It’s the middle of my sixth week in Sweden and I love it! I am an exchange student studying at Jönköping University in Jönköping, Sweden. The week before classes started, all the new students participated in an orientation program complete with overalls (uniforms that specify what students are studying based on color), games, and groups. Think Fish Camp minus the Texas standard of appropriateness. The week was a well planned sequence of events that helped me meet people and learn about Swedish culture.
The second week I started my classes at the business school called JIBS or Jonkoping International Business School. There are a few blatant differences between JIBS and Mays:
1. We call our professors by their first name
2. Classes are at least 2 hours long
3. There’s a 15 minute coffee break in the middle of class
4. Class times are different every week
5. Courses are taught by a team of professors
Things that are still the same:
1. Tons of group projects
2. The professors are knowledgeable and excited about their subject matter
The semester is broken into quarters here. People typically take two classes each quarter. I’ve chosen pain and enrolled in three so that I can graduate on time. I appreciate that the classes here are focused on practical knowledge. In my entrepreneuring class we simulate the process of launching a business by creating a product, a pitch and lots of feedback sessions. In consumer behavior my incredibly enthusiastic South African professor does an excellent job of introducing new, controversial, topics. She never reveals her opinion, so we are free to explore and critically evaluate the new material. Finally my industrial distribution class keeps me on my toes. I hear everything from the “evils” of Walmart to the strategy behind Swedish grocery stores.
My favorite part about attending JIBS is that every day I interact with people from all over the world. My dorm of approximately 24 people houses over 10 nationalities, and classes are just as diverse. Seeing the world through another country’s perspective is a privilege more powerful than a textbook. Two weeks ago I grew frustrated when my international teammate did not seem to listen or participate in a group discussion. A few minutes after the event, he asked me what life was like in Texas. I was caught off-guard but I explained the incredible glory that is life in Texas. Then I asked about his home. As I explained and listened, my frustration faded. The event was not any less aggravating, but in that moment my teammate’s curiosity and willingness to share reminded me of his humanity. It reminded me of the capacity for humans to care about and appreciate others as an individual. We have more in common with our global peers and our neighbors than we realize.
My time in Sweden has made me desire that my American peers would take time to remember that we do have more in common with each other than we have different. I wish everyone in America would intentionally consider one another first as people with meaningful lives. I wish that we could shirk the fear of the differences that our global neighbors or our nation has. It breaks my heart to read the New York Times every morning and see the strife of race relations as headlines day after day. Yet it scares me even more to think that we might be waiting for the government or legislation to take care of a sensitive issue that neighbors can fix.
My classes here have given me the freedom to explore new subjects and the privilege to learn from global peers.
First day of school at Jönköping University.
My Swedish family!