1. Creativity is central
When you study in Sweden, you’re encouraged to think independently, creatively and critically. You’ll develop your ability to question the status quo by assessing information, seeking new perspectives and coming up with well-informed opinions. You’ll be free to think creatively because of the informal and non-hierarchical nature of Swedish society, where everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas and opinions.
This independence of mind and the fact that everyone can make their voice heard are two of the reasons why Sweden ranks among the world’s most innovative nations. Another is that investment in research is among the highest in the world in relation to GDP.
Sweden’s status as a leader in innovation and a home of trendsetters and early adopters is nothing new: the list of Swedish world-changing inventions is a long one and includes the seatbelt, the pacemaker and the music service Spotify. Which one of your brilliant ideas will Sweden help make reality?
Sofia Sabel, Lars Lundberg, Spotify
2. Coursework is challenging – in a good way
Sweden has a long and proud history of academic excellence and despite its relatively small population, it’s home to some of the world’s best universities. The entire Swedish higher education system is ranked as one of the best in the world, and several Swedish universities are ranked by the Times Higher Education and the Academic Ranking of World Universities as being among the world’s best.
In Sweden you’ll find a strong focus on rationality, reason and applying knowledge so that it makes a real difference. Look no further than the Nobel Prize, the world’s most prestigious academic distinction, for an illustration of the Swedish approach.
As a student here you’ll become part of this tradition of academic excellence. Just don’t expect to passively receive information: you’ll be encouraged and challenged to contribute, speak your mind and take your education into your own hands.
Swedish universities are well-adapted to the needs of international students, and Sweden consistently ranks in the top three in the world for English proficiency. You’ll be able to use English with everyone you meet, from the classroom to city the centre.
3. Sustainability and the environment are in focus
If you’re concerned with sustainable development for a greener future, you’ll feel right at home in Sweden. Environmental issues are high priority here, and Sweden has been named the most sustainable country in the world for its use of renewable energy (it has the highest percentage of renewable energy in the EU).
Environmental thinking and sustainability are a part of all aspects of life here, including education. Studying here will give you the chance to draw on Sweden’s deep environmental experience and apply its sustainable approach to your own chosen field.
And it’s not hard to see why Swedes are so keen to protect the environment: nature here is breathtaking, with huge forests, beautiful beaches and snow-capped mountains. Sweden’s 29 national parks and nearly 4,000 nature reserves offer you the opportunity to ski, hike, fish, swim and mountain bike.
4. Equality and diversity are central to Swedish society
Swedish society is known for its inclusiveness and equality – you may have heard Sweden referred to as the most equal country in the world. It consistently places among the world’s top countries in gender equality, while lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Sweden are regarded as among the most progressive in the world.
The belief that everyone is of equal value contributes to Sweden’s consensus approach to getting things done, where everyone takes part in the decision-making process. During your studies, you’ll learn how to balance different interests, needs and ideas to bring out the best in everyone and solve complex issues as a team – vital skills for your global career, where teamwork across cultures is the norm.
5. You’ll learn skills for a global career
What’s the most important thing you’ll need for success in your career? According to a global study of CEOs, it’s creativity. And creativity is exactly what studying in Sweden will foster, along with other in-demand skills such as how to combine theory and practice, and how to navigate complex situations where there’s no easy solution.
Many degree programmes in Sweden include internships, which are a great way to get real-world experience while you build your professional network. If you’re interested in research, doing a master’s in Sweden can be a great way to make the contacts you’ll need to carry on and do a PhD.
The fact that Sweden is home to the largest number of multinationals per capita of any country in the world and is the birthplace of many world-conquering companies – including IKEA, TetraPak, Volvo, Ericsson, AstraZeneca and H&M – means that getting on the career ladder here can really take you places. Should you receive a job offer while you’re still studying here, you can apply for a work permit and enjoy the work-life balance that Sweden is famous for.
Bonus: life is international student-friendly
So Sweden is green, creative, equal and open. What else should you know before you decide to study here?
- Everyone speaks English – Sweden regularly ranks as one of the top countries in the world for non-native speakers of English. That means you don’t have to speak any Swedish to study here.
- Public transport is widespread, and it works. Sweden’s extensive network of buses, trains, subways, trams, boats, planes and more can take you anywhere you want to go, car-free.
- International students can work in Sweden. Though your studies are your number-one priority, there’s no legal limit to the amount of hours international students can work during their studies. After completing your studies, you can apply to extend your residence permit to look for work for up to six months. (If you do want to work, learning Swedish is important – it’s often a requirement for jobs).
- Sweden is clean and safe, and the standard of living is high.
Ready to get started? We thought so.
By Nancy Boyer, Ph.D., Director of Research and Evaluation, FIRST
My daughter told me a story about a college professor who told the young women in her first-year computer science class that they shouldn’t expect special treatment because they are women. She told them they would have to work as hard or harder than the boys to do well in her course. Listening to my daughter, I began to think that this well-meaning professor, and others like her, have it wrong. While every student should be encouraged to strive to be successful, we need to start shifting our thinking away from “special treatment” and towards equity.
In the fields of technology and engineering, we know that there are young people who have not been given access or opportunity to STEM experiences – girls, youth of color, those from economically disadvantaged communities, and those with disabilities, to name a few. Providing more support and resources to those who have not had access to STEM opportunities is not special treatment – it is balancing the scales of equity.
At a very young age, children begin to learn skills that accumulate over time to bolster their confidence and knowledge in specific areas. Boys are often provided opportunities to play with a wide variety of toys that reinforce building, designing and making skills, while girls often start their early childhood surrounded by dramatic play items focused on socialization skills and creativity. Those are important, but girls are losing out on opportunities to develop skills that accumulate and build a foundation for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) success later on.
As educators, parents, and STEM leaders, we need to acknowledge that some students will be better prepared for success as a result of having early access to STEM building skills. We need to focus on the children facing headwinds when it comes to STEM opportunities. We should rethink how we teach them and provide them with additional opportunities to shift the wind to their backs and reduce the gaps in STEM skills. We need to remember that our society has been shaped by a male-centric perspective. It wasn’t until this last century that women began having a voice – and that voice has not yet been fully heard to ensure that girls and other underrepresented and underserved groups are treated with equity and inclusion, especially in STEM activities and professions.
Provide Access to Opportunities
What can teachers and other adults do to build STEM skills for our youth? Let’s start thinking about the types of opportunities we give youth throughout their childhood. Let’s offer engaging and fun STEM programs as early as kindergarten (or even preschool), where all children have access. FIRST® and other youth-serving, mission-driven organizations focused on STEM give young children an opportunity to experiment, design, build, fail, and succeed.
Engaging programs can and do level the STEM skills gaps. Data from the FIRST longitudinal study demonstrate that girls have significant gains in STEM knowledge, skills, interests, and attitudes as a result of participating in FIRST programs, and over time (five years) we are seeing that these STEM experiences are leveling the playing field for girls who are now more interested in majoring in engineering or computer science and more likely to be taking STEM courses than their female peers.
Promote STEM Skills
How do we promote STEM skill building for girls and generate STEM interest, confidence and self-efficacy? I believe that FIRST is successful because it incorporates multiple strategies that ignite and fuel STEM interest, including:
- Providing collaborative, relevant, and hands-on experiences helps girls draw connections to their local community and increase the value of the activity.
- Incorporating positive adult involvement encourages girls to take risks, try new experiences and gain confidence. Female mentors and role models help debunk negative stereotypes, offer insights into STEM professions and provide support.
- Encouraging mistake–making embeds it into the learning process. Incorporating a philosophy that failures are necessary to be creative, innovative and solve problems leads to confidence, knowledge and skill development.
- Providing opportunities for leadership encourages girls to lead and explore new ideas, which is key to engaging girl’s interest in STEM.
- Ending the experience in a culminating event, whether a competition, demonstration, or exhibit, is important to cement the experience. Intentional time for sharing the process and product allows girls to have an opportunity to present, receive feedback and celebrate their successes.
- Finally, promoting youth development throughout the program provides an environment that promotes a sense of belonging, positive adult relationships, development of academic and social skills, exposure to positive values and norms, and opportunities to make a difference.
At FIRST, we’re intentional in our work to focus on girls and other underrepresented and underserved youth. Our goal is to provide greater access to our programs as well as train coaches, mentors and volunteers on how to create equity and inclusive practices on teams. Having programs with proven impact for all youth regardless of demographic background inspires us to bring these programs to those who would benefit the most – those who may lack the accumulated skills and experiences to prepare them for coursework in STEM – and provide the confidence and self-efficacy to be successful.
Please join us in our effort to provide meaningful opportunities to girls and all youth that increase their capacity for STEM, level the playing field and ultimately inspire them to consider careers in STEM. Let’s balance the scales of equity by increasing our own awareness of implicit bias and take intentional action to reduce the opportunity gap. Let’s stop talking about special treatment, and instead take action to ensure equity. Get connected to FIRST® and find out how together we can foster STEM learning for girls.
This content has been contributed by FIRST as as part of a promotional digital content program.