||Masters of Architecture
Why did you choose your host university?
I chose to study in Stockholm, mainly because of my love for Scandinavian architecture and for the fact that KTH has one of the best architecture schools in the world. I thought it would be of great benefit to my career to have some experience of architecture from a different country. A friend in the year level above me at UniSA had completed her exchange at the same university in Stockholm the previous year and absolutely raved about it, and recommended that I should consider it. The fact that the courses were in English was great as I didn’t have that pressure of trying to learn and study in a different language.
Sweden is one of the best English speaking countries in the world for having English as their second language, so most of the time it was easy to communicate with people. I also really liked the idea of getting to experience a different culture and way of living, and the idea of living by myself for a while. I was really excited by the prospect of living in Scandinavia as I’ve always wanted to live overseas, and I’d never been to any part of Europe.
What was the university like?
The architecture building at KTH was really beautiful. It was fairly new, only completed at the start of 2015, and has won a few architecture awards. It is a unique building, round and clad in copper coloured steel with stunning timber and concrete interiors. Each student received their own locker, and desk which was great as a lot of us ended up working together at uni most of the week instead of at home. In many ways, the university was similar to UniSA, we had lecturers and tutors, a studio class and 2 other elective classes. Instead of all having the same studio brief though, the 4th and 5th years combined and nominated out of 10 studios which one we wanted to participate in. That was fun as our year level groups are a lot smaller at UniSA we don’t get a chance to do that, and it was nice to be able to choose something that really interested me.
The assessment I found a little more intense as we had 2 studio projects per semester as compared with 1 back home. In Sweden uni is like a full time job you are expected to be in the studio working from 9-5 Monday-Friday, to ensure you are producing quality work but also so that you have the weekend for some down time away from study. Most students don’t work part time jobs like we do because of this. The uni had a fantastic new Library that opened while I was there, and multiple computer rooms, laser cutters, model making rooms, photography rooms, and a workshop space just for architecture students. The architecture building also had a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view over the city, the perfect lunch spot!
KTH has a reputation as an International university, and so a lot of students from all over the world go there to study their masters. I made friends from not only Sweden but Germany, Italy, Greece, Holland, Switzerland, Finland, England, Ireland, France, China, Japan, even Melbourne and probably more! Now I know people in places all over the world that I know will always be up for a visit if I am ever to travel to their country.
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
I will never be the same thanks to my exchange experience. I gained so much more confidence in myself and my abilities, a sense of independence, and developed my problem-solving skills. I also gained insight and knowledge about so many other European countries and cultures from all the other students and friends I was working with. I think now I am definitely more open minded and accepting because of my exchange trip. My three tutors were from Sweden, Japan, and Germany so even just to hear their stories about life and architecture as well as receive feedback from them on my work was so enriching. I will be forever grateful for the experience, and am already feeling home sick for Stockholm!
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
KTH makes every effort to house exchange students in one of their multiple student housing complexes around the city. It is not guaranteed that they will be able to house you but being from a country that is extremely far away I was given a higher priority. The student apartments are allocated via a ballot system and I was extremely lucky to be housed in a new apartment building on the university campus. My apartment was quite small but I had my own bathroom and kitchenette with a stove, oven, and fridge, a bed and a dinning table/desk, and even a little enclosed balcony. My next door neighbour was a fellow Australian from Melbourne so that was really nice!
I would definitely recommend finding accommodation through the university system as Stockholm has a huge housing problem at the moment and it will be nearly impossible to find something affordable yourself. A lot of my friends from Germany had to find their own accommodation and really struggled to find suitable places, most of them had to move around multiple times during the semester. A couple other Australian girls were housed in shared housing accommodation only one metro stop away from uni, they had bedrooms with their own bathrooms and a shared kitchen/living space with the other students on their floor.
Stockholm is quite expensive, the people there have a high standard of living, but Australia also has a high standard of living so overall it is pretty comparable. My rent was around $1,000 AUD per month, inclusive of internet, electricity, and water which was quite good. Groceries were a bit expensive but there are lots of discount supermarkets you can go to for good deals, just try to use leftovers and freeze things as much as you can.
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
I was very lucky that the studio I participated in organised a 5 day study trip to Venice mid semester. Most of the costs were covered by the university we just had to pay for our flights and food. Venice was amazing and we got to experience the Venice architecture biennale which was such an unforgettable experience.
While I was at uni I did a lot of exploring of Stockholm itself as well as a neighbouring town Uppsala, and a weekend trip on the overnight ferry to Riga. I was very fortunate in that I extended my Europe stay past the end of the semester and travelled around Europe until the beginning of February, I was already there and had never been before so why not! I have absolutely fallen in love with so many countries and already cannot wait to go back!
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
I think for me it was a lot easier to adjust to life in Stockholm having 2 other girls from my program at UniSA on exchange with me. We all helped each other out, but also KTH is such a big international uni there were exchange students from all over the place so we definitely were not the only ones! Exchange students tend to be very friendly, open minded and willing to chat so it wasn’t long before I made friends. For me also it was really nice just to spend some time away from home by myself without work, sporting team, and family commitments, and to just focus on study and myself was really nice.
Living on campus in the heart of the city was fantastic, as there was always parties and activities going on, I attended yoga classes at the uni gym as well which I absolutely loved. I had a few other Australians living in my building and we would often cook dinners together or have baking days! I have many new recipes up my sleeve now.
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
I hope that spending 6 months in a different country living and studying will look great on my CV, and hopefully give me an edge when it comes to applying for jobs within the architecture industry. Exchange has also opened my mind to job possibility overseas, and ‘the bigger picture’. I have fuelled my passion for travelling, and really hope to be able to live and work overseas one day.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
Do it, do it, do it! I cannot recommend enough that you go on exchange, you’ll learn so much about yourself and the country and culture you experience, as well as make life long memories and friends. It may seem scary at first but it will definitely be worth it!
Pack light! Leave as much space as you can in the suitcase you take over, unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars shipping home an extra suitcase try not to buy too many things you don’t really need or can’t sell on to someone at the end of your trip. Also say yes to everything! Spend time with the friends you make as much as you can, they will be friends you have for life, and before you know it 6 months will have flown past and you will definitely miss them all when you return home.
Be opened minded, and immerse yourself in the city and culture as much as you can!