16 November 2022
It is 9 o’clock in the morning and I am sitting in the office of Lundagård, the student newspaper of Lund University. The circular room is full of cozy old furniture and in the middle stands a round table, full of used coffee mugs and candy. On the whiteboard is the action plan for the weekend. It is Lundakarnevalen, an event organized every four years by more than 2000 volunteers, all of whom are students at the University of Lund. On the weekend, there will be concerts, theatres, parties, food, and games all over town and I will be reporting about it. By Sunday evening, I have indulged in madness on the streets, spoken to volunteers and visitors, and talked about the meaning of life at the after-party at my favorite coffee shop in town.
I did not expect to see all of this when I started my master’s degree in Hamburg.
I went abroad during my Bachelor’s and did international internships. Therefore, I thought it was time to stay focused, finish the program within two years, and afterward change the world. However, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy studying during the pandemic, and I didn’t only want to remember the Zoom meetings from my time in Hamburg. Therefore, as I received an email about a new Erasmus cooperation with the University of Lund from the student councilor in December after the start of the program, I choose to respond to this email and express my interest. Yet, as it is with new programs, things do not necessarily go smoothly and after not receiving any new information for several months, I thought the opportunity was off the table.
When I received another email by the end of May with the offer to go to Lund during the spring semester of 2022, I thought about this opportunity for some days but the chance to explore a new culture was just too tempting.
It followed a stream of non-self-explanatory forms and emails with a million questions. However, despite the one or other “urgent” messages, I never felt in a hurry to respond. Receiving all the information over a stretched-out period was, on the one hand, tedious, on the other hand, allowed me to take the time to respond and ensured that none of the important information got lost.
In the end, I was rather surprised, that I was already sitting on that train to Lund at the beginning of January. I was riding to a country, where I would never question how to address my professor (it would always be by the first name), where I had incredible freedom in choosing the topics I wanted to work on, and where student organizations were not only a side effect of university, but the background for all social life. For me, that would mean that I spend a lot of time at the office of the student newspaper. So in between making new friends, and working on my research paper about the impact of climate change on indigenous people in the high north, which would set the tone for my Master thesis, I would be busy writing articles for the student newspaper and having a beer in my favorite student pub.
While struggling to integrate into Swedish society at first, I soon learned to enjoy the Swedish way of life. Starting from the coffee breaks with cinnamon buns, to the always helpful answers I received when in distress, I felt safe in the social environment and was surprised about the level of care for each other.
One positive aspect of Erasmus is that we can choose from courses outside the scope of the program we attend in our home countries. This gave me the opportunity to get an insight into a philosophy class. In this course, I learned to shift focus and purposefully approach a topic from different perspectives in order to then answer the same question in a new way.
Ever since starting my Master in Climate Science, there was a certain vocabulary I adopted. One of those is the term “arctic amplification”, which describes the accelerated warming of the arctic region due to the anthropogenic influences on the global radiation budget. Yet, to see what this actually means is something different. In my course on quaternary geology, I was able to join a field trip to a more northern district of Sweden, and get an idea of what arctic amplification means for the arctic environment. To see this other evidence of our changing world with my own eyes was not exactly an eye opener, but showed me once more how pressing the problems of today are.