Being on exchange is finding the balance between travel, new friends, and study. Sometimes there is some overlap, studying or traveling with friends, but mostly its all about juggling!
A while ago I looked through my schedule and carefully planned a few trips. Sweden has two study periods per semester, which means on Monday I had my final exam in one class and my next classes don’t start until the next week, so I decided to visit Spain in the interim, flying to Madrid on the Tuesday. A bit of a quick turn around, but there is something very satisfying about leaving the country after an exam. I think all the extra energy and adrenaline from an exam heightens my sense of wanderlust. As well, its nice to have a trip to look forward to during the hours of studying.
And believe me, there were hours of studying! Although on exchange, this is still serious academia for U of T credit and I want good transcripts. So, this past week, and weekend, has found me mainly at my desk at home, or at the theory lab in the physics department puzzling out problems on the six large white boards with my fun ragtag study group of foreigners! I was so happy to find classmates to study with, and it helped me both with comprehension and with stress levels. It is much nicer to prepare for an exam with a friendly group to ask questions to and to commiserate with about the difficulty of the course.
Interestingly, in our group of five, none of us were Swedish. Our group consisted of a German woman and a Danish man doing their masters in particle physics, a Chinese woman doing her physics bachelors degree in Edinburgh on exchange in Lund for the year, a Spanish man doing a physics bachelors degree on exchange from Madrid for the year and trying to switch to Lund, and me, the Canadian.
The exam experience is also quite different. My physics exam was five hours long. We brought snacks, and tea, and could get up and go to the washroom without an escort whenever we wanted as long as we were the only one out of the room. Our professor came in and out, answering questions and sometimes explaining what a question was asking. Not only was the exam set for five hours, everyone used the five hours, it was a difficult, time consuming, yet satisfying exam. And despite its length, I left more relaxed writing in the sunny classroom in Lund than I have ever felt in U of T’s cold exam centre—but then again, I think the tea and snacks helped!
Now that I have written my first exam in Lund and finished my first course here, I am off to sunny Spain! A fast turn around, but exhilarating, and just in time, Lund has been warm and sunny the past few days, but now the clouds are rolling in once more and there is even a rumour of coming snow! So, I am taking my chances on the infamous Ryanair and hoping to get away for some rest, sun, and maybe a few hikes in Sierra Nevada.