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Main differences between graduate studies in my home country and Södertörn University

As an international student, I found the education system in Södertörn University fairly different from my previous academic experience. But no, I don’t mean only about having the campus sitting atop a rocky outcrop.

Student läser på en surfplatta

Earlier, I have studied in an American university and a Hungarian university, having the latter use a very traditional Bologna Process. I chose Södertörn University because, although being one of Sweden’s youngest universities, it has managed to catch up quite well internationally, with its innovation and creativity. Nordic countries are notoriously known for their qualitative education system; however, I did not know exactly what to expect from Södertörn University. Below, I have summed up what I came to experience first-hand in the campus.

Low-stress education

Stress has significant adverse effects on learning and teaching – and turns out that Södertörn University is well aware of this. The system was composed in a way that students are only to have one task/deadline at a time, without generally being overwhelmed with a high workload. In my previous universities, we always had deadlines clashing, as there was a minimum of 5 courses being taught concurrently.

Personally, I found this to be the biggest perk. Having a low stress environment and gaining a top-notch academic learning, was something that I did not believe could be achieved simultaneously. This also led me maintain a healthy (mental) wellbeing, as well as balance my school/personal life throughout the semester.

Collaboration instead of competition

In my previous studies, in both the American and Hungarian institution, the competition among students started as early as having to register for courses (due to very limited seats).

For some, the prospect of collaboration in a university-level may seem daunting. Södertörn University cultivates a process-perspective learning. During the classes, there is a constant verbal reflection among students which not only allows a better social interaction, but also leads to very analytical and constructive arguments. It could come down to a personal level, but I surely side with a collaborative setting in classes. I believe it’s very beneficial to get different perspectives on an issue – especially in a multicultural class, and change positions when the logic leads us to.

Unlocking student creativity

I found the system in Södertörn University to be very innovative and unconventional. In the seminars there is a flat hierarchy, so the concept of professor-student power dynamic is way more relaxed (of what I was used to) – if not absent. Students are given a lot of trust and freedom, both in the seminars and assessments; without any micromanagement or dependence.

Stronger critical thinking

You can rest assured that a student at Södertörn University will spot slippery information! We are always encouraged to be skeptical and open minded, while always taking into account logic and reasoning.

The curricula embeds highly critical and reflective thinking. Despite many intellectual perks this entails, it also allows students to thoroughly understand and apply the issues practically, rather than just remembering for the sake of university’s assessments.

(Eco-friendly) Bonus: All the information, like syllabus and “handouts” by professors are digitally stored. Moreover, almost all the literature put forward by course instructors is also accessible online, or found in the university (electronic) library. Personally, this was the first time in my academic journey where I did not need to print out needless number of hardcopy materials and textbooks.

In general, the graduate education system in Södertörn University has certainly exceeded my expectations. Here, the education isn’t deemed as a competition or merely a prize to be won, but rather a means of attaining personal growth and professional fulfillment.

I really value the academic freedom and the trust that a student is given to perform their tasks. I believe that this is the only way that one can attain their utmost intellectual potential and creativity.

Author: Dua Shala 

Student walking in Stockholm
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