"Lund is actually a city of opportunities, offering a lot for learning and development, especially for the accompanying family members who can benefit from many such opportunities, often for free of charge. Thus, my son currently studies for free in an international school in Lund which has an International Baccalaureate program, a high quality international educational program."
Hi, my name is Ruhiyya Isayeva and I am from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, a country known in the world as the "Land of Fire". In this article I will share my story of love with Lund and how important to follow your dreams regardless of any fears and challenges and never give up if something goes wrong.
I came to Lund in 2018 following my dream of studying in Lund University’s Master program on International Human Rights law. I heard about this program, Lund University and Lund as a city for the first time in 1998 when I was studying the Bachelor’s programme at Khazar University in Azerbaijan.
I believed that my education in this program, which is one of the leading Master's Programmes in Human Rights in the world being organized by the Faculty of Law, Lund University in partnership with the Raoul Wallenberg Institute will bring a positive change in my life and will help me to make a positive change in the lives of others.
When I checked the webpage of Lund University for the first time, I saw the picture of the attractive main university building with beautiful blossoms of Magnolia tree in front of it, and I just fell in love! But due to obstacles imposed by the gender stereotypes in our society for being a girl, woman and mother I could not realize my dream for many years but instead I decided to try breaking those stereotypes by learning, developing and being successful.
I knew that only through good education and development, and economic independence I could stand for my rights and rights of other women and girls in our society. As Mahatma Gandhi, famous Indian lawyer and leader, said: “…we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” So, from a vulnerable girl I became a happy wife, mother of two brilliant children, a successful advocate, teacher, trainer, consultant, mentor and coach.
There is a saying that behind every successful man, there is a woman. I think behind every successful woman, there is definitely a hard work and often also a man, who either with his absence or adverse impact forced woman to become strong and successful, or stood by her side supporting her in the journey to success. I was lucky marrying such a man who believed in me and supported me along my career development and in all my efforts.
With high levels of trust, we feel resourceful, we are independent and autonomous and are willing to risk and take on challenges. But we also often get busy in our daily routines so much that do not think about our awareness of who we are (what are our strengths, values, purposes) and what do we really want (do we have meaningful goals) in this life.
At certain point of my life I realized that I want and can make more for my family and for our society, that I want to make a change in my life, that I have a dream which I wish to pursue very much but have been procrastinating for many years, that this education may help me to enhance my positive impact on the lives of people and bring a positive change to the society and country I live in. As was said by Walt Disney “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.
Thus, passing through all the obstacles on my way, finally I got the courage to pursue my dream and made a decision to come to Sweden, Lund for a new beginning in a country and city which I never visited before but had a feeling that I will definitely love it. Finally, after 20 years My DREAM came true thanks to the Swedish Institute’s Visby scholarship and support of my family.
I came to Lund together with my 11 years old son, taking a risk and leaving behind in Baku, Azerbaijan my handsome husband and 17 years old daughter, who had just graduated the high school and entered the same year Khazar university which I have graduated 20 years before. I also left behind my successful and well-respected jobs of the advocate and university teacher with decent income and good reputation and status.
My love with Lund was at first sight, it started from the Lund Central train station where upon arrival I took a deep breath to feel the smell and spirit of the city, and that was a very fresh, clean and light air filled with beautiful smell of flowers, which made me feel so happy and so native like I’d lived here all my life.
My love to Lund increased even more after seeing how green is the environment in the city, how nicely the nature is preserved and at the same time how accessible it is to people, how well is maintained the balance between humans and nature; and how open, friendly and supportive the people, where people used bicycles as main transportation, and this was definitely that city of my dreams where I would love to spend the rest of my life.
One of the first and main issues that I faced in Lund was an accommodation problem. Unfortunately, at that time when I arrived in Lund, I did not yet have my own accommodation to stay. Although being a non-EU student, I was entitled to a housing guarantee at LU Accommodation, but unfortunately they refused to accommodate me because of my 11 years old son, since according to its policy children cannot stay in student accommodations (I hope to be fair the LU Accommodation will change this policy and will provide housing also to student-parents).
So, I realized that I need either to “sink or swim” and started active searches for the accommodation in all possible platforms. But it was extremely difficult to find the accommodation in Lund, firstly, because Lund was well known for the lack of accommodation, secondly, I was searching being outside of Lund and Sweden and thirdly, I needed the accommodation to live with a child and many landlords were rejecting to rent out as soon as they learn about child.
So I took the risk coming to Lund with a child even without a guaranteed place, but fortunately, a new friend, a single mother from Azerbaijan whom I met via Facebook while searching for Azerbaijani people living in Lund, has kindly offered me to live temporarily in her apartment located in the western part of Lund until I find another place. But many people whom I met suggested me that I do not hope much in finding accommodation in Lund which is almost impossible to do in August when so many students arrive and advised to try searching the apartment in Malmö or other neighboring cities.
However, I was very persistent and believed that I will definitely find something in Lund, close to my university and school of my son, which I have arranged in advance before coming to Sweden. So, the magic happened, and I was lucky to find a 3-rooms apartment in the southern part of Lund and move in the next day, which was just my 5th day in Lund.
I rented this apartment from the private person who had the flight the next morning and promised to sign the official long-term contract upon return in one month. Since I had no any other options available and did not feel comfortable occupying the room of my friend’s child, I decided to accept this offer even without contract.
But, after one month of happy living together with my son in that apartment, in the evening, on the day when I have invited Azerbaijani students for a dinner at our place, suddenly appeared the landlord at the door with all the luggage stating that came to stay in the apartment and to my argument about agreement on long-term contract the answer was short – show me the contract.
That was a very embarrassing moment for me as a lawyer however using my litigation skills though without any litigation, I attained my right to stay in that apartment until I find another place and without any payment as a compensation for the failure of the landlord to act in a good faith.
After one month I already moved to a new short-term place, and then to another place thus moving three times during 4 months (which happened at the same time with my take-home exams) exploring different parts of Lund. Finally, after 6 months of coming to Sweden I found a long-term accommodation, this time in the northern part of Lund, being luckily contacted directly by the landlord, a nice Swedish woman doctor, who saw my announcement at Bopoolen.
Although these accommodation related challenges were very stressful and required a lot of time, efforts and resources during each such moving (like cleaning, packing, transportation, unpacking, cleaning again, plus cooking and caring of a child) and impacted the results of some exams, but also taught me a good lesson that trusting people is definitely good but better to have a rent contract in written, which I advise now not only as a lawyer.
Thanks to these challenges I also got a useful experience on how to search for accommodation in Lund and what are advantages and disadvantages of each part of Lund, which I share now with others, referred to me by my contacts.
I am happy to say that the impact of the Swedish Institute's decision to support my education at Lund University had a tremendous positive impact in my life and life of my family members, since by deciding to support the education of a woman, it has also opened the opportunity for all my family members to benefit for free from high quality education available in Sweden, making a positive contribution as minimum to the Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5.
More about the Swedish Institute at their website
Since after the problems in finding a long-term accommodation in Lund which forced me to move several times and therefore started impacting my studies, I realized that I need help, so I sent a SOS to my husband. Thus, my husband with two higher education, in Medicine and Law and extensive experience in public health, taking unpaid leave from his job joined me in Lund in order to support with household and parenting duties so that I could focus on my University studies.
But soon I realised that in addition to university studies and being the course representative, being a member of the student nation and academic and juridical associations, I am also involved in many extracurricular activities, like studying SFI (Swedish for immigrants) at Folkuniversitet, organizing events for students having been elected as a Chairperson of the Board at the Swedish Institute Network for Future Global Leaders (SI NFGL) in Lund, and a Vice-President at Jus Humanis International Human Rights Organisation, engaged as an International mentor and International Student Ambassador at Lund University, etc.
More on learning Swedish
During my tenure at SI NFGL (2018-2019) our Board has organized 18 events (like seminars, study visits to Tetra Pak, Volvo, Axis, Sysav, etc.) for the students and alumni, which were attended by more than 400 people. These activities and successes made me so happy since I knew that they make a positive change in the lives of all involved people. A certain positive impact of these activities on me was that by keeping myself so busy I did not feel much the darkness and coldness of Lund as claimed by others.
Lund is actually a city of opportunities, offering a lot for learning and development, especially for the accompanying family members who can benefit from many such opportunities, often for free of charge.
Thus, my son currently studies for free in an international school in Lund which has an International Baccalaureate program, a high quality international educational program. In addition, he attends the Lund's Academic Chess Club, a Premier League chess club, which he successfully represented in several chess plays being a very good player. He also attends each Sunday the Russian School “Karusel” where he learns Russian language and Literature, Math and other subjects.
My husband benefited from free SFI courses provided by Folkuniversitet, attending which he could learn Swedish up to advanced level.
And finally, one of the best things in our life, was the possibility for our daughter to join us in Lund having entered in 2019 the Lund University’s Bachelor program in the School of Economics and Management and fortunately was exempted from payment of tuition fee for the first year.
Accordingly, all four members of our family became students in Lund, a city considered the number one for students in Sweden offering, an exciting campus environment with excellent libraries and a vibrant student life, an international atmosphere and memorable student traditions.
Based on our example we can definitely claim that it was rightly said that “if you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman you educate a family”. Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process.
That is why it is very important to support education of women, ensure their participation in decision-making and leadership, since empowering them will improve access to education and healthcare for their families, make companies more profitable and promote the development of a country furthering economic, social, and political progress for all.
Therefore, it is not surprising that I have chosen the topic of my Master thesis to be “Respecting Human Rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through ensuring involvement of women in Human Rights Impact Assessment”.
Every end has a new beginning, so soon I will be graduating from Lund University and now I dream of getting job in Lund or Skåne, which will be the start of a new beginning. The priority number one for me is getting a PhD in Lund University, however, considering how competitive it is, if it does not work this year I will be also looking for other relevant jobs in Skåne, which will enable my children to continue their education as well as provide us a chance to live in this lovely city of Lund which became so native to our family.
I have been successful in joining different organizations as a volunteer. One of such organizations is "Rädda Barnen" (Save the Children) where I volunteered to visit twice a month the Centria deportation centre in order to work with children who are temporarily being held with their families before deportation. It was a good opportunity for me – particularly as a human rights lawyer – to understand more about the experience for families and the conditions they are under there.
To the Rädda Barnen website
I also volunteered to help the organisation called "CISV Malmo-Lund", which is a local association of CISV International - a worldwide movement working toward peace and intercultural cooperation and understanding, to organize the international Village Camp in June-July 2020 for children.
CISV Malmo-Lund website
I am also actively involved being a Board member in the activities of the SI NFGL Lund organizing various events for students, as well as in the Sweden Alumni Network Azerbaijan and Turkish Women and Child Organisation in Skåne.
But finding a paid job in Skåne is not an easy task and as I have realized during these two years of observation networking is the best and probably the only effective way to find a job in Sweden.
In addition to having a very active and well-developed LinkedIn profile, using social media platforms, attending various events, sharing your need for a job with all your friends and connections it is also recommended to join different mentorship programmes offered in Sweden that aim to help the job seekers.
One of such programmes, which I joined is a mentorship programme called "Mitt Liv", which is focused on career skills.
Another program that I am involved is the Kick-Start Program of International Citizen Hub Lund. This Spring Master’s students of Lund University and graduates were provided the opportunity to join the program to get useful tools that will increase the opportunity to reach the job market in Sweden.
The Kick-Start Program
In general, International Citizen Hub Lund is an excellent venue for networking where there is a very warm environment created by its friendly and helpful staff (including Lisa, Maria, Martina, Cynthia and others) who work hard to make Lund a better place for all of us to live in. Therefore, I would strongly recommend not to miss their interesting events and drop-in hours, where international talents and their families can get helpful information.
Although currently due to the Covid-19 pandemic all events and activities on programmes are cancelled or postponed in Sweden and in all over the world but I believe that soon this global pandemic will end and we will be able to enjoy our life as before, and may be even better, with more social communication and more Swedish fika (which I missed a lot…) with our friends and connections.
In the meantime, I would advise to all who read this article TO
And please remember that all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. So, make a choice to be courageous, believe me you will never regret it.
/ Ruhiyya Isayeva