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Mallya Aditi International School: Student Exchange Trip to Sweden 2019

A bunch of my classmates and I travelled to Sweden between the 8th and the 18th of September on a short student exchange program. We attended the Rudbeck Gymnasium in Sollentuna, roughly half an hour away from Stockholm city. The program was an amazing learning curve which showed us insights into Swedish culture and their way of life that most of us agreed was different in many aspects.

Fika

My love for food knows no bounds. Being a passionate chef in my free time and a self-proclaimed food connoisseur, fika (a traditional Swedish coffee break) was something that I enjoyed. A traditional fika involves extremely strong coffee (generally black), cinnamon rolls and other mouth-watering food. Fika can be practised at any time of the day; during a meeting (which is when we had our first fika), at the train station just before boarding a train, after a long day at work or as an excuse to meet up with a friend. Along with fika, lagom is observed. Lagom is the practise that ensures that no one looks greedy and everything is done in moderation. During fika (or for that matter - during any meal), lagom dictates that no one eats the last slice of cake, pours the last cup of coffee or makes it evident that they want to polish off the rest of the food. It goes without saying that I did not enjoy lagom all that much. Just kidding!

Swimming in ice-cold (ice-cold by Indian standards) water


The lake in which we swam. The picture doesn't do justice to how serene it actually looked
Having lived in India all my life, the beach or any (clean) water body is something that I look forward to. Luckily for me, the water in the Indian sub-continent and much of it in South-East Asia is extremely warm. From Bali to Mangalore (my hometown on the West coast of India), the ocean has a pleasant temperature of around 25(^)C. Much to my horror, the temperature in their water was around a 'warm' 15(^) C. To those who think that the difference is pretty negligible, well, NO!
Swimming in colder water was an exhilarating experience but it made my entire body numb. The first five minutes were unbearable but I felt better afterwards. When I finally mustered the courage to swim, I couldn't feel a thing. I was surprised that I was even moving. After being in the water for about fifteen minutes, I stepped out and dried myself. The feeling of a dry towel on my body felt like scratching a dried wound; it feels good but you know that it isn't going to end well. Thankfully, in this case, all ended well.

Welfarist Benefits

The benefits that Swedish students receive were appreciable and wasn't surprising because of the welfarist nature of the State. What really impressed me is how Sweden has thought their policies through.
For example, most, if not all countries agree that education for all is a necessity and some like India say that it is a Fundamental Right. What impressed me about Sweden is the steps that they have taken to ensure that education is accessible to all. Students are given public transport travel cards to reach school without it being an economic burden which may dissuade them. A single use ticket (valid for 75 minutes) will otherwise set a student back SEK 31 (roughly INR 230, USD 3.20) which is no doubt expensive. To prevent misuse of the card, it is valid only between 7 AM and 7 PM (I may be a bit off on the timings) which will cover your commute to or from school, however far away you live or if your after-school activities get over late. My point here is that to ensure that their students receive the education that they believe is a right, Sweden has taken certain measures to ensure that they face no problems that may result in them dropping out. Educating your population can solve a majority of social problems because a lack of education is a cause for poverty/ illiteracy which is the root social problem for other such problems like juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, theft etc. They are undoubtedly doing brilliantly on that front!

It is of no surprise that the teen climate change activist, Greta Thunberg is from Sweden because of the climate-change sensitive attitude that people possess. My host student remarked in the passing that although he has a license and drives perfectly well, he does not take the car to the train station because it will pollute the environment, even though there were three of us making the trip to and fro everyday. Instead, we waited for Sweden's unpredictable buses to ferry us from Sigtuna to Marsta before boarding the commuter train to Sollentuna or Stockholm City. Even though it would have been possible to drive, most Swedes prefer public transport even if the journey duration is longer. I compared this to the situation back home in India where many of us are guilty of prioritising our so called 'precious' time over caring for the environment. The availability of drivers, cheap cabs and auto-rickshaws makes it easy for us to travel in comfort while the Earth suffocates.

The trip was pleasant and the weather did not trouble us much. It was an exciting ten days and we did not miss home at all, until it was time to leave. I strongly urge those who have an opportunity to participate in similar exchange programs to do so as it makes you understand the lives of people in different geographies. Having travelled with my family a fair bit, I can boldly say that while holidaying comes with its own benefits, living in a fellow student's house, experiencing their daily routine, mode of operation etc. makes you more aware of the world and is more 'educational' but at the same time recreational. If there is one thing that I have learnt about myself from this trip, it is my desire to study abroad either after school or after my under-grad!

At the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan (Old Town)




Stockholm City 

Visited a Tesla Showroom and sat in a Model 3 at the Mall of Scandinavia


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