Update from amazing Indonesia!

Wow. What a fantastic week! Fascinating lectures covering everything from different aspects of  sustainable agriculture, post-war reconstruction in rural areas, to the effects climate change has on rural development.

12484706_10208676576377656_4930831923266536351_oWe also got to visit a cultural, village in a rural area; Kepuhsari, also known as Wayang village from the traditional shadow puppets they create. UNESCO recognises the art as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and it has been part of the Javanese culture since the 8th century. During our visit we were given a guided tour through the village, were invited to javanese food, and got to try our hands at either creating Wayang puppets, Wayang glass painting, or playing the traditional Gamalan instruments. As a finale we were treated to a full Wayang puppet show. All in all, a fantastic day!

A man creating Wayang puppets outside his home

A man creating Wayang puppets outside his home

Let the show begin!

Let the show begin!

However, we also got to see the darker side of Java. You cannot have sustainable development without the environmental aspect, and one of the biggest problems on Java today is the trash disposal. We visited the Bandung City Dump Sarimukti. This is where all the trash from Bandung area ends up as landfill. No real sorting is done beforehand, everything is just dumped here, creating mountains of trash. People then make their living sorting through the trash by hand, gathering what’s valuable and reselling it. They make their houses as close to the trash as possible, to be able to be the first ones on site when the garbage trucks arrive. Doing this they make the equivalent of 4 USD per day (according to the world bank, 1.90 USD per day is the limit for what is considered extreme poverty). It was incredibly difficult to witness.

Trash to the left, houses to the right...

Trash to the left, houses to the right…

To end on a positive note, we also got to be part of some truly amazing cultural performances. They put on a fantastic show with various traditional dance styles, and we all got to play the traditional instrument Angklung together 🙂

Traditional dance with feathers...

Traditional dance with feathers…

...and with plates. Ending with this guy smashing his two plates and jumping on the broken pieces!

…and with plates. Ending with this guy smashing his two plates and jumping on the broken pieces!

Angklung concert

Angklung concert

The academic part of the conference was summarized during the Role-play exercise, where participants were divided into working groups and was asked to provide recommendations regarding sustainable  development of Wayang village. Each group focused on a certain area like environment, infrastructure or business and trade. In the end, each proposals was discussed and debated on, with some really tough negotiations when it came to expected budget and success measurements. This exercise allowed us to practice our public speaking skills, also serving as an excellent way to summarize our experience and make an attempt to help the villagers who were so kind to host and welcome us.

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The closing moments of the conference were indeed memorable thanks to cultural performances where participants from each country had a chance to present their national music and dances. For instance, Helene and Cecilia introduced a traditional Midsommmarfest song, which received a truly warm welcome. The closing ceremony also became an award ceremony, with certificates handed to all participants. Summarizing the roleplay debates, teachers also came up with several additional nominations, among them Best Spokesperson award handed to our Yegor Vlasenko.

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The evening after the closing ceremony became a time for socializing, fun and last good-byes. Next morning we took a bus that brought us to busy Jakarta, where we had our flight back to Sweden.

How to become a local- My first weeks in Bordeaux

Salut!

I have been in Bordeaux for about three weeks, how time flies! So far I´ve been busy adapting to the French university system, getting to know the city more and socializing. Overall, I am very happy here and from now on will share my love for Bordeaux. After always telling how great Korea is; I´ll no concentrate on advertising the beauty of my new home.

University

I have lectures everyday expect Fridays (for strategic reasons). The schedule is the same for every week, makes it easier to plan and know where you have to go, but also makes it very repetitive. I have to take many courses as for most of them you only get 4 credits. You show up to lectures, listen and leave again. Professors hardly interact with students (maybe because some classes are simply too big), course literature is no existing (SAY WHATTT??) and there is just a final exam. Overall not too bad I guess. However I must admit that Erasmus students get extra treatment, we are less busy than the French students that have an exam every Saturday. I question the purpose of this, I mean who even wants to supervise on a Saturday?! Well, as far as I have observed ( social scientist after all) the French student is a interesting phenomena. They copy down everything (WORD BY WORD) what the professors says, as if everything he or she says is relevant. Interestingly, the think its perfectly acceptable to talk (talk not whisper!) during lectures and have no shame doing this right in front of the professor. I don´t want to sound like a nerd, BUT IF YOU MAKE AN EFFORT TO SHOW UP TO CLASS JUST SHUT UP AND PAY ATTENTION (sorry for my language, but there are no other words to describe how I feel about this). I am not the only one who things that way. Us exchange students were shocked to see the lack of discipline and respect of our fellow class mates. Also it seems that the sole purpose of studying is to be able to work for the government. After finishing their degree students have to pass a certain exam and then spend their life working as administrators. Aha, how interesting (get the irony here). If they all study to work for the government I´d rather take administration courses to prepare me for my future career, but well everybody can do as they please.

FYI: SciencePo Bordeaux, belongs to the SciencePo Paris (yeah that one), is ranked high in France, but due to my dear friend L. ( who studies at the REAL SciencePo) I know the difference. I´ll not enter the debate about the SciencePo label and what it means and who´s the best. But just be aware that many universities in France are called “Science Po” and that doesn´t mean it´s as prestigious as the one in Paris.

Bordeaux 1,2,3 or WHAT

The building isn´t particularly beautiful, but certainly will look nice when it´s completely renovated. My university is part of the University of Bordeaux. I still don´t quite understand why they though of such a great system to have several different universities (and calling them like numbers) and then just label it University of Bordeaux. Overall, there are several universities (faculties more or less) that are one the same campus and have the umbrella name of University of Bordeaux. However, Science Po doesn´t do anything with the other universities. You see french bureaucracy and organization is very easy, rational and makes perfectly sense!

Campus Life

On campus there isn´t that much. We have a swimming pool (which is great for me cause I love swimming), sport fields, cafeterias and student housing. Sports is big in France. French students have to take one sport class in order to get their credits. We Erasmus students are free to join classes. I have not done so, as I am very happy with doing my lanes in the 50 meter pool. Some of my friends tried some sports, but have very mixed feelings about it. I think it´s a good thing to offer lots of activities, just sitting in the library or classroom can´t be healthy. That´s basically it. There are some places where you can buy fast food too but not that much. I´ve tried two cafeterias so far (one being right next my dorm) and I think the food is quite decent. You can get a menu for 3.25 Euro. Being in France you always have to eat an entree, main dish and dessert. The best thing about the menu is that you get BREAD. There are three dishes you can chose from and it varies a lot. Nevertheless, you can eat fries every day if you want (Awww France. aren´t you great).

The dorms are rather peaceful. We don´t have a common area of a party room. On my floor there are no tables or chairs in the kitchen. If we would have some I´m pretty sure that people would hang out there more. This week was the first time that I was in the kitchen. It´s not the great but better than nothing. With some friends we cooked onion soup. Okay to be honest, one friend cooked the soup and the rest ate 😉 I like cooking with other people, as it isn´t that boring then. I´m gonna get some things from a girl that will move out soon, so maybe I can cook more frequently. On the weekends at least.

Going Out

When we go out we mostly hang out in bars. I nearly entered a club, but then they told us it was 10 Euros and we walked out again 😉 Not only was the club expensive but also did they check everybody. I am not used to this (my Colombian friends told me that this is completely normal for them). The more security I see; the more unsafe I feel. There are some really nice bars in Bordeaux. Where students and non-students go, it´s a nice mix. I´m looking forward to spring when you can sitt outside and drink wine in front of the Place de la Bourse (the most photographed place in Bordeaux).

I must admit that I chose Bordeaux since the location is so great. You can take a bus to Paris for 5 Euros (7 hours), 45 minutes to the Atlantic Ocean and Spain is also very close. We have winter holidays at the end of February and we are all planning what to do then.

Trips

The Aquitaine region is very interesting and beautiful. So far I´ve been to Lacanau Ocean and Arcachon.

Lacanau is a tiny beach town, where I simply went to see the Atlantic Ocean. You can take a bus for Bordeaux (4.5 Euro both ways!) and spend a day there. Many people were surfing. I just walked around and enjoyed a day at the beach. Beaches in France are simply amazing, since there are no huge hotels and it´s never crowded (you´ll always find a free spot somewhere).

Arcachon is a beach residence, like Biarritz just for average people. I was there last weekend with my friends. The weather was amazing, sunshine and 16 Degrees. Arcachon is not directly at the Ocean but next to a river. It´s very pretty and has some interesting houses (we couldn´t decide if it´s pretty or simply tasteless). We had lunch outside, Moules Frites (mussels and fries, my favorite French dish) and walked around. Unfortunately the bus to the largest Dune in Europe didn´t run on Sundays so we couldn´t go. That was unfortunate but overall it was a perfect day.

Once again I apologize for writing so much. I´ll force myself to structure things more so that the posts are shorter. Thanks for keeping on reading!

P.S.All my pictures are too big, so I can´t upload them. I am sorry about this, but I do not know how to make them fit. 

Lena

 

 

 

 

Bye Seoul, Salut Bordeaux!

Salut!

I haven´t quite processed my semester in Seoul yet and here I am in Bordeaux. Yes, you have read it correctly I´m on another exchange in the beautiful Bordeaux. So a new adventure awaits me here.

I loved Seoul! I still constantly talk about it and definitely will go back. To live in Korea was challenging but mostly very rewarding. I have never lived anywhere where every day is exciting and offers something new. I didn´t change that much, since I´m used to not live in my home country. However, I´ve become a tiny bit Korean. I always to the Asian pose on pictures (my friends make fun of me), sometimes I greet people the Korean way (waving with both hands), I wear more make-up (girls will understand, people just look so flawless in Korea), I can eat super spicy food and most dominantly: I´ve become more patient. People that know me know that patience is not my thing. However, Korea surprisingly taught me to be more patient (Korea or am I just getting old ??). If you live in a city has is always busy and you are surrounded by hyperactive people, the best strategy is to remain calm. Unfortunately, I did not get very far with my Korean, but well. Let´s face it, Korean is DIFFICULT. I got by anyway.

Korea will always have a special place in my heart. I met so many great people, traveled and learned a lot about the country. I would advise anyone to apply for an exchange semester in Korea, whatever university you chose (GO TIGERS, sorry for the bias).it will be a fantastic experience. I was lucky to have people that supported me and guided me through out my semester. I would like to express my gratitude at this point! Without my buddy and the student at Korea University, my experience would not have been as great. I am also grateful that some members of my family visited me. It makes it easier to talk about my experiences if the person your talking to has actually been in Korea.

I could spend ages talking about how great Korea is, but I won´t do so. My blog entries hopefully showed you that I had a really really good time.

But now to the next adventure: FRANCE

I am extremely grateful that Malmö University gives its students the opportunity to have two elective semesters. I decided to do two exchange semesters in two different countries. Everybody should decide according to their preferences. I wanted to go to France, since I have visited it several times and know the language (at least I thought so before that entry exam, but that´s another story). I decided to go to Bordeaux, as I have never been there, the university offered great courses (IN ENGLISH, I´m not suicidal after all) and let´s face it: the location and the wine are very convincing for themselves. I got tips from a dear friend of mine, who studies at SciencePo for one year, always good to know someone.

Getting to Bordeaux from Leipzig (where my parents live) was a bit complicated. So I decided to stop by my grandparents in the South of Germany and fly from Strasbourg. Like this I saw my family and did not have to transfer in Paris. I arrived the day before the introduction day. Most people arrived around the same time.

Housing

I live on campus. The university campus is HUGE, it´s in a town called Pessac which is very close to Bordeaux (tram takes like 20 minutes to the center). My room is very spacious compared to the one in Seoul. The kitchen is shared. People are very nice on my floor and I live super close to university. Student housing is cheap and I was surprised that my room actually is nice. Many people live in Bordeaux as it is way more exciting that living on campus and you can walk home after a night out. I wanted to save money and live with many other students, as I had good experiences with student housing in Korea. Also, there´s a night bus, so no problem at all to get back home.

Uni

SciencePo offers courses in French and English. I decided to take English courses, as I have never attended any courses in French and it´s been a while since I actually spoke french. Most dominantly, the courses in English were more interesting. Nevertheless, I take French classes and one lecture in French. My ultimate goal is to improve my French.

There are not only ERASMUS students but also people from Colombia, Singapore and the U.S (to mention a few). We are a relatively small group of around 40 people or so. Compared to Korea there is no guidance for exchange students. We organized ourselves, created a Facebook group chat and always share any information. There is a student society, which organizes events, but that  only started last week.

I have not managed to identify the French university system yet, but well. I (and everybody else) struggles with the French bureaucracy, you may have heard bad things about it, frankly speaking it´s WORSE. However, when I walk along Bordeaux (GOOGLE IT, if you don´t know what I´m talking about) or simply buy a baguette, I forget all of the trouble. I try to take it as the french, things will sort themselves out eventually. You just have to be patient and persistent.

 

Ohlala, that was a lot again. Sorry for that. Hopefully you´ll keep reading my blog, even though France may not be as exciting as Korea. I aim to make the best of my exchange!

 

Lena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First week

Hey there again,
it is now the beginning of another week. Turned out that out of five classes last week, four were cancelled, so I barely had any school at all, frustrating and nice at the same time!

The week was spent taking it easy with catching up on some leisure reading and tv shows. Most nights I have gone out for dinner with a group of the other exchange students. It is so nice to be able to eat every single meal out at a restaurant/canteen and not spending a fortune. My guess is that if I were to buy groceries and cook my meals myself, like i do back home, it would cost more than going out for lunch and dinner. However i usually have breakfast at home with some simple muesli and milk and fresh fruit, but tend to buy a proper coffee before class, so basically most meals are eaten out.

One of the nights we went to a restaurant where we got to cook our own food over a small stove thingy they bring out to the table (picture down below). It was fun and different. Most menus here are unfortunately in Thai, but luckily we’ve made friends with a local who usually joins us and help us translate. So far regarding food I only know the word for chicken, pork and water!

This weekend I decided to treat myself with a stay at a nice four star hotel in Bangkok. Accommodations are also very cheap in Bangkok! You can stay at a five star hotel for barely thousand Swedish kronor a night, such a bargain. I stayed right in the centre of Siam Square, the big shopping district. I had a big and very soft bed, and after been sleeping on my really hard bed in my flat here for two weeks, the bed at the hotel felt like a cloud. I haven’t slept that good in a long time. My days were spent by the pool catching the rays of the sun, doing some shopping and I treated myself to a massage as well as room service, whereas I finally had some western food!

Yesterday it was time for class again. This time me and another girl sat in the classroom that’s on the schedule, but turned out that the class took place in another building, so we rushed over to there. Once there we met the teacher and it turned out she is teaching two classes at the same time, hence the different classroom, so in that class we only got the course description, and was told when all the exams were as well as being told to buy the course book. So not much of a first lecture.
Today started the same as yesterday, was in the classroom stated on the schedule but turned out to be in another building as well. Getting very frustrated with Rangsit right now that there is no proper structure or information to the schedule. Like you know we have kronox that’s always accurate (in my experience) but they doesn’t seem to have that here. And when 10% of your grade here is depending on attendance, they should at least update you with the right classrooms! So I am sad to say that I am not liking it here regarding the school. Hopefully it will be better in the future.
Anyway when arriving to the right classroom the professor had already started, but didn’t seem to mind that we were late. Felt good to finally have a proper lecture, but the downside however is that the professor spoke English very poorly. So this will be interesting.

School Uniform that needs to be worn

School Uniform that needs to be worn

Campus

Campus

Campus

Campus

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Relaxing by the pool in Bangkok

Relaxing by the pool in Bangkok

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Now I’m off to dinner so see you later,
Sara

First days in Indonesia

(C – Cecilia, H – Helene, Y – Yegor)

Showing off our t-shirts in Bandung!

Showing off our t-shirts in Bandung!

Y: OK, so we don’t have any experience with blogging, but the time in Indonesia is definitely worth telling about. Let’s maybe try to summarize the brightest impressions and moments of these days? For example, I still remember the moment when I went out Jakarta airport and immediately felt like floating in a thick soup-like air full of strange flavours. Today’s breakfast was notorious, too.

H: Yes, the breakfast was a bit too heavy for me actually. I’ve really come to love Indonesian food though! It’s very different from Swedish cuisine, and uses a lot of spices, tofu and tempeh. Also I find that the different Indonesian islands have their own identity. I spent some days on the Gili islans, and there were no motorized vehicles, everyone was on bikes or horses. Very relaxing atmosphere, and I found it very different from both Bali and what I’ve seen from Java so far. One thing that’s the same is that everyone I’ve talked to is incredibly nice and helpful.

C: After a wonderful week in Bali I arrived at a busy Jakarta Airport. A lot more crowded than Bali but with the same friendly and helpful people. Our first day consisted of two very interesting lectures focusing on sustainable agriculture and world transformation and a lot of socializing with the other participants of the conference. I have, for example, learned a lot about the Japanese culture and traditions!

Y: Oh, yes, this is very true – I’ve met so many cool people from all over the globe and learnt so much new about their culture and traditions. Indonesian culture of course stands out, I was really impressed by traditional dancing and music. Indonesia turned out to be a home for numerous local cultures, each with its own language and distinctive traditions. I am also very much looking forward to the cultural evening at the conference.

H: I’m also curious about that. We have a lot of traveling planned actually with the conference. We are visiting the City Dump of Bandung, a Green Village, the city Yogyakarta and the cultural Wayang Village, where they create traditional shadow puppets. Plenty to look forward to!

Bye Coventry, England

My Erasmus exchange semester in England has already come to an end. Actually, I am writing this from home. A couple of days ago I took my last exam at Coventry University and flew to visit my family in Russia before going back to Sweden to continue my studies there in a few days. Now, as I have a very short break before immersing in a new semester, I decided that I should summarise my exchange studying experience shortly.

It is quite strange to realise that my exchange semester is over. Four months flew so fast. Without a doubt, I enjoyed living and studying in the UK a lot.  It surely was an unforgettable experience. I travelled a lot, learnt many new things, met a few nice people and, hopefully, grew personally. I will cherish memories of my adventures for the rest of my life.

In my previous posts I managed to cover highlights of my semester. In my last post, which was a month ago, I wrote about my plans for the winter break holidays. During that period, I travelled a bit more. I flew to Ireland for a few days. There, I stayed in Dublin and made 2 day-trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Then I went to Scotland again for Christmas. I stayed in Edinburgh and also went on a trip to enjoy breathtaking views in the Highlands. I was back in Coventry for the New Year’s Eve. After that, the exam period began. The exams were alright. Of course, preparation time was quite stressful and not fun at all. But in the end, I believe that I passed everything. So I left with a clear conscience.

I am very grateful to Malmö Högskola for giving me this great opportunity to do exchange studies and share my experience on this blog.

Thank you for reading! Take care!

One term abroad is coming to an end

Yes, now I’m here in Milan and tomorrow evening I’m taking the plane back home to cold Sweden. It has been an amazing experience to leave and “work” in another country, to get to know the culture, the norms and for being able to be a part of the normal day/”vardag”!

Genova really has delivered, it is a wonderful city, really worth a lot of your time, you wan’t get disappointed! First, there where some people who said to me, Genova isn’t really a nice city, but I have to say I love it! There is a lot of culture and history in the city, there is an international atmosphere , it is a port city and very close to smaller cities at the beaches. If you want to take a trip to Florenze, Verona etc. is only maximum four hours away. The longer I lived in the city, the more I realized I had to see, and now the day before departure, I realise I have to go back and discover more in this lovely city!

From the beginning I wasn’t sure there would be such great differences in social work as I discovered. I have been doing my internship mostly in the third sector, which is very usually in Italy. The organisation form cooperative was definitely something new for me and interesting to experience. I also had the opportunity to visit a “assistente sociale”, and the office they were working in.

Now when I look back, Italy and Sweden has some things in common when it comes to social work, but there is also a lot of things in diverse and it is interesting to experience this differences! Even if it doesn’t take long time to travel here, there are a lot of differences!

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The land of the smiles

Hello, or sawadee kah as you say in Thai,

I am now halfway through my first week at Rangsit University, and I have already experienced a small culture shock regarding the school system here in Thailand. But first, let’s start with the orientation.
As an incoming exchange student the International Office of Rangsit Uni had organised a two day orientation for me and the other international students. It started on friday morning with speeches from the staff, amog them the Dean of Rangsit and different professors within the International deprtment. It then moved on to some general information about Thailand and the Thai culture, and lastley a campus tour. It was a day with lot’s of new information. We are a group of maybe 30-40 international students, with a good portion being Finnish, Dutch and Asian. Saturday was day two of orientation, which focused mostly on the Thai culture, with our Thai buddies presenting all kinds of information. We also got to try some Thai snacks from different regions, Thai dance, simple language lesson, as well as learning how to fold a lotus flower. It was a day of good fun and met a lot of people that will probabl be the people I’ll hang out with.

Going back to the bit of the culture shock, this is what happened, firtstly, a school uniform needs to be worn in classes! For me as a girl, a black skirt, white shortsleeved button up with the Rangsit University symbol brooch on the left side needs to be worn, very interesting as I have never worn a school uniform before. Secondly, I had my first class on monday morning, but after waiting for almost an hour without the teacher showing up, we left. Same thing happened for my tuesday afternoon class as well. And apperently when talking to the fulltime thai students, this happens a lot without any notifications from the teacher. Finally today I had my first class where the teacher actually showed up, however, there was also some drama around this class, on my schedual it said room 805, but turned out to be in 407. So when arriving to the right class room, my first class at Rangsit officially started. The class was Thai Language for Beginners. We started off very easily with just going through the phonetics of the consonants used in Thai, as well as telling our names and nationallity to the teacher and next week we are to be given Thai names by our teacher.

On other notes, I have now been in Thailand for two weeks and am still not used to the heat here, the temperature lies around 32-35 degrees with a humidity of around 70-80%, and this is only the “cold season” here, in april and may the temperatures can lie around 40 degrees celcius! I am not looking foward to that to be honest.. at least I have a working AC in my flat and the uni buildings too. Something I really like about Thailand so far is how cheap it is here, a full dinner with a soft drink costs around 25 kronor, even cheaper around campus, which is insanely cheap! So not having a kitchen in my flat is quite alright as i can afford to eat all my meals out. Even the taxis here are cheap, to go the the airport that about a 20 minute drive away costs around 18-20 kronor, that’s a good thing with the public transportation not being the best out here in the suburb Pathum Thani. I have come to realise why Thailand have been refered to as “the land of smiles” everyone truly do smile, even though their knowladge in English is lacking they make up for it in politeness and smiles. They will always try to help you if you asked them something.

That’s it for this time, next time I’ll post some pictures as well! Have a nice day!