When Strathmore University, renowned for its commitment to diverse educational experiences, partnered with Sweden’s prestigious KTH Royal Institute of Technology, it paved the way for an unforgettable exchange program. Beyond expanding our academic horizons, this journey introduced us to a vibrant new culture. Our group of four students – Don Kamoya, Fridah Nkirote, Tamara Cheruiyo, and Abdifatah Jama – embarked on this life-altering adventure, expanding our knowledge and forging friendships that transcend geographical borders.
Academic Exploration: Broadening Horizons
Our academic voyage in Sweden was nothing short of fascinating. We immersed ourselves in a variety of courses, including subjects as diverse as “Multidisciplinary course for emerging cities,” “Business Model Innovation,” and “Waste Management.” These courses not only expanded our knowledge but also enabled us to hone our critical thinking skills, aligning seamlessly with the core values of Strathmore University.
Navigating a New Environment: Lessons in Adaptation
Our stay in Sweden was a rich tapestry of experiences. The orientation period was an invaluable beginning, offering us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the local transport system, discover efficient routes between our student residence and the university, and embrace the local culture. This orientation, orchestrated by THS, the student organization, extended over a month, providing us with ample opportunities to immerse ourselves in a foreign environment. Our exchange program spanned six months, giving us a substantial timeframe to fully integrate into the academic and cultural life of Sweden.
Economic Realities: Managing Finances Abroad
Sweden’s higher cost of living, compared to our homeland, Kenya, presented a unique financial challenge for us. With differences in currency exchange rates and inflation, everyday essentials such as food and dining out came at a higher cost. Our scholarship funds, while sufficient for a modest lifestyle, required us to practice prudent budgeting and prioritize our expenses.
Comfortable Accommodation and Community Building
Our student residence was not just a place to stay but a welcoming hub for building connections. Located just 15 minutes away from the university, it was a refreshing change from the longer commutes we are accustomed to in Kenya. The apartment we called home was comfortable and well-suited for our needs. It was here that we forged friendships with our fellow floormates, creating a sense of community that was both heartwarming and enriching.
A noteworthy aspect of our accommodation was the communal exchange system, affectionately known as “Kosnicks.” This unique concept enabled residents to share items they no longer needed, fostering not only cost-effective living but also a spirit of camaraderie among us.
Project Highlights: Problem-Solving and Collaboration
Our project, assigned by Open Lab and our design thinking coaches, focused on citizen participation in Stockholm. Collaborating with Stockholm Stad, the city’s quality department, we conducted interviews with city employees, service providers, and residents. The project evolved over time, pivoting its focus toward effectively utilizing the gathered information for decision-making, underscoring the importance of adaptability and innovation in problem-solving.
KTH’s unwavering support was pivotal to our project’s success. We were provided with designated areas for learning and working, access to valuable resources, identification badges for interviews, and a conducive environment for efficient work. These experiences not only sharpened our problem-solving skills but also deepened our understanding of the design thinking process.
Exploring Swedish Culture and Natural Beauty
Sweden’s breathtaking natural beauty left an indelible mark on us. The presence of serene water bodies and picturesque lakes, complemented by the warm-hearted locals, made our stay extraordinary. We embraced Sweden’s dining habits, including early lunchtimes and the delightful tradition of “Fika,” a daily break for tea or coffee, accompanied by pastries. These cultural insights became cherished parts of our daily routine.
Leisure and Cultural Immersion: Connecting Beyond Academics
Our time in Sweden was replete with leisure and cultural activities that allowed us to build connections and friendships. We attended a transformative TED Talk at Karolinska in Stockholm, themed “The Butterfly Effect,” where speakers underscored the power of small actions in creating global change.
Exploring Sweden’s Rich Heritage: Museums and More
Our museum visits were insightful journeys through Sweden’s history and culture. From the Naturhistoriska Museum, unraveling Sweden’s natural history, to the City Museum, providing a glimpse into Stockholm’s urban development, each museum offered unique insights into the country’s rich heritage. The Vasa Museum, housing the remarkably well-preserved Vasa warship from the 17th century, was a standout attraction.
Adventures Beyond Borders: Discovering Norway and Finland
Our adventures extended to neighboring countries, including Norway and Finland. Cruising through Norway’s iconic fjords and hiking in Finland’s pristine national parks were experiences that deepened our bonds and exposed us to the diverse landscapes of Scandinavia.
Life Lessons: Building Lifelong Friendships
Our journey through the Strathmore University-KTH exchange program was more than an academic endeavor; it was a transformational experience. It broadened our horizons, enriched our perspectives, and through it, we forged lifelong friendships. These connections transcended academic collaborations, as we explored Sweden and its neighboring countries, shared cultural experiences, and embraced the essence of global unity.
In conclusion, the Strathmore University-KTH exchange program epitomized the importance of global education. It showcased that learning transcends borders and that the world is a diverse, interconnected classroom waiting to be explored. Our exchange program journey is a testament to the vision of our universities and the power of international collaborations in shaping well-rounded, open-minded individuals.
As we return to Strathmore University, we carry with us not just the knowledge gained but also the memories of a truly enriching experience. This exchange program was a remarkable chapter in our academic and personal growth, and it has profoundly impacted our perspectives on education, culture, and friendship. We hope that such programs continue to thrive, facilitating a deeper understanding among diverse cultures and fostering global unity.
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