Before telling you a story about Umeå, it would probably be interesting to know how I ended up in a place in Northern Sweden which you have probably never heard of.
I knew I wanted to study abroad and from the beginning, Scandinavia was my first choice. I considered many different programmes before I heard about Umeå Institute of Design (UID). After reading about their Interaction Design programme and scrolling through their website, I knew that UID is what I was looking for. As one of the top human-centred design institutes in the world, UID focus on people’s needs rather than technological capability. And yeah, they happen to be located approximately on the same latitude as Reykjavik, Iceland.
Studying at a Swedish university was somewhat different than what I’ve experienced in Estonia. For example, students study one course at a time, in contrast to the Estonian system where I usually had to take four to six courses simultaneously. In Sweden, terms are divided into two, three or four parts, which means that you study two to four courses per one term. It gives you the possibility to focus on only one thing at a time and get the most out of every course. In addition, students are given a lot of freedom, and are expected to do a lot of self-study. I didn’t find out the magic formula how it works but it did. It seemed that they took most out of their studies and spent their time on developing new ideas, learning and practicing.
UID offers project-based education in a very collaborative environment. I studied together with the first year interaction design students. Our term was divided into three courses and one of them was a ten week project. No lectures or homework, as is common in Estonia. Basically we learned how to survive in the real world, in real projects using our creative skill set. We did research, defined problems, talked to people, asked questions, sketched, prototyped, built, tested; we failed, and we did it all over again. Sounds like a start-up way of life? Maybe it was.
I feel very lucky that I ended up studying in UID and becoming a part of their family. It is a unique place where you can learn and practice in the very best environment with the most creative people. They gave me an incredible experience and a design mindset that keeps me going. I had the opportunity to meet great people and put a bit of myself into great projects. My six months there were full of inspiration, countless Fikas (Swedish social coffee break with lots of sweets) and northern lights – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Student of Human-Computer Interaction
She was abroad with Erasmus program from August 2015 to January 2016.