A Different Attitude towards Education
Niko Tang, who studies linguistics in Hong Kong, chose to spend a semester as an exchange student at the University of Gothenburg. During his stay he found that he studied with a greater variety of students than he was used to, and that students here were not necessarily as motivated by future career possibilities, but by a willingness to learn. ”I’ve noticed some different aspects that show a different attitude towards education.”
At the University of Hong Kong Niko Tang is attaining his bachelor’s degree in linguistics and studying Chinese-English translation. One of the reasons that he chose to take an exchange semester in Gothenburg was because he also has been studying Swedish.
“Since I’m studying linguistics I thought that I should take another language and I looked into what other options were available, other than the more mainstream languages like French and Spanish. Swedish is being taught at my university so I tried it and enjoyed the classes and kept taking courses.”
Before his exchange semester he applied for all Swedish universities that he could and was nominated a place at the University of Gothenburg. Since there were no courses in Chinese-English translation available he studied a variety of courses here. Apart from a linguistics course and a course in introduction to programming he also took a course in Viking history. “It’s a free standing course and many of the students are working adults.”
There are a different type of students here, who are more concerned with learning
In Hong Kong older students tend not to take this type of courses, Niko explains. Instead, they normally apply for certain Master’s programmes and are more concerned with career prospects.
“There are a different type of students here, who are more concerned with learning. They aren’t afraid to ask questions and engage in active debates with teachers or professors.”
Another thing that Niko noticed that differs from studying in Hong Kong is the assessment method. “In Hong Kong most students pass the courses but might forget what they’ve learned after the exams. And should they fail they have to retake the entire course with the next batch of students. Here there is a larger percentage of students who fail the exams, but they get at least two or three attempts to retake them. I think that’s the way to learn, if you can’t meet the expectations the first time you try again.”
Niko arrived in Gothenburg in September 2018. Even though the weather and the short daylight hours during the autumn and winter took some getting used to he describes Gothenburg as a beautiful city with a feeling of antiquity about it.
“Other European cities with an older feel are often worn down but Gothenburg feels new but with an older style. It’s a clean city and the people are friendly.”
Something in Gothenburg that differs from the student life in Hong Kong is the food. In Hong Kong there are lots of cheap options for eating out, in Gothenburg dining out is a little pricier.
“I’ve spent a lot more time cooking, and thinking about what to cook during my time here.”
As an exchange student Niko was to be guaranteed accommodation via SGS Student Housing. However, after a miscommunication he lost his spot and had to find lodgings on his own. He was eventually able to find a room to rent.
“I’d been sending out e-mails throughout July and August and it wasn’t until mid-August that I got my living arrangements confirmed.”
Niko advices incoming international students to explore the campus when they arrive, as it is scattered all over the city and knowing the basics of its layout will lead to less stressful first couple of days when the classes start. He also recommends learning some Swedish.
“People here speak really good English, but shops and cafés don’t usually have signs or menus in English so learning a little will help you if you’re looking for something specific. Also, join a student group or find some activities. The daytime is short and if you just stay at your room you can feel alone. But you have to reach out yourself!”
Written by: Joacim Smidth
Originally published 4 June 2019