My exchange semester started in August and I can not believe that over three months have passed already! In less than two months it is time for me to head back home. I already know I will terribly miss the mixture of languages, my international friends, the intense green and the wonderful red brick buildings, the vintage blue-and-white trams that look like little caterpillars, the mild southwest wind and climate, the rainy day escapes in quaint cafés, my wonderful, inspiring instrument teacher and classmates.
I feel extremely lucky for being accepted to the University and ending up just here. Gothenburg is a rather big town with the feeling of a small town; there is a lot of nature and hiking tracks easily accessible, the center is in a walking or cycling distance, the public transport network is working well, and the city is extremely friendly and welcome towards students and international people. I feel safe walking home and really like my neighbourhood.
My school is quite different from the one I come from, as here the focus is on soloistic instrument and orchestral and ensemble playing instead of pedagogics. There are way fewer classes and much more time for independent work, which for a musician means practice, practice and practice. The school is currently a bit spread out in temporary premises because the music and drama campus is currently under renovation. The staff is sometimes sorry for the inconvenient premises, yet I find the practice spaces rather good (at least there is enough of them) and the school has top level instruments.
The atmosphere is warm, and even though students are highly ambitious, there is an encouraging mindset with very little competitiveness. The student union arranges some nice happenings and what is different from what I am used to, is we tend to hold parties and get-togethers in school premises. Of course sometimes we get complaints but no one is really trying to stop it. There are a lot of exchange students and we fit in nicely with degree students. I would estimate that over half of the degree students are international too, so the atmosphere is really open and most classes are in English. I have gotten to do a lot of Chamber music, which has been just the best. In my free time I have have explored the city and nearby destinations, went on a hikes and spent wonderful evenings and breakfasts with friends.
I highly recommend Sweden to anyone who is interested in it. I was surprised by how little I knew about Sweden after all. For a Finnish person, the culture is a wonderful mixture of familiar and unknown, and I have learned to love the Gothenburg accent! Most of all I recommend doing an exchange during one’s studies, no matter which country one ends up with. This experience has been very different from what I expected, which I find a good thing. It is good to be out of one’s comfort zone, to not have 100% control over things, to try and face new aspects of oneself and open up to new possibilities. Of course it is not all roses every day, but totally worth every second of it. I have gotten new ideas and inspiration both for my studies or career paths and just personal growth.