Näktergalen mentorsverksamhet – The Nightingale program

Definitely one of the most valuable and satisfying experiences I have decided to put myself into during this first semester at Malmö university, is that of being mentor for a girl as part of the Nightingale program. In Swedish “Näktergalen” the idea of a network of children between 8 and 12 years and university students was actualy started in the city of Malmö in 1997. I wonder if any other city would have given such a chance for a program like this to develop, taking in mind the high level of cultures present here and the social issue which came forward as a theme to be faced following an innovative path. But what is the Nightingale program about?

Basically, applications are received from a bunch of university students who want to dedicate 2-3 hours of a day in the week to a child, doing daily activities, such as getting around in the city, talking, watching a film, baking etc. On the other side, children between the age of 8 and 12 attending different primary schools send their applications, looking forward to meet their mentor, someone who will be a friendly, adult, and fun person to be with. Both of them will send their applications with their interests, motivations, and a photo, and other thing which may be relevant and useful when it comes to the matching. As a mentor, one will have an introduction course on what it means and implies to take part in the program, and then visit the school to meet the teachers and get to know where the class of your child is – since you will mostly pick your “mentor child” from school.

Neither kids nor mentors get to know each other if not on the starting day, which in the case of Malmö university was yesterday. After I “was found” by my mentor child looking for the number I was holding, we went around for a quiz walk – in Swedish “tips promenad” really characteristic of the Swedish culture – to get to know each other a bit more. Later on mentors, children and parents met each other to learn a bit more about, at the end, everything about it. Which days are best to meet, contact details, allergies and other “adult stuff”, while of course eating a fika and getting coffee.

What the program is not about. It has nothing to do with working as a baby sitter. The mentoring is voluntary and meeting times are decided together with the child and the parents, taking in mind the load everyone has because of university study and work, as well as personal needs and other planning issues. It is just about meeting once a week for 2 to 3 hours each and it is definitely something that, if you want, you can make as part of your routine with no problems. There is completely aknowledgement about the meeting time and nor of the parts are supposed to feel stressed about finding time to meet, otherwise the all meaning of the program would disappear. Although, the point of the program is to care about the other, for both the student and the child to be responsible and flexible and to be open to learn from the other and teach the other things. In some way one of the meanings of the process is to learn to teach to and learn from the other and stay with the other. Recognizing someone’s values as well as encouraging them, engaging themselves in something you would not think you would otherwise do.

The Nightingale program is part of the variety of programs available at different universities and schools in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries, plus in Uganda. It is reaching more and more popularity through years. When I was in London one month ago, visiting the office of “The Challenge” which “raises awareness of the social and economic risks associated with social segregation”, we talked about their interest in starting to be part of this mentoring program, so the network is continuously is growing.

Of student associations and happy phonetics

After some hectic moments since I arrived in Malmö, I can finally say I am on the right path for a bunch of good moments during my stay in this city. Taking in count that after I stepped to Sweden as exchange student it took almost more than a year to go through and overcome a struggling culture shock, I am more than happy to see that after two months I start to feel at home here in Malmö.
The variety of student associations at the university of Malmö gives you a way to develop your interests and get to know new ones as well as a lot of people around, and most important it gives you the chance to feel at home easier and faster. The UF Malmö – Utrikespolitiska föreningen/Foreign affairs – association arranges lectures and debates every week. Among the others, in the last two days we had the chance to see the US presidential debate in a lecture room, followed by a debate seeing politicians from both democratic and republican side as participants. I saw the first debate on my own and still need to see the following two, but seeing the last one sitting together with a lot of students from the Global Political Studies department, interested and at the same time confused about the level of many of the discussions in the debate, gives you a totally different feeling.
Another association is MASK – Malmö studentkör – which started to rehearse again after a long break last year.
Sweds like to schedule and to see things well organized, so some of the things you will never be able to escape if you take part in a student association at a Swedish university, will be:

  • a membership fee, which can be within a range of 20 to 200 kr – 2 euros to 20 euros more or less
  • a meeting, in the start of the semester where board members have to be decided and decisions about a variety of things need to be taken. It can take up to hours – as it happened in the choir I previously sang, or a few minutesas it was this week in the MASK.
  • fika – happily pronounced fee-ka, is not just part of whatever meeting or social activity you will take part in Sweden, it is a basis in the Swedish cultural iceberg. Funny or not, some days ago I was talking with some Germans about the thing that in Sweden you need a special word and activity to be social, which – at least from a not Nordic prospective – is a bit sad. On my side, I do love it. The “fika thing” is as informal way to get to know each other or gather with a friend, which can be similar to “having a coffee” in Italy or “going out for a pizza”, with the difference of the basic need of sugar and coffeine you definitely appreciate in dark times, a part from the social part. Therefore assimilation of the Swedish culture is made way easier that other ones just thanks to this: coffee or tee, fruit and some sweet thing, most of the times offered in different occasions or brought by some members of an association. You can decide to take your own, or the choir decide that everyday a voice in the choir need to bring it.
  • a sittning – a word which actually relates to a party you will participate mostly sitting, but of course is not, or at least not totally. Organized to get to know each other, as an international participant I appreciate these events a lot, since I learn to see how outgoing and talkative many start to be in when they are in a party mood.
  • a weekend of meetings and partying. Board members or members of an association usually reunite for a weekend where to know each other better, organize things and party. In two weeks we will have a cottage weekend with the choir, staying two nights, taking saunas and excercising songs for the coming winter concert.

The city is full of events going on, especially if you have an interest deeply related to culture and language issues, as I do. An Arabic bookshop is opening next week, a film screening and a debate are taking place tonight at Garaget, part of the city libraries network, and national day celebrations of different countries are often held, and English in already “the new Swedish” in a city regarded as not part of Sweden by everyone in this country.

An eye on Esperanto, and open eyes on Malmö

28th September

As you probably noticed by yourself, I am pretty productive in this week and feeling optimist about blogging. I mean, always loved my blog but my interest in it is just developing deeply. Coming back from London I feel like my life is leading somewhere – don’t ask me where, since that would really be a deep issue to talk about, and the excitement of the moment would not accept it! Maybe because of the number of activities done last week, or because taking a break and coming back to Malmö really made me recognize where I have to stand now, or for the book in sociolinguistics I bought, and the first good presentation at university with a balanced interested and funny group…I feel to write as much as it gets.

Today as said we had this presentation in class, after I woke up at 6.00 to get prepared and relaxed before the presentation. The first-graded work of the program went actually well and we cheered eating a kanelbulle with the others. Want to know more about this strange and dangerous thing? Just go here 😉 The hall of the major building of Malmö university was full of stands from student associations, from the Nightingale program, to language exchange meeting, the foreign affair association, the environment one or the lgbtq issues one.

You should have seen the scene when I almost literally jumped on one of the desks full of papers with the word “Esperanto”. It did not quite come to my mind as soon as I read it – the amount of coffee drank since Monday for carrying on the preparation for the group presentation really made me a bit crazy – but Esperanto is a language created at the end of the 1800s with the uthopia of using it as a universal language. Putting together the easiest forms from different languages, though especially indo european ones plus something from Japanese, it should avoid misunderstanding between language speakers since it is thought to be easier to learn for adult than English would be. Reading fast some info about it, being a big pot of languages it is supposed to develop your brain abilities and your ability to learn other languages. By the way! I got this amazing paper about how Esperanto language works and some – or I think even all of them – gramatical rules. The Esperanto association meets just in the area where I live, and sometimes some teachers from Denmark comes there for a lecture, directly jumping into a talk in Esperanto. I know how all of this can sound uthopian and senseless but I was just thinking about focusing on learning a language and did not yet have the motivation to do it…this is just completely crazy and I am completely in of course!

30th September

Two days ago it started to blow in Malmö. And Malmö is one of those city you see in the news where people have to do their best in order not to fell down walking by the sea or biking somewhere. Well you probably will see me in one of those scenes if I keep biking everyday to uni, even when the wind is on a average of 8/s and it does not seem to get lower. At least we have the Sun! Wait…at least the sky is blue, the Sun almost said goodbye to Sweden…

Have to go to university now, and find a spot of time to take a photo for my Swedish ID!

See you soon

 

Quitting caffeine

I am trying to make everything a bit healthier but without a Swedish personal number everything is way more difficult. I went to the gym on Wednesday to buy a monthly card but without a PN you are supposed to pay six months in advanced with no student discount. So I just tried the gym a day and will go back when I will get this holy personal number, or maybe I should check if they have a week trial.

Next week could be very good as well as very bad, since I am waiting for at least – so far – three very big answers.

  1. I have applied to become a Digital Ambassador for the Study in Sweden student blog. They take at max. m.o.l. 10 students (I think) to blog about their lives as students in Sweden. I read it just five hours before the deadline on Wednesday and got a little nap on it (one of those days I got naps around 18.00-19.00! And this sound as lazy as just a Italian could do right?)
  2. I am actually waiting for a personal number, that really, more or less soon, should be really mine! I got both a letter with a document to fill and more documents to send, and a email telling that I did not hand in the right documents – and I am getting a bit crazy about this! But I think next week my life may start again.
  3. Last Monday I did this audition to get into the choir at university, it is one of the two at uni and is called Academic Choir and Orchestra at Malmö University – it is a bit bigger and more talent-requiring than the other. I tried but I cannot really read notes even though I can sing, so the choir director will let me know in case the others he will examine will not be better than me. So, waiting for this also!

On Thursday night I went to sleep around 23.00, when suddenly I heard much noise coming from outside like shots. Boom-boom boom. Then long pause, and again. I really felt like something was wrong and I promised to check the newspaper the morning after. I read that – as usual I should add – there was a shooting toward an apartment in Malmö. What happens often here in Malmö are shootings between criminal gangs – even though I completely feel safe in this city!

A thing I really enjoy of Malmö is its multiculturalism which makes also the reason for which I wanted to study especially here. Everyday going around I at least hear five languages, excluding English heard almost all the time. And seeing so many differences is really making me feel in a so different way (which sounds strange but it’s awesome).

Now I will get ready to bike to work, or better to have coffee with a girl of my program. I leave you with some nice images from the last days in Malmö 🙂

See you soon!

Biking in Malmö, course intro, work and home sweet home

I’ll start saying that Malmö is one of the first cities in the world regarding cycling paths, number of bikers and of bikes.

Let’s say that since I stepped the second time in Malmö during March this year, and the third time last week, I was wishing I had a bike from the very first moment, ‘cause it seems to be that unless you have a bike, you do not count really much in this city! In the last days I almost got killed by two bikes, once because I did not look properly when I was crossing the cycle path, secondly ‘cause going out from a shop, a guy cycled crazy coming from left. He said sorry, also in English so I guess he was a new exchange students thinking that Malmö is a paradise for bikers. And well, it is partly true. But there are a few things that did not make me feel safe to have my music on during my first kilometers done by bike today.

Firstly, all the rules you would follow on the road with cars, apply almost in the same way between bikers, so those cycling on main cycling paths, have precedence on those coming from minor roads, and so on. Second, even though it is a bike friendly city, it doesn’t mean you have precedence on everybody and do not need to watch over yourself, car drivers expect you to respect rules and to bike carefully, so free biking city if everyone respect each other. Thirdly, there are people, cars and bikes coming everywhere, so you’d better watch out all the time! There is a thing I never experienced before and it is that of really using your bike to replace a public transport, the feeling you get is a completely different one. On the one hand because it is pretty long and uphill and windy on the way to university from my place, on the other because in this way I really spare money on the bus, and why not on gym card!

Let’s say that there is kind of a underground market of bikes here, but you know, Malmö is close to Copenhagen, Kristiania not far away, lots of people from anywhere (there’s the major underground crime space for what I heard from someone, do not believe in that completely though!). Many bikes on market are stolen, and when you want to buy one which is not, you should ask the bike seller for a paper signed by the previous owner, maybe warranty sheets and so. Opposite to what I thought, it is not easy to buy a bike – I am talking about second-hand ones – and the average price is around one thousand crowns, which is 100 euros more or less. But I found someone selling a very old bike, with rust, an annoying sound and a not working dinamo for just 400 crowns, well you think I said no? I can still have a complete refining in city for 200 crowns, yes, so cheap! This happened yesterday and I am so happy I can bike around, have some sport and spare money not taking the bus. Now, I don’t know where this bike comes from, but I hope nobody got stolen of it, even though I expect it to disappear soon, or maybe it even looks too old to be stolen?! By the way, here in Malmö I saw everything, bikes without wheels, wheels without bike, but also heard from a girl from the US that she got stolen of her bike, and the person returned it in the same place the day after. So, Malmö is a place to be, just to laugh a bit and experience it.

Malmö is really the place with the kindest people all over Sweden, as I was told by many before moving here. In the last few days I asked a few people for directions – today also to another biker – and I always got the answer “well I am going there, you can follow me and I’ll show you!”. Really, really kind people.

Today I had my introduction lesson to the program I will start soon, the first lesson is on Wednesday, and following the Swedish academic style, there will not be many lectures every week, instead we have a more individual work to focus on. The literature to read though is still not really much for this first semester, still much to do though. This made me think of how many activities I will be able to do in order to fill free time and get some experience in this multicultural environment.

As I said, on Wednesday I came with my father and host family to Malmö, then I was with my father until Friday night. We went around, to Ikea of course, and mounted a lot of furnitures, and here are some pictures of the days together. I know that in the last months in Sweden I took way more photos, but now I am very used to Sweden and less things come to my eyes as often as it happened before.

P.S. With a average wind of 8 to 10m/s here in Malmö, the way to dress your hair is definitely a chignon (we say “cipolla” in Italian, “onion”), and I think the this is how most people will see my face now on!

The coffee land

I am finally back in the normal land, country or planet or whatever we want to call it. The normal place is for me a place where car drivers do not try to kill you as soon as you try to cross the road, where people smiles to you in shops, and where they ask you if you want the receive even if you paid with the card, at the end, the country of coffee. It is also the place where if it is cloudy, people do not give up to meet because they feel sad.

Well, yesterday I came back to Karlstad with the famous flight Lufthansa/BMI which requires you to land and take off three times in a day, with a stop of around four hours in Frankfurt. Kind of a experience I would say.

After I had to wait almost eight hours to check my application result for university in Sweden, I got to know that I actually got admitted at the bachelor’s program in “International Migration and Ethnic Relations”, in a few words the course I was dreaming about for two years. Today I will start to look for accommodation in Malmö, and in the next days I will have to fix the personal number request.

I also got from the Italian Embassy an envelope to vote abroad in the middle of April, pretty excited for that!

Well, after woken up at 10 (late for me, early to be the day after the three-round travel), had some kind of breakfast finding hidden food in the refrigerator and prepared my lunch, I am finally at university.

See you later!