Colombian student Andrés Cuaràn, from Bogotá, was already drawn to Sweden for some time before he had the chance to come study here.
“I’ve been in love with Sweden for a long time, firstly it was the music: my family like a lot of rock and metal music. There are a lot of bands from around here, and there is a strong metal scene,” he tells Göteborg Daily.
One could perhaps say Andrés was destined to wind up here. He had even taken a year of Swedish back in Colombia such was his interest in the country.
“Swedish isn’t that difficult a language compared to others, but you have to use it or lose it as they say.”
When he found that he might have the opportunity to come to Sweden to study, he didn’t need much convincing.
“I heard of Chalmers because I had a friend who has been here for thirty years, and when I told him about what I wanted to do, he said, ‘hey man you should come to Gothenburg and go to Chalmers!’”
Andrés did his bachelor degree in civil engineering in the Colombian capital, at the biggest university in the country, and finds the two countries’ education and research systems very different.
“In my country they just prepare you for work, there is a brain drain of people whose ideas can’t be put into practice. In Sweden they can help you.”
An interest in bringing together environmental sustainability with his engineering background led him to Gothenburg and Chalmers University. He has recently begun a master’s course in Infrastructure and Environmental Engineering.
“I’m a civil engineer and I wanted to get into all the environmental stuff and the Nordic countries have a lot of things to teach us,” says Andrés.
“In Sweden they teach you not to destroy so much, and if you do, you replace it. This is different from Colombia where you do what ever is necessary to develop.”
Moving to Sweden gave him the chance to put his Swedish to test, a situation he manages with various approaches.
“I set myself little goals in speaking Swedish, so I say to myself, ‘today I’m going to ask for a coffee in Swedish.’”
On his new university, Andrés only has positive things to say.
“I’ve been here three months, it’s been amazing.”
“Chalmers is a very nice university. They opened their arms to me and said, ‘welcome to the university, you must work hard,’” he laughs.
“Chalmers has everything you need as a student, it understands the professional you want to be and helps guide you and your knowledge to that profession.”
He has some advice to people coming to Gothenburg from abroad:
“Don’t be nervous to speak English with people, everyone speaks it so you can speak with a lot of people. All the people talk about the weather, if you want to talk to a Swede just talk about the weather!”
“Gothenburg is very useful to bike in. Otherwise, you can get a student card to use the buses and trams.”
Although most of his time in the city has been spent studying, Andrés has managed to find a few things to enjoy with his fellow master’s students.
“We like to spend time in the student building in Johanneberg. They have a bar, a club, and they have a restaurant that is very cheap if you have a card.“
“We also like to walk to town: go to Nordstan, or go to Järntorget for a drink.”
“My biggest challenge is that everyone likes to be on time in Sweden, in my culture it’s not the same. It’s ok to be 15, 20 minutes late. Here people say, ’if you’re going to be late send me a message or something.’”
After enjoying his first three months in the country, Andrés is already keen to stay in Sweden and become a researcher in his field.
“I like the culture of the country, the way of life here. You can just live your life.”
“I like the idea of lagom, you have to keep things balanced, not too much, not too little.”
And lofty ambitions have been fostered by his good will and Chalmers’ positive attitude to student research.
“The goal is to save the world right? Here I can put forward ideas and get involved in ideas that can help do that.”
This article was created in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg.