Student Interview: 3 months in Sweden with EUniWell
You did an internship with EUniWell. Where exactly did you do your internship, Lea?
Yes, I did an internship within EUniWell and it was in Växjö in Sweden, a very small and tiny town. And we, me and Franca, another student from Cologne, did this at Linnaeus University, the local university. The special thing about this university is, it has two campuses and one is in Växjö and one is in Kalmar. I was in Växjö and Franca was in Kalmar. We both did the internship in the Office of External Relations. Which means that it was basically like administrative work within international relations between universities, and EUniWell is a big part of this office. Linnaeus University is part of the EUniWell Alliance with, at the time of our internship, seven other universities.
To get the bigger picture: What are you studying or what did you study in Cologne?
I studied Social Science in Cologne in my Bachelors and I finished my Bachelor the semester before, so last fall semester now. I wrote my thesis and then I was ready to do something. But most of the Master Programmes start in October, so I had a couple of months to fill up, which is why I just applied for a couple of internships and ended up in Sweden.
So why did you want to do an internship abroad, if you want to add to your previous answer?
I mean, it's probably kind of harder to imagine doing an internship abroad and the organisational stuff around it. But I only searched for internships abroad. I wanted to improve my English. I wanted to see and live in different countries, mostly in European countries because for like three months it's kind of hard to do your internship somewhere else.I think there's something very nice and special about doing it abroad. Especially if you want to improve your English skills, if you want to have a networking aspect as well in different countries. And I just wanted to do something practical after two years of COVID, with only doing theoretical things and not being in contact with people.
You already mentioned in the beginning that it might be harder to find an internship abroad. How did you find out about this internship opportunity?
Well, that was pretty easy actually. So I read it in my faculty’s newsletter, it was just like an announcement. So this in particular was kind of easy, but of course you need to think about more things than doing it for example, in your own city. Because you need to think about accommodation, transfer and finance of course.
Speaking of financing, how did you fund your stay in Sweden?
The cool thing about EUniWell, of course other internships as well, and maybe not many people know about it, but you can fund your internship within Erasmus, when you do it abroad. You can apply for it - in Cologne - at your international relations office of your faculty. The very convenient or comfortable thing about EUniWell is that the Alliance, especially your partner university, is helping a lot. But even with Erasmus funding, you need to keep in mind that this is not enough, especially when you're in countries like Sweden or Norway... it's OK, but you will need more. I was provided from the Linnaeus University with accommodation, which was super nice, because that meant as well that I did not need to search and pay for something. I had very little time for organising. I knew that I would do this internship three or four weeks before I moved to Sweden. I was kind of happy about that because my accommodation was within a student apartment or dorm room, so a shared building and the university took care of everything and took care of all bureaucracy parts and I just kind of needed to sign it, and of course read it, but so there is basically a foundation.
That sounds great. And why did you choose EUniWell? Did you know EUniWell before you read about the internship opportunity?
I wish I could say yes. But, I cannot. Maybe I read about or knew about it before. But I think that’s maybe one of EUniWell’s biggest challenges, the student communication. There are many opportunities for students within EUniWell, but I was one of the students that had no idea about it until I read the newsletter. So basically, I informed myself of course before the job interview and did research and was like oh okay, it's like a going abroad alliance. That was the first time I got really in contact with EUniWell.
And how do you look back on your stay at Linnaeus University? And in Sweden generally?
Yes, with a very positive prickling in my stomach. I've had a wonderful time in Sweden and at Linnaeus University and looking back it was an absolutely wonderful time. I learned a lot. I met super nice and interesting people for three months. Sweden is beautiful, especially in the summer months. I don't know how it will be in the winter months. But it was special and I think what is very nice in terms of doing an internship within EUniWell is that you have a combination of university life and work life. Because you are doing an internship at one of the universities, so it is super easy to get in touch with people, especially if you are living in a student apartment. Sometimes it's kind of hard because all of your friends start partying and you need to work the next day. But it's OK, you can manage it. It's nice because you see how this whole concept of the university works and how the different departments work with each other and how the communication between students and departments is going. Yeah, it's actually a super nice combination if you're coming out of your Bachelors. Since it is only three months somewhere, it's kind of hard to settle, kind of hard to get to know people and EUniWell offers you a great opportunity to do this.
That's great and what exactly have been your tasks? Maybe you can mention one or two key tasks during your internship.
So basically first of all, you get a very good overview over administrative tasks within the department. But one of the main tasks was for example organising the FestiWell activities for students. FestiWell is an annual event by all EUniWell partners. This year it took place for over a week and each partner had to organise a programme for one day at its institution. You have for example different speeches and podium discussions. And of course we wanted to do something to get in touch with students, so Franca and I organised student activities to connect students and try to promote EUniWell. We wanted to share the idea and we wanted the students to know that there is something that is called EUniWell. And then another task was about a new IT-programme at Linnaeus, where all of the data of the exchange agreements between Linnaeus and its partner universities are in, which are many. This programme has been changed and I was part of seeing how it works and updating files as well as doing more data analysis with it.
Maybe you have mentioned it already a little bit, but what do you see as the main takeaway, especially with regards to your work for EUniWell?
I really like the idea of a European identity or a European University. So I really like the educational part of combining different countries within Europe and combining the education and providing a very, very tight contact between partner universities and creating a European identity. And I felt like there's a lot of work to do still, so we are not there in a way. But it's a cool beginning and it felt very nice. There was one day where people from the other partner universities and many EUniWell managers came to Linnaeus and it felt great to be part of this, and to see how motivated people are and how many different projects are going on. There are actually lots of opportunities for students to go abroad with EUniWell. But they are not communicated, so I think awareness raising is still a huge challenge. Because for example, in Leiden the summer school, EUniWell is taking care of everything. So you don't need to think about financial struggles, because lots of students do this, especially after COVID. There are actually huge possibilities to gain experience abroad and I really like this, I think that should be a bigger part generally of universities in Germany.
Yes, thank you for this feedback. We are indeed still building up the structures and I agree that we still have to raise the awareness of opportunities within EUniWell at each partner university.
Now your internship is finished already. And what were your plans afterwards? What did you do after your internship?
Yes, I finished the internship at the end of June. So I had July, August, September off as I applied for different master programmes which would start in October in Germany. In Germany, if you apply for master programmes you don't know if you're accepted or not until the end of August. So, I don't actually know where I’ll end up after this summer because I don't have any answers yet. Directly after my internship I travelled with Franca as well. We did Interrail. There was this huge Interrail sale in June or something where they had 50% off and we just bought our tickets and travelled together through Norway and saw some of those incredible landscapes. Then she travelled back to Germany to start a second internship in August while I travelled to Hungary and Italy, where I am at the moment.
Thank you so much for these insights. It sounds like a really interesting internship. And you had great experiences there in Sweden. But I also hear that there's still room for improvement, especially with regard to communication for students.
You need to keep in mind that it's a very new alliance and that there was COVID. I think there are lots of motivated people in EUniWell trying to do their best. And I had the pleasure to meet a couple. And yeah, there is a lot of potential and there's a lot of things that could be reached and I think it would be very good for you if there are more students involved, for example within internships or working students at the departments. I think there should be working students or interns at each EUniWell university, this would as well provide a closer contact between students and management structures. But yeah, I think there's a huge potential and I'm curious to see how this will all evolve and develop within that.
Okay, thank you very much for this interview and your feedback and I wish you all the best for your Masters applications.
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