Hi, I’m Heidi, a soon to be 2nd year environmental science student and I spent 5 weeks of my summer in Gothenburg at the University of Gothenburg’s summer school for sustainability. As a mature student I never thought I would have been able to spend 5 weeks in another country and fit in with the other students. However, with a very supportive partner and some very appreciated financial support from my university I was able to attend (what might sound cliché) a once in a lifetime opportunity.

On the 3rd of July 2023 I flew from London Heathrow to Gothenburg Sweden. I was feeling a multitude of emotions; anxious about going on my first solo trip, nervous about staying in student accommodation for the first time and hopeful that I wouldn’t regret not working and earning money for 5 weeks over the summer. As soon as I landed in Gothenburg it was raining, so at least one thing felt like home. Before I talk about all the great things I did at the summer school, I have to admit that not everything was smooth sailing and I did have a few hiccups at the beginning. I had issues with the cleanliness of my apartments kitchen, issues enabling wifi and workmen undertaking loud building works right outside my building early each day. However, on contacting the uni support team in Gothenburg they were extremely helpful and, even though the accommodation wasn’t run by them, they managed to get me moved to a new apartment which resolved all these issues.

The summer school had multiple courses and around 150 students attending from countries all over the world. I was enrolled on the ‘Biodiversity in Western Sweden’ course; studying the biodiversity and conservation pathway within my environmental science course I wanted to use this course to broaden and increase my knowledge. I have to admit that the aspects covered in the lectures were quite basic principles that I had already covered in lectures at home but understandably this was enable people from all different backgrounds to be able to join in, as some did not study biodiversity. However, I learned so much more just from the many field trips we went on and from the students themselves that attended; with such a varied group of interests, there were so many different views and perspective brought into discussions. In my current studies we hadn’t yet delved much into Flora or botany and this was an area I was discovering that I liked a lot. Luckily this course had a lot of focus on plants, learning about taxonomy, edible foraging, collation of international plant collections and how to identify and conserve threatened plant species; all taught by specialists and researchers in this field of study. We were able to view non-public collections at the botanical gardens and have a guided tour around the natural history museum and aquarium when they were closed to the public, including viewing areas behind the scenes such as research projects and natural history collections. We had field trips or lectures Monday to Friday with Wednesday off for excursions and the weekends to ourselves. It might sound like a lot but because we were out and about doing practices and only spent a couple of hours a week in lectures it didn’t feel overwhelming. We also spent our last 2 weeks just working on our final assessment where we worked in small groups to form our own NGO and pitch our idea to our classmates; I have to say it was one of the best assessments I’ve completed so far at uni.

When we weren’t studying and attending field trips the lovely ambassadors put on events throughout the city to ensure we saw as much of Gothenburg as possible. We did city tours, visited islands within the Swedish archipelago, listened to local businesses give talks about their sustainability goals and took part in many activities. We went canoeing, rollerblading, watched movies, ate our weight in Fika and sang our hearts out at Karaoke. On weekends I took part in more adventures, one weekend I went to Oslo in Norway and another I went to Stockholm both easily accessible by train and a great little weekend away. And, to my surprise, I made a great small group of friends who I would spend my weekends and evening with; playing card games, going for hikes in national parks, enjoying a drink at the pub and making dinners together learning about each other’s cultures and lives back home.

I went on this summer school experience purely to expand my knowledge in my area of study, and I left with so much more. I learnt a lot from people in the industry as well as my tutors and peers, I stayed in a wonderful city and really got to see everything, and I met 3 amazing people who I now call friends and we are already talking about our next adventure together. Although it rained 90% of the time, I wouldn’t have changed anything about the experience. If someone was to ask me whether they should take a chance on a summer school experience I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes, because for me it was a once in lifetime experience.

Botanical Gardens Collection from the Middle East
One of the many butterflies – Peacock Butterfly
Swedish threatened flora – The Sea Holly
Swedish archipelago
Natural History Museum
Forest adventure
My new friends
My biodiversity class

My Swedish Summer!

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