Chloe Le Bellec from France

Why did you want to study abroad as an exchange student?

I am in my last year of Master's in France to become a teacher for primary school and kindergarten. My goal is to work abroad for a while once I get my degree to get as much knowledge on different pedagogies and school systems. I was lucky enough to do a teacher training in the US last year for a month and felt I should embrace this opportunity of a new and longer experience in a foreign country.

Going for this exchange program was then the solution for me to learn about yet another educational system and also a different culture and lifestyle. Also, the European mention added up to this Master's degree would most undoubtedly be a helper for me to find a teaching job abroad. Furthermore, I needed to prove to myself I could live this adventure by my own, fit in and adapt to a whole different country.

Why did you choose to study here?

During my studies I have always learned a lot about Scandinavian educational systems as being in the top countries of PISA studies as well as having positive pedagogies centered on the child. I am doing my research thesis on non-violent communication in schools and classes. My previous teacher training in the US gave me great knowledge on how to manage a classroom that way, I therefore wondered about such positive measures in European countries.

Aside from that I realized I didn't know much about Sweden, its culture, people and landscapes. Curiosity grew on me as I looked up information before leaving and saw this country was in the top ten of the World Happiness Report, and Stockholm seemed such an incredible city to live in. It became obvious for me I should apply there and live a true Swedish experience.

What is the biggest difference regarding everyday life here and in your country?

At first sight everything will seem expensive compared to most of the other European countries but we little by little learn of the cheaper and still very agreeable places where to shop, eat and chill.

To find a lodging was difficult from distance. As I did not get one in the student accommodation lottery I decided to be an Au pair. To combine both au-pairship and studies was the only way for me to be able to come to Stockholm as I would not have afforded to rent a flat. I have never regretted this decision because I was able to spend these months being a part of a Swedish family and their two beautiful girls. I learned much more about their lifestyles than I would have being only a student. I was able to travel in a few different places outside Stockholm with them and meet many people. I haven't had a typical Erasmus experience as I couldn't attend most of the events, usually programmed at times when I was working, looking after the little girls, but had a complete different and great one nevertheless.

Overall I found Swedish people much more relaxed than in France and easy to talk to (especially as everyone speaks such good English).

How is it to be a teacher education student here in Sweden?

It is a complete different experience because the teaching methods are not at all the same from those in France. In my home University we have full weeks and days of lessons, five days out of seven, from 8 am to 6 pm. Lessons consisting mainly in lectures and passive learning. At Stockholm University I had few hours of seminars a week which were always centered on some hands-on and creative learning. Evaluation didn't consist in intense final exams and learning lessons by heart but by analyzing individually seminars, and a given list of literature. This system appealed to me as it gave time for each student to read and work at his/her own pace and most of all, by reading so much and analyzing both individually and collectively in class, it offered me true insight and knowledge on the subjects.

My class was formed by about two thirds of Erasmus students (from Spain, Poland, Germany, Austria…) and one third of Swedish. I loved being able to exchange ideas and discuss about different educational systems all around Europe. It gave me a greater understanding of the variety of school politics and pedagogies that exist.

Unfortunately I couldn't do any practical teacher training but we did visit multiple preschools. According to me and to the reactions of my Erasmus classmates, they were all very different from the ones in our countries. As I expected they were very much child centered and offered more variety of activities in a daily basis. I am happy to have been able to observe and discuss this interesting system and will definitely use what I have learned in my future classes.

What do you think about the country and city and the University?

I arrived in August in Stockholm and left in January and thus have seen the difference in lifestyle between summer and winter. The weather goes much more towards extremes than it does where my hometown is in France. The biggest difference being how nighttime falls so early in December (2.45 pm at the earliest).

Stockholm by winter

I was told it could become difficult at times to endure the cold and darkness, but in fact there are many more Christmas traditions, lights and cozy places to snuggle to in the city than in any one I have been to before. It is a different lifestyle but I think Swedish people have the art of easing things, making it easy for us foreigners to adapt.

What struck me most in this city was the presence of nature. With its multiple islands, sea inlets and parks, Stockholm is relaxing and delightful to live in, in every season.

The Stockholm Archipelago

The near wilderness can be sensed as you walk along the cliffs of Sodermalm or in Djurgarden. Drive out one hour out of Stockholm in any direction and you will find beautiful vast lands, forests and lakes. I was lucky enough to go further north in the mountains, to stumble upon herds of wild reindeers and to hike across the beautiful Norwegian border.

Besides that there are so many cultural places and museums to visit with cheap prices for students.

The University is also very green and aired. It is a lively place to study with a lot of student associations who offer free activities (sports, language café, parties, movie evenings…). There are many places to buy nice food and fikas inside the University, and even student pubs!

What would you say to someone who is considering studying abroad?

You can never go wrong by choosing to study abroad. Every country on the exchange program has something to teach us and is worthy to be discovered. It is always challenging as an individual to leave your own country for a semester or two but you will quickly realize you are never left on your own. So much is done for Erasmus students to learn to know each other and there is always an easy solution to any obstacle you meet.

It is sometimes easier to only stick with our fellow Erasmus friends but I think it is important to broaden up our minds and reach out to others too. Especially in order to have a true Swedish experience.

What would you say to a fellow teacher education student from your country?

Regarding French students, it is a particular case as most of us have an important and difficult test (le Concours) at the end of the year. A lot of students are attracted by this exchange opportunity but miss out on it because there is a lot of pressure to this test. But you need only a bit of discipline to easily find time to study for that at the same time as you follow Stockholm University's seminars (I had only two mornings a week of lessons in average here).

It was such a great experience that I will never forget. It helped me realizing what kind of teacher I wanted to be and what I expected of life. Most of all, remember to seize the day. Time flies and there is so much to discover and learn!