My Time in Uppsala: A PHBSer's Exchange Experience in Northern Europe
2024-06-14 14:41:48
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Once so unfamiliar we’d always get it mixed up with Switzerland, Sweden has since made itself known in China through H&M, IKEA, Volvo, and many others. 


Xu Wenxin, Class of 2022 Full-Time MBA Student
Exchange study at Uppsala University, Sweden from August 2023 to January 2024
To me, more than the products from its popular brands, the Scandinavian country offered an escape from Shenzhen’s fast-paced life that I’d been longing for. Yearning for the simplicity and calmness of the Nordic countries, I chose to study in Sweden. It did take me some time to get used to the lack of sunlight in winter, the vast yet sparsely populated areas, and the individualistic nature of the people—I was lonely and uncomfortable at first. But time went by, and as I gradually adjusted and integrated into the country and culture, I also began to enjoy its peace and beauty.
Scenic views of Swedish streets
I went to Uppsala University, Nordic's oldest university. Founded in 1477. Uppsala University is famous for its profound historical heritage. Its advanced teaching methods and international academic environment attracted me, and through my time there, I got to experience a learning model that’s different from traditional classroom teaching. Presented through seminars, workshops, guest lectures, tutorials, and other formats, it emphasizes independent learning and teamwork, encouraging us to actively explore knowledge.

A glimpse of Uppsala University
The Business Strategy Course & Learning About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Out of my many wonderful classroom experiences, it was the Business Strategy course that impressed me the most. It combines large lectures with small group seminars where students teach each other. 
Initially, I felt uneasy because my spoken English wasn’t fluent enough, making each seminar a big challenge. But continuous encouragement from my team, combined with lots of practice and communication, made it easier to push through and eventually, I was able to express my opinions freely.
One topic in the Business Strategy course stuck with me, and that was the operations of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Nigeria. I gained a solid understanding of international development and developed a strong interest in global health issues from analyzing the various challenges MSF faces in Nigeria, such as health crises caused by war and violence, weak infrastructure, and other issues. The discussions we had gave me a lot of insights into the importance of technology in emergency medical assistance and how to better utilize technology to improve the efficiency and quality of medical services.
The Business Strategy course allowed me to re-examine the rise of China and the issue of global poverty from a Western perspective, providing me with a new dimension of thinking. Through my discussions with teachers and classmates, I came to realize the importance of different cultures and perspectives in the context of globalization. The cross-cultural collision and integration not only enriched my knowledge but also made me more open and tolerant towards different perspectives and cultures. 
The Uppsala Life and Sweden’s Tradition of Fika
Outside of the classroom and the courses, I really enjoyed the fun and vibrant everyday life in Sweden. Other than competitive sports and partying, a common thing to do for students is to join the Nation, which is the oldest student society of Uppsala University with a history dating back to the 17th century. There are 13 Nations in Uppsala University, named after different provinces in Sweden. These Nations provide students with unique and diverse services based on the characteristics of their respective locations, making students' campus life more colorful.
Uppsala Cultural Night
Another significant part of Uppsala is Uppsala Cultural Night. Held on the second Saturday of September every year since 1989, Uppsala Cultural Night is a traditional event featuring exhibitions, dances, singing, and delicious food stalls that involve local cultural workers, institutions, and enthusiasts as organizers and performers.
Apart from the student life and annual festivities, the Swedish people are known for their tradition of fika: the custom of enjoying a cup of coffee with family and friends no matter how busy they are. It’s not about the cup of coffee, but rather the concept of drinking it together, slowing down, and enjoying the moment with loved ones—surely is part of the Swedish culture that made me appreciate their pursuit of quality of life more.
It takes courage to set off and leave one’s home, but traveling to a strange place alone was something I had been longing to do. And when I was out there, I got to chase the gorgeous aurora in Iceland, see the flying Santa Claus in Switzerland, and learn that there’s no Grand Budapest Hotel in Budapest like the movie—and neither is there Prague Square, from the song, in Prague.
“People don't live a lifetime, they don't live a few years, a few months, a few days, but they live in those few moments” *. My six months of wandering created countless moments that soothed my soul and will stay with me for a lifetime. During this journey, I learned to let go of my past obsessions and embrace every new day. I’m grateful for everyone and everything I encountered along the way, as they all helped me grow and become more resilient. Looking back, each challenge led me to understanding myself and the world better.

At Black Sand Beach of Iceland
There’s still a long way to go, but I’m using this courage and tenacity to continue moving forward, exploring more unknown worlds, and pursuing a better version of myself.
* This translation is a paraphrase, not a direct quotation.
This article was originally written in Chinese by Xu Wenxin. Click below for the original version.
Source: MBA Program