We are from every color, every country, every nation. Hundreds of Swedish Institute (SI) scholarship holders from tens of countries came together in Stockholm on 30 September 2017 so as to meet, share, change and transform. Each scholarship holder, who studies at the level of master, doctorate and post-doctorate in various fields such as public health, engineering, women’s studies and immigration at different universities in different cities of Sweden, is a global leader candidate in his or her field. For not ruining but building this time or for correcting and maintaining the correct one. For social equality, for environmental sustainability, for a world without hunger.
The day-long event started early in the morning with the arrival of the scholarship holders to the meeting hotel and taking their badges after their registration. In the event presented by Madeleine Mattsson, the welcome speech was followed by the promotion of the Swedish Institute News Service, and the scholarship holders were told that they could share a wide variety of contents from personal to general on the platform.
Subsequently, the presentation of Liridona Sopjani from Kosovo, who came to Sweden for a master study as an SI scholarship holder a few years ago, and then, was accepted as a doctoral student here, was motivating and encouraging. Liridona Sopjani, who shared her experiences before and after her visit to Sweden, underlined that Sweden is a country of great opportunities for a scientist and shared the details of her ‘Grandma Knows Best’ initiative with scholarship holders. Liridona Sopjani aims to take the knowledge and skills she has gained here to her own country, Kosovo, in the near future.
And, fika! Did you know that Sweden is the country that consumes the most coffee in the world after Finland? And did you know that it is one of the countries with the greatest number of scientists in the world compared to the population? It is not known how much it is related to it, but fika, which means ‘coffee break’, is one of Sweden’s indispensabilities. They even say that if you want to flirt with a Swedish girl or boy, invite her to a fika and do not attempt to drink lemonade instead of coffee; otherwise, you may lose it from the very beginning!
And, certainly, one of the most fascinating sessions of the day was the presentation of the lecturer and ‘storyteller’ John Alexander. The successful storyteller John Alexander, who shared with us what sort of cultural shocks he had as an Australian in Sweden in which he arrived years ago, and how he adapted to them, made all of us laugh throughout his presentation, and we actually felt that there is a very entertaining side of the adaptation to the new people and the relevant new culture in a new country. In Sweden, sometimes, it snows so much in the winter months that your car becomes invisible under that snow. And, one morning, (well, even in the morning, indeed, the weather is totally dark; because in winter it is only 3-5 hours daylight in Sweden, which is actually a twilight), you try to get your car out of the snow. But what is it! You realize that the car, you have been trying to get out of the snow for hours, is not yours but your neighbor’s!
After a delightful lunch, this time, the SI scholarship holders, who created their own local networks at different universities in different cities of Sweden and developed new projects through these new networks, took to the stage, and each of them shared their experiences, knowledge, and of course, the challenges as well as the beauties regarding their projects. The SI is a little different from other scholarship sources in the world. It does not only give scholarships to its students but also encourages them to socialize with each other, just like the Stockholm meeting, to develop new local networks, and to create new projects together in these networks. Moreover, it also funds them in themselves. Last year, 16 different projects were realized in this framework. Each project involving study visits, seminars or events with different contents is supported by the SI with up to a total amount of 20,000 SEK (approximately 2,000 Euros) in two installments, fall and spring.
At the end of the day, two parallel sessions were held. Mia Crawford, Deputy Director Global Agenda of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, gave a presentation on Agenda 2030, which included information on what Sweden is doing and will do on the relevant Agenda. At this point, it is useful to underline that the environmentalist Sweden has a feminist Foreign Ministry. In this country, where women and women’s work are appreciated, almost half of the parliament is made up of women. Additionally, the presentation titled ‘Swedish Language Introduction’ by Peter Lundkvist from Stockholm University showed us what a harmonious and musical language this Scandinavian country actually has. Swedish language is like a song, like a poem. If you wish to learn this language one day, I suggest that you start with Swedish songs and poems.
I have to admit that Stockholm is a very beautiful city. But my city, Norrköping, is much more beautiful. In the evening, on my return from Stockholm, my dear Norrköping welcomed me with the Culture Night events. On any streets, there were concert areas set up in open areas or under tents, tens and sometimes hundreds of crowd were singing and dancing in company with different music bands. Then, you would enter the indoor spaces, and this time, you would encounter the photograph and painting exhibitions. And, even in the personal room (kitchen) of my institute, REMESO, nice people would wait for you to accompany you at the events outside, to say “the night is not over yet!” and to introduce you to new people: a former scholarship holder Edyta who said that she could join us in the local network project we plan to prepare within the SI; Marietta who gave tips on the places and spaces to photograph the most beautiful landscapes in Norrkköping; and, Sofia who is another doctorate student using critical discourse analysis in her academic studies just like me. Norrköping is beautiful, and beautiful are the people.