Why Americans love studying in Sweden

International students from around the world often jump at the chance to study in the US. So why is that some American students are defecting to study in Sweden instead?

Why Americans love studying in Sweden
Photo: Linköping University

The Local spoke to a current student and alumnus of Sweden’s Linköping University to find out why they swapped the States for Scandinavia.

Lower fees

In the US, an undergraduate degree can set you back around $100,000 (€90,270) while the average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000-$120,000 (€27,000-€108,000). 

EU students can study for free at Swedish universities and while tuition fees vary for US students – and depending on the subject – it generally costs a lot less to study in Sweden. There are also scholarships available for international students that normally reduce tuition fees by 50 percent.

Photo: Anne Moyerbrailean

“It’s majorly cheaper,” says Anne Moyerbrailean, who recently graduated from LiU with a master’s degree in Gender Studies. “I think most master’s programmes in the US are about $30,000 (€27,000) a year. Whereas, at Linköping University, all I had to do was fill out a form and they gave me 50 percent off my tuition. You just can’t compare.”

Find out how to apply for master’s study at Linköping University

More independence

For Ohio native Adam Grachek, who is in the first semester of a M.Sc. in Intelligent Transport Systems & Logistics, a key difference between studying in Sweden and the US is that the university takes more of a backseat in students’ social lives. While LiU hosts many events and activities, students also play a more active role in organizing student life.

It’s far from the only way that independence is nurtured at LiU. American students might be initially surprised to discover a different approach to learning in Sweden. Whatever the programme, there is always a focus on independent learning and critical thinking — students take the reins of their own education, working in study groups to solve real-world challenges and develop skills that will be valued by future employers.

Photo: Adam Grachek

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A global education

The world becomes more globalized each year and education needs to keep up. Anne found that taking gender studies in Sweden gave her a more global perspective on the subject — which she is unsure she would have gotten if she remained in the US to study.

“In my experience, there was more of a worldliness to the professors’ approach. I think the US, in a lot of places and ways, falls into this trap of just looking at the US context. Whereas I felt the professors at LiU took a really global approach to feminist studies. And the fact that we were reading texts in so many different languages definitely changes the lens on it.”

Browse international degrees taught in English at Linköping University

It’s more relaxed

Nobody said getting a university degree would be a walk in the park but the Swedish education system is certainly more laidback. For one, relationships between students and professors are less formal and often on a first-name basis. According to Adam, the arrangement of the academic year also takes the stress out of studying in Sweden.

“In the US, there’s one long period of five classes so the workload is more hectic. In Sweden, the period is split up better so that students can focus on one thing at a time. It’s still rigorous and intellectually rewarding with as much process and thought put into the classes but it makes it less stressful.”

Anne believes that the lower fees alleviate some of the pressure — although it doesn’t mean the education is taken any less seriously. It made her feel more relaxed about retaking exams without worrying about how many thousands of dollars the resit would cost her.

“There’s a flexibility and spaciousness. I think it really enhanced my learning experience.”

Diverse student body

There are around 2,400 international students at LiU enrolled on the university’s 28 international programmes. The diverse student body was a bonus for Anne who enjoyed meeting and studying with people from all over the world. It also led to much livelier and more enriching in-class discussions.

“We would talk about things I never even thought about – or came close to thinking about! That was really cool. Before I started the program, I thought I had a well-rounded understanding of systems like gender and sexuality. But through group discussions, I gained a deeper appreciation of the ways these systems shape people differently in different countries. Instead of just learning from books, the Tema Genus program granted me the opportunity to learn from the lived experiences of a diverse cohort.” 

Stepping stone into Europe

Studying at a European university is the gateway to a life and career in Europe where Americans can enjoy perks like more days of annual leave and benefits for families. For example, workers in Sweden get 25 days of vacation and 480 days of parental benefits to share between both parents.

Adam is getting a head start by working as a part-time international student ambassador while he completes his master’s degree, blogging about his study experience. Although Anne is now back in the US, she hopes that this isn’t the end of her European adventure and pictures herself one day living and working in Europe.

“I hope one day to actually move back to Europe and work for the UN or a similar organization.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.


Spanish grandpa, 80, heading to Italy as Erasmus student

One of the world's oldest Erasmus students has picked Italy for his study-abroad semester, thanks to his memories of seeing opera here 40 years ago.

Spanish grandpa, 80, heading to Italy as Erasmus student
Miguel Castillo being interviewed for Antena 3 Noticias.

Miguel Castillo, 80, will leave his native Spain on Monday to head to the University of Verona, where he won an Erasmus grant to pursue his studies in modern history.

“I opted for Verona in Italy because I was there 42 years ago to see Maria Callas perform,” the grandfather of six told Spanish newspaper Las Provincias.

Castillo returned to academia a few years ago after a career as a notary. He was a few years into a more typical retirement when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 75, prompting him to rethink how he wanted to spend the remainder of his days.

“On the road to recovery I told myself, 'I would like to do something beyond the classic napping’,” he explained.

So he enrolled for a degree in modern history at Valencia University and each day attends classes with students who are a quarter of his age.

Determined to make the most of his university years, Castillo applied for the EU's student exchange programme, which each year sends hundreds of thousands of students to other universities across Europe for anywhere between three months to a year at a time. 

He hasn't signed up for the full student experience in Verona, though: he won't be staying in a college dorm. 

“My wife is coming with me and we will stay in a hotel for a while and then move into an apartment,” he explained. “My wife says that she doesn’t see us at a pyjama party.”

With one of the world's oldest populations, Italy is becoming accustomed to seeing older faces in all walks of life, even those once reserved for youngsters. 

In 2016, it sent one of its own senior citizens – Laura Peccara, 61 years old at the time – to Spain, for a six-month Erasmus exchange in Madrid. 

“I was talking to my son about university and Erasmus when I had a lightbulb moment: wouldn't it be great to have an experience that didn't exist in my day,” Peccara told Italian magazine Donna Moderna upon her return. 

As Peccara learned, there is no age limit to the Erasmus programme – so any mature students who are interested should apply. As Castillo says to others his age: “Don’t lock yourself up at home, open up to the world, because we can contribute so much and can also receive a lot from society.”