Fitria Rahayu

​“Studying in Sweden is still pretty uncommon for Indonesian people. But that’s what makes it worth even more.”


My name is Fitria Rahayu. I came from Bandung, Indonesia. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Institut Teknologi Bandung. I never imagined I would be living in Sweden. I barely knew anything about Sweden back then.

How I ended up here

Since I was little, I had always dreamed of going to Europe. Was it for educations or travelling? Well, I can do both, right? So, already in my last year of Bachelor’s degree, I sent applications to Master’s programmes in Europe, especially the Erasmus Mundus programme because it gave scholarships too. Sadly, on my first attempt, even though I got accepted into one of the programmes (the same that I study today), I was placed on the reserve list for a scholarship. In the end I continued my studies as Master’s student at my home university, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) right after I graduated from the Bachelor’s programme.
While studying as Master’s student in Indonesia the desire to go to Europe was still there, so I applied once again. It was the 6th of March 2013 when I got the news that I got accepted but ended up on the reserve list for the second time. Being on the reserve list means that I might get a scholarship, but only in case a student from the main list drops out. At last, for the second time, I sent my withdrawal email to the programme secretary. It was July 2013 when Ms. Elke sent me an email that they suddenly had a drop out in the consortium scholarships and that they offered the scholarship to me. It wasn’t an Erasmus Mundus scholarship the amount was enough to cover my basic living expenses. I was happy enough so I replied to her “I will process my visa application right away”.

Why I chose Chalmers

I am currently enrolled as Master’s student of the Erasmus Mundus Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
programme (EMM-Nano). It is a joint programme between four universities: Katholieke Universiteit
Leuven (Belgium), Chalmers Tekniska Högskola (Sweden), Université Joseph Fourier Grenoble (France),
and Technische Universität Dresden (Germany). I spent the entire first year at KU Leuven, Belgium, and for the second year we got to choose one of the three remaining universities. To be honest with you, I initially chose Chalmers because it had a higher ranking that the other two universities. Other than that, Chalmers is also known as one of the leading universities in Nanoscience.
I am happy with my choice because that ranking has proven to be right. Chalmers actually exceeded my expectations with its high level tools and facilities (the clean room is really awesome), great professors, and a very comfortable environment. Other than that, I chose Chalmers because it is in Sweden, a country that is still uncommon for Indonesians to go study in. Indonesian people prefer to go to the Netherlands or to Germany to study. There you can easily find Indonesian food and also meet other Indonesian people on the street. However, I preferred to go somewhere not mainstream, because I wanted to meet much more different cultures and really experience what it is like living abroad.

What it is like to be a Chalmerist

As an Indonesian who has high interest in nanoscience, I feel that the lack of research facilities in Indonesia is a huge barrier for my studies. At Chalmers I found what I need. For my master thesis, I get to have hands-on experience with different kinds of measurement tools, which I really think will be valuable for my future research work.
If I had to compare studying at Chalmers, Sweden, and at KU Leuven, Belgium, I would say I love it here more because here we only have four courses/semester. In Leuven, I had nine courses/semester which was really hard. Also, the professors here are really determined to make us comprehend everything they teach us in class. They are really open to any questions and ready to help us with anything.

Living in Sweden

Sweden is a big country and Gothenburg is a pretty big city, second biggest in Sweden. With its very well established transportation system, you can get anywhere from one point to another easily by tram or by bus. When you want to take a break from studying, Gothenburg has so many things for you. It has many wide open places for people to hang out, big gardens, several movie theaters, several malls, and Ikea of course! Last but not least, it has a big theme park.
When you ask about Sweden, the first thing people will say is “cold”. Yep, it’s cold indeed, but despite that, Swedes are actually warm people. Also, what I really appreciate about them is that they are not discriminative. As I am a Muslim wearing hijab, I have never had any unpleasant experience since I got here.
In terms of living expenses, I must agree with the rumor. It’s a bit more expensive here than in Belgium. In terms of language, I find it really easy to communicate with Swedes, as most of them speak English very well. Some might not speak English, but at least they understand English and when they speak svenska (Swedish), I could just guess what they mean. If you’re stuck with words, Tarzan (body) language can always work! It’s unfortunate for us second year Erasmus Mundus student that we got no free Swedish course but fortunately, we got Dutch free course while we were in our first year in Belgium. This way I get to understand one or two words of Swedish as some words are similar in Dutch.

Side story

Before I got the news of the scholarship in July 2013, I had planned my wedding in August 2013. When I saw the email, I knew right away that I would have to leave my husband behind for two years, since he had a job and he was already registered as a Master’s student at the same university as I was (ITB). However, we knew that such chance might not come around twice, so we decided to give it a go. We got married on the 18th of August 2013 and one month later I went for Belgium. The next year we decided that long distance marriage was not for us so my husband decided to resign from his Master studies and his job, filled an application to Chalmers - thank God he was accepted - and got his scholarship from LPDP (a scholarship provided by the Ministry of Finance in Indonesia). So today we live together in Sweden as two Master’s students.

My Bio:

  • Erasmus Mundus Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Master’s programme, Chalmers University of Technology (August 2014 - present)
  • BSc. in Physics, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Indonesia (August 2007 – April 2012)
  • My email address:


Text: Fitria Rahayu
Edited by: Oana Georgescu
Photo: Private

Published: Mon 30 Mar 2015. Modified: Tue 31 Mar 2015