"In Sweden, you are seldom out of options unless you give up yourself. What I learnt over these years is to keep trying and never lose hope because Sweden is a country that has huge ecosystem for technology, innovation and fintech related companies. It never leaves you out of options, especially if you are studying in related fields and work hard for your goals."
For a guy who is born and raised in Pakistan – in a middle-class family – education abroad is nothing but a fanciful dream. Sweden offered education without fee even for foreign students back in the days, which lead me to Sweden and turned my dream to a reality.
It was March 2007, about thirteen and half years ago, I arrived in Sweden along with three more friends in the same flight admitted to the same program. It was my first ever air travel and first time leaving my family for that long to a country, which my grandmother pronounced as Sudan and my friends understood as Switzerland. I cannot blame them because I too had least knowledge about Sweden’s culture, language, or climate. My knowledge about Sweden was limited to Nobel prize and Ericsson for my passion in communication technologies.
Something is better than nothing
I wish Sweden had continued education without fee for foreign students. I believe it was something for a greater good but let us not whine about why and why not. Despite the fact, the education is no longer free but there are several scholarships for foreign students categorized as university scholarships, Swedish Institute (SI) scholarships and others. My advice to all the foreign students, especially those coming from Pakistan for being International Citizen Hub Lund Ambassador for Pakistan, is to give your best when you are applying for it. Do consider the following aspects:
- For the university scholarships your grades in previous studies and relevance to the applied program matters the most.
- For Swedish Institute scholarships your grades may not matter the most but your work experience, leadership role at work, volunteer work and and have leadership qualities. Do highlight, if you can prove that you have done something good for the greater good of the society as it will help you stand out.
Commitment is the key
In Sweden, you are seldom out of options unless you give up yourself. What I learnt over these years is to keep trying and never lose hope because Sweden is a country that has huge ecosystem for technology, innovation and fintech related companies. It never leaves you out of options, especially if you are studying in related fields and work hard for your goals.
I share my story as an example: I was fortunate enough to get admission in MSc in wireless communications at EIT, Lund University. As soon as my second year started, I started to apply for summer internships as well as industrial master thesis. I sent over 50 applications and when I felt hopeless, I got an offer from Ericsson in Kista, Stockholm, where I worked for about 6 months on my final year project. It was May 2009, unfortunately, the time when economic crises hit the market. Companies were laying off people and almost all of us in my class felt hopeless about our career and were certain to return to our homes. Just one week before my return to Pakistan I got interview invitation for a PhD position that I applied at my department here in Lund, and to my surprise I got accepted for PhD in radio systems. After graduation in 2014, when my contract was about to expire and I booked my tickets to return, I got job offer from Volvo Cars in Gothenburg where I worked for 5 years. In Oct. 2018, I started my consultant company and started to work for Huawei as a self-employed consultant. This is one story, and I am aware of hundreds of similar stories of people I met over these years in Sweden where they just got opportunities when they were expecting the least.
Learn Swedish, as quick as possible and as fluent as you can. It is highly likely that you have lived several years in Sweden without learning Swedish, the mistake I did as well. If you could speak English, you do not feel a need for Swedish because English is like second language (unofficially). The significance to learn Swedish become clear only after you have learnt it. It is not only that you can best communicate your views but the to understand the expressions between the lines, the closeness you get in conversations and confidence boost changes the whole perspective for you. It makes it easier for you to find a job, IT fields are exception. Speaking Swedish is one of the best ways to integrate in the society and get the most out of it. So, Swedish must be on your priority list.
You may hear a phrase “Fika is the most important meeting of the week” or “never miss Fika” etc. Because that is the place where you find people speaking their heart out, sharing opinions and views with friends and colleagues at work and at school. The whole point behind Fika in professional environments is networking. I have realized in all these years that networking always pays off. Focus on networking! It helps you to perform best during studies, to find a job and to excel in your career while being at the job. Start with your classmates as student, professors, companies’ representatives at academic job fairs, follow CEOs and startup at LinkedIn and anyone who you think can be valuable to you. Always keep your objectives clear, do your homework by keeping your social media profiles UpToDate, a nicely written CV, and be open to receive critical feedback. Finally, the most important part in networking is to help others without any expectations.
It grows on you
Sometimes I have asked my friends if they are to leave Sweden, would it be easy for them? I never heard them saying a yes; neither clearly nor right away. You may wonder why?
Due to our cultural background, our social and religious norms, in the beginning, we may have cultural shock, may find people very cold or do not get acquainted to the weather. Slow it grows on you, and you may not realize until it is late that you are in Love with Sweden and do not want to leave. Because Sweden being a socialist country offers amazing benefits for workers, citizens, and foreigners alike.
I can list a few reasons why people love Sweden and how it grows on you:
- The nature is mesmerizing in Sweden. Considering of flat landscape in Skåne, the southern county of Sweden, the archipelago along the east and west coasts spanning over 1000s of islands, cold winters and pleasant summers, colorful autumn and spring, clear air to breath, and Arora “the northern lights” are all carrying their own charm.
- Working in Sweden is like nowhere else; the number of annual vacations, parental leave benefits, work life balance, free healthcare, and social insurances to name a few. You are required to do your job wisely without putting extra pressure on you or stressing you to burn out. There is a rule amongst most Swedes called “Jantelagen”, which is the idea that you are not any better than anyone else. Some people think this is good but others (especially foreigners in Sweden) think this limit competition and a drive to be the best. Sometimes we feel that the taxes are quite high in Sweden as compared to many other European countries, but the rewards and benefits balance it well.
- There is a huge list, but to sum it up I would like to mention Internet speed, which is one of the fastest in the world, so sit back, browse and enjoy.
It is astonishing that more and more people from across the world are moving to Sweden to study, to work, to travel and to enjoy the fantastic society. Let us work harder, smarter and in collaboration to develop us and eventually towards a prosperous Sweden. Welcome to reach out to me!
/ Taimoor Abbas
Taimoor in nutshell
Taimoor born and raised in Pakistan, received MSc in Electronics from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad in 2006, MSc and PhD in Wireless Communications from EIT, Lund University in 2009 and 2014. His research interests include vehicular communications, 5G system, multi-antenna system and machine learning. He has been helping student during his time at Lund University as a mentor for new international students, has lead Pakistan students association at Lund university, and continually managing a Facebook group with more than 30k members to actively support existing and prospects students from Pakistan.