For many international students it is now time to hand in their final papers, pack up the last bags and try to find someone who can take over their bike. Three students who are about to pull up stakes and move on to new adventures found the time to reflect on their stay in Lund.
It is one of the first warm May afternoon that allows sitting in the backyard of the International Students’ House in Spolegatan close to the heart of Lund. Moon, Hòa and Nadine are among the 15 percent internationals of the entire Lundian student population. People come from all corners of the world and create a unique, international spirit. This is not only felt in the university context but also has an impact on the city itself.
Moon is leaving the earliest, she is already heading back to the US in one week, after having spent a bit over five months in Lund.
“My mum is Swedish, so I thought I knew a lot about Sweden. But I have, for example, never heard the term “fika” and now I am a coffeeholic.” Hòa from Vietnam also experienced “Swedification”: “I did not plan for a culture shock to also occur when going back home last summer. But suddenly I felt the need for more personal space and was colder than before”.
Nadine from Germany found her childhood memories from Astrid Lindgren books come true during her one-year Master at the University of Lund: “People are cold, but nice once you break the barriers”. All three nod their heads in agreement. “It took me one year to get close to my corridor mates”, confirms Hòa and causes laughter with the advice for future students to bring an axe, so it is easier to break the ice.
Sitting in the late afternoon sun, it is hard to even remember the seemingly endless dark and rainy winter days. The gloomy periods can get to everyone, but international students finding themselves in a new environment far from home might be more prone. “I come from Germany, and as we are in the very south of Sweden I thought it would not make such a difference. But I was wrong”, admits Nadine when thinking about the winter season.
Indeed, being inspired from the blossoming magnolia trees in front of the White House that feature all marketing material of Lund University, many people come unprepared for what awaits them. “I was depressed during my first winter here and escaped. But this year I actually enjoyed it because I came closer to my corridor mates and we met for cosy cooking and movie sessions”, says Hòa.
The Botanical gardens, the libraries but also the rich student culture are unanimously put on the list of things that they will miss when returning back home. Regarding the question if there are things that they are not going to miss they all take a moment to think.
“The expensive groceries”, says Nadine after a short pause. “The lack of decent Vietnamese or Indian food”, adds Moon who will be returning to New York in just a few days. When packing up she spots the tattoo on Hòa’s forearm and gets curious.
“It says lu.se.14-16 and marks my stay here – you can tell what a great impact the past two years had on me. I even wanted to have it imprinted on my body”, jokes Hòa who is in a hurry to get home and finally press the “send” button for the thesis that has occupied her for the past months.