My experience studying in Sweden is worth sharing. It’s been interesting to compare my education in Sweden which has lasted almost a year, with my over twenty-year educational experience in Ghana.
In 2009, I applied for a couple of graduate programs in the Netherlands, Norway and France but was not accepted. I was discouraged after all the time and effort I had put into preparing the applications. One of my best friends encouraged me to apply to study at the Uppsala University in Sweden. When I looked into the requirements for admission, I laughed and thought my friend was crazy – the deadline was Thursday at 5pm, meaning I only had two and a half working days to complete the application. I decided to go for it and enlisted the help of my family and friends who helped me gather the necessary documents. At that time, I lived in Accra and was working at the United Nations Development Programme. I had to rush to get some of the documents from my alma mater, University of Cape Coast. After the big coordination effort, I was not only accepted into the Development Studies program but was awarded a tuition scholarship!
I enrolled in a two-year programme and soon learned it could be completed within one year. The difference between the one-year programme and the two-year programme is that the former allowed me to accumulate 60 study credit points while the two-year programme would afford me 120 study credit points.
At Uppsala University I completed three courses plus a thesis to earn a Masters Degree in Social Sciences with specialization in Development Studies. The courses for the programme included Governance, The State and Politics of Development, Research Methods, Economic Growth Justice and Distribution, and a thesis. My thesis was on the topic: “International Migration and Development: The Role of State and Non-State Actors in Co-Development”. This was a study of Ghana’s approach towards the management of international migration.
I really enjoyed the fact that we did not have large classes at Uppsala University and the faculty was very much devoted to helping students understand the nature of the programme and courses. For the first time I understood how a positive student-teacher relationship could help students think outside the box and obtain the “boundless knowledge” that the university promoted in global education. My peers were also very friendly and often organized group studies and off-campus tours; one of my fondest memories of my time at Uppsala was a trip to Norreda.
Additionally, one of most interesting aspects of my education at Uppsala was the guest lectures given by renowned speakers. I was fortunate enough to hear an impeccable speech by Francis Deng, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide in a speech entitled Genocide Prevention: A Challenge of Constructive Management of Diversity. His speech was very timely as I was taking a course called Governance: The State and the Politics of Development at the time. Undoubtedly, my interest in state sovereignty and refugee issues was sparked by Mr. Deng’s speech on genocide prevention.
On July 8, 2010, I was elated to receive my degree certificate, but soon realized that in order to pursue higher studies in a doctorate program, I needed more than 60 credits. Thus, I have to continue my studies at Uppsala University in the 2nd year programme, which will consist of an internship and a 30 credit point thesis. By completing both the internship and a thesis, I can earn a Masters Degree in Development Studies (120 ECTS).
A sneak peek at Uppsala
I was very enthusiastic about going to Uppsala University in Sweden. Uppsala is a student city and the university is ranked 62nd internationally in the 2010 World Universities ranking. Uppsala is also the home of Dag Hammarskjöld, the former UN Secretary General. However, I was astonished at the beginning of my studies in Uppsala. Accommodations were quite expensive and hard to find. Yet Uppsala has very good public transportation, big malls, excellent cinemas and lots green areas and shopping centers among other things. After all was said and done, I learned to love Uppsala
Here are some quick facts I noted during my time in Sweden:
- Swedes are very friendly and helpful. A person does not need to feel shy to ask for help. Thanks to the Carstensens’, Heinius, Johannes, Nyamekye’s and other Swedes, I was always able to find my way.
- When it is sunny, you can have a good time along the Uppsala river bank or by grabbing a cup of coffee in a local café.
- It’s better to arrive five minutes early than five minutes late. One interesting observation has to do with the so-called “academic quarter” at the University, as most lectures started 15 minutes later than of any of the O’Clocks.
- When visiting someone’s home, people usually take off their outdoor shoes at the entrance and walk around in their socks.
- Always be prepared to pay for your own bill.
- Never try to skip a queue.
To be continued….