One of the first questions nearly every expatriate in Sweden has been asked upon introduction is why did you come to Sweden. The answers differ from person to person. For Örebro University one of the key demographics of expatriates that come to Sweden are international students seeking higher education prospects. These students are faced with unique challenges, especially international masters students.
International students fall into a different demographic than exchange students. The difference being that most exchange students are only in Sweden for a short period of time, averaging to about one semester of study. Thus they have their own system of regulations that accommodate their needs, such as housing, in a more structured format. International students do not have the same luxury. Many of the global student community faced a great deal of difficulty upon entering Sweden. Many hadn’t been able to acquire accommodations through ÖBO’s housing market before classes begun. Some, depending on the length of their program, are not qualified to receive a Swedish personal number, thus severely limiting their options in many regards such as opening a bank account or purchasing a phone plan. To make matters worse many students feel as if the university does not know what to do with them. That the infrastructure of the Swedish bureaucracy forgets about them once they have arrived in the country.
Trying to correct the issues This is not to say that Örebro University is intentionally ignoring their students. The international department is aware of the issues faced by international students and is attempting to correct these issues. Maria Almquist, the International Student Coordinator, acknowledges that there are issues with the way international students are represented, expecially since there is no designated international student group. – My position is for practical and social problem for the international program.
Maria is responsible for the introduction program that was put on at the beginning of the semester for international students and helps to insure that students are enjoying their time at Örebro. – My associate who coordinates the Swedish masters introduction program and myself are developing a new program for next year that will merge both introduction programs together so that both Swedish and international masters students can become better acquainted with one another.
Swedish Universities are dealing with the problem However, these changes do not aid those who are unable to receive a Swedish personal number from the government for the course of their program. Lena Norström, the International Coordinator for Örebro University, has been attempting to correct this issue from within the university. – There is nothing we can do about the issue with the civic number, because that is Swedish law.
Lena continues to say that universities all over Sweden are having the same issue with the availability of personal identification numbers for international students whose masters programs are less than two years. These universities have been attempting to work with local banks to allow students without a personal number to open accounts so that they may more easily manage their finances while in Sweden.
Overall the Swedish University system is working to better the experience of their international student community. The Student Union of Örebro University provides information about groups and actives available on campus for all students. Students are also able to create their own groups on Facebook or officially through the Student Union office, located right next to Kårhuset.
/ Robert Brewster Skribent