A Tale of Two Cities…Or perhaps, more of a comparison.

Greetings from the land of fika1 (“fee-ka”) and complex, yet efficient, garbage disposal systems! Seriously, there are eight different containers outside my apartment for sorting my trash into, which is great, except that the labels are in Swedish and the pictures are not very informative. However, I am a U of T student! Thus, I am highly capable of translating these Swedish words into English…eventually.

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(Fika! Photo credit:  flickr user ruminatrix)

I am here in Sweden to attend Lund University for their Aquatic Ecology program. The program is actually a two year master’s program, but I am able to participate for a year as a bachelor student. Currently, I’m only two weeks into the semester, but I am already so grateful for my decision to venture away from Toronto for a year.

Unlike U of T, I will only be taking one course at a time here. I find this quite appealing because it allows me to focus all my energy into the subject at hand. My current course is Marine Ecology. It runs from the beginning of September to the end of October. There are 25 students in the class, a mixture of Swedish, German, Spanish, Australian, British, and Canadian. The classroom environment is casual and relaxed, and since we spend monday to Friday from 9-4 together, there are ample opportunities to speak directly with the prof.

Possibly the greatest perk of this course, for me anyway, is the opportunity to complete actual fieldwork. In fact, as I write this blog several piles of folded clothes, rain gear, foot wear, toiletries, and snacks surround me. This is because I leave early Monday (Sept. 16th) morning for the east coast of Sweden, where I will spend three days collecting data on the Atlantic cod inhabiting the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea. Then I will travel to the West coast of Sweden, where I will spend another three days, this time collecting data on the cod inhabiting the Kattegat, a region of the North Sea. As a student aiming to enter into master’s studies, this practical research experience is invaluable for me. Moreover, I feel especially lucky that I am gaining experience in the field I hope to pursue in my future studies. This is a drastic contrast to the research assistant positions I often applied for at U of T. Positions that would have me sitting in a lab for the summer practicing mainly my pipetting skills.

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(The entrance to a cow pasture while hiking on the West coast.)

But enough about education. The Swedish outdoors are absolutely beautiful, and my little city of Lund is perfect. Student life has a huge presence in town, which means there is always something to do. Everyone I have met thus far has been friendly, helpful, and inviting. Conveniently, I have been able to bike anywhere in town in under 20 minutes. Also, I managed to find an amazing falafel place that sells wraps for only 30 krona2 (approx. $5)!

1Fika – basically a coffee break that includes a cake-like sweet of some kind, possibly my new favorite thing.

2Sweden is expensive. Finding a something delicious, like a falafel wrap, for 30 krona is a rarity in these parts.

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