Being an exchange student in Sweden
Benjawon Omark is a store manager at IKEA.
Here she gives her views on what a one-year student exchange program in Sweden at high school level gave and meant for her career and life.
Why/How come you opted for Sweden?
Actually, it was serendipitous. I applied to study abroad with AFS, an exchange program, and Sweden happened to be available and they made a great match between my profile and a family there. And I decided to go and it turned out to be a very valuable experience.
What did you study, when, where and for how long?
I spent one year at Strömbackaskolan in Piteå from mid 1992- to mid 1993, where I studied the Samhällsvetenskaplig linje. Even though it was a fairly short time, it was an eye-opener.
What is your opinion (quality, content, lecturers) about the education you got in Sweden?
The overall approach in Sweden is very student-centric. Teachers encouraged us to analyze and discuss everything. For example, in English class, while we learnt the structure of English, grammar and vocabulary and such, we were also constantly expressing our views on different topics in English.
One aspect worth mentioning is the multitude of perspectives. We analyzed everything from different viewpoints, and we were challenged to think about not just the facts presented, but who presented them, and what that person’s motif was.
What has the education meant for your career? How?
I approach my studies and my work life differently since then – I’m more analytical. I share more, and take and give more feedback. Westerners have a different way of discussing things than we do, which many Asians find almost aggressive, but it really leads to new insights.
My time in Sweden broadened my perspectives and changed the way I think. I became more independent. Also, I have a much easier time working in a multi-cultural environment. I currently work for IKEA as a store manager and I estimate that over 50% of my success comes from being exposed to Swedish culture and education.
Writer: Christer Nilsson