Timst’s Happy Place


by timst on June 23, 2012

As I say on my “portal” (sounds like a 90’s web term), I intend to use this blog as a captain’s log during my next two years in Sweden. But first, I’d like to take a minute just to sit right there, and tell you how I became the student of a town called Växjö.



Yo homes!

In west Europa, born and raised, on the playground… alright, let’s drop the fresh prince impression. I started early to toy with a computer (not “my first computer was a Wehrmacht radar” early, but still, around 8 years old). So I’ve always know that I wanted to “do something with computers when I’ll be older”, although I didn’t know exactly what. It only started to get clear when I entered high school, where I had to choose between the “bac S” (the scientific path, wildly considered the “elite” way that all smart people are supposed to do), and “bac STG” (a management-oriented path, fit only for the lowest peasants. Or so it was described to me). Since I felt that it was the most direct way, and because, yes, I was lazy and didn’t want to be exposed to my own limits, I chose the latter. Needless to say, this is a decision that changed my life, for the best maybe, but mostly, for the worst. Along with separating myself from my friends, this change had a direct impact in my life when, for the last year of high school, I had to leave my hometown and join another school in the nearby big city, Nantes, which was the only place that has the specialty I wanted (“GSI”, Information System Management).


La joliverie

When I arrived and saw that, I was a bit flummoxed. Yes, it’s a giant cross back there. No, this is not exactly standard issue in french schools. 

After high school, I stayed in the same school and started a sort of associate degree called a BTS (Brevet de Technicien Superieur, “Higher technician degree”), specialized in IT and software development. It was a kind of mediocre program, with some interesting parts (I learned a lot about networks) and some other that were waaay too shallow (the development part, for instance: we didn’t see anything about concurrency, generics, streams, etc). All in all, there was material for one year, not two. After that, still haunted by my high school decision, I tried to join back the Smart People Path, which meant applying to a special engineering degree that the École des Mines, a famous french engineering school, just opened. There was three rounds in the selection, and I managed to get to the third, until they dismissed me because of my poor math skills (now I confess that I hated maths, but 4 years of low-level technician training didn’t exactly help either).


So I felt back on a “professional bachelor”, that is, a bachelor without any non-professional subjects (no math, no humanities, no honor). This one was called “Systèmes Informatiques et Logiciels” (Computer and Software Systems), and was specialized in distributed application development. Not bad, uh? Well, in fact it was a rather unpleasant year, for a variety of reasons. One of them was that the program was a bit chaotic and disorganized, with a lot of lessons being taught by professionals from the field, which was nice at the beginning, but, well, they’re software developers, not teachers. There’s only so much they can do. So at the end, it was mostly “here’s an answer to a problem you never encountered” type of lessons, which was a bit confusing (yeah, I guess EJBs and MDA are neat ideas, but… why the hell would I want to use something that awfully complicated?)



Also, this is what the university mascot looks like. Yeah.

Several months ago, as the year was coming to an end, I was exhausted. My private life was a smoldering pile of rubble, and the endless Spring RCP lessons didn’t do much to alleviate my restlessness. I needed to leave far away from here. Unfortunately, the fact that the bachelors was devoid of mathematics and other non-technical lessons meant that I couldn’t start a master program in France, at least not before taking another bachelor, something that I really didn’t want to do. So I found a glitch: foreign schools wouldn’t know about the subtlety of professional bachelors. They will just see 180 ECTS credits. And so came my plan of leaving to a foreign university, something that I had thought about since high school.


Nantes. Look at this hellhole! No wonder why I wanted to leave.

Regular exchange students needs to be registered in their home university, and often spend half if not more of their program there. So I decided to cut loose entirely and join a foreign university as a so-called “freemover” student. I picked relatively quickly my country of destination. I’ve always admired Scandinavia for its quality of life and advanced democracy, and had already the opportunity to visit Sweden during a trip in 2007, which was pretty great in and of itself (I have to admit that I’m a bit biased by my feelings sometimes). After weeks of research, letter writing and stress, I sent 4 applications. One for Linnaeus University, in the south of Sweden; one for Malardalen University, near Stockholm; one for Chalmers University of Technology, near Goteborg; and one for Blekinge Institute of Technology, even farther south. After additional months of excruciatingly stressful waiting, I got my answer:


Final selection results:
Linnaeus University (Växjö, Sweden) – Master in Software Technology: ADMITTED


I did it. I pulled it off.

So yeah, next 29 august, Sweden, here I come! And I won’t be back here until 2014, if I ever come home.

It is truly a new era for me. As I said in my earlier post, I’m not leaving solely for the aforementioned issues with my degree. It’s also because I let my social and love life pretty much crumble to dust. I need out. Leaving, alone, will allow me to start over. It won’t be a magical curse. I’ll remain the same, and probably make a lot of mistakes that I should have learned not to do by now. But at least I’ll had another chance.

So this is why I decided to live in what they call a corridor. That’s 6 rooms, around a, well, corridor, with a shared kitched and dining room. The big highlight here is that toilets and showers aren’t shared. While I don’t mind sharing the kitchen (mostly because I’m french, so obviously I’ll mope the floor with my roommates when it will come to cooking), I was a lot more hesitant to share the washroom. This is perfect. I’m really eager to see what it’s going to be like, and whether or not it’ll force me to be a bit more open to others.



Also, I fully intend to spend half my first winter doing this kind of things and this only.

My preliminary research (read: my stalking of emails took from the cc field of a mail sent by my future homeroom teacher) indicate that there will be at least 6 other students, including two middle-eastern guys, a Greek boy (or maybe girl), a Dutch, a Chinese dude, and, of course, an Indian guy (it wouldn’t be IT otherwise). This should prove to be interesting.

I might have a car too, and in any case I allocated a part of my budget to local travel, meaning I’ll be able to blow 2000 SEK on a whirlwind trip to Lapland so I can watch the northern lights. Also, be depressed the whole time that I’m doing it alone. But maybe this will change, too :)?

Other than that, I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen. I have some documents depicting the program, some others about the uni, and that’s about all. It’s a complete mystery. I love that.