Sunday, December 23, 2012

UNITECH International Life #2

After the application process in February 2011, the accommodation process began in May 2011. For someone like myself who had lived in England his whole life, it was difficult to choose which room I wanted. At the time, all the rooms I looked at seemed expensive in comparison to how much I had paid whilst at uni and on placement. There was also no 'small/medium/large' bedroom, it was all in square metres. That made no sense to me, but now I understand why the former makes no sense to most foreigners from outside the UK. The UK should adopt the system of square metres, it makes life so much easier. I also wanted to be reasonably close to Chalmers but not too close as I wanted to be able to cycle and get my daily dose of exercise. In the end, I chose Ostkupan which is 14 square metres and cost less than 3000 kr/month (less than £300/month). I still had no idea how big that was, but that soon became the least of my worries. This included all bills, with high speed wired internet access, laundry facilities, TV & pool room and a sauna!

I was getting ready and buzzing about my exchange year abroad, until my department said that I might not be able to go due to departmental regulations. I did not expect that less than a month before I was due to fly out, having booked the flights and paid the deposit for my room. They eventually sorted it out after a meeting with them, showing how keen I was and everything that was at stake. This was good news as it meant it was sorted for future students of my department as well, who could do it as a replacement to their placement year (a.k.a. doing an internship for a year) or make it count towards the third year of their degree, like I did.

As for most people, packing is always the difficult part. Especially as I was going for a whole year to a colder climate, it meant I needed lots of clothes to stay warm. I also did not want to buy new stuff that I would end up having to leave there, therefore I decided to pay for extra baggage and bring whatever I needed. Mum also decided to come with me and check out where I was going, etc. What was interesting was that after staying up till sometime after midnight and then waking up again in a few hours to take a flight, I had still not finished packing. Oops.

Dad drove us to the airport on Monday morning. We had managed to keep everything just under the weight limit. Once we boarded the plane and it took off, neither of us could sleep. Mum had made a few calls and found out there were some people from our community in Gothenburg. One of them had even been in the same school with my Mum in Mombasa, Kenya. It's a small world. Therefore, someone picked us up from the airport and took us to Ostkupan. It made life a lot easier knowing someone who knew the language, culture, etc. of the country. I really appreciated his help, as he and his family were going to be a lifeline in the months to come. 

All I wanted to do when I arrived at Ostkupan was get the keys, go to my room and go to sleep for a few hours. However, that was not going to happen any time soon. On entering my corridor and room, I could see that some cleaning needed to be done and I did not want to risk any bed bugs or any other infestations. Luckily, Ostkupan had invested in new cleaning equipment for each corridor that year, so I opened up the new vacuum cleaner and got to work. Same situation in the kitchen, but I just wanted space for my dishes, crockery and food so sorted out my allocated cupboards and fridge space. Since the bathroom needed a bit of cleaning and my neighbour who I was sharing the bathroom with was out, I went ahead and cleaned that as I was already on cleaning duty. Once done, I went to sleep for a while since my room mates were busy or not around.

Mum flew out the next day back home as she needed to go back to work. Until Saturday I was on my own, sorting out bits and bobs, meeting up with my other room mates (we conjured up so many potential situations for one of them since we never saw him leaving his room until one day...), fasting even longer days since the days were longer in Sweden (yup, it was Ramadan then) and going to mosque each evening. I guess you are wondering, what happens on Saturday? Well, this is when all the other UNITECH students arrive to Gothenburg for the Start-up Week module. This is where you make friends that will hopefully last your whole life, as you'll spend at least three weeks with all of them and a semester or longer with those joining the same university as you. The UNITECH experience has now officially begun...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

UNITECH International Life #1

What happens after you've lived the international life? You return to your homeland, and get depressed and want to leave as soon as you can to go on your next adventure. You've had a life changing experience whilst abroad, made lots of friends and got to see lands that you most probably would not have if you did not participate in some sort of exchange programme. In my case, it was UNITECH, which Loughborough University joined in 2009. In the first year (2010/2011), there was only one student, from Wolfson School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, who loved it so much, that he graduated and decided to work at Hilti in Lichtenstein. That's one person who has converted to living the international life, for how long who knows?

In my year, which was the second year (2011/2012), there were three of us who made it through the rigorous application and interview process. We had a group based exercise, a presentation to prepare on the spot for a topic they have chosen and finally an individual interview by corporate partners. I was lost for words when I was told on the same day that I had made the final cut. I would be going abroad for a whole year to study at Chalmers in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I would have never bothered to take this opportunity if my personal tutor, Dr Roger Dixon, who was promoting the programme in my department, had convinced me to apply, after calling him a couple of days before the deadline to ask some questions. Therefore, I thank him for that. Also, I have to thank Jaguar Land Rover for giving me time off in such short notice, and also for allowing me to drop out of their sponsorship programme to participate in this pan-European programme.

Everyone asks me, why did I choose Sweden? I can tell you it was not because of the typical stereotypes that most people have heard, as I never knew about them. I applied because of the modules that I could do whilst studying there, which were related to renewable energy. However, I was told only a few weeks before arriving there that those modules were full up as my application arrived late, and also that I cannot do them as they are taught to chemical engineering students as it is part of their Masters programme, i.e. I do not have the pre-requisites to study those modules. Wow, I did not expect that. So then I picked embedded electronics modules, which are studied as part of a different Masters programme. In comparison, the same modules at Loughborough only have a few people studying them - I only found that out right now when I returned to Loughborough. I definitely enjoyed the way I studied them at Chalmers whereas I'm not sure I would have had the same experience at Loughborough. I'll never know...

Hopefully this gives an insight into the beginning of my international career and development and how it all worked out with UNITECH. There are a few posts detailing my time whilst in Sweden, and hopefully you will not have to wait another six months for the next chapter of my journey. Vi hörs!

Friday, June 01, 2012

School's out!

Oops! It's been a long time since I blogged. Apologise if this post is not coherent, I've only slept about 3-4 hours. Why? Partly because I felt like it, but also since the sun's out early, it usually wakes me up. Also, I was playing table-tennis/ping-pong with Hao and Scott until late (sorry I don't know how to spell Scott's Chinese name).

A lot has happened since. I've hosted two German guys, a Polish girl, a Canadian girl and my Polish friend from the UK who I lived with during my internship. I've finished my year here at Chalmers University of Technology! This is where you have mixed feelings that school is over but you need to say goodbye to lots of friends. Also, it was weird the first few days as it felt like I should be studying, especially since everyone back at my home university are only just about to start exams next week.

Last week was more or less summer, with the maximum temperatures between 21-26ºC. It's good if you have nothing to do and can chillax and enjoy the weather. However, if you have to study, then you don't really want it to be more than 21ºC as otherwise your room is too hot and you cannot concentrate. This happened to me when I was writing my take home exam. I just managed to get it done before the 23:59 deadline. I was always ahead of schedule on the previous ones, yet I did have an exam the day before this take home exam. Anyway, after all this, I managed to be able to spend some time with my friend Piotr (English equivalent would be Peter) travelling around Gothenburg, checking out the southern archipelago by bike as well as being at the peak of the Botanical Gardens, enjoying the peace and silence out there in the sun, until other tourists joined. My legs ached at the end of all this sightseeing as we had cycled nearly everywhere for the whole day, everyday, but it was worth it.

What else has happened? Well, I'm quite sure you've all heard that Sweden won the Eurovision contest last Saturday. The UK were far from winning, but at least I thought I could join in on the celebrations of Sweden winning, wondering what happens when you are in the winning country. Although not a lot of Swedes were interested and no one was really celebrating around the city. Lots of interesting entries and cultures, with the Russians being a memorable one.

A few weeks back, GöteborgsVarvet took place around the city, half-marathon. I was invited by Bea to come and watch and I thought, why not? I had a lot of work to do, but I thought I could spare a few hours and watch since you don't always get a chance to do so. I live in London and have never gone to see the London Marathon, so this was a good time to check it out live rather than watch it on television. It's got me interested and possibly I'm thinking of running a marathon at some point.

What other crazy ideas do I have? Well, I would like to become fluent in French and Swedish. I've done French for 5 years at school, and at the time I thought it was pointless to learn another language as I would never leave England. Well, that backfired! Also, since I've lived in Sweden for 9 months, and fallen in love with Gothenburg, I feel that I should learn Swedish as I have some vocabulary already. Moreover, it's to prove a point that I can learn another language if I put my mind to it, especially outside the country. Let's see if I can do it!

Now, I'm just going to sit in Gothenburg and wait for a response from a potential company if I have secured an internship. To get one in Sweden is unlikely, and there is nothing suitable here. I've kind of started clearing out stuff (I love to collect stuff that others throw away and fix them up!) and have got my suitcase open ready for packing. Now I just need to fill it up and see how much I can fit in one suitcase and what I'll do with everything else.

That's it from me for now. Let me know how good or bad my English was in this post. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Trip to Stockholm (65 days to go...)

25 days have gone real fast since my last post. In this time, I've submitted a group report on Idea Evaulation and Feasibility, done one exam, gone to Stockholm for 3 nights, submitted a group report on half-time academic and progress report for the engineering project, completed the basic functionality of a piece of VHDL that will run on hardware, hosted a Polish couple from CouchSurfing who were staying in Lund at my place for 3 nights, participated in the EBEC Gothenburg competition and cycled around east Gothenburg! That's a lot of things to have done so far, and I'm happy about it. There's a lot more to come as well. UNITECH report will be submitted tonight and I'm still on the search for an internship, now widening my search so it incorporates Scandinavia - just to name a few. I'll keep you updated on that front.

So I decided to take the plunge and go to Stockholm the next day after my exam on Thursday with Danish, a friend of mine from my engineering course. Although it was a tight schedule, we managed to visit numerous places and learn a lot in the process. On Friday, we first visited the City Hall (Stadshuset) on a guided tour. Got to learn a lot about politics and how its conducted in Sweden. Next, we visited the Nobel Museum (Nobelmusset), again on a guided tour. This time we learned about Alfred Nobel (who was Swedish!) and the history of the Nobel prize as well as prominent figures such as Marie Curie (aka Marie Skłodowska) who was a famous Polish physicist and chemist. Marie was also the first women to win the Nobel prize and to win it more than once. By this time, the attractions/museums were closing, so I said that we should go and visit the central Stockholm Library (Stockholm Stadbibliosteket). You wonder why? Well, there was a good friend of mine who visited this place during Christmas, and the picture she took looked like a Hollywood setup. I had to see this for myself and so we both went there. It's really amazing with the circular architecture, it just feels different from a normal library. You have to go and see it for yourself.

On Saturday, we got a chance to see across Stockholm by going on SkyView - on top of the Globe arena. On here we could see in many directions right across the city in the northern direction as the location of the Globe was in the south. The next stop was the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet). This is a museum which contains the world's only surviving 17th century ship with over 95% original parts. We participated in a guided tour and got to know many aspects about the ship as well as having a chance to study the exhibitions to learn more. After lunch, we visited The Royal Palace (Kungliga slottet) located in Gamla Stan. This is where the King conducts his day to day business. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures as they have to protect the items within from UV as they are from the 18th century. We got to see and learn a lot from the guided tour, which is much more better than seeing it on your own as its then just looking at old items and pictures. The final stop before dinner was the Museum of Science and Technology (Tekniska museet). There were many exhibitions here and we took lots of photos. The key ones to see were the 100 most important innovations of all time as selected by the Swedish people and the Inventions of Women.

Before we knew it, it was Sunday. The first thing we did was to go to the Kaknäs Tower (Kaknästornet) which is the hub of all TV and radio transmission in Sweden. You wonder, why would we go here? There is nothing technical to see here, but the key is that it is a 155-metre tower which gives a fantastic view of Stockholm and the city's surroundings. It's the ideal spot for absorbing Stockholm from such a height, much better than SkyView. The next stop was Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott) which is far out in the west. This is where the Royal family reside. Unfortunately, we missed the bus stop and so we missed the guided tour, but we still got to see a magnificent building with lots of history. Again, no pictures are allowed here for the same reason. The final museum stop was the Observatory Museum (Observatoriemuseet) which Danish wanted to see. Did you know that the temperature measurement, Celsius was a Swedish invention? Named after Anders Celsius. Here we got to see the telescope that is used by researchers as well as amateur astronomers who like to gaze at the stars and planets in space. Now most things had closed, so we decided to visit our competitor KTH, The Royal University of Stockholm (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan). They have a newer electronic engineering building than ours at Chalmers. We most likely walked all over campus that even the students there would not do (note to self - to walk over all of Chalmers before leaving). We then went to Stockholm University, equivalent of our Gothenburg University for a quick look, and that place was a huge campus (not scattered around the city as much as GU) so we did not bother. We then spent the last couple of hours walking around the city in the evening. The city looks so different at night than in the day.

We departed from Stockholm on Monday morning in order to get back in time for the first lecture of quarter 4. Fortunately, we did not experience any delays in our train journey, which is mentioned quite regularly by Swedes. On both journeys, we arrived at least 10 minutes ahead of schedule. We took the fast train (3 hours) on the way to Stockholm and the InterCity train on the way back (4 hours). We stayed at Lodge32, a relatively cheap hostel with a good environment. I got to know a girl named Iris from Hong Kong who was studying in Tampere, Finland on exchange. Apparently she had seen me during the day on Friday at both the City Hall and the Nobel Museum, and I failed to spot her. We talked for hours on Friday night and this made the stay feel ever more special and worthwhile. Overall, for the train journey, hostel for 3 nights (excluding food) and the Stockholm Card (which includes transport and access to over 80 attractions & museums in Stockholm) it was just over 2000 kr which is approximately £200. This is a reasonable price, considering that we were visiting a city in a fairly expensive country. Would I go again if I had the chance? Definitely! Its such a nice and busy city, quite different from Gothenburg. You can feel that its the financial district with a lot of history, similar to London.

P.S. As pointed out by Danish, we had the opportunity to go to Stockholm Mosque to pray whenever it was prayer time. This was great as it meant we could fit our sightseeing around the prayer time, and we got to see the Muslim population of Stockholm that could fit into the mosque on Friday prayer (Jumaa prayer). Even though not all of them had very good English, they did the best to communicate with us and helped us out if we had any questions.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap year 2012! (90 days to go...)

I could not miss the chance to blog on the leap year, which also coincides with 90 days being left until the end of the academic year at Chalmers. Exam week starts and ends on Saturday here at Chalmers. To have an exam on a Saturday morning is quite normal here. My second exam in the first quarter was on a Saturday afternoon. One of the last exams to take place before the beginning of the second quarter. Luckily this time, I've only got one course which has an exam next Thursday afternoon. My other course is an engineering group project which runs across the third and fourth quarter. For those of you not familiar with the terminology, a course is what you would call a module back in the UK.

In Sweden, there are a number of 'sweets' you have to try before you leave, especially if you stay the full year. The most famous one you come across is kanelbullar, also known as a cinnamon bun in English. They even have a whole day of the year dedicated to it - 4 October. I think I first had this when I was in Haga with Pierpaolo, Alex and Arno. Before you knew it, it was the season of giving - Jul (aka Christmas). Now, the Local UNITECH Chapter (LUC) Sweden held a baking event for all alumni to join. There were two alumni, Pier and I present. We had a chance to bake lussekatt (saffron bun) and knäck (translates to "break"). It was fun baking lussekatt as we all made our own designs as well as the traditional shape. Knäck is basically just a mix of sugar, which is quite unhealthy but okay for that once in a year treat. I also had the opportunity to bake lussekatt with Erik and Sven as well at Ostkupan. The next event was Shrove Tuesday, which has semla dedicated to it. Really tasty, and I had both the traditional one (sold everywhere) and the modified one (sold by 7-Eleven). I can still remember the taste - craving for one right now! Cannot wait for the next traditional Swedish sweet - I wonder what's next?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

100 days to go...

So I'm back! It's been about 5 years since I've blogged. Life has changed a lot. I'm at Loughborough University now pursuing a degree in EEE. It's MEng for those who like specifics. I've done an internship at Jaguar Land Rover for one year during my degree. I've also decided to go on the UNITECH International exchange programme, thus I'm at Chalmers in Sweden. I've got to do another internship of at least 3 months as well as a group report of 35 pages. Have not secured an internship yet, but there's the possibility of getting one in Gothenburg.

So you're wondering, what's at the end of the 100 days? Well, I've been off Facebook for 28 days, so it's not that. Although that's an achievement in itself. As of today, I'll be 'connected' as some things are now dependent on this Web 2.0 platform. What happened to old school email hey? I've realised, in 100 days my time at Chalmers will be officially over. Potentially, this also means my days in Gothenburg, Sweden will also be coming to an end, unless I find an internship here. Therefore, I've got to make the most of what's left. So many things to do in such a short time. Going to require a lot of planning and motivation. A check list seems to work but only for a short while before I start ignoring what's on there. I could try a mind map on FreeMind and see how that goes. Although I can see myself saving it and then forgetting about it. What's your way of getting things done? Any suggestions on things that I have to do before leaving Sweden? Let me know by posting a comment.

Stay tuned for the next blog post coming your way soon (let's hope it's not in one month!)