One year blogging

Stories that are not written will be probably forgotten. This is why I am grateful for having a blog. This year in Sweden has been simply amazing and I am certain that in the future I will cherish after reading what I have written so far on my blog, which resembles very well my most remarkable experiences at SLU.

Rather than a journal this has also been a space to put out there some of my personal opinions, an opportunity to improve my writing skills and most importantly a challenge for creativity. Only those who have written on a blog know how challenging it is to find new interesting ideas and inspiration. Ohh, inspiration. It has definitely been one of the bottlenecks. I consider I am very creative, so I do have many ideas about what to write. However, not always I feel confident, or just in the mood to write them down. Some other times I do find motivation,  but I just sit in front of the computer waiting for words to come.

I am aware that lately it has been harder for me to allocate time on my blog. I think my studies and life in Sweden have come to a more stable point, in which not everything is new, exciting or special. For example, at the moment I am not taking any courses, but working on my thesis, which is a much more slowly and stable learning process. However I am still motivated and hope to bring many new ideas and stories to this space 🙂

Cheers,

Hernán.

First time skiing

I admit I have complained about winter in Sweden, but there are plenty of fun things to do around Uppsala during this time.  Earlier today I went skiing with some friends to Kungsberget, a ski resort 150km north from Uppsala.

Last night we rented a car with Circle K, which has very affordable prices for a 24h period. This morning we started driving at 7 to be at Kungsberget just after they opened. We booked skiing equipment in advance and went directly to the slopes.

First I learnt the basics at the children area, just to get confident and know how to break and turn. After a few times going up and down I felt confident enough to go on a steeper slope, which was extremely exciting and fun! I only fell once and went down very fast. It was a short and intense adrenaline shot. So I decided to go even higher to a more challenging slope!

Going up up up!

Once there it was OK during the first few meters, but I slowly lost confidence and technique what made it not that enjoyable. Not enjoyable as in I fell more than 20 times. As in I spent more time in the floor than skiing down… I think after doing it for a while my muscles got tired, so I lost balance and stability very easily. To make it  worse, l got more and more frustrated every time I fell on the floor what made me angry at myself.

But in all, it was a very fun and different experience. Next time I will hopefully be able to ski more exciting routes without falling so much, haha.

Cheers,

Hernán.

New year’s resolutions

Determination is the key to success, I believe. This is the reason why every year I like to make resolutions and set goals for the upcoming months. Then,  I will share  here my 2017 resolutions.

Get a PhD position

For me this has been a goal since long ago. Actually, I think this was my ultimate goal when I decided to go abroad for a M.Sc. But this year it gets real, time has come for me to start a new adventure.  Of course I have to work hard to apply and get it.

Finish successfully my M.Sc.

Hmm, well, this is kind of obvious. But I just want to do my best on the time I have left. This of course is mostly work hard on the degree project (read M.Sc. degree project ).

Do more sports

Ahh, the cliché. But seriously, I even signed up for the gym and have been training. Motivation is high so far.

Travel more (within Sweden)

2016 was full of adventures in many different places. This year I hope to travel as much as last year. Actually I would love to see more of Sweden!

Save money

This is kind of another cliché and is contradictory to the previous one. But still I want to be more efficient with my expenses.

 

Write

Yeah, I hope to get much more written. Specially here at my blog.

 

Cheers,

Hernán.

Holidays in Sweden

December is definitely a special month for students living abroad. Besides being the last month of the year it has two major holidays that are usually spent with family, but not enough official work/study free days to go home. Plus, quite expensive flights (specially for me). However, I managed to enjoy my time Sweden eating Pepparkakkor and Glögg 😀

Christmas was very social and cozy. I took part in the Christmas party at the Biocenter, where I am currntly doing my M.Sc. thesis and also at Gotlands Nation, my student association. Additionally during Christmas eve I had dinner with my family-in-law who flew from the Netherlands.

The Christmas party at BioCenter included a quiz and a typical Swedish christmas dinner. Picture by Cajsa Lithell

The week after Christmas I had a very nice trip to Dalarna, a region north from Uppsala. There I went to Fulufjället National Park and made a short hike to see a wonderful waterfall completely frozen. Additionally I also visited Sälen, which is apparently the biggest ski area in northern Europe.  Although I did not dare to ski I did dog sledding which was a very nice experience, even more because the natural setting was simply beautiful!

Waterfall at Fulufjällen National Park in Dalarna

Some international students – and even locals say that winter holidays in Sweden are awful. However, I do not regret staying and would not mind doing it again.

Cheers,

Hernán

M.Sc. degree project

Time has gone by incredibly fast and it is hard to believe that I already started  with my  degree project. It is considered the last part of the master and I see it indeed as a culmination of this process, because I can acknowledge and apply what I have learnt so far. It is a compulsory course  in the M.Sc. in Plant Biology and it is up to each student to decide how much time and credits it will take.Therefore, I decided to use 45 credits on it to spend more time doing  research than taking courses, because I think it will be more useful for me and my future career.

Before summer I did one research training (read more here) in which I explored possibilities at the Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology. Since I liked the experience and the research I performed there I decided to conitnue where I left for my master’s thesis project. So far it has been going smoothly and hopefully I will soon write more about it.

Cheers,

Hernán.

 

Bye bye November!

December I am glad you are here, because November was terrible. Terrible as in awfully dark and cold. Actually, I have heard more than one Swede saying that November is the worst month of the year. And I completely agree.

Indeed, I think that the transition from autumn to winter makes it cold enough to think twice before going out, dark enough to be tired all day and rainy enough to make biking inconvenient. Additionally, since it is not cold enough to turn rain into snow everything is grey and muddy outside. Interestingly, this year the snow record in a single day was broken in the Stockholm area (read Hello winter! ), which made everything cuter. However it melt away few days after and everything was grey again.

Altogether, this made my mood grey and ugly as the weather was. I guess I do not need to explain the low rate of posts publishing last month. Hehe. Luckily I have been coping  with it and feel much better now.

Until next time,

 

Hernán.

 

 

 

#studysustainably

Admissions to master programs at SLU are open since October and will close on 16th of January 2017. Precisely, this year the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences  has created the campaign #studysustainably,  which aims to increase knowledge about and interest for master programs offered by the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at SLU.

But, why to call the campaign #studysustainably? Well, because at everyone at SLU is pretty much committed to sustainability through research and education  from their own perspective and field of study. Nonetheless sustainability is not only seen throughout  studies and academia. The campus itself is sustainable with energy efficient buildings, a recycling culture and even sustainable lawns that do not require trimming (There is even a researcher project regarding this going on. I find it very interesting, read about it here).

The following programs that are part of the #studysustainably campaign:

If you would like to learn more about it, I would strongly recommend to follow the campaign on twitter: @stdysustainably and on Instagram: @pluggahallbart.

 

Exchange for SLU students in Colombia

For students at SLU it is possible to go abroad for an exchange  to different universities around the world. To my surprise,  SLU has an agreement* with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ)- my home university in Bogotá, Colombia. Therefore, I though it would be useful for some people to write about it here.

*The agreement includes an stipend of 650 euros/month for no more than 12 months, requires  B2 Spanish level annd is open to all SLU students.

Higher education in Colombia

Colombian Education system works differently than in Sweden. Public universities are big, but difficult to get in because of the huge demand and few places available. Hence,  most people studies in private universities paying for tuition fees with their own resources (mainly),  or study loans or scholarships. These universities are mainly located in the bigger cities; namely Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla (all + 2M people).  There are very limited courses taught in English, and these are meant for Colombian students willing to learn the language. Otherwise, tuition is in Spanish- reason why B2 level is a must.

Bogotá

Just so you know Bogotá is not warm and tropical. It is situated 2600 m AMSL with an average temperature of 15°C. Nonetheless some days it can be sunny and 23°C, or be rainy and 14°C. It is unpredictable and that part of its charm (you might like to read Three similarities between Sweden and Colombia). It has 8M gently warm-hearted inhabitants, beautiful mountains on the east and a vibrant cultural scene and nightlife. Yes, as many Latin American big cities it has a considerable high crime rate, but during the last few years it has been decreasing significantly. Oh, traffic  and public transport are terrible, be aware of it.

Bogotá from the eastern mountains. Picture by Omar Monroy
Bogotá from the eastern mountains. Picture by Omar Monroy

The University

Indeed, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana is a one of the biggest and more prestigious private universities in Bogotá. It was founded my the Jesuits in 1623 and it is still ruled by them. The University proclaims itself catholic, but students from different religions, beliefs and cultural backgrounds are welcomed and respected. It is located in the city centre and has about 30.000 students coming from different regions, who study 188 programs organized in 18 schools, all in the same campus. Programs taught include a wide range of subjects, from scenic arts to medicine. Precisely,  I enjoyed the very much meeting students from different programs during my studies because they broadened my view on political, artistic and scientific issues.

Arts Faculty building. Picture by Jairo Llano
Arts Faculty building. Picture by Jairo Llano

For SLU students there are interesting courses  taught in Spanish such as Colombian Ecosystems, Colombian Flora, Social and Political Ecology, Socioeconomy of Rural Landscapes,  Agroecology, Threes and City, among many others. Additionally, more interesting courses can be found at the departments of Ecology and Territory, Rural and Regional Development, Biology, Microbiology, Nutrition and Biochemistry, Architecture, Sociology and Anthropology. Often there are excursion within courses to other regions of Colombia and students get usually involved in volunteering programs, ans these are of course open to exchange students too (take a look to both videos below).

Student life

PUJ has implemented what they call medio universitario, which basically aims to create a proper environment inside the campus to make it feel as a second home for students. This includes free access to a gym,  student groups, concerts and many more activities.Student life is vibrant as Bogotá. Since some more big universities are located nearby  PUJ, it makes Bogotá’s city centre a hub for culture,  knowledge and of course partying.  Some even dare to say that Bogotá is the Athens of South America  due to the high number of Universities located there. Living expenses are not cheap though, but 650 euros is more than enough I would say.

Some useful links:

SLU MoveON

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana 

I am willing to answer any further question, so do not hesitate to ask or comment below!

Best,

Hernan.