How I ended up here isn’t one of the craziest stories of mine, but it is definitely one of the luckiest.
It was December 2009 when I came back to California after 4 months of bouncing between England, Sweden, Ukraine and Poland looking for a job. Without a visa I had found it near impossible to stay on the continent which was both discouraging and depressing. Out of dark times can come clarity though which is how I found myself dead set on getting a Master’s degree and very seriously started searching for programs. I was looking at all kinds of them and all around the world when I finally came across one that seemed to be just perfect for me, a self-professed Europhile. It was a brand-new, 2 year program for a Master of Arts in European Studies at Lund University in Sweden.
As it turned out, not only was this Master’s in European Studies right up my alley, but it was also the last year it was going to be entirely free. I had no idea but up until 2010 all education in Sweden was free, you just had to be able to support yourself in terms of living expenses for the duration of your studies. Needless to say I JUMPED on this chance. Seriously doubted that I’d get accepted given the circumstances and odds, but wouldn’t you know… I was one of the lucky 28 that were ultimately chosen.
Some of you are probably wondering what exactly is European Studies anyway? That’s always the first question I get when I tell people it’s what I am doing, so here’s an answer. We study Europe and the European Union using approaches in both humanities and social science. Politics, history, culture, and identity issues are all covered. We ask and try to answer questions like “What is Europe?”, “What does it mean to be European?”, and “Why the hell was Israel in the Eurovision competition?” Just kidding on that last one…sort of.
This has turned into so much more for me than just learning more about Europe and getting another degree. I have met some of the most amazing people and had some pretty amazing experiences; people and experiences that have enriched my life so much more than the books I read or the papers I wrote. The degree will be beneficial to have, no doubt, but it’s what I’ve learned about myself and the world that can’t be determined by a piece of paper that will prove to be even more so. Now more than ever before I believe that the journey is just as important than the destination with all I’ve been exposed to within the past two years both academically and personally.
I can’t express enough the gratitude that I feel towards Sweden for giving me this opportunity (and the U.S. government for granting me a loan for my living expenses, heeey). Just to give you an idea of how grateful I am, I just read my program now costs €11,000 per year, so €22,000 in total that I saved. That’s for non-EU residents, it’s still free for EU/EEA ones. I believe that Norway, Finland and maybe even Denmark still have free universities for all so check up on that if you are interested. Scandinavia is an excellent place to consider studying for English speakers as many programs are taught in English (like mine) and you can get by very easily without speaking the native languages here. Not that you should – I am a strong advocate of learning the language of whatever country you are living in. It’s just that yes, the Scandinavians sure know their English which can make a lot of things easier and transition abroad smoother.
Such an interesting/fun/crazy two years and I can hardly believe that in just a couple days I will actually be “graduating”. It’s just going to be the official ceremony, then in August is when I will defend my thesis and be finished for good. I think. I HOPE. To be completely honest, I have no idea what I am going to do once I am done but I’m pretty sure things will fall into place. I really want to stay and work in Europe, but if all else fails at least I know I’ve got an office in close proximity to the beach waiting for me on Little Corn…