Exchange Student at Umea University, Sweden


Matthew Swindell, Sociology

Why I got involved

I thought a semester abroad would be something different, that it would be a bit of a challenge. It would make a difference to my degree and not a lot of students on this course take advantage of it. I have friends that have done it and recommended it to me, so I thought I’d get involved.

Why did you choose your specific destination?

I had a few initial choices, but the main two were Umea and Copenhagen. Umea is in Northern Sweden and off the beaten track. I thought it was a good opportunity to go somewhere I’d never normally go.

Most enjoyable aspect

There were plenty. I met a whole host of new people - the locals and various other students from around Europe. Experiencing a completely different way of life and doing things I was completely unfamiliar with. I got to try a few sports I’ve not been involved in before thanks to the weather! Things like floorball, ice hockey and skiing were great fun. I would definitely recommend Umea as a place to go if you want to see something completely different to what you are used to. It was an amazing experience living so close to the Arctic Circle. The first week I was there I left a bar only to see the Northern Lights overhead!

What was the most challenging aspect?

Two spring to mind. When I first got there I had to try and get my bearings. I was the only English student over there and a lot of the other nationalities had a cluster of their own fellow students to rely on. Fortunately, it did benefit me because it made me go out and meet people - it would’ve been too easy to slip into a comfort zone if there had been other English students.

Adapting to the way of life was challenging, too. The constant snow from October onwards was absolutely beautiful and undoubtedly brightened the place up, but you only get a few hours of daylight so it made me get up and go out and seize the day!

How do you feel it helped to enhance your degree?

It has introduced me to different ways of learning - grading is quite similar in Umea but their methods of assessment are completely different. Instead of just doing an essay you would have to write the essay, present it to the class, and answer questions from academics and fellow students. It makes you work around the literature a bit more. I could use skills learnt at Newcastle in Umea and vice-versa.

How I've benefited personally?

It broadened my horizons quite significantly - I’ve been to a place I never would have normally visited and been in situations and interacted with people I may never have encountered before.  I have also made some great friends from all over Sweden and Europe, which has presented me with the opportunity to travel further. It will definitely look good to prospective employers too. I have another language under my belt and it shows I’m open to diversity and to trying new things.

Find out more about Student Exchange Programmes.