International students:
Christian Robson

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Christian Robson. I’m 24 and I’m from London. I have an undergraduate degree in applied biology. After finishing that degree, I took a year off, during which I taught English in China. Then I came here to continue my studies. I’m in my first year of a master’s programme in marine science.

Why Sweden?

I know people from Sweden; plus, university is free here. In England it would have cost me GBP 20,000 to do a master’s. The people I knew in Sweden lived here in Gothenburg, but they’ve now moved to Australia. But then I met my girlfriend, and I’m living with her now.

Why Gothenburg?

Because this is where my friends lived. I applied to a couple of places but got accepted here.

What are your future plans?

I’m hoping to get a PhD. But I don’t know if I’ll go on to that in Sweden, because I love to travel. Maybe I’ll try a different country. I’m interested in working in environmental and nature conservation.

What are the differences between studying in England and studying in Sweden?

In England you take three to four courses simultaneously and you do all your exams in the same period. Here in Sweden you take only one course at a time. In England you’ve got more to do, but it feels like it’s more about memorising stuff. Here in Sweden, the instruction and the studying are based more on the course than on the exams. In England it’s a lot about “Learn the facts and make sure you remember them until the exam”. The way you learn things here in Sweden is more usable.

Another difference is that in Sweden things are much more informal than in England. The way people talk to the lecturers seems very strange to me, since in England the lecturer is high up, while you are low in the hierarchy. In no way are you equals, since they are so much smarter than you – they’re taking time away from their important research to teach you. It’s important to show them respect, and you always say “Sir”, “Ma’am”, or “Mr.” Here, though, everyone addresses the lecturers using their first name, and you can talk to them as you talk to other students. It’s kind of strange.

Apart from these differences, there’s actually not much of a difference between England and Sweden.

How many foreign students are there in your class?

There’s only one Swedish person in my class, while there are maybe seven people in the class. I have realised that in Sweden you often do both your bachelor’s and master’s in the same place. Since in England we take so many courses at the same time, many people become tired of being in the same place, so it’s common for students to go abroad or to some other university to do their master’s. In England, it’s easy to get into master’s programmes. There’s no need to improve your grades to be accepted.

Tell us more about when you taught English in China?

I’ve always wanted to travel. So after 17 years of school in England I had to get out and do something else. I looked around for different things I could do and ended up applying to teach in China. All you needed was a TFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, which you can get on the Internet. I applied and they gave me a job at a school. It was a great experience and it was also there that I met my Swedish friends. Travelling is very useful, that’s when you meet people who show you where to go next.

Christian Robson, England, graduate student in a master’s programme, marine sciences.

Christian Robson, England, graduate student in a master’s programme, marine sciences.

What is your thesis going to be about?

It’s going to be about invasive species that can be transported in the ballast water of ships. We are going to try to find out if it is equally hazardous for a ship to go from Hong Kong to the Philippines as from Hong Kong to Africa. We will also try to develop maps to show how invasive species move and what areas might be more risky to sail between.