Camryn Burley is a systems engineering major who studied on the UVA in Sweden: Global Sustainability Consulting program this past summer. During her time there, she worked on a consulting project at Garaget, which she describes as “a unique public library in Malmö that responds to the needs of its users and offers spaces for reading, studying, coffee, creating, and much more.” Keep reading to see some of what she learned from her experience abroad.
Ode to Fika
Fika is a Swedish tradition of a coffee break with pastries or cookies. It is a very social practice and most workplaces have at least one fika, sometimes two fika or more, per day. We were introduced to fika on the first full day in Sweden, and I loved the concept and how I felt during and after the fika.
fika is the rich
brown of coffee that matches
the wooden table
marked by rings of both
tree growth and
drips from the many mugs
set upon it each day
fika is the feel of
under my palms
and soft pastry crumbling
under my fingers
as I pull off the next bite
fika is the smell of the fresh brew
entering my lungs, sweet
rising with the steam from cups
that comes in tendrils
not unlike the ivy crawling
the bricked buildings
and brushing cobblestone paths
fika is my spirits feeling as light as the vapor
as I smile at my neighbor
with cinnamon-smeared lips,
icing still melting on my tongue
fika is warming our hands with mugs,
stomachs with tea,
and hearts with conversation
The Final Presentation
I had not thought that the final presentation part of this program would be very different than any other presentation I’ve given before, but I had not considered how a foreign audience would change things. We had a briefing about how best to deliver our final presentation to explain the work we had done for the past three weeks to our client. We were told to avoid idioms and speak slowly, in addition to keeping our presentations short by including only relevant content and elaborating where necessary in the report we delivered to them. It struck me, while planning the presentation and then delivering it, how important clear communication between parties that speak different languages is. Though all of the clients for this program spoke English, it was not their first language, and there were also varying degrees of comfort with speaking English. The presentation is something that I will definitely take away from this program and think about long after. I am more confident that, in the future, I could communicate with a foreign client through presentation, conversation, email, etc., because I have now actually been able to interact with a group of people from a different country than myself in a professional setting. I also think that giving a presentation to an international audience will help me with any future presentation I might give, as I know better how to use clear and concise language that a wide range of people will understand.
I feel like I’ve come a long way in my knowledge of international cultures and especially business relationships. I hadn’t thought of all of the complexities that would come up, such as giving presentations, but I now have experience with many of those situations. Another learning point for me in regard to international relationships is that I learned that Swedish people tend to be more direct in giving feedback; if they do not think something will work, they will say so without beating around the bush. This took some getting used to, but eventually I was happy that they would say what was on their minds instead of us trying to decipher their feelings about our designs. I am also glad to have had the chance to learn about Swedish culture through working with our client, Garaget, where all of the staff were very welcoming and answered many questions we had about Sweden. By the end, we had a strong professional and personal relationship with two of employees in higher management positions. It was really great to talk to them about their travels in the US and other places at the fika after our presentation. I am continually grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about Sweden and its culture in ways that I could not have just by visiting as a tourist.
Emma Bergon is a 3rd year studying with DIS in Stockholm, Sweden on a
Psychology program this spring. Check out some of her photos below!
A rare sunny say in Stockholm, although the water is still icy
Cobblestone, windy streets of Galma Stan (Old Town)
Ice skating on the local lake
Watching my host brother’s soccer game, Swedes love their soccer!
Fika time! (Fika is a term in Sweden that approximately
means “to have coffee”) My favorite place to enjoy the Swedish tradition
Fika in Småland
An exhibit called “Nordic Light” at Nordiska Museet
(A museum dedicated to the cultural history and ethnography of Sweden)
The artwork at Tensta station: Stockholm is famous for its metro station artwork
A rare sunny day in Stockholm