If you are adventurous, interested in the latest technology and would like to explore your Swedish roots, how about doing so in combination with your master's degree studies? That's exactly what Ilsa Juhlin from Seattle did, thanks to a scholarship for U.S. citizens that led her to Chalmers University of Technology on the west coast of Sweden. 

Growing up in an American Swedish household in Seattle, Ilsa would always celebrate Christmas “the Swedish way.”

 She says, “My dad is originally from Sweden. That meant we would always get our presents on Christmas Eve and have sill and Jansson for Christmas dinner. On our birthdays, we sing the Swedish birthday song."

Ilsa finished her undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. Shortly after graduation she worked on developing bio-mechanical helmets for the National Football League. 

“After a couple years in the industry, I realized that I missed learning. I wanted to focus on my specific interests in engineering.” So she started thinking about studying abroad but didn’t want to choose the same path as her sister who had already moved to Gothenburg, Sweden to study bio- and nanotechnology at Chalmers University.
“At first, I was thinking of going to Germany. But then my sister said, 'Well, you know Chalmers is one of the best schools in Europe. You should consider applying there too.’”

The intersection between sports and medicine
The program in biomedical engineering at Chalmers was the one that piqued her interest the most.

 “I love the intersection between sports and medicine and wanted to explore it further. When we read about new medical innovations at school in Seattle, everything seemed to have been developed in Sweden. I knew it was a great place for innovation and that Chalmers would provide a lot of opportunities, both academically and industrially.”

Ilsa found and applied to the U.S. Friends of Chalmers scholarship, a scholarship only awarded to American citizens, that covers the full tuition fee for the two years of master’s studies at Chalmers. She was taken by surprise when she found out she was one of the students to receive it. 

“I didn’t dare get my hopes up when I applied, but I was so excited when I found out that I would get to go to Chalmers.”

On Memorial Day weekend, she got to meet the other U.S. Friends scholars at an awards ceremony in Seattle.

“I immediately made new friends, from Kentucky and Minnesota, that made me feel comfortable with my new surroundings when I got to Sweden. To have that companionship right off the bat felt really nice.”
It was easy to find Swedish friends as she explored her roots in the new country, too. “Swedish people are excellent at English. They don’t even have an accent. But what really surprised me is how welcoming and friendly they were. I get asked to go for a fika or study dates all the time.” 

Other than enjoying her classes and the work-life balance that Sweden is famous for, Ilsa also thinks highly of Chalmers’ sustainability profile. 

“What Chalmers does to be sustainable goes above and beyond any place that I have ever previously been to. The whole school has solar panels. When you go to eat, you find out what your carbon emission footprint is. It’s exciting and I feel proud when I tell my friends back home about it.”

According to Ilsa, the sustainability focus is one of the most life-changing things about studying at Chalmers.

 “It has really made me more aware of the impact I am having on this earth. And for that, I am eternally grateful.” 

By Vedrana Sivac


U.S. Friends of Chalmers Scholarship
Chalmers University of Technology was founded in 1829 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The university focuses on research and education in technology, natural science, architecture, maritime sciences and other management areas. All master’s programs are taught in English.
In 2020, two scholarships that cover all the tuition fees for master’s studies at Chalmers University of Technology will be awarded to citizens of the United States of America.
The selection is based on an applicant’s relative academic excellence, which primarily includes weighted average grade but also home university's stature (including a position on global ranking lists) and priority order of the application for Chalmers master's programs.
Application dates: October 15- January 15.
 Read more here: www.chalmers.se/scholarships