Fernanda Morales Peñaloza grew up in busy Mexico City. She decided to study Design Engineering at the University of Skövde for a year and found nature, peace and silence. Now, she is a part of the network Alumni Mexico Sweden, where she works with making more Mexican students interested in studying in Sweden. "Go! Just go," she says.
When Industrial Design student Fernanda Morales Peñaloza from Mexico City was researching where she wanted to go for her studies abroad, she was looking for something very structured. She knew she wanted to go to Sweden and chose to study the Product Design Engineering programme at the University of Skövde for a year.
"Design can be a bit messy sometimes. Many decisions are very objective, so when I chose what to study in Sweden, I thought engineering would teach me more about methodology and organisation in design processes."
At first, she felt scared about meeting the Swedish students. She thought that the Swedish students maybe were more advanced and methodic than she was. But when the courses started, she realised they were students just like her.
"We were on the same level. We went through the same problems, and had the same doubts and insecurities about our work. It was a relief to lose my fear and be able to learn together with all my classmates. Although before arriving, I had heard that it is difficult to make friends in Sweden and I was worried I would not make any friends or understand the Swedish culture. Eventually I made many Swedish friends… just not on my first try."
How was the education in Sweden?
"I learned exactly what I wanted. As a design engineer, the methodology is very punctual and specific in each project. It was a real revelation for me. I use that knowledge and apply it to my projects at work in Mexico. I have even taught my co-workers about the strategies I learnt in Sweden. When I get questions about my design I show the client the method I used. This is not just a made-up decision of mine, it was this method that guided the project to the final result."
"I learnt different things about life in general as well. Sometimes I share with my friends that people in Sweden do like this or say like that. I remember one strange situation where I was in a team project for the Design Development class, and all but me were Swedes. We planned our strategy and when we agreed everyone said “yes”, except for one classmate who just inhaled instead.* I didn't understand what that expression meant, my teammates had to explain it to me."
Alumni Mexico Sweden
Now, back in Mexico, Fernanda is a part of the network Alumni Mexico Sweden, AMS. It all started when Fernanda joined a meeting at the Swedish Embassy in Mexico City, to talk about her experience of studying in Sweden.
AMS arrange activities for students who are going to Sweden or want to go there. The purpose is to share the Swedish culture in Mexico and stay in contact with people who went to Sweden.
"Hundreds of people are in the network. If you are Mexican and you were a student in Sweden, you can approach AMS through all our social networks and be part of our organisation. If you are going to study in Sweden next year you can send us a DM, we will give you very useful guides and advice. Go to Sweden, go!"
What has the AMS given you?
"A community where people share experiences that are similar. It is a very interesting environment. Normally it can be very difficult to meet people with similar experiences. When you come home from your studies abroad, you just go back to your own life. We can also compare universities. I studied in Skövde and meet people who studied in Stockholm, and there are differences."
What kind of differences?
"Skövde is very calm. Everything is so silent. There are big parks and the mountain Billingen. If you want connections with nature, just take a walk. On my way to campus, I used to walk next to a creek, and I remember it was so relaxing to listen to the sound of the water and see the wild rabbits and ducks every morning. At campus there are no loud noises, and everyone is so kind. I really loved my year in Skövde. It was so different from what I am used to. I found peace in Skövde."
What is your advice for someone who wants to study in Skövde?
"It was an incredible experience. It changed my life and my career, how I approach my work. I think everyone should be able to have the same experience as I had. I want people to make friends, go to parties, and to Billingen to relax. There is a great connection with nature in Skövde and it is easy to travel from there to many places in Sweden. I went to Kiruna, and very far north to Abisko. I loved the snow and I got to see the aurora. It was so beautiful and it is my wish that more people can have a similar experience and enjoy it a lot."
"Someday I hope to go back. I have this crazy dream to go back to Sweden to work. If I can not, I will definitely go back on vacation, and I will bring my mom with me."
Inandnings-jo, described on YouTube by newsmedia The Local.