By Amaraizu Genius
Journey to Unknown Destination
When my first choice, Södertörn University, offered me an admission in April 2020, it was a call for celebration. At the same time, I had mixed feelings – the pandemic just began in my country Nigeria. The world was shutting down; news of lockdown was everywhere and in the same month, my country had locked down. Silence. Total silence and then confusion, which was followed by long period of uncertainty.
I knew this study progression was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. Not even the pandemic could stop me. Lol. In the midst of the lockdown in my country, I quit my job and booked a ticket to join an evacuation flight for Sweden and I left my home, my loved ones and friends. Yeah, while the pandemic was still at its peak, I relocated abroad. That was bold I must acknowledge, and I’m grateful that I’m alive, despite the chaos of the past year. It felt like a journey to an unknown destination, but like I said – it’s been nothing but an amazing one year. Soon after I arrived Sweden, I would start as a pioneer International Student ambassador at Södertörn University and I would be working with my professor as a Research Assistant on a project on automated decision-making.
Classes at Södertörn University
First day in class was an in-person introductory lecture. Yes in-person, while the world had closed up in 2020, Sweden still fixed physical classes. I was not surprised anyway. My surprises on Sweden’s response to the pandemic died down after my first week in the country. Just as I arrived the airport, I had masked up as it should be, but I was surprised people here never wore masks. It felt as if those who wore the masks were sick and deserved some pity. That’s a story for another day. After some weeks however, lectures eventually migrated to Zoom but still, Sweden was never in a total lockdown, it was somewhat partial.
Classes in Sweden is different. Very different from my expectations, whether physical or online. First, I was happy to understand that there is a healthy level of flexibility in learning at Södertörn University. I could always access my programme coordinator or my professors to discuss what works for me. But, the funniest part of this flexibility is that you cannot fail your exams. I do not mean that. Let me explain. Here, if you fail an exam, you have a right to rewrite that exam as many times as allowed for the course. In most cases, you are allowed to rewrite an exam up to 5 times, and you don’t even have to wait for a new semester to do that. In my country, do not fail your exams – but if you do, you have to wait till the coming year to rewrite. Another fascinating thing about lectures at Södertörn University is that we spend a lot of time discussing our ideas – my ideas matter so much for every course. I enjoyed this, and I felt empowered to explore, empowered to contribute and empowered to lead.
However, there is one thing I didn’t like about studies in Sweden – contact hours with professors are not much. As a full-time student, I have 40 hours a week for classes, but in a week, I barely achieve a quarter of that in contact-hours with professors. Well, for all those who are working and studying, which is allowed, these might be some sort of blessing.