Spencer Mason’s experience as an international student in Sweden is as unique as his field of study – Acoustics. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Spencer completed his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at Queen’s University before moving to Gothenburg, Sweden in September of 2018 to pursue a two-year Master’s program. He feels confident that his time in Sweden will allow him to travel and grow his career. Even though Spencer is currently completing his Master’s program, he’s already experienced and benefited from studying abroad. Read on to see his journey so far.
Why was Sweden Spencer’s top choice?
Spencer wanted to pursue a career in the niche field of Acoustics and Chalmers University of Technology (Chalmers) in Sweden was one of the few universities offering a Master’s program in Sound and Vibration in English that caught his attention.
“I have always thought Sweden looked pretty, and always heard positive things about it. This country consistently leads in progressive social attitudes and equality [as well], which I highly value,” says Spencer.
After reading, a Business Insider article that ranked Gothenburg as the number one sociable and friendly city in the world, Spencer knew that he made the right decision.
Living in a new country away from home can be a daunting experience for some. However, doing research about your host country, university and the country’s native language can help you prepare for your exciting time abroad.
Spencer had the opportunity to participate in a short six-week study abroad experience in London, UK, before moving to Sweden for his two-year international Master’s program. His time in London provided some preparation for his move to Gothenburg, but Spencer still did a lot of research on Sweden and Chalmers before his departure. For example:
- Spencer watched videos of North Americans that had moved to Sweden to gain an understanding of what daily life looks like. He also watched the show called “Welcome to Sweden”.
- Before deciding to attend Chalmers University of Technology, Spencer researched which countries and universities in Europe offered Acoustic Engineering programs in English.
- He went vacationing in Nice, France on his way to Sweden to acclimatize to European culture.
Spencer studies with students and professors from all over Europe, especially Germany and Sweden, and has befriended many of them. Spencer also has friends in New York, San Francisco, London, Stockholm, and some towns in Germany from his previous study abroad experience in London, UK and other travels. He loves that he has friends from all over the world. His favourite part is: “knowing that if I move or travel somewhere, I can reach out to them and they can show me around. I already have a support system before going to that place,” he says.
Work-life balance is the biggest difference Spencer has experienced between Canada and Sweden. The classes at Chalmers, and typically all Swedish educational institutions, encourage students to take breaks halfway through each class, and the workload can easily be managed in a 40-hour work week, resulting in a lot of free time on the weekends.
However, the increased work-life balance also comes with logistical differences. The typical university year in Sweden is from September to June (instead of September to April in Canada) which helps to accommodate for the additional recreational time.
While abroad, students encounter other cultural differences, such as new cultural traditions, new languages and a lifestyle that is unique to the country that they travel to. Here are two reasons why Spencer thinks students should consider travelling abroad:
- To learn about different cultures and different ways of living; and as a result, find ways of overcoming obstacles that you may have run into back home.
- To learn a new language or find common roots with another language so you can connect and communicate with more people from around the world.
Spencer has yet to travel within Sweden since arriving in Gothenberg. However, he is learning the Swedish language and planning to visit other European countries in the next two years.
Career Growth and Opportunities
One advantage of studying abroad is growing your connections and career opportunities. Although Spencer has been in Sweden for four short months, he has already been exposed to more career opportunities than ever before, which made him feel confident about pursuing Acoustics as a career.
Spencer had the chance to listen to a talk by a sound engineer from BBC at Chalmers which inspired him to study audio technology, design building, and room acoustics.
“One of my goals is to design theatres. I have always been a part of theatre and would like to take my experience from that and from engineering, and put them together,” says Spencer.
For now, Spencer is looking for a summer job but in the future he wants to pursue a PhD or work in Europe so he can simultaneously fulfill his career and traveling goals.
These are Spencer’s tips for students who plan to study abroad:
- Do your research. It can be hard to learn everything from far away but try your best and use the tools available to you, including bloggers and vloggers.
- Consider your options, whether you want to participate in an exchange program or do a whole degree in another country.
- Find unique ways of getting to the city you will be studying in. Chances are that there won’t be a direct flight from your city to the city you’re studying in. For example, flights from Canada to Europe are expensive, but flights within Europe are cheap.
- It’s OK to not know everything as soon as you get to your study abroad country, and it will take time and energy to get everything sorted.
- Don’t come with preconceived notions of the country you are travelling to because they aren’t always right.
While Spencer is exploring what Sweden has to offer, you can start planning your education abroad! Visit Study and Go Abroad page to read other articles from those who are living the dream.