Read about Marija Marinkovic, a master student from Belgrade, who received a scholarship from the Swedish Institute to study at Malmö University in Sweden.
First of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marija Marinkovic, I am 22 years old and come from Serbia. Having graduated in English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Philology University of Belgrade, I decided to go abroad for my second master studies. I picked Sweden and applied for the Swedish Institute scholarship for East Europe. Luckily, in April 2013, I was informed that I got the valuable scholarship to study in Sweden along with 4 other lucky students from Serbia. That day was one of the luckiest days of my life and I will now tell you why.
Why I wanted to go abroad to study, and more importantly why I picked Sweden, is essentially because going abroad usually helps people to educate themselves, experience cultural diversity, become more open-minded and enhance their personal skills. Studying from a new approach and being exposed to new ways of living develop one’s personality to a great extent. However, studying abroad is a big step which we have to be aware of. The possibilities are almost limitless. But, what makes Sweden stand out as a study destination?
In my opinion, Sweden is truly a land of the future, innovation and equality. Most importantly, their education system is one of the best in the world. In my experience, the Swedish universities have an open climate, with a strong focus on group work. Teaching is often done in small groups, which encourages dialogue and collaboration. This informal atmosphere is designed to promote a social and an intellectual development. The fact is that this is not my first study experience in Sweden. I was a student at Lund University for one academic year 2011-2012 during my bachelor studies.
Whether you know Sweden as the home of the midnight sun, IKEA, Volvo, ABBA, H&M, or the rich history of Vikings, one or two study years here will confirm or break your stereotypes. Sweden is a great place to live where simplicity of life and happiness are omni-present in every single aspect of living.
Anyway, I decided to study a two-year master program called International Migration and Ethnic Relations at Malmö University (2013-2015). I am interested in this field of study and I wanted to study it directly in the heart of migration practices in Sweden – the city of Malmö. A positive fact about Swedish education is that their master programs are open to students with various educational backgrounds. For example, although I graduated in the field of Humanities, I was allowed to enter a master program in the field of Social Sciences.
The application process for studies in Sweden is not too demanding. It is divided into two parts. One part stands for the student’s application to the university in Sweden. The second part stands for the student’s application to the Swedish Institute scholarship. Regarding the university application, each and every university in Sweden has its own rules on which documents should be sent for the application. In my case, I had to send the following documents by post: bachelor diploma, transcript of records, and motivation letter. With regard to the scholarship application, it consists of several answers on motivational questions such as: why we consider this program useful for us, and what our future career plans are. The Swedish Institute scholarship covers all student costs, including a return plane ticket, tuition fees, health insurance as well as monthly financial aid sufficient for covering accommodation, books and living expenses.
Now, let’s move on to my fairy tale story of coming here. I took off from Belgrade Airport on September 1st 2013 for a two-hour flight to Malmö with one laughing and one weeping eye. I was sad for leaving my family, friends and home country, but on the other hand, I was happy – I was happy because I knew that I would experience even greater things in Sweden and that it was going to be a new wonderful chapter of my life.
Your first impression when you arrive to Sweden would probably be “well, yes, it is cold comparing to Serbia!” Fortunately, I had that in mind and took warm clothes with me. Second impression, “yes, it is more than clean everywhere.” Airport, bus stations, streets, parks etc., every place is exceedingly clean and arranged. Third impression would be “everybody seems to know English at a proficient level,” and I must confess that for people coming from Serbia this is quite impressive.
Swedes are known for being organized people. As expected, a member of the university staff waited for students at the airport and took us to the accommodation. One can choose between several students’ hall of residences or opt for private accommodation. I chose to live in an international dorm because I regard this opportunity very useful for meeting people from all over the world and making strong friendship connections with them. My dorm is very nice, safe, with a cozy room and a marvellous view of the city.
As far as education is concerned, it is the most important reason why I unhesitatingly decided to return to Sweden for my master program. First of all, students in Serbia can forget everything they have experienced in the Serbian education system so far. The Swedish system is different. For instance, you will never sit many hours in a class for a lesson. Swedes rather do it the relaxed way; shorter lessons with breaks so that students do not feel overwhelmed with information. The education system is student-centric and relations between students and teachers are informal. As a student in Sweden, one is expected to address their teachers by their first name only. Teachers even usually share their telephone numbers with their students, being available for the students most hours of the day, even when the school finishes. Furthermore, Swedish master programs offer unique opportunities to turn theory into practice and, in contrast to Serbia, students are prone to get more practical than theoretical knowledge.
Another special thing I love about my education at Malmö University is the infrastructure of the building. It provides us with extreme quality and nice Swedish design that has no bounds. It has fast and modern computers available everywhere, a tremendous library and rooms students can book to study with a group. Every student at Malmö University also has a key card to the university building so that we can enter the building by ourselves whenever we want (24/7) and go to the library to study there even at night. Swedes really put everything in students’ hands and break all barriers that students in Serbia usually come across.
Independent thinking and personal initiatives are valued. You will be required to take an active role and contribute with your opinions and ideas at lectures, seminars and in group discussions. It is different in Serbia where teachers put hundreds of student in one classroom not giving the opportunity to students to talk. Here, procrastinating is not allowed, everybody has to come prepared to class and take an active role in it.
Well, to conclude, taking into consideration all previously mentioned, it comes as no surprise that approximately 20 % of students in Sweden come from abroad. They all come here in order to experience good education system and simplicity of life. I believe this opportunity that I have been given is extremely marvellous and I highly recommend Serbian students to follow my footsteps; apply for studies and experience this wonderful education system and the country of modern Sweden. Just step out of your comfort zone, use the opportunity to get the Swedish Institute scholarship and make your own, unique, life-changing experience.
This is my first text, which gives you a general understanding of my studies. There will be more detailed texts about the procedure of how to write a successful application, about the education system, the Swedish culture, fashion, cuisine, people, weather etc. later on. So, stay tuned!