Well, I guess you could call it procrastination. Applying to do an Erasmus year abroad as part of my undergraduate LLB was spontaneous and impulsive. The deadline was during our revision period in the lead up to our exams – I partially blame that on my application, but I don’t regret it for a second.
I spent the year studying, and living in the small Swedish town of Lund. When I received the highly anticipated email I honestly had no idea what to expect, Sweden (and Scandinavia) was a place that I had never explored and unfortunately knew very little about.
Hopefully I’ll have more luck explaining my journey on paper than I seem to have had through talking to people thus far. I’ve been back in the UK for two months now, and of course people are continuing to ask me how it was. I keep failing to do it justice. I explain that “it was great”, or it was “absolutely amazing”, but that can’t and doesn’t even begin to describe the best year of my life.
To begin with I’ll explain the first aspect to my experience, the studying. Well, it was completely different to anything I’d experienced at Sheffield University, or at school before that. The method of teaching and examinations differed; it’s hard to say whether or not it was better. What I am certain of is that the modules we were given the chance to take were so unique and varied. They really enhanced both my legal understanding and my general knowledge, I certainly feel much more equipped to participate in a pub quiz now. I’ve presented pieces on the indigenous Sami people of Sweden, the Falun Gong meditations founded in China and the development of equality legislation in the UK.
It was surreal; I was in a classroom with people of different ages, backgrounds and all representing different corners of the world. Some places I knew, some I had only heard of. Either way, everyone brought with them insight from their home country and university. We were able to share our experiences and knowledge, which made it a fascinating learning environment. The legal, and alternative debates that we had as a group were captivating; it’s clear why our teachers encouraged them.
That being said, and whilst I appreciate that the studying is important – why else would they call it a ‘study abroad programme’? But I would be naive to think that the most important things that I learnt during my time away were in the classroom. I grew academically of course, but I also grew as a person.
I was surrounded by people from all over the globe at all times, yes I studied in the law school with the largest variety of people, but it went beyond that. This continued throughout all areas of my Swedish life. Regardless of where you were, the small campus town was overrun with students from all over the world; hearing several different languages and accents in the same room was the norm.
Perhaps it’s fair to assume that the highlight of my year abroad were the people and the friendships that I made along the way. There are certainly benefits to living abroad where everyone is slightly outside of their comfort zone; you find that you make the strongest of friendships. As a result of I was lucky enough to travel to ten new European countries. Naturally I wouldn’t have been able to spend a year in Scandinavia without visiting the beautiful Lapland, where I rode with huskies and witnessed the natural beauty that is the Northern Lights.
I took Swedish language classes, and of course I travelled to numerous places within Sweden. I really embraced every aspect of my experience, and I was rewarded by truly falling in love with the way of life there. The life of a Swedish student involves a lot of cycling and keeping active, it also involves a lot of socialising. Swedes alike love to fika (coffee and cake) on a daily basis, and I was lucky enough to attended several traditional Swedish formals (sittnings). It’s heartbreaking to think that I won’t find myself casually cycling to university through the beautiful cobbled streets of Lund anytime soon. I guess you just have to remember the cliché that all good things must come to an end.
I’ve thrown myself back into work since my return, to avoid the post-Erasmus blues, which everyone advises you will hit, hard. I think about Sweden from time to time, and I am truly grateful for the experience. I would really recommend others to take part in the Erasmus scheme. The benefits are vast; I know this from the effects it’s had on me, and on my new international friends. It has given me the desire to travel more, and to experience different countries, cultures and languages – best of all I now have a sofa to stay on in many places across the world!
Tack så mycket Sweden, it was an absolute pleasure.