Tom Collins, NZSBA's 2018 Scholarship recipient: His experiences in Sweden
Hej! I’m Tom and I was awarded the Hans and Pat Björklund Scholarship for studies in Scandinavia last year. Since being awarded the scholarship I have moved to Sweden and started a two-year master’s programme in Global Studies at Lund University. The course has been fantastic so far. We have mostly been focusing on how the process of globalization, with all its various political, social and economic factors, has impacted millions of people around the world. For example, in one essay I looked at how globalization, particularly through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, has created an identity crisis for many young people.
Through platforms like Facebook and Instagram people can constantly compare themselves to others, no matter where they’re from in the world. This exacerbates feelings of inadequacy by enabling young people to always see a picture of someone that is more attractive, successful, happier or popular than them. I think the erosion of ‘local’ social structures, such as sports clubs and neighbourhood gatherings, compounds this problem by weakening the mechanisms that young people used to use to establish their identity.
In class we’ve also looked at many other topics, such as the rise of populism across Europe, Asia and the United States, the strengths and weaknesses of global institutions like the United Nations and the ethicality of military interventions.
But the course has been more than just the classes. In my programme I’ve also gotten the opportunity to meet a range of people from all over the world. From Sweden and Brazil, to Finland and China, I have had the privilege to talk with and listen to others students who come from very different backgrounds and cultures to my own. This has really been an eye-opening experience, showing me all the unique and wonderful ways that people live in and understand this world. Furthermore, through my course I have made some amazing friends who I’ve been able to share this journey with. I know I wouldn’t have made it through all the late nights and looming deadlines without their help and support. They have been one of the best parts of this master’s programme and I hope they will be in my life for many years to come.
Then there is life outside the classroom. Living in Sweden has been a lot of fun. Lund is a real student city, with so many clubs and events to participate in. Every day it seems like there is something to do, whether it is going to interesting lectures on politics and history, international movie screenings, board game nights and the occasional party or two. However, for me, the most memorable activities have been working for the local student radio station, Radio AF, and being a writer for the student magazine, The Perspective. Lund has also been great for how many things there are to do around it, from the beautiful national parks in the Skåne region to the vibrant and international cities of Malmö and Copenhagen that are only a train ride away. I’ve also been lucky enough to visit Belgium and the UK to spend time with some friends I’ve made while over here.
However, not everything has been easy. Anyone who has experienced a Scandinavian winter will tell you that. I’ve missed my family and friends from back home a lot and felt pretty overwhelmed at times. But what I’ve learnt is that those moments are as much a part of this experience as the happy times are. They’ve taught me to appreciate what I have and helped me figure out what really matters in life. As my Auntie always says, “Tom, this isn’t just a Masters in Global Studies you’re doing, it’s also a Masters in Life”. So for that, I have to say a big thank you to Chris Linton, James Clague and everyone at the NZSBA for giving me this amazing opportunity to grow as both a student and a person. It has truly been a life changing experience and I couldn’t have done it without you.