Why Americans love studying in Sweden

International students from around the world often jump at the chance to study in the US. So why is that some American students are defecting to study in Sweden instead?

Why Americans love studying in Sweden
Photo: Linköping University

The Local spoke to a current student and alumnus of Sweden’s Linköping University to find out why they swapped the States for Scandinavia.

Lower fees

In the US, an undergraduate degree can set you back around $100,000 (€90,270) while the average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000-$120,000 (€27,000-€108,000). 

EU students can study for free at Swedish universities and while tuition fees vary for US students – and depending on the subject – it generally costs a lot less to study in Sweden. There are also scholarships available for international students that normally reduce tuition fees by 50 percent.

Photo: Anne Moyerbrailean

“It’s majorly cheaper,” says Anne Moyerbrailean, who recently graduated from LiU with a master’s degree in Gender Studies. “I think most master’s programmes in the US are about $30,000 (€27,000) a year. Whereas, at Linköping University, all I had to do was fill out a form and they gave me 50 percent off my tuition. You just can’t compare.”

Find out how to apply for master’s study at Linköping University

More independence

For Ohio native Adam Grachek, who is in the first semester of a M.Sc. in Intelligent Transport Systems & Logistics, a key difference between studying in Sweden and the US is that the university takes more of a backseat in students’ social lives. While LiU hosts many events and activities, students also play a more active role in organizing student life.

It’s far from the only way that independence is nurtured at LiU. American students might be initially surprised to discover a different approach to learning in Sweden. Whatever the programme, there is always a focus on independent learning and critical thinking — students take the reins of their own education, working in study groups to solve real-world challenges and develop skills that will be valued by future employers.

Photo: Adam Grachek

READ ALSO: The European university turning student ideas into startups

A global education

The world becomes more globalized each year and education needs to keep up. Anne found that taking gender studies in Sweden gave her a more global perspective on the subject — which she is unsure she would have gotten if she remained in the US to study.

“In my experience, there was more of a worldliness to the professors’ approach. I think the US, in a lot of places and ways, falls into this trap of just looking at the US context. Whereas I felt the professors at LiU took a really global approach to feminist studies. And the fact that we were reading texts in so many different languages definitely changes the lens on it.”

Browse international degrees taught in English at Linköping University

It’s more relaxed

Nobody said getting a university degree would be a walk in the park but the Swedish education system is certainly more laidback. For one, relationships between students and professors are less formal and often on a first-name basis. According to Adam, the arrangement of the academic year also takes the stress out of studying in Sweden.

“In the US, there’s one long period of five classes so the workload is more hectic. In Sweden, the period is split up better so that students can focus on one thing at a time. It’s still rigorous and intellectually rewarding with as much process and thought put into the classes but it makes it less stressful.”

Anne believes that the lower fees alleviate some of the pressure — although it doesn’t mean the education is taken any less seriously. It made her feel more relaxed about retaking exams without worrying about how many thousands of dollars the resit would cost her.

“There’s a flexibility and spaciousness. I think it really enhanced my learning experience.”

Diverse student body

There are around 2,400 international students at LiU enrolled on the university’s 28 international programmes. The diverse student body was a bonus for Anne who enjoyed meeting and studying with people from all over the world. It also led to much livelier and more enriching in-class discussions.

“We would talk about things I never even thought about – or came close to thinking about! That was really cool. Before I started the program, I thought I had a well-rounded understanding of systems like gender and sexuality. But through group discussions, I gained a deeper appreciation of the ways these systems shape people differently in different countries. Instead of just learning from books, the Tema Genus program granted me the opportunity to learn from the lived experiences of a diverse cohort.” 

Stepping stone into Europe

Studying at a European university is the gateway to a life and career in Europe where Americans can enjoy perks like more days of annual leave and benefits for families. For example, workers in Sweden get 25 days of vacation and 480 days of parental benefits to share between both parents.

Adam is getting a head start by working as a part-time international student ambassador while he completes his master’s degree, blogging about his study experience. Although Anne is now back in the US, she hopes that this isn’t the end of her European adventure and pictures herself one day living and working in Europe.

“I hope one day to actually move back to Europe and work for the UN or a similar organization.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.


Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses

Kirsten, a Dane from Copenhagen, has been spending her weekends at her wooden holiday house in the Skåne countryside throughout Denmark's lockdown -- and to the irritation of Swedes barred from travelling in the other direction, she is far from unusual.

Danes flout travel advice to visit Swedish summer houses
Kirsten enjoying coffee on her terrace in Skåne. Photo: Richard Orange
“We chose not to follow the government's recommendation because we thought we have important things to do here and we don't socialize with our neighbours at this moment,” she explains when The Local visits her at her house near the village or Rörum in the Swedish holiday district of Österlen. 
“So we get out of Copenhagen and we stay at our own house and in our garden and don't talk to anyone. So we're even safer here than in Copenhagen.”
She points out that the head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, had said from the start that closing borders had been a “political” decision, which had not been recommended by health experts.  
Since Denmark closed its borders on March 14th, Danish residents  have officially been advised not to cross the border into Sweden unless it is “strictly necessary”, even if the latest advice from the foreign ministry is that they do not need to quarantine. 
When Denmark opened the border to tourists from the Nordic countries on June 18th, it left every county in Sweden apart from Västerbotten off its list of “open regions”, meaning the travel advisory for Danes still applies to Skåne. 
The updated guidelines on July 4th expanded the list of Swedish “open regions” to Blekinge and Kronoberg. 
But crossing the Øresund Bridge and driving out to southeastern Skåne been part of Kirsten and her husband's weekly ritual since they bought the house 15 years ago, and it's easy to see why they would be reluctant to leave the house and its beautiful garden untended. 
“I have to take care of my kitchen garden and my greenhouse,” she says pointing to an area — fenced in to keep out deer and wild boar — which is brimming with strawberries, rocket and unusual varieties of cabbage. 
“It would be two or three times as expensive to buy a home in Denmark,” she adds. “We come here all year round, so it's not just a summer house for us.”
For most of the lockdown period, no one really seemed to mind that Danes were visiting their holiday houses in Skåne and Småland. It was only when the lockdown was being slowly lifted that the sentiment suddenly changed. 
“They changed the rhetoric when one Sunday it took two hours to pass the bridge. And we were in that queue. And suddenly all hell broke loose in Denmark and everything was on the news and in the newspapers and companies had to send out new regulation warnings to their employees,” she says. 
“But before that, there was no problem. And we still see a lot of Danish cars on the streets and we know other Danes who also have chosen not to follow the regulations.” 
The couple nonetheless mostly kept their weekly trips secret. 
“I didn't tell anyone in the beginning,” she explains. “We have a doctor in the family that that could lose their job if they do not follow the recommendations.” 
She doesn't think that the flurry of newspaper article about Danes flouting the government's advice has had any impact on the number of Danes she sees crossing the bridge and back over the weekend. 
But some people have clearly stopped. At the nearby port of Ystad, Mia and Rune are taking the ferry to holiday in Bornholm rather than visiting their summer house near the Swedish city of Kalmar, as they have decided to follow the Danish government's recommendations.
“I have to follow the orders from Denmark, of course, but I think it's kind of funny that I can go to Bornholm, but I cannot go to my summer house in Sweden which is out in the countryside,” she said. 
“It's a little silly,” her husband adds. “If we can go the other way, they should be able to go our way as well.”
But Kerstin suspects that many of the cars she sees leaving Copenhagen on Fridays are not simply using Sweden as a bridge to cross over into Bornholm. 
“And if they are all going to Bornholm, some of them are taking a big detour because they head straight off on the road to Stockholm!” she laughs.