Biology Education Centre

Livia Knörr – Master programme in biology

Switzerland

Read on for a longer version of the interview.

I didn’t really know Uppsala to begin with. I just wanted to go somewhere in Europe and see a new country, meet new friends and study in a good programme. I wanted somewhere that was not german speaking, and the UK has so high study fees. But I knew Scandinavian universities are well known for the good education and research, so I ended up looking into universities in Scandinavia, and applied to Uppsala, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Uppsala was my first choice because of the programme and the courses you could take, so I was very happy when I got it.

My uncle always came to Sweden for holidays, so I had heard a lot about the awesome summers he spent here. He told me about how long the sun is up during the summer and how amazing it is. I also had a couple of friends who had studied in Sweden, and they loved their universities and how well everything was organised.

Before coming to Sweden I was a bit worried about the darkness during the winters. We have snowy winters in Switzerland as well, but where I come from we don’t have that much of it. I think you get accustomed to the darkness during the winters after a while, and summer is so bright it’s compensating for the winters.

I studied the Master programme in biology, and my main subject was molecular biology. I chose that because I’m really interested in those topics. The first year of the programme has suggested courses, four courses of about eight weeks each. The second year is a lot of practical work, where you can chose to do project work in research groups, and then the master thesis project. You can, however, switch around a bit and have more practical earlier, and some courses later, something I really like. I took the suggested courses however, and I really like how these courses are big topics that you study for a few weeks. I was more used to study two hours this, and two hours that, but here you can really focus on one course at a time. The courses contain seminars, lectures, lab work, presentations, and more. We also practised presenting and studying research papers, academic skills important for the future.

There’s a lot of places in Uppsala where I really like to go. I live close to a nature reserve where I can go out jogging or walking, and in town there’s a lot of really nice cafés. So in winter you can go there and have a coffee, and it’s very nice and cosy. I also like the botanical gardens, I like to come here and see all the flowers growing. During the summers you can go swim in the lake close to Uppsala, or go ice skating in the winters when it is covered with ice.

After having been here a while I realise how work is important for Swedish people, but you also balance your free time. You often take a break together, called fika, where you have a coffee and a small snack. I really enjoy that, I think you work quite productive in that way.

After I was done with my master thesis I was offered to stay in the same lab. I could continue the work I had started during my thesis. And then I got the chance to work with another researcher who is working in the industry. So I could take care of a part of his experiments while he was away. I enjoyed doing both of these things, and I had the chance to deepen my knowledge in some topics and to learn new techniques during that year. Now In one month I will be moving home to Switzerland and want to find a job in the industry.

When I compare my bachelor studies home in Switzerland to my master studies here there is not much difference in the attitude from professors and staff. I was lucky to have professors who were very friendly and open to talk to back home. A lot of people enjoy that here, and I was lucky to have it before. But the biggest difference probably is that here you take one big course you can focus on at a time, for master studies I think it’s a very good way to teach. My bachelor was in applied sciences, and the master was more academic. I chose this because I wanted to see both sides. So of course there were differences in how much you learn about techniques and how much you learn about pure biology.

One thing I also really liked about the biology education in Uppsala University is that there is a whole department of people assigned to the education of bachelor and master students. And I had never seen this before in other schools. I thought it was so great for the students when they have questions about for example which courses to take, and how to apply, and how to get a transcript of records. They are very happy to help you out, and then professors can focus on teaching. I think this is a great combination for the students, and it was a big benefit for us.

Here in Uppsala I really had a great time with a lot of friends that I met, and we got very close quite soon. And it was also very nice because people come from closer or further away, and most of them don’t have family or old friends so close so you just spend a lot of time together. We did a lot of movie nights in winter, and barbeque in summer, or exploring things together. I also brought my violin and played a bit of music with one of the guys.

So now as I’m soon moving home, I’m a bit sad to leave. I always wanted to go back, but because of all the nice people I met here I’m so happy with the education I got. When I compare to the other places I applied it seemed a bit more organised here, it went so smooth. We had a good introduction, good courses and I was lucky with a nice lab. So there were so many good things, and I’m grateful for my time here.