June 30, 2011

Summer vacation (sommarlov + travelling)

It is my last day at home in Belgrade. To be precise - last 5 hours.

Packing is an art. If you never tried to pack electronics, paintings, shoes, dresses and God knows what all together in a hand luggage, you are missing a lot. There is nothing more fun than that (except for maybe airport officer going through all of it). When I was coming here from Goteborg my luggage was empty. Now, somehow, it's full with stuff.

Most common question is why I am returning to Sweden during holidays.

Though family and friends are tempting reason to stay, I don’t really have anything to do at home. Reading books, going out and partying can only be interesting to a certain point. That is why I decided that summer in Sweden would be a great chance to practice language, see happy Swedes (sun powers them up from being “cold” to being too “warm” and friendly, but it’s fun) and most of all – enjoy other parts of country as well. In these 10 months of studying: Goteborg, Malmo and Stockholm [http://charlesbaggins.tumblr.com/post/6117566952/street-views-of-stockholm]were most interesting cities to visit. I’ve been around, to smaller places in Goteborg’s municipality, but nothing too far away. Now it is time to explore!

My friend and I plus Pippin the cat are going to Floby for the weekend. Great friend, summer house, barbecue, flower garden and a good camera – all that is needed to enjoy - seeing different parts of Sweden is like a bonus.

Bonus you should (and most people do) use while studying abroad. At least for me it is much easier and cheaper to travel from Sweden than from Serbia. And with group of friends ready for adventure – it cannot be boring. Also, Chalmers University organizes trips depending on the courses you take: Nordic architecture course took us to Denmark for a week. Basically we went from far north to far south of Denmark to see different buildings (for an architect it is the best thing ever). Then unforgettable ESN Sea Battle cruises which I missed last, but won’t miss this year. And on top of it all – Russia road trip that took my breath away [http://charlesbaggins.tumblr.com/post/5187288453/streets-of-moscow-and-saint-petersburg andhttp://charlesbaggins.tumblr.com/post/5187441606/tourist-attractions]. I’ll add more when I get hold of my hard disk, for the time being these pictures from my other blog will suffice.

Till the next time and pics from Floby,

June 23, 2011


Hej everybody,

This is going to be a quick but hopefully useful blog. Days have been sunny and warm in Belgrade, so most of my time I spend trying to get some tan. But there was an alarming situation on CIRC’s forum that I want to discuss.
To keep it short, one of Chalmers’ new students already made a blog about accommodation scams http://www.swedenintouch.se/Freddy-Rietdijk/Blog/ and it is very useful.
I want to go further and give more details. Since this is not the first time something like this happens to new students (and sometimes to old ones as well) and police often cannot interfere since the crime was committed from a place outside Sweden, maybe we could just give all the data about these people online...

Latest scam was made by someone called Ramona Kanuit apparently from Scotland. She is in a hurry and would like you to pay 2 months in advance through Western Union and she will give you the keys (or send them through a friend since she is not in country). Address and pictures of the flat are real, but that is where this all ends. Do not trust emails like these!

Common look of a scam email never change and usually it says something like:
“Thanks for your response, another student from XX will be occupying a room, each apartment has it own door lock for safety purpose. My Name is XX from XX. The apartment belongs to my late father and my XX has been managing and maintaining the apartment, but she is presently in XX due to her work and I also work. The apartment is very close to city center, public transportation and supermarket.
However If you really have interest in renting the room just let me have this request below:

I will instruct our family lawyer to prepare the tenant agreement form for you to be assure that you are dealing with the right person and to see the terms and condition of the contract. Then if you are contented with the agreement you can proceed with the one month rent and security deposit to my XX in XX via Western Union money transfer so that the room can be reserve for you till your arrival date, there are a lot of people who has interest in renting but my XX prefer the most serious person who pay her first.” 
All the XXs are different places where these people say they are. From United Kingdom to Australia, it doesn’t really matter. 

It does sound very inviting, but please DO NOT SEND ANYTHING OF YOURS through internet… Money cannot be traced through Western Union once sent. And your data is not confidential without reason.

Also, I wanted to rent a place (genuine place from a genuine person) couple of months ago. It’s not this complicated and contractor usually stays in the flat with you, since it’s not allowed to rent apartments from second hand contracts. And mostly, people who rent live in first hand contract flats, since it’s not only hard for students to find a place.

To conclude, yes, staying in a hostel can be expensive. But imagine that you paid around 700 euros to someone, only to realize you got scammed. Then paying for couple of nights at some place seems like a better and cheaper way.

Be very careful and good luck!

June 20, 2011

Money makes the world go round

I’ve been away 3 days from computer and now it is a jungle!
My mail box, social networks and all the other “useful” stuff I use are flooded with notifications and alerts. Worst is, I guess, with CIRC forum, cause I have to browse through every topic to see what was the last thing I read and then continue from there.

But today’s topic is all about the money.

Reason behind it: concert Amy Winehouse had in Belgrade. Or tried to have. Among all the news I read about what happened, it seems this is the real problem of concert debacle. “Fans were also angry as many had paid about £35 a ticket which is a lot of money in a country where the average salary is about £274 a month.” I am using this incident that happened in my country, to say something about costs and employment in Gothenburg.
When applying for a residence permit it was stated somewhere on the site that approximately 800 Euros is needed monthly to cover all the costs. It is a reasonable sum once in Gothenburg, but if you compare it to the quote from above, you can get the picture how much it is for some non-Swedish, non-EU people. When you add that from this year on tuition fee is not only 250 SEK semester but a lot more, you get a sum of around 60 000 Euros for two years of architecture studying. When in bad mood I just think about this amount and how I don’t have to pay it.

Scholarships are always an option. Never stop searching for them, never stop applying for them. Of course if there are any you are eligible to.

Other option is getting a job. Now, I am maybe spoilt, but I do want a job, so I went to a couple of seminars about employment held at Chalmers. Going to these won’t get you a job, but it is a good insight to what the market has to offer. The biggest seminar is sometime in September or October, organized by Chalmers, in the big lecture hall where Welcome Day is held.

My advice – be there!

So, what it is that you can do in Gothenburg as a student to get some extra money? From my point of view, not so much since you need Swedish for almost everything. And that everything includes even carrying boxes in a warehouse. Other obstacle can be having limited working hours that come with residence permit for students. Architectural companies for example need somebody who can work full time. But, the most important thing here is your field of study. Depending on that you can find a job even without knowing the language or being just a couple of hours worker.

Go to these sites for further information and check jobs online:
http://www.arbetsformedlingen.se/ (public employment service)
http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/sweden.htm (swedish newspaper list, I recommend Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri) 

Upload your CV anywhere you can.

Join http://www.academicwork.se/ (I think they are the best, but you can search for other companies of this type).

And hope for the best!

Oh, and when it comes to part-time jobs such as working in a coffee shop, hostel/hotel, babysitting, then it is all about whom you know and how strong your network is (and if you know the language). Try talking with friends or other people from your country that live in the city. Go to associations, search for contacts and there should be something to do. But don’t count that it is enough to cover all the expenses.

And now I have to return to my Swedish lesson for today.

June 14, 2011

A place to call Home Sweet Home, part THE END

Morning is my favorite time of the day. And it is always over too fast.
One week ago I used (for the first time) an option, given by gmail, that sends back automatic answer stating, in my case “I’m on vacation till 1st of July”. Please somebody, explain to me why am I then online reading & answering emails, working on CIRC forum, discussing official matters with Västtrafik, calling my bank to ask for papers I need in order to have my residence permit extended, going to buy breakfast, planning rest of the week, writing down what I have to finish while in Serbia and what is left for Sweden and finishing my dad’s website. Wasn’t I supposed to be on vacation for crying out loud?!? For sure, being a workaholic isn’t me. Then why is this happening…?

You know, studying in Sweden has one feature I absolutely adore! It is dividing time to work and pleasure. Since architecture isn’t only studying, but a way of life, I’m used to spend 24/7 with my mind plugged in to some architectural problem or just an interesting project. It’s only here, that I managed to enjoy time without having to stress about University and homework. Tough, I’m starting to go in totally opposite way and should study more this term, but still… It is so nice to relax and be worry-free if professor will shout at you or get mad because you aren’t giving 100% of yourself. These people respect you being an individual and having your own tempo of work. Very nice! I just have to learn now how to relax during vacations as well.

Getting back to Home Sweet Home topic…
Olofshöjd - I’m in love with the location. Close to the Uni, Korsvägen, Ostkupan, Viktor Rydberg, Rotary, it takes only 30 minutes to Brunnsparken and 45 to Slottskogen ON FOOT. If you want to use trams/buses, every line is so close and there are couple of night ones as well. In half an hour radius you have any shop you need (including Systembolaget, a very important institution for every student). It is a campus full of red brick buildings that offer residence to 8-20 students (not sure about 20, but the number gets really high). Mine has 8 of us, each having our own bedroom and bathroom and sharing a big kitchen. Bigger “houses” have couple of smaller kitchens, approx 4-6 people sharing one. On the campus there are some fields for sports, grills, sauna(s), gym, laundry rooms, solarium, 2 bars and I am sure something more that I haven’t discovered yet. What shocked me the most was how quiet it is. I thought that living with students will be crazy! But it is not. You can choose if you want to have a party or not, stay at home or go out. From time to time my Pakistani flat mate (this isn’t a right term since we just share the kitchen, but it’ll work) tends to sing very loud while cooking. And my room is right next to the kitchen. But he is getting better and better and I sometime play loud music to back him up. When it really bugs me, I just go there and tell him to tone it down, we are after all grown-ups and it is never a problem to discuss something that bothers you with the rest of household. Also, I’ve been to some places where people have kids living with them. That can be a little bit annoying for both sides: kids shouting/crying, younger or Erasmus students wanting to party all the time. As I said, grown-ups - discuss…
I even have pictures for this one… This blog is a great way to see how it was one year ago, I forgot about all the stuff I was excited for and all the pics I took.

Till next time,

June 12, 2011

A place to call Home Sweet Home, part 2

Where was I? Oh, yeah, moving out from Kviberg and my friend’s place to a nice one room apartment at Västra Frölunda.

It was my first time living alone and I must admit, for a person that is afraid of dark – I’ve managed perfectly. The location is so-so. Again, same thing as with Kviberg: if you come from a 2 million city then 25 minutes to University isn’t that long. But time goes by and you would prefer to be closer. At least that is what happened to me.

First stop is a big shopping mall and new apartments from White Arhitekter. You have almost everything needed inside the mall, but there are some other less expensive shops 2 or 3 stops before Frölunda. A big bus station is located just on top of the tram station which makes this place the best connected one (by my opinion). You could directly go to Ostkupan (another student residence) or to the city center, there are night busses and trams and Saltholmen is only 30 minutes away. It’s a pier from which you take ferries to the islands.

But the main reasons to recommend Frölunda are, of course, parties! The place is crawling with Erasmus students from Italy, Spain and France which is almost a guarantee for great food and even better partying. There are three streets with buildings that have SGS flats – Mandolingatan, Marconigatan and Näverlursgatan. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing to keep you from working and studying while living here, but sometimes similar people just gravitate towards each other and you get something I call a “party flat”. If you AREinterested ONLY in studying, try to avoid these. Speaking of flats, I’ve encountered with two types: single apartment in which I was and a community flat. Single speaks for itself: entrance hall, bathroom, kitchen, small terrace and one single room. From my point of view there is only one bad aspect to it and it’s the fact you have to cook for yourself. Let’s see why!

It was around 5 o`clock, time for tv and I needed some popcorns. Only problem was that I didn’t have microwave and even if I did, I prefer them from a pan, all greasy and salty. So I put a pan full of oil, covered it and went to my room while it gets warm. During that time I had a call on Skype and of course forgot about the oil. After a while I smelled something burning and went back to the kitchen to see my pan full of smoke. Now, for you that know chemistry (or are just smarter than me at that moment) fire needs oxygen to burn. That is the reason why you shouldn’t take the lid (which I did) and why you should put it right back until everything cools off (which I didn’t). What I did do, with a burning pan in my hands, was a very stupid thing of putting it in the sink and under the water. I believe that the flat still has a gray wave of smoke on the ceiling. And what I forgot to mention is that every apartment has a smoke detector. Imagine…

I’ll end this small story with: thanks God it didn’t have sprinklers as well and luckily I didn’t get burned.

Now, if you live in what I called community flat, that would have never happened. There is couple of reasons why not. First of all, you are sharing the kitchen with other (I think 4) people. Then, since there is a common living room and somebody is always sitting on the couch or at the dining table, they would have noticed the burning smell or smoke coming from the pan. Or if they were in their rooms or terrace, you could shout out for help. Also, two heads are smarter than one and hopefully one would’ve known how to better deal with the situation. Which are all the reasons why I moved to Olofshojd, but it is for the next time.

Big hugs,

June 6, 2011

A place to call Home Sweet Home, part 1

Grattis på Sveriges nationaldagen!

That would be me congratulating on the Swedish National day, but take it with some reserve since I am still studying the language. Unfortunately I missed the holiday, since last night I flew back home. For sure they celebrated with lots of music, flags and very happy people dancing around. Next year I’m gonna stay in the city, just to see how festivity looks like. But talking of parties, this is a great point in time to explain how student housing differ. Facebook, CIRC’s forum and my mail box have been flooded with emails concerning different topics – mostly where to live. You can find a lot of tips on how to find a room, not to get scammed and typical prices for renting. What you cannot find and I think I can provide, is the way of living at different places. So bare with me, while I try to remember everything I’ve learned about different places in Gothenburg, during one year stay. I am talking only about student housing, since experiences with private accommodation vary too much.

So, let’s start with Kviberg. It’s the first student accommodation I’ve been in (in my entire life!). A friend of mine lives there and was good enough to let me stay while I searched for the flat. It meant so much to me and I want to say thanks for it once again. This, as you might have guessed means I had no accommodation by the time I got to Gothenburg. It took 9 days to find a place of my own (in Västra Frölunda). During that time, I was busy calling for flats almost every day, usually in the morning hours. Mailing didn't really work and once in Sweden it’s just best to call – as soon as you see something interesting. Also, since CIRC had reception activities and Chalmers was all so new and shiny I was out almost all the day.

Kviberg is not bad, but it's too far away. There is a good connection with the night tram, during the day it is approx. 15 minutes to Brunnsparken and 10 more minutes to Chalmers. But if you want to meet with some friends at Frölunda for example, it takes so much time. This wasn’t what I said in my first couple of months, but after a while you get used to being where needed in 15 minutes max, and then a ride of 25 seems like eternity. Use this site when searching for accommodation, just type in the address (or name of the station if you know it) and the location you want to get to - http://www.vasttrafik.se/ It will give you rides and times to move from one location to the other.

Anyway… Buildings and flats at Kviberg are nice. Some are newer than others, but both in good conditions. As far as I know, it is only apartments, but the sizes vary. This means you could share it with a roommate, or not. Also, people I know who live there are from outside EU. Never heard of a preparty or party there. This can be good if you need to study at home or just like when it’s quiet. There are some sport fields close by, a big flee market and a castle. Also, two stations further on you can find a big Lidl (this I cannot remember 100%, but it is either Lidl or Willy’s and both are extremely cheap stores). What I remember during my stay is a running path going around the buildings. It looked very nice, but for my taste maybe too dark in the evenings.

To conclude with, for the first couple of days Kviberg was ok. But I wouldn’t like to stay there at all, due to lack of social life. Fortunately I moved to Västra Frölunda, place to have crazy parties with mostly Spanish people. But this is a topic for the next blog!

Puss och kram,

June 2, 2011

Leaving Sverige

It’s Wednesday: the official day to party during the study week. Not at the moment though, since most of us ended with courses. But even during the year, if you want to go out, Wednesday is the best working day for it. My Swedish friends actually call it small Saturday. Reason why I am saying this is that you cannot recognize the city. I’ve just came back home and literally had to push the crowd in the main street to pass through. During the Swedish winter you can’t even imagine the summer. It stays so far away, like an illusion and all you know is snow and darkness most of the day. It has of course some advantages: like sleeping all the time, iceskating, snowball wars and my favorite - reason to put shiny, glowing stuff into your windows. But then it is summertime and all of the sudden it is day almost 24/7, barbecuing becomes the only way to make food and you just want to stay in the sun like a lizard. Seems like the winter never happened and everything you want to do is go out - day and night. Living in Gothenburg becomes a big advantage since the city itself has a lot of lakes, some very close to student residences. Almost every green surface can be transformed into a picnic area and of course parks are perfect for a lazy day with friends. Mostly we spend time in Slottskogen, city’s central park, but you can really just go anywhere. Not to forget the Archipelago and its islands. I’ve only been to Vrångö, but we are going to a new one this Friday, so maybe it will be even better.

The main reason why I decided to type this tonight - there is something not so nice during summer, especially in June and July. People are leaving. Erasmus students that were on exchange for a year or only second semester, they are all returning home. And for me, staying here, it is a little bit sad. I met so many wonderful people. And with some friendship is real and will probably last more than just during their stay in Gothenburg. At least I hope so. And that is what makes staying in Sweden such a great experience. People I met, professors from Chalmers, casual acquaintances from parties and so on... It takes time to get used to it, but since we are all in same situation here, it is so easy to chat up with unknown students and make new friends. Especially in the beginning (as you will see). And CIRC is there to help also. So back to my point: these couple of days has been really hectic. Trying to meet with everybody before I (and they) leave takes so much planning. And in the end, there is no way to see everyone and the only thing I can do is make promises that someday, hopefully, I will be able to go to them (or that they will come to my city). But it is still very sad and emotional, because they can become as close to you as a family.

Here I think I will stop. Have to go to sleep. It will be day very soon, since the night lasts only couple of hours now and I cannot sleep when it is too bright. Not even curtains help.

Good bye to all my lovely friends, have awesome time these last couple of days in Gothenburg! Safe flight, car ride, biking (who knows, we do try to be sustainable) or whichever way you decide to return home. We will meet again someday and till that moment, Facebook will actually have a good purpose.

Kisses from all my heart,