Student experience - Masha Sudareva
Masha Sudareva is currently studying a Bachelor of Science with a Bachelor or Teaching, majoring in Genetics and Ecology. She went on exchange to Lund University, Sweden. While overseas, she also travelled to Denmark, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, and Greece.
“Going on exchange is something that I had been talking about doing since I was about 17 years old. There was never a doubt in my mind that this was something that I most definitely wanted to do. I was in a position where I could take advantage of the opportunity to study overseas and be involved in something that is truly a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience – it almost seemed foolish not to.”
“Since I want to teach, I wanted to study in a Scandinavian country, as I knew that they were particularly commendable for their approach to education – being ranked as one of the top education systems in the world. I also knew that Sweden was probably not a place I would choose to go on holiday to since it is so far away and expensive to travel to. However, it was somewhere I knew I would like to live in and experience the culture.”
Masha had previously travelled with her parents, and once with some friends to New Zealand:
“I felt in those circumstances that I was actually quite sheltered and never in a position where I was the one making decisions. And all of a sudden, that was exactly what my exchange was – deciding where I wanted to visit and how long for, trying to communicate with locals, booking flights, hostels, and trains, cooking for myself, and of course boring things like laundry and mopping too. It was like jumping into cold water – I was suddenly forced to become fiercely independent or die trying.”
“I really liked how developed and clean Sweden was – it truly felt like it was a country which was truly in tune with the direction the world is heading. The country doesn’t rely on fossil fuels at all and has plans to be carbon neutral by 2045. Even my student dorm had a recycling system which included 5 different types of bins for each type of rubbish.”
“There’s a strong emphasis on nature and respecting your surroundings. Even as you wander the streets you will be incredibly hard-pressed to find any litter. My friends and I would spend the majority of our free weekends hiking through all the national parks that were nearby, all of which were very easily accessible by public transport. All of the parks were breathtakingly beautiful and it was truly something else revisiting the same place a few months later and seeing how the scenery and fauna changed with the seasons.”
“What makes Lund so unique is that it has ‘student nations’, which are basically clubs that students join. They gave a great deal of discounts on cafes and stores around town, as well as access to weekend brunches and social events – all run by students, for students.”
Masha’s favourite thing about Lund University was how central everything was:
“Everything was accessible by bike and all the roads were beautiful to ride on. The streets were cobbled, lined with small, cute-coloured houses, and had flowers sprouting literally everywhere. It felt like I was in a fairy tale town.”
When we asked Masha about how Lund was different to studying at Adelaide, she said:
“One thing that particularly stood out to me was after a presentation I made to the class, one teacher took each student to the side individually and gave them feedback – not so much about the content, but rather their mannerisms and techniques while presenting. I had never had a teacher be so explicit and constructive about public speaking to me before! It felt like my professor genuinely had my best interests at heart, which I am incredibly grateful for.”
“Exchange was truly a life changing experience. You have the opportunity to meet a whole variety of people who may be completely unlike anyone you usually spend time with at home, and this might mean having conversations you wouldn’t normally have about things you don’t usually talk about, which can be incredibly refreshing. There’s also the time component of exchange – making sure you don’t let 6 months go by without making the most of it. Every spare weekend, within reason, usually involved going on some sort of trip, even if it was something small like going to a park or city nearby. It was nice, it usually meant that I was doing things I had never done before, like staying in the Finnish Lapland in -20 degrees, wandering through cities alone for the first time with nothing but my headphones, or jumping into the ocean with my friends after a sauna.”
“It was a completely bizarre and surreal experience, and there were times where I really had to stop and evaluate my thoughts and behaviours, understanding conditions which I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to if I was at home.”
Masha is currently working as a tutor at Glenunga International High School, and prior to leaving for Lund was working with children in after school and holiday care, as well as private tutoring biology.
“I’m currently aiming to be a secondary school teacher, specialising in biology. However, I don’t want to restrict myself in any way, and if an opportunity comes up to further my career in science, I will strongly consider it.”
Masha’s advice to future Study Overseas students is to keep a journal:
“I received one as a gift from my sister before leaving, and it was the best gift anyone has ever given me. I wrote in it fairly frequently, and now it is one of my most prized possessions. I absolutely love reading through it, especially in the beginning of my exchange when I was so anxious about meeting and becoming friends with new people. Now it almost seems trivial.”
“Another piece of advice I would recommend is get to know the people from Adelaide who are also going to the same host university as you. One of the boys who also went to Lund with me (and has actually become quite a dear friend of mine) added everyone on Facebook and organised to meet at a bar beforehand so we could all become acquainted with each other. Even though you don’t necessarily need to become best friends with the people from your home university, it is nice to at least have a friendly face going to a completely unknown place with you.”
For now, Masha would like to explore more of Australia. She plans to do a trip along the east coast in January, and hopes to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. She would also like to complete the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, Yosemite in California, and a backpacking trip through South-East Asia.