I have my own bedroom and bathroom and then there is a shared kitchen and living room. It can be difficult to share a kitchen with other people, but it’s also where I met most of my friends, so the experience was great.

What has been your most memorable moment so far?
Learn to cross-country ski. I’m from Canada but I’ve never skied before because back home it’s expensive and hard to get to. In Umeå you have Fritidsbanken where I can rent skis for free and then walk 10 minutes to the forest and ski. So it was a really amazing experience.

Can you describe some of the cultural differences you experienced between Umeå and your home town?
I noticed that the culture here is much more relaxed. You like to walk or cycle to work and have a good fika (traditional Swedish coffee break with something sweet) for an hour or two. I also noticed my first time here that you walk both sides of the sidewalk, or sometimes just the left side. While at home we always walk on the right side. I think it’s really funny.

What do you do when you’re not studying?
I like to walk around Berghem, where I live, usually taking pictures because I’m passionate about photography. I also like hanging out with my friends in my hallway and talking about what it’s like back home. Maybe go out for a drink, go bowling or go downtown Umeå. And also sightseeing, for example I’m going to Finland (Vaasa) next weekend.

What would you say or advice to another international student considering attending Umeå University?
My advice would be: get out there! Join a Buddy group, join a club or IKSU to make new friends. Make as many friends as possible, as this will make your experience much easier. And a warning that you prefer coffee or tea or other hot drinks.

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