And that’s OK. Swedes aren’t always good at selling themselves or their country (it’s called jantelagen, but more on that another time). However, there’s much more to Sweden than the stereotypes -- although IKEA and cinnamon buns are still pretty popular here too.
Something you probably didn’t know, is that Sweden is currently ranked the second most innovative nation in the world (only closely missing out on the top spot to Switzerland). In fact, it’s consistently been in the top three for the last six years thanks to its high-performing universities and graduates.
One of those universities is Chalmers University of Technology located in Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast. It’s one of the country’s leading research universities, and among the world’s top 100 universities for engineering and technology subjects.
As well as offering bachelor’s programmes in Swedish, it offers a selection of two-year master’s programmes which are all taught in English. There are seven main areas of study linked to the university’s advanced engineering research. On the completion of studies, candidates are granted their Master of Science degree.
For Chalmers second year master’s student, Josh Turan, moving to Sweden from the United States meant he could continue his studies in Material Engineering and discover a completely new culture.
“Before I came here, I’d never left the US…I’d barely left Tennessee! I knew I wanted to continue studying, and a guy I was working with at Oakridge National Lab mentioned Chalmers,” he recalls.
“I’d always wanted to go abroad but because of financial reasons never had the opportunity until I discovered the US Friends of Chalmers Scholarship.”
US Friends of Chalmers Scholarship is open to US citizens who are required to pay tuition at Swedish universities and are applying for the first year of their chosen masters programme at Chalmers. It covers 100 percent of the tuition fees, so you just take care of your cost of living.
What’s more, it sets aside accommodation for the recipient -- which is a huge help in a country where finding somewhere to live is notoriously tricky.
“I kept reading how hard it is to find somewhere to live in Sweden. But then Chalmers contacted me and said they had the room for me, so I arrived and already had somewhere to live,” says Josh, 25.
“If it wasn’t for that there would have been a lot of stress involved -- it was a pretty huge deal. That might actually be the best part about the scholarship.”
Having accommodation sorted out made the move to Sweden much smoother for first-year master’s student and US Friends of Chalmers Scholarship recipient, Rebecca Gillie, 22.
“I arrived in Sweden a few weeks ago, and moved straight into a studio apartment with its own bathroom. It’s around 4500 kronor (around $560) a month, so really not too bad for my own place!,” she explains, adding her rent is very comparable” to what she might pay in the US.
“There are lots of other students living around me, and you need a key card to get into the building so I feel absolutely safe.”
But for Rebecca, who is studying Sound and Vibration, it was the course itself that really drew her to Sweden. Scandinavia historically leads the way in acoustics research and education, and Chalmers’ area of focus was more in line with her interests than the research currently conducted in the US.
She also knew she wanted to be somewhere with lots of international students. It’s Rebecca’s first time in Sweden, but the university organises events and meetups to help the international students settle in and get to know one another.
“In the first week, there were a bunch of events for international students. We were all assigned to a group of about 20 international students with a mentor from an older class year. They gave us tours of both campuses, and we went to IKEA together to get stuff for our apartments. Then we did a scavenger hunt in the city, racing against another group, which was a fun way to learn about how to get around and what there is to do.”
Rebecca has also had the opportunity to explore Gothenburg and discover one of Sweden’s best-kept summer secrets: the sprawling west coast archipelago.
“I walked around a lot the first few days. I enjoyed some walks along the canal and found some areas and restaurants I want to visit in the future. I like the variety of places to eat, there’s lots of international cuisine as well as local food,” she says.
“I also love the number of parks that are around! The US cities I’d lived in didn’t have nearly as many parks or gardens to walk through. Last week a group of us went out to two of the islands in the archipelago — we had the perfect weather on the Sunday!”
Josh agrees the ubiquitous greenery is one of the bonuses of life in Gothenburg.
“The city has everything you need, and there’s nature everywhere. They build around it instead of destroying it, so there’s a lot of nice parks, and if you go outside the city you can go hiking or biking,” he adds.
“The archipelago is such a unique thing to have - there’s nothing like it anywhere in America.”
Both feel confident that their time at Chalmers will help them successfully launch careers in their respective areas.
“Studying here will absolutely help me get where I want to be,” says Rebecca. “The practical knowledge we get in the labs, as well as the coursework and thesis, and the organisation required for the work, will provide a benefit in my future career.”
Josh, too, looks set for a bright future -- and has enjoyed his time in Sweden so much he plans to stay.
“I’m hoping to stay in Sweden once I’ve finished my masters,” Josh says. “I worked at Volvo Group this past summer, which I found out about through a course I was taking here at the university. Everything is somehow connected, and there are a lot of opportunities here.”
He has found his time at Chalmers life-changing and believes it has opened doors that may otherwise have remained closed.
“There’s not much diversity where I’m from, so to come and study here, suddenly meeting people from all over the world, has given me an opportunity I would have never had back home,” says Josh.
“It’s allowed me to travel throughout Europe, and experience different cultures and languages. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t had done it, I don’t think anything would be anything near this exciting.”
Or meet Chalmers' representatives in person at one of the fairs and events the university's International Student Recruitment team is currently attending around the world. Next stops this September -- Los Angeles and San Francisco!