“Out of curiosity: Do dentists drink coffee?”

We met her at the cafeteria and we just had to ask. “Of course, we drink a lot of coffee… haven’t you heard of fika? It’s something very Swedish!”, she told us. So we asked for a white coffee (“café con leche“) and a croissant: the Spanish version of fika.

Her name is Karin and she has just arrived at CEU Valencia from Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. She will be studying for some months here as an Erasmus+ student before going back to her home University, the Karolinska Institutet. On her first day in sunny Valencia we wanted to meet her and talk about her degree, her expectations, her future plans… and fika.

Karin, happy to be part of the CEU community.

Hej, hej, Karin! You just arrived in Valencia from KI, one of the most prestigious medical universities. What do you expect to learn here at CEU Valencia?

Yes, I am currently in my fourth year at KI and I can just say that I am extremely happy to be here at CEU Valencia. I expect to learn a lot of things but mostly I would like to see the differences between our countries and to actually learn from those differences: How we do dentistry back in Sweden and how you do it here in Spain, because I have heard there are quite some differences. Also, I would like to treat patients and interact with them, because I am sure that everything I learn here I will use back in Sweden.

We are very proud of our dental clinic, do you already know if you will be doing practicals with real patients there?

Yes, I think I will be mostly attending the practical part of the programme. I have pediatrics and adult clinic, I still have to talk to Chirag to see exactly what my subjects are going to be… but I am very excited to be in your clinic!

We are afraid that most of our patients do not speak Swedish but we have heard you speak Spanish and we guess the language won’t be a problem!

No, I hope not but we’ll see how it goes! I think I will try to combine Spanish with some sign language! I started learning Spanish when I was very young, maybe 8 years old because part of my family lives in Málaga, which means that I had to learn Spanish in order to communicate with them. I also studied it in school because in Sweden, at least where I studied, we do three foreign languages: English, Spanish and German. I studied in an international school and my mother is a German teacher, so I have a lot of languages in my head!

I think it is essential to have an international profile because it just gives you a special mindset but of course it depends on your career. I am aware that going abroad can be a daunting experience for others, but for me it just felt like coming home.

It is really amazing how easy it is to move across Europe nowadays. I’m so thankful for this because everything, from the application form to all the arrangements have gone very smoothly, here at CEU Valencia and back at Karolinska Institutet.

Where do you see yourself in a year’s time, once this Erasmus+ experience is over?

I don’t really know right now, I still have one year to go but I feel that whatever suits the moment. I already have work in Sweden but I might want to come back to Spain to work as a dentist, or move somewhere else before I settle down. I think if you try to plan everything, nothing will go right.

One thing I did plan in advance, and it was my Erasmus+ destination. I really wanted Spain because I love it: the language, the culture, the people, the food! There was no plan B: either Spain, or I stayed in Sweden.

Clearly you love Spain so, no cultural shock in your case? Is there any obvious difference between Swedes and Spaniards?

We are different in a good way. I think that Scandinavian people can be a bit isolated; it is difficult to explain but, let’s say that our work is our life and here in Spain you work so you can live. This means that, even on a Wednesday evening you will find people out in the streets, and this is not even the capital of Spain. In Stockholm it would be kind of empty!

We are not as open as you guys, also because we work too much. Our schedule starts very early in the morning, you go home and you don’t usually go out throughout the week; here you see people having dinner at 10pm… that is bedtime in Sweden! The way of living here is good for the soul, for the mind… and it is even healthier!

Of course there are good things about Scandinavia. If you go to Sweden, you will find that everything is extremely well structured. We are the country of structures: the health system, the education – which is free, I don’t pay to go to dental school, that is amazing! And we receive an income from the State because we are studying and the government wants to encourage people to study. This is what I love about Sweden. And it is the same with childcare, parental leave…

We also have snow – a lot of snow. In Stockholm you can do whatever suits you: go to bars, to the opera… It really is a beautiful city, and I think it is just perfect in the summer. Coming from Spain, you will be shocked if you come in the winter: it’s cold, the sun never rises in the winter in northern areas. Sweden gives you all the possibilities to do whatever you want, it is a great country. And KI as a university, specially in Medicine, is perfect. We have great infrastructures, we are able to do research, they really encourage you to study and develop in your future career. And everyone speaks English, which makes it very easy to communicate with us.

…and you have fika.

And we have fika! It is a Swedish thing: we drink a lot of coffee and we usually do it with something to eat, a cinnamon bun or a small cake. We have this in the morning, and then after lunch, also in the evening before dinner we have a fika

And we have very compact living: everything is efficient, everything is small and environmental-friendly. And here in Valencia it is impossible to find a small apartment, below 50 square meters!

Even our classrooms are bigger that that. Karin, thank you for your time and for sharing fika with us =)

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