September 27, 2011

Intercultural Communication lecture by Chrissie Evling

I went to that intercultural communication lecture today “The software of the mind”. Most interesting part for me was that someone actually had to hold that and explain to people that we are all different. But, studying in Sweden and working with other students made me realize many obstacles in understanding others. And as Chrissie said today “…we are all humans and that (communication) is what we do… But is it that easy?”
What she was talking about are general differences in the way we perceive world and people around us. The theories she was referring to are really interesting, even when applied to the field of architecture. Imagine that you are an American architect usually working for L.A. celebrities and you are designing a household for a Japanese. Not gonna work I can tell you right now!

Other thing that she mentioned is cultural pattern of a typical Swedish person. How they value equality (I am still against opening door for myself, thank you very much), have a low context culture which means they will explain things in detail and are task oriented. Also high individuality dimension that makes us foreigners feel lonely sometimes, and a large personal space that follows. There were some points I highly disagree with. Like for instance saying that Swedish people will tell to your face what they mean. From my experience that is not correct. It is rude to openly state something, especially if it’s not a positive remark. More likely they will point it out in a very shy manner, trying not to offend you or they will just ignore it.

What the lecture mainly contributed today, was the hope of one day understanding Sweden and its people if you wish to live and work here. The lecturer gave some tips, very basic ones (direct eye contact when talking, handshakes as a greeting and so on) that will get you started. And it is up to you to really understand and embrace the differences. If nothing, think of it as an adventure - you are about to discover a completely new way of looking at stuff! Just enjoy it… (and this is me saying, not Chrissie)

Till next seminar or so,

September 18, 2011

Relationship with Chalmers and Architecture department

Chalmers and I were in love at the first sight. Online, of course.
I woke up one day, typed “Sweden, architecture, university” in google search and voila! Guess I was extremely lucky, since Chalmers was the first hit on the internet, studying in Sweden was for free and I loved everything I read. I felt very positive about what is going to happen in the future and I rushed into this relationship with an open heart.

It has been a year and a half since that morning. A lot of things have changed - location to begin with. And I am out in the public with my University “love”: writing about it, showing off… A lot of “single” people send me questions how to find that perfect other (where to go out, how to dress, whom to talk to). The reason for this post is that I cannot write any more individual emails on this topic. I would like to try to answer all of them once and for all.

Two big changes happened when it comes to applying for (architecture) studies in Sweden.

First I should mention that being in a relationship with Architecture is really expensive. Especially after a new decision from Swedish government that non-Europeans should pay tuition fee. All in all, for two years you would need approximately 60 000 euros (30 000 per year more or less). Finding a scholarship or some similar sort of funding sounds like a good idea, no? I must add that being in love while working doesn’t necessarily create a happy union.

There is one more change and it is for the better. A new site for all the questions you might have about studying in Sweden From personal experience I know how complicated this all may look to a person searching for information, but the site is very good and simple.

In the beginning, there is one thing nobody ever asks, at least not to me: “Will I like it there?”
Now, I know I cannot answer that, but it is the first thing I would like for you to ask yourselves. What is it that you expect to find and experience at Chalmers? As in any relationship, a clean start is the best one.

But don’t be scared, all the communication is in English. So there won’t be any language barriers, at least. (Sometimes guest lectures can be in Swedish, but those aren’t obligatory. I just find them so useful when learning the language.)

When it comes to starting a relationship, personal ad is the most important part. By that I mean a portfolio and recommendations (for architects). Have a short presentation about who you are and what you do. Then back it up with some comments from your professors or employers. As I already said, it is like dating: a friend should put a good word for you. All you have to do is keep up to it.

Quirks of Swedish relationships are:
1. Grading - and that nobody cares about it. Both students and professors are focused on the product and experience, more than on what the grade would be. Actually, they just added the grading system 2 or 3 years ago.
2. Different schedule - or not being in the high-school any longer. Usually there are only 3 courses during the semester and each gets a month of time. This means having some really intensive lectures (from 9 till 5) and really digging dipper into the subject.
3. Models - and working with them. Again, a different approach to something all of us are already familiar with. Main difference is that at Chalmers models are used during the whole process and not just to showcase design at the end.
4. Location - working at the school. Depending on where you come from, schedule and working spaces you are accustomed to can be different. For me it is early in the morning and from my bed. Other people are night-workers that occupy whole apartments. But somehow, all of us are just satisfied at staying in the studio/library/workshop and work at the University.

Of course, the biggest quirk of them all is living in Sweden. But I don’t dare start talking about it. When you have a working relationship, you don’t want to jinx it with all the blabber. All I know is I am enjoying the moment. Maybe, once my studying adventure is over, I will have a clear picture of what my impressions about Sweden are. At least I will have enough pictures, videos and texts never to forget anything that happened here.

Till then, don’t be afraid to fall in love with Chalmers, Gothenburg and Sweden. They will return the feelings.

September 5, 2011

Third week of the CIRC activities

Time goes so fast these days. I’ve only been going to lectures for one week and it feels like one whole month!
But it is nice and the course I am taking - Leadership in Architecture - is very good. It is a good mix of self-improvement tips, research and analyzing. And it helped me to form my master thesis idea, which makes me even more satisfied with it.

Most of my time, of course, belongs to CIRC (which can explain why I am awake at 00:30). This will be our third week of activities if I am not mistaken. Already we had Swedish sittning, city tour, Chalmers tour, a trip to Archipelago and the games night. This week it will be karaoke, laser tag, Fest U, picnic and canoeing. A lot of events to arrange and attend! But being a new student in unfamiliar city and completely new university makes you more adventurous. We didn’t expect more than 50 people for the games night last week and we ended up with almost 200. That was an adventure for CIRC - to figure out what to do with 4 times more people than predicted!

Best thing of all, weather is nice and hopefully it will stay like this till the end of our reception.

*how many students can you fit inside the phone booth?

Pictures in this post belong to CIRC ( and Nicola Crovato.