As I sit on my plush living room sectional, feelings of excitement, anxiousness, and nerves take over. Tomorrow I leave for a semester studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden at Stockholm University’s School of Business. My flight tomorrow is the end of months of preparation and the beginning of a new journey in a place I have never been. I am sincerely thankful to my parents for the wonderful opportunity and the exchange program between the University of Illinois College of Business and Stockholm Business School. Before I begin posting weekly updates on my wonderful experiences, I thought it would be beneficial to divulge the legwork that is required for such an opportunity.
My first piece of advice is to begin searching for study abroad opportunities early. Inform everyone involved of your desire to study abroad and do the necessary research to pick the best location for you. The study abroad office at the College of Business provides various, wonderful options that fit a variety of people’s wants. Another important piece of advice is to apply for study abroad scholarships; most of the questions you answer for the application are similar to your overarching study abroad application. While the scholarship process is selective, if you have a strong desire to study in a particular location then there is a high chance you will receive some funding.
In respect to preparing to study abroad in Stockholm (or anywhere in Sweden for that matter), there are a few pieces of information that will be invaluable. First and foremost apply for a resident permit as soon as you receive your acceptance letter from Stockholm University. The application is all online and requires no visits to Consulates or Embassies; with that being said, the application requires advanced preparation. The application requires that you provide your bank statement with funds totaling 7300 SEK per month of studying abroad. At today’s exchange rate of .12 USD per 1 SEK that is $3,504 for four (4) months. Another important point is that the bank statement must be from your account, and your account only. If you have a joint student checking account with one or both of your parents, you need to open a new account will only your name and transfer necessary funds before applying. If you do receive scholarship funds or financial aid, be sure to note the amount in the application and provide the following: 1) for whom the funds are for, 2) when the funds will be deposited in your account, and 3) any stipulations such as academic performance requirements and your ability to achieve those. Failure to provide this information will require you submit supplementary information later, which delays the acquisition of your resident permit. Once a decision has been reached, you need to contact the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC and have them send the decision letter to you via email. To finally get the resident permit requires a scheduled appointment in Stockholm where your picture and biometrics are taken.
As with any international travel, it is important to inform your Credit Card Company and bank of your travel to prevent them from placing a hold on your card(s) while abroad. Seeking out housing in Stockholm is nearly impossible by oneself, but Stockholm University has an agreement with a housing agency which allows for assigned housing. To receive housing requires another application process and the wiring of a deposit for one’s flat. From experience, I found it is best to wire the funds as soon as possible to avoid unforeseen problems. Most banks are only able to wire funds M-F from 9 AM – 3 PM and it is best to set up an appointment to ensure qualified staff are on hand to help you when you need it.
While all of this may seem like a lot of information, and perhaps unnecessary, it is my hope that it will allow for an easier process for future students that choose Stockholm University as a study abroad location. Although some may think that all this work is too much for a semester abroad, I have found that it teaches invaluable lessons. From numerous phone calls and emails to the Swedish Migration Board, the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC, my local bank, and the Study Abroad Office, I have become a much more independent, persistent person. The ability to study abroad and experience a new culture while receiving a quality education is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and hope to broaden my horizons along the way.