Two American students were brought together in Gothenburg, Sweden by a mutual passion for the environment and sustainability issues. They are now studying the same master’s program in industrial ecology at Chalmers University of Technology.

Emma Brimdyr from Dennis, Massachusetts met Amanda Svensson from Canfield, Ohio on the first day of school last year.
“We happened to sit next to each other and when we briefly introduced ourselves, I realized she was an American too,” says Emma Brimdyr. “She understood all my references and we immediately became good friends,” says Amanda Svensson.


Emma and Amanda both have an engineering background from the U.S. but figured Chalmers’ program in industrial ecology could offer them a more sustainable career path.
“I didn’t want to go into your classical engineering job. I knew I wanted to focus on sustainability,” says Emma.
When she started to look for programs with a sustainability focus in the U.S., she quickly realized there were not a lot of options.
“So, I started to look for a master’s in Europe instead and found this one at Chalmers. It seemed more involved and in-depth than the other options I had looked at. It had also existed for a longer period than most of the programs back home,” she says.

For Amanda, it was the possibility of combining her interest in the environment and spending a long period of time in Sweden, a country she has occasionally travelled to since she was a child.
“Chalmers seemed interesting and is close to where my Swedish family lives. I wanted to be able to reconnect with my grandfather, aunt and cousins. I was excited about the possibility of coming here for that,” she says. Amanda’s father is from Ängelholm, Sweden but has lived in the U.S. since he married her mom in his 20s.
Because of her Swedish sounding name, she gets mistaken for a Swede all the time, which has led to some funny conversations.
“One of my teachers tried to email me in Swedish. He just assumed I was a Swede too,” she says, smiling.

As an international student at Chalmers, you are offered Swedish classes for free, an offer that Amanda was quick to accept.
“I keep getting better at it, slowly but surely. I try to listen to Swedish music and watch Swedish TV shows all the time,” she says.
Emma, who also has Swedish heritage, is trying to learn the language. The family on her mother’s side immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden many years ago and her mom speaks Swedish.
Taking the leap to move overseas turned out to be one of the best decisions either of them has ever made.
“When we talk about sustainability in class no one talks about how we should do sustainability at some point in the future. Being here makes me feel that we are working toward sustainability right now in a very real way,” Emma says.
“I like how involved our professors are with the fields they are teaching us,” says Amanda. “They are researchers and know what they are talking about because they have the experience. We recently had a lecture by a woman who was previously in our program and now works at the American company Emerson, which operates in Sweden. She was very real about her experience there and shared both the good and the bad. She didn’t try to sugarcoat anything and I really appreciated that.”

Education and a life
Sweden is famous for its work-life balance, something that Amanda and Emma have noticed in their day-to day-life.
“There is more of a balance here in terms of school, homework and other activities. For example, you have a structured lunchtime which I never had before,” says Amanda.
“And that lunch break is long enough for you to actually eat,” Emma fills in jokingly.
“Even when I feel busy with school, I still don’t feel as busy as I did in the last few years of my bachelor studies,” says Amanda. “Don’t get me wrong, we still do a lot of work here, too, and it all feels relevant to the stuff we are learning. But it is organized in such a way that it doesn’t take over your whole life.”
The two new friends are both set on finding a job in Sweden after they graduate next year.
“Sustainability is still a novel concept in the U.S. I feel more hopeful in finding a job where I get to do something in my chosen field here,” says Emma.
“Seeing all those great examples of people coming into our class and talking about what they are doing right now is really inspiring,” adds Amanda.

Vedrana Sivac

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