Picture from above, showing Gothenburg and a river
The city of Gothenburg with the river running through it.
Photo: Per Pixel Petterson/Göteborg & Co

Being new in Gothenburg as an international student

Studying abroad is what many people refer to as the most memorable time of their life. A time that not only equips you with knowledge and intercultural perspectives but also challenges your social skills. In this text four recent students share their thoughts on going abroad and being new at the University of Gothenburg.

Cultural differences

Alumnus Solomon Amabo, who recently graduated with an MSc in Investigative Journalism from the University of Gothenburg remembers a cultural difference when he arrived as a new student.

- My strongest memory for the first couple of weeks was the way I saw some level of equality and respect between students and lecturers. I realized that lecturers appreciated and wanted to be called simply by their names and not by the academic titles, for example Doctor or Professor. Also, I was amazed by the availability and conviviality the students and lecturers shared. The lecturers were always willing to assist, doing follow ups etc. They made the teaching and learning process all fun, and this made me able to succeed in all my courses.

Picture of alumnus Solomon looking at a book in the library
Solomon Amabo in the library
Photo: Private

Nada Alichiah moved from Indonesia to study a master’s programme in communication at the University of Gothenburg. Nada also experienced a major cultural difference when she came to Sweden.

When I got here, it was strange to see so many fathers going around in public transportation with their children in strollers, which is very unusual to see for an Indonesian like me. In my country, you will barely see fathers taking care of their children in public. It made me happy to see this norm in Sweden.

A multicultural society and a supportive community

Hanh Nguyen an MSc student in Global studies from Vietnam, was thrilled and excited when going abroad. However, as Sweden felt far away from home, she of course had some worries. When she arrived to Gothenburg however, she was positively surprised by the multicultural society.

- The thing is, even though Sweden seemed a world away from where I am from, I was so surprised that so many Vietnamese people live in Gothenburg. This meant that I had access to a community of people where I could get support and advice about everyday matters easily from the start. Thanks to the community and the many Vietnamese restaurants available in the city, I also got an authentic taste of home which eased my homesickness. So, in the end, Sweden feels much closer to home than what I could ever imagined before coming here!

Before arriving, Hanh had some worries about the everyday matters and how it would sort itself out. In addition to the support from other Vietnamese people living here, she discovered that it all was easy to figure out.

- It is also an easy country to live in: most people speak fluent English so there is not really a language barrier for new students to come and settle down. In addition, Swedish as a language is very close to English, so you can google translate easily if there is anything you don’t understand.

Student Hanh sitting on a blanket and having a picnic in a park surrounded by trees
Hanh Nguyen having a picnic in the city park Slottsskogen
Photo: Private

Alumna Devashree Niraula, who recently graduated with an MSc in Atmosphere, Climate and Ecosystem, left Nepal in 2019 to study at the University of Gothenburg. Devashree had a similar experience as Hanh.

- This was the first time I had ever moved out of the home, and I was therefore a bit anxious about basic chores such as doing the groceries and laundry. I was also a bit worried about how to figure out the commuting system here in Gothenburg. However, when I came here, I realized that my worries were unnecessary. Things were not at all as complicated as I thought, and all the information I needed was easily accessible on the university website, social media and the internet. For me personally, moving here was extremely smooth, also as I got tremendous support from the Nepali community living in Gothenburg.

Alumna Devashree standing outside the main building of University of Gothenburg
Devashree Niraula outside the main building of University of Gothenburg, Vasaparken
Photo: Private

For the newly admitted students, the worries can regard everything from stress over whether you have chosen the right education, university or even country. Or, it can regard minor matters such as how to do groceries in a new country. Nada however, her biggest worry was feeling alone in her faith.

- My biggest worry was how to keep up with my faith as a minority. I often felt alone and a bit lost because it is not always easy to find practical Muslims to share with.  Luckily, when I studied SFI (Swedish for immigrants) in January 2020 before the pandemic, I met a Muslim couple from Ughyur. We became friends and the wife invited me to her weekly online Quran course with other Muslim women in Gothenburg. From this, I also learned that being active and being open minded with every meetup and opportunity, is a recipe to 'survive happily' in a new city.

Student looking happy by the river in Gothenburg
Nada Alichiah by the river in Gothenburg
Photo: Private

Embracing the new culture and city

Nada also emphasizes on the many activities that are offered here in Gothenburg, making it easy to have an active lifestyle where you can challenge yourself and find new interests.

- What I love about Gothenburg is that it is easy to find new things to explore. Before coming here, I was not the type of girl that liked physical activities, but here I have had the opportunity to try kayaking for the first time and learn how to swim. For this summer, I am looking forward to trying out sailing for the first time. In Gothenburg I am allowed to be myself, but also to challenge myself and become a better me.

Devashree agrees with Nada and emphasizes on the importance of embracing the opportunities and lifestyle in a new city and country.

- My advice for all newly admitted students is to come to Sweden with an open mind. Try everything from surströmming (fermented herring), to jumping into a frozen lake. I am sure that you as an international student will enjoy the Swedish nature, people, this lovely city and the University of Gothenburg.

As a conclusion, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit anxious before moving abroad on your own. However, you can rest a sure that you will be overwhelmed by the support from the society and before you know it, your initial worries will be all sorted out. Embrace the new chapter in your life, perhaps you will find yourself telling stories about your sailing adventures in the archipelago of Gothenburg in a couple of years.

Unimeet Gothenburg

Unimeet Gothenburg creates cultural and social activities, meeting places and networking opportunities for international researchers and students living in Gothenburg.

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