After Valborg the weather in Sweden has changed dramatically. And I could not be happier. Not only because of the mere increase in temperature, but also because of all the nice things that come with it. People in general become more friendly, all restaurants and pubs open their balconies and yards, and being outside sunbathing is the general rule. Besides that, the landscape changed completely. Everything is greener, trees are blossoming and birds sing all along the day. I can not really explain with words how fun it has been, therefore I share some pictures in the past few days.
Valborg in Uppsala is huge. And crazy. Traditionally, northern European countries celebrate Walpurgis night for religious reasons. However, in Sweden this celebration is basically to welcome spring (Yes, it is a reason to celebrate, winter was cold and damn long). Although it is celebrated throughout all the country, celebration becomes special in cities with big universities, such as Lund and Uppsala where students take it seriously.
Valborg is a long weekend party, starting on Thursday, and being Saturday the most important day. Therefore a good old friend of mine decided to visit. On Thursday we spent the day in Stockholm and on Friday I took her to see Uppsala landmarks: Castle, botanical garden and city library. We also went to Linné cafe, which is probably the most traditional place to have fika in Uppsala. By 5:00 in the afternoon, the party mood could be felt in the city. There were queues everywhere and streets were full of people ready to hit clubs. We decided to go to Värmlands Nation, and queued for an hour and a half. But it was worth it, we had lots of fun and danced until they turned on the lights.
We woke up on Saturday at 6 am, to walk down to the river, have breakfast there and pick a nice spot to see one of the funniest events of Valborg: raft race!. Students make teams and build rafts to sail in the river. The final aim is to survive one waterfall in city center. It was really fun to see how the failed and succeeded!
Before midday that day we went straight to Ekonomikum park, where all people use to gather. We brought blankets, beers, champagne, food and just lay there to enjoy the nice spring weather. There it was really fun, because I could meet most of the people I know in Uppsala since the park was hell crowded. After this the idea was to go to a bonfire, which is another tradition. But sadly I fell asleep because all the intense days I had have before.
Overall, that weekend was really really really fun. Although I did party to much, I’m already looking forward to next year 😀
Marcelle was born in South Africa and grew up in Johannesburg. She has a Bachelor of Science Honours in Ecology, Enviroment and Conservation from the University of Witwatersrand. The focus of her major was in plant stress physiology, specifically in cold tolerance of two indigenous species in South Africa. Besides being my friend and classmate, she also happens to be my neighbor, so we met up a days ago close to Rackarberget.
Hernán Capador:Marcelle,why did you decide to study Plant Biology at SLU?
Marcelle Jhonsson:I first heard of Sweden as a place to study when I was finishing my Honours. My home university has a mailing network for postgraduate studies, and the Swedish embassy had sent a call saying that there were scholarships for South African students. And I thought, OK, this is a nice goal for me to try next year. So I spent the whole year working about it and looking it up. It became my goal: finish my Honours, get high grades and come to Sweden. I also looked for the top programs in Plant Sciences in Europe. I saw Ghent, Wageningen and SLU. So I chose SLU mainly because it has this really interesting master, and also scholarship opportunities. Also the collaboration they have between Uppsala University, Stockholm University and SLU seemed really good to me, because each of them has different strong points within plant biology. After being admitted to the program I was very fortunate enough to get both a tuition fees scholarship from SLU and the scholarship from the Swedish Institute to cover my other expenses.
H.C.:Tell me more about the Swedish Institute scholarship, because I know you have been involved in some activities because of it…
M.J.:I applied to the Scholarship, with an application focused on sustainability and innovation. Hence, I looked at the program I applied for and thought about some kind of socio-economic issue that society faces and how could I relate what I am studying to solve that. So I thought about plant biology and all the biotechnological applications it had, which could extent to food security, agricultural production, and plant based products. In the application I also mentioned how I had taken part in societies in my home university, which showed my leadership skills, but also that I was actually engaged within the environment I was living in, and this is really important in an application. Besides being academically excellent, of course.
The Scholarship is great, because I became part of what is known as the Swedish Institute Network for Future Global Leaders. This is meant to be a network of people who have demonstrated leadership skills through the application, and the main aim of it is to connect people to one another, then there will be leaders constantly communicating and hopefully in that communication they should be able to solve some of the issues that we face in the world today. I am part of the Uppsala local network and I have met many great people. This has given me a different perspective and opened my mind a lot more, because now I know about many regional topics that we as society are facing.
H.C.:Talking about regional topics, tell me how it is to be a female scientist in South Africa?
M.J.:I definitely think that there needs to be more women in science. I was fortunate enough that during my university career I had a lot of female scientists who were teaching me and who I have taken as role models, especially both my supervisors from my Honours thesis. They really encouraged me to pursue master studies and probably a PhD and also to be confident in my skills. I think nowadays there is definitely an environment in which women are encouraging each other, but I do think that we face a problem because the society we live in is divided along socio-economic lines, and this might make it difficult for people to relate to one another and their circumstances. That is why, in my opinon it is a big step to be even a female professional in South Africa.
I know Marcelle will be a high profile scientist and a role model for other South African women. She likes taking a lot of pictures and is the best hashtagger I know so far, so find her on Instagram and Twitter as@marsally498