Since studying abroad in Stockholm, many people have asked me why I chose to study abroad on an external program in Sweden, when Temple has its own international campuses in Rome and Tokyo. My first reason for choosing an external program was because I am a public health major, and neither the Rome nor the Tokyo campuses have public health classes yet. After doing a deep dive into several different study abroad programs in many countries from China to Botswana, I settled on DIS Study Abroad at their Stockholm campus. There were a few reasons why I chose to spend my semester at DIS.
Interesting course selection
The courses offered at DIS are definitely different and they are classes I would not have been able to take anywhere else. For example, they offer classes such as Swedish Language and Culture, Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Transgender in Scandinavia, Human Trafficking, and Scandinavian Fashion and Textile Workshop, the latter of which I am enrolled in. Some of the classes are even exploratory electives, which offer a three-day international trip to further explore the topic. For my Scandinavian Fashion and Textile Workshop I will be going on a three-day trip to Helsinki, Finland later this month! I am excited to travel to Helsinki again, and compare the cultural differences between Finland and Sweden, but also learn about their similarities as two Scandinavian countries.
A smaller community
DIS has two study abroad programs; one in Copenhagen, Denmark, and one in Stockholm, Sweden. The Copenhagen program is more established in that it has been running since the 1950s, has a larger class selection, and a bigger student body of around 1,200 students this semester. The Stockholm program is newer and has been running for less than 10 years, has a smaller class selection, and a smaller student body of around 130 students this semester. Even though the Copenhagen program is more popular, I wanted to study abroad in a smaller setting; 130 students may seem small but I feel that it has made it so much easier to meet people and feel at home in my community here. The size also means that the class size is much smaller, ranging from 8 to 20 students, and that has allowed us to become so much closer with our professors, which I feel I would not have been able to do in a larger program.
Focus on fieldwork
One thing I loved about the DIS program is the way that hands-on learning and field studies are integrated into our weekly routine. Every Wednesday, we do not have any formal classes. Instead we have field studies, where we are able to learn by traveling outside of the classroom with any of our courses. Field studies that I have been on have ranged from meeting nurses from Doctors Without Borders for my Public Health and Migration class to visiting art and textile studios with my Scandinavian Fashion and Textiles Workshop. I love being able to apply the concepts we learn in the classroom to real-life scenarios, and they have also helped me get to know Stockholm so much better.
A global perspective on learning
When enrolling at DIS, you have to pick a core course, which is like your “major” during your semester abroad. Your core course is the class where you will spend the most time with your professors and peers. After you have picked your core course, you go on two trips throughout the semester with your class; one three-day domestic trip to a new city in Sweden, and one week-long international trip to a major city in Europe, both of which are included in the DIS tuition. As a public health major, I picked the core course Public Health and Migration: Access, Politics, and Human Rights. For our domestic trip we visited Malmö, the third biggest city in Sweden and the city with the highest migrant population. For our international trip, we visited London, and toured many public health NGOs that aim to improve health throughout the city. I loved having this time to learn outside of the classroom; it allowed me to form a closer relationship with my professors and peers, some of which have become my best friends. And, while visiting another country I’ve never been to was exciting, it encouraged me to get to know other regions and cities within Sweden that I may have never visited otherwise. Malmö is still one of my favorite places I’ve visited, and on a personal level, it was very interesting to learn about the different migrant populations there, as I am a daughter of immigrant parents.
One of the reasons why I chose DIS is because they have opportunities for students to get involved in research. The research lab I applied for was called Human Trafficking for the Purpose of Organ Removal. After being accepted, I was able to meet the other research assistants in our lab (there are four of us!) and our research mentor, who is another DIS professor and also a researcher in the field of criminology. Even though our overall topic is on human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal, our mentor gave us a lot of freedom in tailoring the topic to our interests, and we chose to look at the issue with a public health perspective. It focuses on human trafficking and migrant populations in Sweden as a public health issue. As a first time research assistant, I’ve learned so much in our lab; DIS ensures that our mentors walk us through each step of the research process, and at the end of the semester we are able to present our findings to our entire DIS cohort in a research symposium. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to dive into research for the first time, and DIS facilitates it in a way that allows students from any backgrounds to come together and work on a meaningful project together.
Overall, I’m so glad that I chose to pursue DIS for my semester abroad. At first, I did think it was a little intimidating to enroll in an external program; many of my friends have studied abroad at Temple Rome or Tokyo, but I had never met anyone who had studied abroad through DIS. However, I think doing the extra research into external programs has allowed me to have access to a lot of hands-on learning experience, as well as more say in the classes I am taking and the rigor of my daily schedule.