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Where Are They Now? Otto Billström

By Editor
(Image: Otto as many of us remember him!)

Otto Billström graduated from Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet in June. He took the Natural Science Programme and is currently studying in England. He took a few moments to talk to IEGS, telling us what he's up to and what life is really like away at university.

IEGS: So what are you up to now ?
Otto: Right now I'm at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, which is near the east coast of the UK. I'm studying for a degree in History of Art.

IEGS: Why did you choose to study abroad after studenten?
Otto: I felt a need to go away and see the world, but I also wanted to carry on with my studies. The UK seemed like a wise choice since there had been a great number of earlier students from IEGS going there, so there was a lot of information to get from them. I chose UEA in particular because of the course, but also because of the location! Travelling door to door may take around 7-8 hours but the scenery and environment is just amazing!

IEGS: Do you think IEGS prepared you for university studies abroad ?
Otto: I personally felt so, yes! And in all honesty, I wasn't the most hardworking of students. I think most IEGS students would do well in the UK. In terms of the skills I was taught at IEGS, I'd also say yes, especially the academic writing. At some stages I've even felt I was better prepared for essay writing than the UK students themselves!

IEGS: Is it expensive studying in England ?
Otto: It is pretty expensive, yes, what with the British government raising the tuition fees to £9000 + accommodation and living expenses, whilst Scotland remains free of charge for tuition! But when it comes to the cost of living you can easily make due with £100 a week, plus rent which varies from institution to institution. And you still receive money from CSN, about 700 SEK a week; however, it's all given to you at the start of each semester so you have to budget carefully

IEGS: What's it really like studying in the UK ?
Otto: It depends on what you study. As I study an arts/humanities based subject I don't have many hours in lectures or seminars (between 8-10 hours a week) so there is a lot of independent study going on (they expect 600 hours per semester)! And that goes for about anywhere. The sciences however have more contact hours and a bit less work to do outside class. However I think that has to do with the size of the faculties. As I attend a faculty of 150 people (in the undergraduate programme) that allows for more specialised projects than in a faculty of 700+ student which are the major faculties (bio, maths, medicine etc.)

IEGS: What's the food like ?
Otto: Haha! The food... Well it becomes whatever you make of it. Literarily! For the more economically-minded cooking yourself is the cheapest option; however, good meals (hot and cold) can be bought on campus for between £2-£7 depending on where and what. Then there's of course McDonald's if you're really homesick. My experience of the food however has been thoroughly good! One just has to find the motivation to cook!

IEGS: Has it been easy to make friends at university ?
Otto: When it comes to making friends I could not have had any better preparation than IEGS as I always felt encouraged to socialise there! With these skills in my arsenal it was rather easy to establish a wide group of friends within the first day really! What you do in your free time varies quite a lot- For example sports, movie nights, trips, going into town, even study nights with friends can be wicked fun. And of course (almost goes without saying) the unavoidable university parties! There's never a dull afternoon/night with the right group! And that group isn't hard to find. Also living in halls brings you closer as a family now that you're away from your original one! It's truly a great experience.

IEGS: Are you hanging out with British or international students? The Brits are known for being reserved, after all.
Otto: Mostly British students of course! However our award-winning student union has set up an international students society (ISS) if you want to meet more international students.

IEGS: What do you miss most about Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet?
Otto: I miss the close relations between classes and people; uni gets a bit more personal because it's more about you than about the class, and if you don't live with them, you won't see that much of your classmates than occasionally bumping in to them. I do also miss the IHC, good sport and good laughs between the Houses. Sure there's somewhat similar things here, but it doesn't include everyone, and the spirit is not the same as the one of IEGS. That's probably be what I miss the most: The House and school spirit!

IEGS: Any other message you want to give current IEGS students?
Otto: I just want to encourage people to do this! It may seem frightening, but you only live once and this is a great opportunity to see a different world. Similar as it may seem, it's not! It's a different reality where you learn to look after yourself, where you evolve and where you find people that are similar-minded to you. It's a life, not the fanciest of them, but one of the best!

Otto, always one of the most active musicians at IEGS during his time, is hoping to visit for this year's IHC Ensemble. We hope to see him there!

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