Oct 3, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Sweden has long been an attractive destination for international students from all over the world. And while the 2011 introduction of application and tuition fees was initially a setback for mobility, inbound exchange has been on the upswing in Sweden over the past few years, according to the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s 2017 status report on higher education.  

However, while facts and figures are telling, they’re no substitute for first-hand information -- which is why we’ve gone straight to the source. Read on for a roundup four insights from international students regarding their personal study abroad experiences in Sweden.  

1. Swedish Universities offer an appealing degree of autonomy.

Sweden is celebrated for its unique and innovative approach to teaching. A central part of this? A commitment to promoting autonomy.  

Says 27-year old Paula Wrona, who is currently in her second year of the MSc in Science for Sustainable Development at Linköping University (LiU), “All the responsibility is placed on the students to manage their time and make the most of the possibilities presented to them.”   And while this may take some getting used to, it’s hugely beneficial: Qualities like initiative and the ability to self-direct come in handy both in academic and professional contexts.  

And while this may take some getting used to, it’s hugely beneficial: Qualities like initiative and the ability to self-direct come in handy both in academic and professional contexts.  

Credit: Linköping University

2. Problem-based learning is front and center in Swedish higher education.

The global shift in the higher education sector in the direction of problem-based learning is alive and well in Sweden.   Says the Swedish Institute, “In

Says the Swedish Institute, “In Sweden you’ll find a strong focus on rationality, reason and applying knowledge so that it makes a real difference. Look no further than the Nobel Prize, the world’s most prestigious academic distinction, for an illustration of the Swedish approach. As a student here you’ll become part of this tradition of academic excellence. Just don’t expect to passively receive information: you’ll be encouraged and challenged to contribute, speak your mind and take your education into your own hands.”   

Adds Menikae Heenkenda, a 34-year-old LiU student in her second year of its MSc in Experimental and Medical Biosciences program, “In the beginning it was very hard, but then I started to like it because it’s very helpful for your future career. You sit in a group and you try to discuss some problems related to your studies of course, and then you come up with the solutions together. And that’s very nice.”  

Credit: Linköping University

3. So is cross-disciplinary learning.

The challenges facing the world today don’t reside in their own narrow boxes. Likewise, the solutions to these challenges aren’t confined to one discipline or another. Rather, many are inextricably interlinked. LiU’s program acknowledges the value of using cross-disciplinary strategies to approach difficult topics. Students in the MSc in Science for Sustainable Development, for example, are taught to examine environmental issues using various scientific disciplines all aimed at helping them gain the knowledge, techniques, and adaptability they need to think critically and solve problems.   Continues Wrona of how

LiU’s program acknowledges the value of using cross-disciplinary strategies to approach difficult topics. Students in the MSc in Science for Sustainable Development, for example, are taught to examine environmental issues using various scientific disciplines all aimed at helping them gain the knowledge, techniques, and adaptability they need to think critically and solve problems.   Continues Wrona of how LiU’s cross-disciplinary curriculum expanded her outlook, “My favorite course was Sustainable Resource Management that we had in my second semester. It was the most varied and interesting course for me in terms of content and perspectives. We had a lot of field trips and the curriculum was very interesting. I could choose a field that really interests me and

Continues Wrona of how LiU’s cross-disciplinary curriculum expanded her outlook, “My favorite course was Sustainable Resource Management that we had in my second semester. It was the most varied and interesting course for me in terms of content and perspectives. We had a lot of field trips and the curriculum was very interesting. I could choose a field that really interests me and pursue it further in my final paper. It gave me ideas about what to write my master thesis about.”   Another LiU program taking a similar approach? The MA in Ethnic and Migration Studies, which integrates economics, the humanities and the social sciences to address one of the world’s most pressing challenges.  

Credit: LInköping University

4. You’ll be immersed in an internationally diverse environment.

Sweden is known for its commitment to openness, diversity, and progress. It even landed the top spot on Business Insider’s rankings of “The 11 Most Equal Countries in the World.”  

International students profoundly benefit from this welcoming atmosphere. One theme that rises to the top again and again when students talk about their studies in Sweden? Opportunity. From earning a high-quality degree from one of the world’s top universities to immersing yourself in an open, innovative, and international atmosphere while you’re there, studying in Sweden promises not just a degree, but also the opening of doors to a new career and outlook on life.   

One great example: the opportunity to learn a new language and embrace Swedish culture. Swedish is the working language of the country’s universities, but international students need not worry.  Nearly everyone in Sweden speaks English, and universities like LiU offer a variety of coursework taught in English. Of course, immersing yourself in campus life is also a great way to learn and perfect your Swedish-language skills – and a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and find out more about life in Sweden.   Says

Says Menikae, “I would advise students to take a chance and come to Sweden to study. There are so many opportunities here; it’s so great to study here at Linköping. I have the opportunity to do my PhD in one research group after my MSc so I am thinking about it.” For Menikae, the opportunities aren’t limited to studies. “I already have a job in a hospital as well so that’s what I mean by telling that there are so many opportunities in your life.”  

Adds Wrona, “I already had a career in my home country and I was hesitant to take, as my friends said, a step back. It was no piece of cake all the time but after a year I can say that this experience opened my eyes that -- before moving to Linköping -- I did not even realize were closed.”    

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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