INDO-SWEDEN EXCHANGE PROGRAMME 2014
The INDO- SWEDEN’14 had seven student participants from Christ Junior College. We were accompanied by Mrs. Anitha Ravindrakumar and Mrs. Gayathri. The student participants were Achintha S , Amogh Chakaravarthy, Gayathri.N , Prerna Nautiyal, Prerana Bandi, Raghav Rao and Uttanshi Agarwal.
Flying past the oceans, mountains and settlements. Leaving behind the crowd, tropical weather and diversity of our motherland, we reached a country of 2 degree Celsius, scenic beauty and good governance. Little did we know that over the next couple of weeks we would fall in love with the omnipresent scenic beauty, their social security system and the amazing people!
Just like this, Indo-Sweden Student Exchange 2014 had begun and it ended even before any of us could digest the fact that we had had the best time of our lives. Over the two weeks, I have observed many interesting things about the Swedes and their culture. They are very time conscious and respect punctuality. They embrace their freedom and individuality. They are very inclusive as a society and make it a necessity to grow and develop as a whole without leaving behind anybody. We could observe instances of this on our visit to the kindergarten and old age home. This exchange program was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was a unique experience for each one of us. Apart from the trip being an educational exposure for us, it left us with new perspectives on life, cultures and people. The relationships that we shared with our partners was magical because just a month ago they meant nothing to us and over the two weeks we got past the cultural differences and loved their hospitality, friendliness and varied perspectives and we felt one among them. By the end of two weeks, this exchange program has secured a special place in our memories that will be cherished forever. Telling them about Indian culture, environment, religion and lifestyle and learning about our Swedish counterpart’s way of life made me realize that there is so much to give and take in this cultural immersion of varied thoughts and ideas. There is so much to learn from them and at the same time we Indians have a lot to offer them. We are looking forward to their arrival in India later this year, to return their kindness and hospitality. The world is a small place; here what goes around comes around.
CLASS ROOM DISCUSSIONS
When you come from the “mysterious land” India, be sure to expect a lot of questions, especially in places where Indians are rarely found.
Basically these classroom discussions were discussions where all of us would be taken to a class which would be split into small groups with one of us in each group. We discussed a lot of stuff during these sessions, from the caste system, to the family system, to why I wasn’t sporting a turban. These sessions highlighted the cultural differences and the society at a close and personal level.
The main aim of these class room immersions was for us to gain first hand information on their lifestyle. They were very curious to know about the way of life back in India. The exchange of information was undoubtedly useful for us as we touched topics about the social life, how happy they were with it and what could be improved. Their relationship with their teachers is very informal and casual but at the same time they hold high regards and respect for them. Every student at Lerum’s gymnasium gets a laptop from the government and lunch is provided by the school. We also interacted with the set of students who had come to India last year, we spoke to them about their experience here and they told us that they had experienced a change of perspective and opinions when they were here but embraced the once in a lifetime opportunity.
India known for her age old caste system and co existence of various religions, we were asked to give our perspectives about the caste system back in India. At the end of the session they were awe struck at the amount of knowledge an average Indian student has about their culture and religion. We were glad to have given them a fresh side of the story.
However, these discussions brought up the clear contrast between the two countries at the same time helped us highlight the similarities.
On our last weekend in Sweden, we went to one of our exchange partner’s summer house in Uddavala. It is a beautiful house facing the lake. Our Swedish hosts had planned a surprise of exhibiting their festivities throughout the year.
The thought that went behind arranging such a surprise for us was very heartwarming to acknowledge.
It started off with the pre-Easter time where they eat bun with whipped cream forty days prior to Easter. Then came the time for Easter egg hunting, chocolates and family time in the holidays! They dressed up as Easter bunnies and Easter women to depict the festival. Next came Midsummer, widely celebrated and rejoiced time of the year by all Swedes. It is the period of time that is centered upon the summer solstice. In Sweden people drink snaps shots, dance around the midsummer pole to the tunes of St.Lucia. The crayfish party is a peculiar Swedish tradition. They are generally held in the month of august, it started as the Cray fish harvesting in Sweden was limited to late summer. Our Swedish friends demonstrated how a Cray fish is eaten. Wide variety of festival food was decked up in the tables, Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, candies, biscuits, cream and porridge. Followed by the crayfish party our next stop was to the Christmas station. What is Christmas without gifts and Santa Claus? They role played as Santa Claus and his elves. We then helped ourselves to the delicious food and just like that our little journey into the Swedish culture had seen a new chapter.
VISIT TO THE OLD AGE HOME–
The Old age home is located in Floda, almost two stations away from Lerum. It is a partly private and partly public project. Initially in the 1970s and 80s the concept of old age homes was conceptualized in Sweden to ensure that every women goes to work and her economic contribution is not hindered by taking care of the elderly people. However this concept received many criticisms from other countries, since it was viewed that the Swedish community is side lining their elderly people. But in due course of time these old age homes prove to increase the standard of living of an average Swedish family. The old age home was a two storey building with several wings all connected to a central hall, which serves as a gathering hall. The elderly people in this home take part in activities everyday in order to keep their mental, physical and emotional health at check. We interacted with the elderly people and they seem extremely happy with their stay and other facilities at the old age home.
LERUM FIRE DEPARTMENT
Visit to the Lerum Fire Station is a new addition to the Indo-Sweden exchange program. It was different and yet informative. It opened up a new side to the Swedish society. In Sweden firefighters not just extinguish fire but work as rescue service as well. They are always present at any emergency be it due to fire or otherwise. Every ‘Kommun’ or community in Sweden has a fire station and every fire station has four firefighters and one chief, however this number varies depending on the population of the community.
GOTHENBURG: THE SEGREGATED CITY
Even though there has been improved infrastructure from wooden to brick houses, commercialization of shops, etc there has been a serious consequence to the lower class or the people who cannot afford. While on our ride the students talked more on this topic, informing us that no matter how much development happens, the segregation issue will remain a central crisis and the most obvious.
Our last stop was a big port where the herring business is most prominent and of course the shipping industry is the most famous in every port of Sweden. While on our way to the amazing and famous Liseberg amusement park on the ferry from this port, we were also given a small tad-bit about the fishing and oil industries, and how the latter has almost diminished today.
MEETING THE SOCIAL WORKERS
The united social field workers or Fältare are the 24/7 working home where they outreach to the youth of not only on the streets, schools, youth clubs or internet of Lerum but the surrounding areas like Borås, Floda, Gothenburg, Partille, Alingsås, etc. This home also takes care of the official actions of the municipality to battle social problems with youth who are more than 12 to 13 years of age. The home has three most important rules of framework that keep them strong and functioning: confidentiality, outreach working with enough training in counseling and availability shall the youth want to voluntarily contact them.
Compiled by Gayathri N and Amogh Chakravarthy