Living in Sweden, part I

16 September 2010

In spite of all appearances, I didn’t disappear at all. I’ve just moved in that northern and lonely country known as Sweden. A forest-riddled lake-filled land which projects itself into the Baltic sea like a 1,574-kilometers-long impotent phallus, complete with its emptied scrotum, Finland. Since many friends back home did request for a summary of my activities in Northrend ­ — er, I mean, Sweden —, I thought it would be advisable to answer once for all to you with a single post.

First of all, why I came here. As many of you may be aware of, the European Commission was kind enough to provide me with a scolarship to take on my studies again. Thus, I enrolled in the EMSE, which stands for “European Master in Software Engineering“, since it’s the field that interests me the most. It’s an Erasmus Mundus programme, and we’re eight people which received the funding this year. Some others have been enrolled thanks to their companies’ sponsorship — a practice mostly unknown in Italy, even if I can’t figure exactly why, since I find it a good investment. If I’m not mistaken, there should be about 5 of us attending the first year here in Karlskrona. Of course, many other students attend our courses which are shared across different curricula, and are held in English.

That said, let’s go down to the gory part. I arrived in Sweden on August 23rd, by taking the train above the bridge which crosses the Baltic sea: the Øresundståg from Copenaghen. I had another 8 hours of travel by bus since I was coming from Berlin — I stayed with my girlfriend Josefine for the previous two weeks or so. Thus, you can put some bricks one above the other:

  • I arrived in a country I never visited, alone;
  • I did not sleep more than two hours;
  • my apartment was unfurnished. Yup, a completely empty room devoid even of a bed, or a chair;
  • my heart was heavy from having left my family and especially my Josefine;
  • I managed to get the flu, with a temperature of about 38 °C;
  • the first day I had to go by feet back and forth for about 20 km total, in order to buy some furniture, go to the supermarket (did not buy any food, just dishes, a frying pan, something to clean the room…), take the train, meet with my course responsible, etc; this repeated for a couple of days. Try taking steep slopes with two or three shopping bags for about 20-30 kg, when it’s raining;
  • no means to cook, plus the flu, plus depression, made me pass some three days without eating;
  • I got my bed just after two days, so I had to sleep on a couch in the corridor, clothed (not very comfortable), or on the floor (worse);
  • no Internet connection, since I didn’t have even a computer — that means, no easy way to get in touch with other human beings. My floor was almost empty, bar a couple of Sweden guys which aren’t very inclined to talk (more to play World of Warcraft 10 hours a day). Thus, no friends.

You get the picture. If you think I’m to blame to having gotten a tad bit pessimistic and depressed, sorry about that. I think it was human and understandable. Fortunately, my mother and Josefine came to the rescue a couple of days after. By then, I managed to sort the most essential things out, however fortunately they were there and helped me to make this apartment my home, comfortable and nice.

Now I’m okay. Here the university is very beautiful, and with an outlook on the sea, even. We have reading rooms with modern art and baggy sofas, completely new buildings, and so on. If finding an apartment in Karlskrona or Ronneby (where I live, it’s 35 km away from Karlskrona but the train for us students is free) wasn’t so damn difficult, I would have immediately liked Sweden. I’ve got a huge and wonderful park nearby, with lakes, trees gently storming, a Japanese zen garden, a lot of ducks, squirrels and woodpeckers. Well, the ducks are leaving. But they’ll be back. 🙂 I do prefer Ronneby to Karlskrona, by the way.

The thing is, they have this compartmented way to build cities: in the city centre they have all the shops and supermarkets, and then the residential areas are quite far away. Fortunately, a friend of a friend of Josefine lent me a bike! That was very nice of him. Thanks, Mats. Without that, each time I had to go to the supermarket it would have been pretty much a suicide. I hope nobody steals my old Betsie.

Here they teach you in a very much different way than in Italy. You barely have lectures (like, one-two times a week, for two-three hours each), but you’re required to spend about 40 hours weekly working on assignments and studying. I think it works, after all. Things aren’t hard to understand in this way, and they stick to my mind better. At the moment, I’m taking two courses: Software Architecture and Quality, and Advanced Project Management (even if I don’t see where the “Advanced” part comes in, yet). The first deadlines will be at the end of the month.

The Blekinge Institute of Technology is considered to be within the first 15 educational institutions in the software engineering field, worldwide. So I guess I’m quite lucky to be here. Let’s see if I manage to blow this up as I always do… anyway, I’m making friends, expecially from the Eastern Europe and from Pakistan. People from Pakistan are very friendly, mostly like us Italians, so I feel at home with them. They’re always kind and caring.

By the way, I’m getting much much better at English than before my arrival — and it’s only three weeks! I’m very happy about this. If I manage to come out of this alive, I will have a Swedish degree, a German one (since next year I should move to Kaiserslautern), and a solid understanding of the English language. I’m starting to learn German, too. No much sense in learning Swedish bar for essential matters: almost all Swedish people speak an excellent English, and there are just 9 millions of Swedish speakers anyway.

And after all this, what will I do? Well, it’s too early to say. For now, I’ll just have to return to my assignments… but first, let’s cook dinner!

Thanks for reading, I miss you all. I think of you fondly.

Cheers,
Matteo

PS. I don’t know about all those myths about Swedish girls. They’re quite ugly, at least here in the South. They just have revealing clothes, but that’s all. Once in a while you see a pretty one, yes, but that’s just statistics, right? Now, Italy or Germany are quite different… maybe in Stockholm?

PPS. The only thing I’m really, really, really missing from Italy, is the food. Sweden is not much more expensive than Italy, but the quality is nowhere near. To be honest, I had the same problem in all the countries I visited up until now. I guess Italy has just the best food in the world, full-stop.