Study Abroad Feature: Sara Milosavic

March 09, 2022

In 2019, SIAT student Sara Milosavic took part in an exchange to Malmö University in Sweden. Learn more about her experience.

Why did you choose to take part in an exchange?

When I started university, I made a bucket list of everything I wanted to accomplish – volunteering, co-op, exchange, etc. However, as I moved through uni, I thought that there was no way I could squeeze in an exchange. Once I learned more about exchange, and realized that I could still get SIAT credits while abroad, the possibility seemed much more real. I was also at a point where I was feeling really burnt out at school and exchange was a great way to help me gain motivation and re-fall in love with design!

Why did you choose Malmö as your study abroad university and what did you value most about your exchange experience?

I first heard about the Interaction Design program in Malmo in IAT 233. The professor attested that it was a great program. Once I began my own research, I was first pulled in by Malmo’s location. The city really intrigued me and the proximity to Copenhagen made it feel like a 2 for 1 deal! Furthermore, Malmo is a really young school (literally my age!) and I could tell that they were doing unique and innovative work there. Another thing that intrigued me about the program is that every month, there is a different focus/concentration. I got a tasting platter of many different aspects of interaction design and that helped me figure out what I am most passionate about.

What was one of your most memorable experiences from your exchange?

I spent my 21st birthday in Milan! However, as amazing as traveling is, I think the one thing that sticks out to me was how quickly I could adapt in new situations. It may sound lame, but my most memorable experience was just doing normal, everyday tasks. Going to the grocery store, heading to a local gym, getting familiar with the bus routes made me feel like a local in no time. Oh, and a Halloween party in March was also pretty memorable! 😉

What was the greatest challenge that you faced while studying abroad?

Being alone for the first time. When I walked into my room the first day, I was very overwhelmed. I think friends are so important while on exchange because they keep you company and you can support each other with shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc.! But, I also learned to rely on myself and treasure my alone time.

Why would you recommend studying abroad to your peers (exchanges in general but also Malmö specifically)?

In general, I think that studying abroad is a really good way to take a mental break while still being in ~school~ and earning credits. Just putting yourself outside of SFU can really change your perspective and motivate you to learn in new ways. Working with students from all around the world and with different academic backgrounds was very enlightening!

Studying in Malmo: Malmo’s semesters are set up differently from ours (they study one class at a time instead of 3-4 concurrent classes). It is really nice to be able to focus all your energy on one topic at a time. Malmo U is a very young and vibrant school and the professors were really fun to work with. In my class, we spent a lot of one-on-one time with our various professors and they each have a unique background and skillset. I was able to learn new techniques and ideologies and this helped expand my skillset. Not only have I applied those new skills in my work but also in my SFU/SIAT courses!

What were some of your favourite places to visit?

  • Rotterdam, Netherlands - Although Amsterdam is definitely worth experiencing, Rotterdam is a must if you’re in the Netherlands! The city is so young and vibrant with a lot of youth, bars, and amazing architecture.
  • Stockholm, Sweden - If studying in Malmö, I highly recommend taking a trip up north. Take a flixbus to Gothenburg first (beautiful scenery, and known for their GIANT Kannelbullar (cinnamon buns) in the Haga area) and then head to Stockholm! There is so much to see, and Skansen (the world's oldest open-air museum/zoo) is a must!
  • Riga, Latvia - What a unique city! You can see the Russian influence in their architecture and culture. It is a quaint and lovely city to spend some time in.

What were your social and extracurricular activities while on exchange?

I went to the local gym often and I learned a lot of Swedish that way! I probably picked up more words than my friends who took the intro to Swedish class

Studying at cafes with friends – we got to explore the city while walking to the café and we could socialize while still getting our work done

I joined a dance class at the university! I got to interact with local students (since I am more exposed to international students in classes/residence)

The local student union planned lots of events and I tried to attend as much as I could. The best/most popular event is called Sea Battle – a cruise to Riga and back! Students from many cities/universities attend and there are a lot of fun activities planned on board.

Any advice to other students considering studying abroad?

Philosophical advice:

  • Don’t miss an opportunity to travel just because not everyone in your group can come. Embrace travelling in smaller groups or even alone
  • Reach out to resources – if there is something holding you back, go talk to a Study Abroad Advisor, Financial Advisor, apply for grants/bursaries, and do your research
  • You will grow in more ways than you anticipate. I learned so much about myself throughout this experience

Practical advice:

  • Flights are only cheap if you take practically nothing with you! Even carry-on bags can add cost. I was almost charged 60 euros for my tiny crossbody purse!
  • Do walking tours!!! They are usually free (but recommended to tip) and it is a great way to see and learn a lot about a city quickly. Every city has a unique history
  • Cook for yourself as much as you can 😊 Eating out is expensive in Europe plus the kitchen is a great place to socialize with your peers
  • Doing a co-op before your exchange is a great way to save up!