Never-ending Sunsets in Umeå
Luisa Helm about her Erasmus semester
During her Master's degree in Georesources Management (GRM), Luisa was drawn to Scandinavia. She had decided to study abroad under the Erasmus program at Umeå Universitet in Sweden and spent the summer semester of 2020 there. Although most of her semester abroad fell during the Corona pandemic, she looks back on a thoroughly positive experience.
In January 2020, Luisa and her fellow student Charlotte, who had also received a place in Umeå, set off by car for the far north. Once they arrived at the rather sparsely furnished student dormitory, they didn't have much time to settle in, because the program for exchange students at Umeå University started the very next day.
The buddy program for international exchange students is one of the largest in Europe. Buddy groups are formed from 30 international students and 5 to 6 Swedish students, who undertake various activities together. Luisa says that she met new people in the beginning mainly through this program and found her friend group, with whom she is still in contact. Impressed and surprised by the openness and helpfulness of the people there and their great love of nature, Luisa settled in well right from the start and felt right at home.
Compared to RWTH, she found everyday life at the university very relaxed. In Sweden, there are usually half-semester courses, so you can concentrate on just one course for 3 months. Luisa took Analysis of Environmental Changes, which was a combination of field work, lab work, seminars and writing a paper. The first two weeks were particularly interesting, when the course went to a frozen lake and used a gravity corer to pull several cores in a transect for later lab analysis. The highlights of the field work included drilling holes in the 60 cm thick ice at temperatures of -15 °C, and working and taking samples with a freeze corer. It felt a bit like a polar expedition, she said, and was the complete opposite of previous field work Luisa had been involved in. With everyone speaking perfect English, she had no trouble finding her way around the university.
Luisa spent a big part of her free time at IKSU. This is a huge sports facility with a climbing hall, swimming pool, gym and much more. She was really excited about the sports offer in Umeå and it helped especially on the dark days at the beginning of the semester abroad, not to fall into a hole when the sun went down at 2pm. In the evenings, she often went out with her buddy group, organized cooking or game nights with her friends and participated in parties of the buddy program. It was very convenient that all the students lived in one of the two residents close to each other and that everything was located within walking distance.
From the very beginning, Luisa and her friends organized many excursions, as a dog sledding trip, a road trip all the way up north to Abisko and Kiruna, or ice skating on a nearby lake. In the summer, the exchange students spent a lot of time at the adjacent lake, barbecuing, taking trips to the northern national parks, and enjoying the never-ending sunsets. In this way, they were able to enjoy their exchange despite the Corona pandemic. Of course, they were also lucky that most of the facilities in Sweden remained open. Since Umeå is located so far north, they didn't notice much of the pandemic for a long time. Luisa is very glad that she didn't break off her semester abroad, which however was never really an option for her.
What she particularly liked about Umeå was that it is an international, young and dynamic city. It combines culture and history with modernity. In addition, all the people there are very close to nature, friendly and sports-oriented. For future Erasmus outgoings, she would definitely recommend registering at IKSU, being out in nature as much as possible, getting a bike right away, and definitely going to northern Sweden in the summer semester. Above all, one should not miss the offer of free accommodation in the cabins of some national parks and the offer to rent sports equipment for free at Fritidsbanken. Luisa describes the time around Midsommar at the end of June as the most beautiful memory. She says it's really fascinating when the sun doesn't set anymore or you can watch the sunrise at the lake at 2:30am. When the sunset in orange and yellow turns into the sunrise in pink, there is a special magic in the air and you really have to live that experience yourself.