Session 1 is over in Stockholm, Sweden! Week 3 wrapped up my Social Psychology class and was filled with a boat archipelago tour, a visit to the Ice Bar of Stockholm, and a great concluding dinner with all UNC students at Restaurang Kvarnen. During this last week, our class was also fortunate enough to host “A Panel of Swedes,” where a couple of Swedish University medical students were able to come and have a two-hour Q&A over coffee and cinnamon buns with our psychology class.
This short conversation was filled with a load of amazing questions, but our discussion on education really stood out to me. I have always had the idea that Europeans, in general, see the value in perfecting a particular craft or trade more than Americans. For example, in the US, we often have a certain stigma surrounding jobs such as plumbing or being a construction worker. In Sweden, it is simply one of many equal opportunities a student can pursue coming out of high school.
Swedish high schools recognize the value and necessity of those who pursue a particular craft or trade after high school, as opposed to pursuing higher education. Continuing with this idea, their high schools often separate, and sometimes even have separate high schools for, kids who are looking to go into an “apprenticeship” after high school. If a student does not want to go to college, they will usually either take a gap year or two to travel and/or work a small job (such as waiting tables) or could also begin interning in the area they would like to build a career in.
Because college is free in Sweden, you will see a large number of kids pursuing higher education, and because there is no equivalent of an undergraduate degree in Sweden, students will specialize from the very beginning. We discussed with the panel how it was possible for a student so young to decide what he/she would like to do for the rest of their lives, considering the recent addition of exploratory majors and how many students in the US change majors often.
They responded by explaining how there is only an emphasis on high school grades in college admission, as opposed to grades and extracurriculars and test scores in the US, and how students are often able to explore what they truly like in high school because of this. Rather than taking part in extracurricular activities they do not particularly like, particularly for college admission, they can actually focus on discovering their true passion(s). Although different methods in schooling are definitely necessary for each country and its culture, I found the differences in education approach and practice between Sweden and the US fascinating.