Stockholm - A Life Changing Semester Abroad Past Review

By (PSYCHOLOGY., Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/27/2012 to 05/18/2012 with

The Swedish Program: Stockholm, Sweden

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The program gave us a taste of a very independent lifestyle. The program coordinators are available and always willing to help, but for the most part your life and schedule are completely up to you. As I mentioned previously, the flexible and lenient academic system affords you a large amount of free time. Not to mention that you will be living off campus, utterly taking care of yourself (no more c-store trips, or pre-prepared meals from Sherman). Experiencing that level of independence combined with the rich culture and heritage in Stockholm was a very positive and powerful experience.

Review Photos

The Swedish Program: Stockholm - Stockholm University Photo The Swedish Program: Stockholm - Stockholm University Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program, from the start, emphasized that our experiences during the semester should embody the "abroad" experience. I mean this in the sense that our classes were to be taken seriously, but a major part of our time there was to be focused on exploring Europe. Based on a combination of American and Swedish academic systems, our classes were generally exam / paper based, but differed significantly from Brandeis in terms of the quantity of homework given - mainly, much less homework was assigned. The Swedish academic approach consisted of a more rounded "do it yourself" attitude. In other words, rather than burden students with constant exams / assignments, the students were given the choice of learning the material simply for the sake of learning - and the extent to which they did so would be reflected in their grades. Thus, we were not overburdened and pressured into our work through constant and rigorous academic constructs. I gave this category of overall educational experience a 2.5 star rating for this reason - the academics were engaging, interesting, and thorough - but were not so nearly intense as to overshadow our progress in integrating ourselves into Stockholm and a new life-style.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administrators of our program had convenient office hours, and made an effort to help us students with whatever pressing questions and issues we had. They were an integral and life-saving resource throughout the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The housing provided for us was fantastic. For those who are curious, we were assigned 1-2 roommates to life with in a spacious apartment. My apartment in particular involved one bedroom (two beds), one bathroom, a living room, and a fully-furnished kitchen (not to mention a heated bathroom floor and heated towel rack in the bathroom). The apartment complex was situated in a beautiful suburban neighborhood within Stockholm (Abrahamsberg, Bromma). I have only two complaints about the housing (thus the 4.5): First off, we were far away from Stockholm University itself. Granted, Stockholm University has little to no on-campus housing. But it was an hour subway ride to school - which in the freezing and slick winter weeks makes commuting a real hassle. Secondly, the program split most of the students up into different parts of the city. I understand that doing so may facilitate our transition into Swedish culture by denying us the ease of slipping into a program-only-clique. But it made socializing with other friends on the program a big ordeal.

* Food:

An allowance was given out to us once a month, a total of about (if I remember correctly) 3500 SEK (~$533). This was meant for groceries and minor expenses. It was usually more than enough for groceries, if one was conservative and didn't use the money at bars (beware drink prices at Swedish bars/clubs). The food itself depended on the type of grocery store - Lidl was the cheapest, and had a decent selection. ICA had the greatest selection, but high prices. As long as you had the motivation to cook a variety of things, food was never an issue. And whenever the program treated us to lunches / dinners at restaurants, the Swedish food was phenomenal.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The Swedish culture I encountered at SU was very interesting, and I assume only relevant to the sub-culture that is college life. College-aged Swedes were a private but friendly people. They may appear cold and disinterested in a public setting (when you don't know them). In the context of becoming friends with Swedes - whether it's through the program, or some club / class / bar you visit in Sweden, they are very generous, engaging, and friendly. However, as an American you can expect to stand out - often times it feels like Swedes are only interested in talking to you because you are American, and for no other reason. They are often very politically opinionated (about American politics). So in being American, you are placed in a bit of a bittersweet morass. On the positive side, Swedes love to know about America and how much you like Sweden in comparison. On the negative side, you may often run into political critique, and experience an overall sense of being acknowledged but not accepted / incorporated into a group as a whole.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Based on the visas we receive when entering Sweden (student visas), we are in no way guaranteed health care. If, for whatever reason, you must see a doctor during your stay, expect a minimum charge of $150+ to see a doctor. In the case you require prescribed medication, the charges only increase (I know of a girl who had to spend over $500 on a doctor's visit / antibiotics for a bacterial infection).

* Safety:

Having lived in and around Boston for most of my life, I have a natural tendency to err on the side of caution when traveling at night within any city. But Stockholm, for the most part, provided a very pleasant change of scenery. Especially in the suburban areas of the city, I never encountered a single serious incident where I was in danger when alone. Certain parts of the city should obviously be avoided at night when alone, but as a general whole, Stockholm is very, very safe. Crime rate is considerably lower than in most states. After a few months I never had to think twice about my safety when taking a walk at night.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

As I said previously, if you practice a conservative approach to how much you spend at grocery stores and at bars, the amount of money allotted to you per month was never an issue. You aren't going to 'live it up', but you can live very comfortably.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $60-100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you don't care about getting the 'best' quality food products, I suggest shopping at the Lidl brand grocery stores. There are many around the city. Then again, when living in Stockholm grocery shopping will involve you manually carrying back all your groceries every trip through the subway and back to your house. So my advice is to pick your best judgment of a grocery store that has a fair compromise on value and distance from your house (shop in your neighborhood if possible / financially plausible).


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Our Swedish teacher was an absolute sweetheart, and she spoke English fluently. Although 4 months is nowhere near enough time to become fluent, her lessons significantly improved our integration into society, and provided a fun party-topic with your Swedish friends (your accent is probably going to atrocious).

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? N/A
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Utilize your time in the language lab classes to practice. And if you make an patient Swedish friends, convince them to practice Swedish with you (they often want to brag about their English skills, so it may be difficult).

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The housing
  • The independence
  • The flexible academics
* What could be improved?
  • Closer housing to school
  • Nearby housing for program students (to improve within-group socializing)
  • More frequent / affordable program field-trips / events
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Prepare to be jetlagged. Don't worry about the water in Sweden - it's cleaner than it is in the States. Don't expect to find socializing with other Swedes at the university to be very easy. Take advantage of the clubs and programs offered at Stockholm University. Visit the student pub often (to save money, if you are going to go to bars).

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.