Miles Away, Miles Ahead

    “Sweden is off people’s radar, but the Nordic countries have a beautiful culture. While the people are shy, once you get to know them your connection can be so significant.”

    By Bethany Gerlach on February 7, 2019

    It was in high school that David Campbell had the chance to take part in a program called FinAl, a collaborative effort between Finnish schools and Alberta schools to learn from each other. 

    During his first year with FinAl, David hosted Finnish students, and then took the opportunity to go to Finland himself for a week during the second year. David stayed with a host family, and they quickly became like a second family for him. This new family he made sparked a desire in David to study abroad, and he soon found an opportunity to do so. 

    David heard about BIOCH 497, the international directed research project, an opportunity designed so students can get hands-on lab experience around the world. He jumped at the chance and ended up getting a placement at the Linköping University in Linkoping.

    With his time working in his lab in Sweden, David gained a new perspective on his field of study. Biochemistry is a broad field, and with his lab, he did research on Alzheimer’s disease.

     “[Going abroad] has made me a more well-rounded researcher and scientist”, he says. When asked about the highlight of his time abroad, he excitedly mentions his work. “My lab thinks [my research] is going to go places. That is very validating for me to hear as a budding scientist!”. 

    David mentions that the approach to research in Sweden has a very open feel to it, that there’s a strong emphasis on respect for others in both school and research. “You have to respect everyone, and you must call them by their first name,” he says, “There is less hierarchy in the language you use, and there is much more respect towards the newer researchers. The focus is much more on keeping everyone together, and you’re encouraged to think, no matter who you are or your place in the lab.” 

    David was struck by the generosity and kindness of the people he met in Sweden. “They’re very much a society that cares about each other. Community is so important to them.” 

    These attitudes extend to Sweden being very progressive when compared to Canada. The Swedes aim to be as green as they can: there’s a huge emphasis on the importance of recycling, as well as on renewable energy. David was especially struck by how open-minded the Swedes were to people in the LGBT community. “I went there as a gay person from North America, [and] it was so nonchalant. People didn’t care either way. It was very validating, my identity was fine.”

     “I grew more in those six weeks than I have in the past two years— and I have done a lot of growing the past couple of years. It has changed how I view myself, and who I want to be as a person. It’s done so much to shape that.” 

    David feels that studying in Sweden has changed him for the better. “It’s helped to make me more independent, by placing me in a scenario where I had to rely on myself. It showed me that I could do it, and now I have that proof.”