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[EN] Välkomen till Sverige – Part 1/3 : Erasmus, the procedures

Hej ! My name is Zohra and I’m 23 years old. Let met, during a series of articles, take you to Nordic lands and more specifically to the Kingdom of Sweden where I went to for an Erasmus two years ago. Land of northern lights, midnight sun and snowy forests…

Studying in a foreign country: why and how?
I applied to an Erasmus when I was doing my third year of Law, specializing in Political Sciences, to do an exchange during the first year of Masters (M1) in the same course. My goal was to do a second year of Masters (M2) in Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiations at the University of Paris-Saclay, and my main objective was then to build an air-tight application. In order to do that, it seemed essential to have an experience in a foreign country. I was right. 

I therefore prepared my application to go to the United Kingdom. I made my CV, wrote my cover letter, chose the countries, universities and classes. The English proficiency test gave me a level C1, the minimum for an Erasmus being officially B2. Though, if you have a strong application (acknowledgements and great motivation) but only a level B1, you might be accepted for an exchange. The interview went well as well: questions about my motivation, the reasons for my application, on my ability of adaptation and to meet the financial expenses.

Then came the day of the results: I received a phone call of the International Relations office, telling me that my application is accepted, but asking me to choose another university, not in the UK. I only wanted to leave for one semester because I was starting an internship in May and in foreign universities the academic year is longer than in France. All the people applying for a whole year of exchange were therefore given priority over me in the selection process, the spots in those universities being very few. That’s fine, spots are free in Sweden. It’s a country that I don’t know, and I’m rather adventurous!

Validated application: may the (gentle) struggles start!
I then decided to go to the University of Linöping (prounced « Linchoping »), in Sweden. Courses of Diplomacy and International Relations, everything was perfect. But the director of the Masters I was going to do had to validate my choice of classes. If he doesn’t validate it, you don’t go… Can you sense the trouble approaching here?

My Masters’ director wanted me to take general courses and a class of research methodology, which corresponded to the courses the M1 students were going to take.  But there were only courses of International Relations in the university I was going to attend. I decided to negotiate and to explain my choices: it works! After weeks of doubting, my choices are validated!

What follows in an administrative chain: European card of health insurance, scholarships, acceptance letters from the partner university, etc.

The accommodation: an important part of my adventure
As soon as one kind of struggle ends, another one starts. It was now time for those about the accommodation! Linköping is a very small town with a lot (too many) students, both Swedish and international. The university is new and attractive, it attracts more and more students every year. This leads to the fact that there aren’t enough accommodation for everyone. I had a 50% chance to get a student accommodation from the partner university. As you can guess, I didn’t get any, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun. I lived in three different places during my Erasmus exchange: the first two weeks in a shared flat with a Portuguese girl, then two months with a Swedish girl with Indian origins (it was a real feast and I really treated myself) and the rest of the semester, I shared a room with a Moroccan student who was doing a PhD in was is called in Sweden “corridors”: you share a living room and kitchen with 8 people and everyone has their own bedroom (simple or double) with a bathroom. My other “flatmates” were Turkish, Swedish, Indian, German, etc.


Even though those changes might seem burdensome, they’re part of the adventure! I met a lot of people, and when we change accommodations, in a way, we break the routine, even in an Erasmus. And then we become real pros at looking for an accommodation in a foreign country!
The partner university: the Nordic system
You might have to change some courses because they don’t fit into your schedule. Everything went fine for me on that level (a little break isn’t bad). The Nordic system works the following way: a minimum of four courses per semester, every course lasting five weeks. I started with my class of “Diplomacy and foreign policy analysis”. For five weeks, I had only that course, composed of lectures and seminars. About six hours of classes per weeks. Yes, that very little, because Swedish people like to take some time for other activities! We were graded on presentations, exams, papers, and involvement. Weirdly, I’m not chatty in general, but I participated a lot during the classes! Also, there, Erasmus students are graded exactly like Swedish ones, no advantages or “little help”, which allows you to really know your level. But the teachers are far from being hard – I would say they are fair. 

What I really liked and found very stimulating was to study with student from all over the world. You’ll see very quickly that French, Spanish and Italian people are alike in their way of working: not too fast in the morning, and slowly in the afternoon! Whereas German or Swedish people… it’s another story. German people for example are very studious and thorough in their work. 

But I don’t want to spoil you, especially if you think I’m caricaturing. You’ll see that the differences are striking!

I’ll stop my presentation on the procedures and academic system here, and I invite you to read my next article to discover a part of the Erasmus that is more fun: life in Sweden, the culture, the travels and the unlikely moments of the Erasmus. 

See you soon !
Zohra Mokadem
Graduate form the Master 2 Diplomacy and strategic negotiations (Université Paris-Saclay)
Currently officer at the Ministry of Armed Forces

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