(Biology in Uppsala! This is not America… )
Hej IBHers! As many already know, I am currently doing a semester abroad at Uppsala University in Sweden. Now that I have been here for over 2 months (wow time really flies) I thought it was time to share my experiences with my fellow IBHers.
To sum up my experience thus far: studying biology in Uppsala has been amazing! For the first 10 weeks of the semester, I took a master’s level course in Behavioural Ecology. As of now, I am doing a research internship in environmental toxicology and studying basic Swedish.
As you can probably already tell, the education system in Sweden is very different from our system back home. The biggest difference is that in Sweden you typically only take one class at a time. For biology majors, these classes are full time and run for about 5 to 10 weeks. Some students will occasionally take two classes, but each class has a half time load. At the advanced level, most students take two 10-week classes each semester.
If you are a typical IBH student, the concept of taking one class at a time probably disturbs you. Can you imagine functioning without the stress of biology, chemistry, math and/or physics propelling you forward? When I first arrived here, I thought Swedes were just lazy. I mean, the undergrads don’t even have to take any physics! But during my time here I have come to realize that Swedes aren’t lazy, they are just practical and efficient.
Back home, I often feel like I am being pulled in at least 10 different directions. So being here and being able to focus on one subject has been nothing short of amazing. I have begun to completely question the non-Swedish way of doing things. How much can you really get out of a class when you are busy worrying about your other 3 exams and that paper you have to write? It just makes more sense to focus all your energy on one task at a time.
I think the world has a lot to learn from the Swedish education model. I have had a chance to get to know a few Swedish students, and their undergraduate experiences are so completely different from mine. Biology majors at Uppsala University complete a 3 years bachelor program. Within this program, students do not have to take any physics or any general education requirements and all chemistry courses (basic-principles-orgo-biochem) are taken in one semester. While the thought of a semester of only chemistry makes me cringe, it must be nice to get everything over with at once.
And nobody here worries about GPAs, because they don’t have them! In most cases, your grade depends almost entirely on your exam score (3=passing, 4=very good, 5=excellent). While many Swedes I have talked to strive for a 5, they seem to only really care if they pass the exam. BUT, if they do not pass the exam they are allowed to retake it! As long as you have completed the required seminars/labs, you are allowed to retake an exam until you pass.
IBH students travel the world, publish research papers, and do all sorts of amazing things