What's it like to study in Sweden?


Alice tells us why she decided to enrol in an MSc in Biology, Molecular Ecology at Lund University in Sweden.

Why did you choose to study in Sweden?

I knew I wanted to do an MSc but the cost in the UK about £8-9,000. I was specifically interested in Biology with Molecular Ecology and I used Google to try and see where such a course existed and Lund University came up. I could see that it was one of the world’s top ranked universities overall, plus it was very strong in the biology field. I also knew I wanted to go abroad to study.

What was the application process like?

The application process was a little bit frustrating for me because I applied late, which you are allowed to do. However, I was abroad in Greece when I applied through Universityadmissions.se, which is the website for applying to university in Sweden, but for some reason my university in the UK forgot to put down their contact details when they certified my grade papers and so my application was not considered valid. I then had to get help from my parents to try and notarise the papers quickly to resend. I felt that there could have been some more customer service from the admissions system, but in the end it all worked out and once I got to Lund University my course leader was very helpful and there was a lot less bureaucracy locally.

How did your family and friends react to the news?

My friends were not very surprised since I am always travelling anyway. My mother was very supportive and understood that I needed to do this MSc in order to achieve my future career goals, while my dad was questioning the decision more, thinking financially about the cost of another two years of studying and living abroad. He really wanted me to focus more on finding a job back in the UK.

Were you comparing Sweden with another country when you were considering your study options?

Yes, my boyfriend is currently studying in Holland and so of course I was looking for a programme there, but could not find any matches. In Holland it is also not free to study, which was another factor.

How did the fees in Sweden compare to what you would have paid in the UK?

The fees are free in Sweden because England is part of the EU and so all EU students study for free. In the UK I would had paid £8-9,000.

What about the cost of living?

My rent currently is very good as I pay about £250 pounds per month, although that is because I live outside of the city. Lund is a small town with 47,000 students so it is very hard to find competitive rentals in the central parts of the city. Food is more expensive in Sweden and so is alcohol. I would say I spend maybe £40-50 weekly on these in Sweden whereas I would have spent only £20-30 in the UK. I also work in an English pub in town and the salary that I make from that job is more than I would have made in the UK, so perhaps it evens out.

How are you finding the experience of living and studying in Sweden?

It is always interesting to explore another culture and a new part of the world. It broadens your perspective on things. You learn what is good about the country you come from, and you learn what could be done better when you see other ways of doing things. Academically I think that the Swedish system is much more relaxed about achievements. People do not seem to compare themselves so much to others and the grades are only pass, pass with distinction and fail. The course work and exams are about the same, but if you fail a test you can retake it. This turns the focus towards studying because you are passionate about the subject and find it interesting, and away from just what mark you get on paper. The first week of the semester there was also an introduction which was very helpful, where international students learned about the system and so on.

What do you plan to do after your course is finished?

I really want to do a PhD in the UK, with field work in South East Asia.

Are there any things you are finding difficult about living in Sweden?

The distance from my boyfriend is difficult, and I miss the English pub culture and English sausages, but that is about it!

How do you think your experience of studying abroad will be viewed by employers and was this something that was a factor in your decision?

Yes, my professors back in the UK said that Swedish education was highly thought of. I also think that the programme that I have chosen is very specific and so I will stand out among others. Plus having international experience also helps with that.