Foreign Correspondence: Karlstad University vs. Falmouth

Written by Kristýna Hřivnáčová |

The opportunity to compare two different universities has been one of my favourite aspects of my Erasmus experience. In the past four months in Sweden, studying at Karlstad University (KAU), I have come up with five ways in which I think Falmouth University, in terms of its academic life and facilities, is supreme – and five in which it is not.

Fal Victory 1: 24/7 Library
I honestly don’t think we fully appreciate that our library is open 24/7. The opportunity to sit down and work at any time, on any day, is something I sorely miss in Karlstad. Although the library here is more spacious (and way more aesthetically pleasing), it closes at 8pm (or midnight, if you have a student card) on weekdays and much earlier on weekends.

Fal Victory 2: Steady Timetables
I’m on the Journalism and Creative Writing course, so it might not be the same for everyone, but we study three modules per term, at the same time and place every week. Here, I’m doing English Language and Literature, and I started with two modules. Now I have five, one has already finished, and the times and places change all the time. It’s a nightmare, really.

Fal Victory 3: Practical Education
Maybe it’s because I went from Journalism to English Lit, but the classes at KAU are just so theoretical it blows my mind. It feels much more traditional; we just sit and listen, occasionally discuss something, and then write an exam or an essay. On one hand, you gain a lot more explicit knowledge; on the other, it gets really, really boring sometimes.

Fal Victory 4: Equipment and Software
Basically, all that stuff you can borrow from the SOFT and all the software on library computers. I’m aware that KAU doesn’t teach the same range of subjects, and so might not need it, but I still miss the possibilities that all that accessible tech provides.

Fal Victory 5: Guest Speakers
Although there’s not exactly a staggering number of guest speakers in Fal, I had always found at least one every fortnight (not necessarily in my field) that was of interest. In the last four months, I have managed to snatch one media-related talk and a linguistic conference – which isn’t bad but it’s hardly comparable.

KAU Victory 1: No-Paper Deadlines
Every essay, article or short story you need to submit goes through “It’sLearning”, when you’re done writing, you just upload it – there’s no need to rush to the SPA Office and hope the line isn’t long and you’ll be on time. Plus, it saves paper and thereby money and the environment.

KAU Victory 2: Results
All grades for presentations, exams or written assignments arrive in a space of two to three weeks, which significantly cuts down on how long you have to wait and stress about the outcome of a tricky assessment. Big fan.

KAU Victory 3: Academic Year
The spring semester lasts from mid-January until the end of May which is a serious difference from the 12-week February to April I got in Falmouth. It certainly feels like I’m getting more of my money’s worth (I’m among few students who pay here – Sweden doesn’t have tuition fees). On top of that, it allows for the assessments to be spaced out, not crammed into two hellish weeks.

KAU Victory 4: Study Nooks
Do you know those times when library just feels too crowded and you want to snag a place on the couches and study spots, but they are all full? KAU has about seven million of those, hidden all over – even four months in, I’m still finding new ones and they are all amazing little oases of calm and quiet where you can work in peace.

KAU Victory 5: Infinite Chill
Nobody stresses here. Students sometimes come to the lessons, but no one cares if they don’t, first deadlines are regularly missed, seconds and thirds are normal. Teachers are so approachable that even I have no problem using first names; something that took serious effort in Fal.

To sum it up, in terms of my degree, Fal feels more professional and practical; KAU is theoretical and laid-back. I can’t say what’s better – on one hand, I feel like I’m consciously pushing myself to be better in Fal, on the other, I’m writing way more on my own here in Karlstad, stress-free because I have so much free time. Ideally, I’d like to see a combination of the two approaches.