Report of my Erasmus Exchange Study Program at Karlstad University in Sweden in spring semester 2017

Fun in Sweden (Photo by Lena Aldrian)
Fun in Sweden (Photo by Lena Aldrian)

The symbol of Karlstad University and of the city itself is the sun because Karlstad is the city in Sweden with the most sunshine hours. The university consists of a few very modern and nice looking buildings. It has a big library and offers many spots to learn in a quiet and motivating environment, eat at a reasonable price and meet friends after class.

Furthermore, in addition to the educational courses, the university offers a lot of different sports activities every day during the whole semester if one becomes a member of “KAUIF” (Karlstads universitets idrottsförening) and pays a small fee at the beginning of the semester. It is also good to know that on the opposite side of the university there is a “Pressbyrån”, a small shop where one can buy snacks and bus tickets, since a big bus station is located directly in front of the university which makes it easy to go into town or back home to campus after class or after studying in the library at the university.

At the beginning of the semester, the university arranges the so-called “introduction week” which provides the exchange students not only with useful information all around studies at Karlstad University but offers also a great opportunity to get to know the other exchange students better during a beautiful city tour of Karlstad.

Main information about Karlstad University (https://www.kau.se/en)
Address: Universitetsgatan 2, 651 88 Karlstad, Sweden
Phone: +46 (0)54-700 10 00
E-mail: information@kau.se

International Office – Contact information
International Coordinator: Maria Nilsson
E-mail: exchange@kau.se


My courses at the university

Intercultural Communication (15 ECTS Credits)
Links: https://www.kau.se/en/education/programmes-and-courses/courses/IKGA11, https://www3.kau.se/kursplaner/en/IKGA11_20072_en.pdf
Language: English
Course Code: IKGA11
Application Code: KAU-28173
Study Pace: 100% (Day)

The course aims at building up skills in interpreting, evaluating and developing effective strategies for communication within various cultures. The focus is on the shaping of values and modes of behaviour in different cultures.

Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of the course the student should be able to:

  • give an account of some theories on how values and norms are formed in different cultures
  • apply the fundamental concepts and theories of intercultural studies to different cultures
  • analyze the relationship between culture, communication, identity and values

Examination: Examination is in the form of oral and written assignments. We had to write three individual assignments and prepare three group presentations. Additionally, the classes, especially the seminars were mandatory.

Grades: Distinction (VG), Pass (G), or Fail (U).

The main teachers of the course were Annika and Andreas (it is common in Sweden to address everyone with their first name). Furthermore, there were some guest lecturers talking about different topics related to the course issues. Several times we had a lecture first followed by a seminar where we had the chance to talk about the course literature (one can buy the required books cheaper at a second-hand bookstore at the university) and to discuss with each other, work in groups and actively contribute to the lectures and seminars. As the semester is divided into two parts, this big course takes place in one part and the other two smaller courses (listed below) take place in the other part of the semester.

Intercultural Communication I, Media, Arts and Literature (7.5 ECTS Credits)

Links: https://www.kau.se/en/education/programmes-and-courses/courses/IKGAM1, https://www3.kau.se/kursplaner/en/IKGAM1_20112_en.pdf
Language: English
Course Code: IKGAM1
Application Code: KAU-28182
Study Pace: 50% (Day)

The course is an introduction to intercultural studies of the media, art, and literature with a focus on different intercultural perspectives on aesthetic and fictive forms of expression. The course includes examples of film, television, literature, and art from Asian, African, Arabic, Latin-American and European cultures.

Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • give an account of current intercultural theories of literary, artistic and audiovisual forms of expression
  • apply intercultural models of interpretation to different types of aesthetic works
  • clarify the meaning and significance of an artwork, a literary text or a film by applying intercultural theory
  • give examples of how a fictional narrative can be described as constituting a distinct source of knowledge for illuminating different perspectives on intercultural communication.

Examination: Assessment is based on individual analysis assignment, seminar contributions, and a written independent project.

Grades: Distinction (VG), Pass (G), or Fail (U).

The teacher of this course was Andreas again since the topics we talked about in this course were related to the topics of the Intercultural Communication course described above. Furthermore, there was one guest lecturer talking about a topic from the course literature. In this course, we were also able to have discussions with each other, work in groups and actively contribute to the lectures. In addition to that, we had to read a very interesting book called “The Icarus Girl” and we had to write down our thoughts about it, answer questions about the book and we would talk about the book and analyze it in class. I found it very interesting to hear other points of view about the book from my classmates and the teacher and discuss different thoughts and theories. Additionally, everyone had to choose a song from their home-country and then we played our songs in class and discussed them. This was also very interesting and helped us understand different cultures, their differences, and similarities, even better.

Swedish as a Foreign Language I (7.5 ECTS Credits)

Links: https://www.kau.se/en/education/programmes-and-courses/courses/SFBX01, https://www3.kau.se/kursplaner/en/SFBX01_20142_en.pdf
Language: English
Course Code: SFBX01
Application Code: KAU-27918
Study Pace: 50% (Day)

The course provides students with a basic knowledge of and practical skills in the Swedish language as well as a brief orientation about Swedish society and Swedish culture.

Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • understand common words and simple phrases if the interlocutor is speaking slowly and clearly
  • understand and find specific information in very simple texts with common words occurring frequently
  • converse in a simple manner provided that the interlocutor is prepared to speak slowly and repeat what has been said
  • ask and answer simple questions on familiar topics
  • write short, simple texts and fill in personal details in a form
  • give an account of basic parts of Swedish syntax and the Swedish sound system.

Examination: Assessment is based on a listening comprehension, an oral test, and a written exam.

Grades: Distinction (VG), Pass (G), or Fail (U).

My main teacher in this course was Anita. She was very nice and spoke several languages. The extra learning material, like exercise sheets she gave us in addition to the two books, helped a lot. We learned about Swedish grammar and vocabulary in this course and were prepared well for the final exams, which were harder and more demanding than one might think at the beginning. In any case, it helps to visit a Swedish course in your home country before you go abroad in order to be able to understand a little bit and not to feel so lost when you first enter the foreign country even if the Swedes have a very good knowledge of English. In the end, I was very content with how much Swedish I learned in a short time although I did not talk a lot Swedish in my everyday life because I had a lot of friends from different countries with whom I talked English most of the time. But we all still had a lot of fun learning and practicing Swedish together and trying to talk Swedish in the supermarket and order food in restaurants in Swedish.

Fieldwork at a primary school

Internationella Engelska Skolan Karlstad (https://karlstad.engelska.se/), (https://karlstad.engelska.se/about-our-school/what-we-do)
Address: Gruvgången 4, 653 43 Karlstad, Sweden
Phone: +46(0)54 771 91 10
E-mail: jan.dahlin.karlstad@engelska.se (Mr. Jan Dahlin – Principal)

christoffer.hook.karlstad@engelska.se (Mr. Christoffer Höök – Head of Department)

I am very glad that I had the chance to do my fieldwork at this school. Not only because it was easier language-wise in comparison to other Swedish schools because up to 50 per cent of the teaching in this school is done in English and because the students are very good at speaking and understanding English but also because the principal, the academic manager and coordinator, the staff, the teachers and the pupils were extremely nice, welcoming, helpful and cooperative. All in all, I spent 42 hours (11 days) at this school which was a great experience for me. I spend 6 hours in Math lessons, 8 hours in English lessons, 8 hours in Swedish lessons, 4 hours in Physical Education (PE) lessons, 6 hours in Natural Science (NO) lessons, 4 hours in Social Science (SO) lessons, 4 hours in Music lessons, and 2 hours in Art lessons.

Before I started my internship at Internationella Engelska Skolan Karlstad which is about a half an hour bus drive away from Campus I had a meeting with Mr Höök, the head of department, and Ms Lyberg, the academic coordinator of the junior school, where I was informed about my internship and the general rules of the school. The rules are very strict, for example, staff members have to dress in a professional manner (only dark trousers), the staff has to be addressed by titles (Mr/Ms/Dr) and the last name, students have to line up punctually outside their classrooms for lessons, mobile phones are strictly forbidden in classrooms (the children have to put them in a box every morning and they are locked away in a cupboard in the classroom until the end of the school day). Mr. Höök and Ms. Lyberg were both very nice and open-minded. We worked out a schedule when I would be able to come to school which would fit both the class I was supposed to follow (4c) and my time schedule at the university. I got a name tag, the schedule of 4c and the contacts of all teachers. I had the opportunity to discuss with the different teachers of this class my ideas of what I would like to do in the class. Sometimes the teachers, especially the PE teacher would contact me and ask me if I could perform certain activities with the children. Most of the time, I watched the teachers teach and assisted them during the lesson when needed. The teachers gave me a lot of interesting information about the Swedish school system, teaching techniques, and school projects. Every time I was at the school I had the opportunity to eat together with the children in the cafeteria at lunch time where I could talk to them and get to know them better. On my last day at the school, the principal came into the classroom, gave me a present (a book), written reflections the teachers I worked with wrote about me and drawings from each pupil of the class. I was moved by how nice everyone took me in and how heartwarming their goodbye was.

Accommodation at Campus

When I arrived at Karlstad Airport, Sweden on January 16th, 2017 in the afternoon, I was very excited and nervous at the same time. Fortunately, a couple of days before my departure I was contacted by my host student at Karlstad University (host students are current students who assist the new incoming exchange students at the beginning) and I was offered to join a Facebook Group for all new exchange students which gave me the opportunity to get into contact with some exchange students already before my arrival in Karlstad. My host picked me up at the bus stop near the Campus and accompanied me to my room at the Campus where all the exchange students and some Swedish students live. My room was very big (23 m²), nice and had its own bathroom (shower, toilet, sink). A big kitchen with a TV and sofas is shared with other students from the same floor. Furthermore, there exists one laundry room for each building on the ground floor with two washing machines, a dryer, and an iron. Additionally, KBAB, the housing company, has a small office next to Campus where one can get the room keys and one can also contact them if one has inquiries regarding the accommodation. Moreover, there is a small fast food restaurant (Yalla Yalla) and a small, a little bit expensive supermarket (Direkten) next to Campus. I would recommend going grocery shopping at ICA or Lidl which are cheaper and can both be easily reached by bus.

Extracurricular activities

In addition to my courses at the university and my fieldwork at the primary school I had enough spare time to meet with other exchange students, have a “fika” (which means to sit together, drink coffee and eat a sweet dish) with my newfound friends, go on excursions and travel to different cities and countries. I traveled to Stockholm (twice), Gothenburg, Gränna, Oslo, and Iceland. It was so much fun to explore these destinations together with people from other countries. We had a wonderful time, planning our trips and we were impressed by the special beauty each place had to offer. We also visited different places in and around Karlstad and went to different islands nearby Karlstad by boat when it started to get warmer.

All in all, I can say that I had a great time in Sweden, at the university, at the school internship, and at the campus. I learned a lot in many kinds of ways, faced new challenges, made a lot of (intercultural) experiences and, above all, I found friends for life with whom I am still in contact with (and hopefully will stay in contact) although we all live very far away from each other.

Written by Lena Aldrian

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