Amanda Goes to Sweden: Epic exams, new classes, more adventures

03/28/2014

I’ve realized that I’ve spent a lot of my time during the past couple entries talking about my adventures throughout Europe and not much on actual university things in Stockholm, so in honor of the start of the new period on this side, I dedicate this week to exams, classes, and school!

Semesters here are divided into two periods, both about eight weeks long (I think). Normally when you register for courses, they are either a period-long course or a semester-long course. While I’m here, I’ll be taking three period-long courses and two semester-long courses.  My semester-long courses are Swedish language and Science Goes Fiction, a pretty awesome gen-ed course about how science fiction has influenced technology and how it relates to societal issues like genetic modification, environment, etc. 

The one technical class I took last period was about advanced renewable technologies so we focused on concentrated solar plants, biomass, and wind energy.  It was pretty cool because instead of focusing on one topic very in-depth, we had a couple lectures on each topic by a different professor and it gave us a brief overview of a lot of things. There were only a couple labs, nothing anywhere near as intense as the ME labs that we have, and there were absolutely no homework assignments. That sounds awesome, right? It was also equally terrifying, because the entire course grade depends on three labs (graded only pass/fail) and one four-hour exam. And there’s no possible way I could stay there for four hours right? Wrong. Three hours and forty minutes later, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to leave a room.

The content itself wasn’t very hard but I think sometimes we don’t give homework the props that it deserves. Yes, most of the time it sucks and we don’t want to do it, but it really does force you to practice topics as you learn them, which I much prefer to having to try and cram everything in during the study period. It was nice though to have almost a solid week to dedicate to studying; it was a pleasant change from just having one reading day. I think the exam went well though; as intense as it was, I’m pretty sure I at least passed it… hopefully? All I know for sure is that I am very happy that will be the last exam I have to take here. Having only a final exam decide my entire grade is just not my thing. The next two technical classes I will be taking are either project-based or continuous evaluation so that’s awesome. If you ever decide to study here, that’s definitely something to think about. Going into it, I knew that classes like the first one weren’t the best fit for me personally, so I made sure to find more project-based courses if I could.

That leads me to my new period courses! First of all, it’s the strangest feeling switching up classes half way through the semester. This Monday I was all excited like, Weee! It’s the first day of school again! New classes! But it’s March. So strange. But now I am taking a course about energy and fusion research, which is homework- and group-based (no exams!) focusing on plasma physics and how fusion fits in as a potential sustainable, if not completely renewable, energy source. I’m slightly intimidated. I sat next to two master students in electrophysics, but it seems like a really interesting course, so we’ll see! My other course is about modeling energy systems and energy utilization, so our grade will be mainly determined by a project based on modeling the student union here for its energy utilization (and I’m assuming how we can improve it, but I’ll have to get back to you on that in a week or two).

All in all, it’s pretty cool that I’ve been able to experience the bigger lecture-style courses and smaller group courses as well. Last period was large lecture halls with fold-out desks and this period will be a lot of small discussion-size classroom lectures or computer lab time.

But because my blog posts are never complete without some stories about my adventures…

Last weekend we went took a high speed train to Malmö in the south of Sweden and then after two days there, took another train across the Øresund Bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden, and spent a couple days in Copenhagen. It’s been really awesome to see so many different cities and just seeing the different vibes they all give off. I might be biased but I think Stockholm is my favorite so far, but the architecture (think lots of castles, cathedrals, and buildings from 16th century onwards) in Malmö and Copenhagen was absolutely amazing.

This week I learned: The Swedes really weren’t kidding when they said exams could take four to five hours to complete. Now I understand why they go into exams with water, tea, coffee, and snacks.

Read more from Amanda >>

Amanda with Andrew Widlacki (BSME expected May 2014) at the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Amanda with Andrew Widlacki (BSME expected May 2014) at the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 

 

A view of Nyhavn, a 17th-century waterfront, canal, and entertainment district in Copenhagen.
A view of Nyhavn, a 17th-century waterfront, canal, and entertainment district in Copenhagen.

St. Petris Kyrka in Malmö. The church was first built in 1319 and is a great example of gothic architecture in Sweden.
St. Petris Kyrka in Malmö. The church was first built in 1319 and is a great example of gothic architecture in Sweden.

Panorama of the main square in Malmö.
Panorama of the main square in Malmö.

The tallest building in Sweden, whose turning torso shifts from top to bottom a full 90 degrees.
The tallest building in Sweden, whose turning torso shifts from top to bottom a full 90 degrees.