Monday, January 3, 2011

Studying is a full time job

As a student in Sweden, you will come to learn pretty quickly that the attitude and the entire system is built upon the principle that being a student is akin to being employed at a full-time job. Those of us who have made an almost career out of being a full-time student in multiple countries know that this is indeed a slippery slope. One person's full-time job is another person's walk in the park. But what does this full-time job mean?

In the Swedish system, currently, I believe a full course load is 30 points (they have changed this since I was a student, so bear with me). These 30 points should equal 40 work hours a week. The average Swedish student gets a grant and a loan to pay for living expenses incurred during these 40 hours a week because one should not be required to work while studying. The theory being – do you work a job on top of your 40 hour a week job? In Sweden, the answer to that would be 'no.'

Here they seem to take the 40 hour rule pretty seriously. I have a friend who was a professor who was chastised when he implied that students might have to do some homework over the weekend since they were having trouble finding time during the work week. But I have to admit, I am hard pressed to find a student here who hasn't done quite a bit of studying on the weekends – especially right before a big exam.

In my experience as a humanities student – and my Swede vehemently disagrees , I found the work week calculation to be based on what the slowest student in the class was capable of completing. And by slowest person, I am not quite sure who they were aiming for – remember I was studying in a foreign country in a foreign language – I was very slow. I ended up going out and getting a job because I had nothing to do all day.

When I asked Swedes about this conundrum, I was often given one of the following answers: You are studying humanities, you are studying at a hogskola – not a University, you are studying a program which is known for being ridiculously easy. Never once did they commend me for my sheer brilliance at being too smart for the system.  


  1. I've found the studies to be pretty light/slow compared to what I was used to, too, from the US. I was taking an "intensive" course and I rarely had anything much to do. The teachers kept acting like we had SO many assignments but there were, for example, four-day stretches where I had no homework. It was weird and boring. As a teacher I would never let any time go by without something for the students to be working on!

    So next semester I will be taking twice as much. Let's hope it gives me stuff to do!

  2. In my experience, from studying both "softer" subjects and engineering/"hard science" subjects in Sweden (as well as a semester in France) I have to say that the course load tends to be a lot worse for engineering and "hard science" subjects.

    It's actually a sort of running joke among engineering students that humanities courses can be passed without even studying. And to a degree I can agree about this, many humanities programs are a lot easier than the engineering programs, the engineering programs often weeding out the slower students (it's not uncommon for 30+ freshmen to start an engineering program and only half a dozen or so not dropping out or switching to another program).