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Strathmore students’ experience at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

From left: Maureen Gichohi, Humphrey Owuor, Lavender Okore and Veronica Mwandau. The four Strathmore University students spent five months at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology OpenLab, in Stockholm, Sweden.
Global Development Hub students representing Strathmore University spent five months at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology OpenLab, in Stockholm, Sweden. The four, Humphrey Owuor, Lavender Okore, Maureen Gichohi and Veronica Mwandau, worked on urban development and health projects during their stay. Maureen and Veronica describe their experiences, projects and lessons picked up from the Swedes.
Maureen Gichohi
What is your education background?

I am a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology (Database administration major) from Strathmore University.

Would you say you are different person from the person you were five months ago?

Definitely. The person I was five months ago is quite different from who I am today. I have walked a long way. Travel gets you out of your comfort zone and into a new environment where you see yourself in a different light. I discovered more of my strengths and my weaknesses; a lot about the latter. It changed me.

What lessons did you pick up from your interaction with the Swedes?

I am also more conscious of time. We would offend our colleagues if we were slightly late to meetings since they take punctuality seriously. We once missed a cruise ship because of this. Since I came back, my time management skills have improved.

What was the hardest challenge you encountered?

I suffered from homesickness though we weren’t gone for too long. Perhaps this experience was heightened by the extreme weather changes.

The language barrier was another hurdle. We knew little Swedish. We once had an amusing encounter while attempting to use a washing machine whose instructions were in Swedish. We used google translate but we watched the machine dismantle our shoes. Needless to say we never washed our shoes with the machine again.

What did you enjoy most?

Apart from Sweden, we also managed to cruise around and visit Finland, Latvia and Estonia. Students are entitled to discounts which makes it easy for foreign students to survive.

What project did you work on?

I took the Open Lab Masters course and research methodology and scientific writing course. For my research topic, I focused on Lightweight Cryptographic Algorithms and their applications on internet of things (IoT) devices. This I did in collaboration with another student from Spain.

Our Open Lab team tackled the challenge of how to improve the patients’ and parents’ experience at the Children’s Emergency Room Sachsska at the South Hospital of Stockholm. Based on previous research and interviews, we identified the main challenge as lack of information flow.

We thus created an animal machine, called SpiderWoman 2.0, an information management tool that improves the experience at the children’s emergency waiting room. With this system, instead of queue numbers, the patients receive an animal of their choice which guides the patients through their journey in the emergency room by providing them with up-to-date information on the process. This reduces the amount of administrative tasks of nurses, provides crucial and stress-reducing information for the parents, and makes the hospital visit more fun for the kids.

 Veronica Mwandau
 What is your education background?

I am a fourth-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Human Resource Management at Strathmore University.

What was your project about?

I took part in the Project Sustainable Urban Planning – Strategies for Urban and Regional Development Student course. In addition to this I enrolled in two other courses, Management and Leadership and Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries. I formed part of the team working on the project: Bridging Jordbro – Spatial Strategies for Social Sustainability. At first, we found it challenging since Urban Planning as a discipline was foreign to us.

What did you take home from this project?

The project, for me, made the city come alive in a special way, as I reflected on the information acquired as we delved deeper into research material. I tried to apply it to cities here in Kenya. I became more conscious of how cities came into being with special emphasis on the concept of sustainable development and how cooperation between all existing actors was key to being able to provide worthwhile solutions to the everyday issues and challenges experienced by a community.

What did you enjoy most?

My first impression was of the green expanse of forests that seemed to stretch out for miles, making the city instantly attractive to me. The tranquil beauty of nature in Sweden remains etched in my memory, from the changes that marked the different seasons to the country’s archipelagos and parks. In addition, the detailed architecture was a delight to behold, as it lent aesthetic qualities to even the simplest of buildings.

I found the KTH firework display where an orchestra played an array of musical pieces as the fireworks discharge in tune with the music quite remarkable.

What lessons did you pick up from your interaction with the Swedes?

I came to appreciate how punctuality was ingrained in the lives of people in the Swedish society. In this regard, the elaborate transport system was particularly noteworthy – its management, ease of access and reliability – all of which enabled one to plan the day down to the minute. Over and above that I admired how structures had been put in place to help subsidize students’ cost of living, enjoyment and survival, which would otherwise be quite expensive.

What was the hardest challenge you encountered?

It was a challenge adjusting to the weather. We would find ourselves going out for a walk at 10 pm as the sun was still up. When winter started, the sun set as early as 3 pm. The changes were disconcerting and our sleeping patterns changed; we would sleep during the day and get up at midnight. Depression easily set in. We would have to be creative and talk to each other in order to keep the blues away.


This article was written by Wambui Gachari.

If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu