The students who wanted to participate in the pilot project Sustainable Exchange by Train had to submit detailed travel routes and climate calculations for their journeys. Ten students were then selected to be the university's first train ambassadors and were granted 5 000 SEK each. The travel grant was handed out by the Swedish politician Maria Wetterstrand at a lunch seminar about biofuels at Chalmers.
“We received many impressive applications. Some students even wrote that they were proud to go to a university where we initiate projects like this,” says Karolina Strandsäter, international coordinator at Chalmers.
She came up with the idea for the project two years ago after hearing Chalmers President Stefan Bengtsson give a speech about sustainability.
“I got so inspired and felt that I somehow wanted to combine Chalmers' vision of a sustainable future with student exchanges. Within Europe, it should not be as difficult and expensive to take the train as it is today. If there are more people who pay attention to the problem then there may be a change in the future” she says.
The student travelling the furthest in the project is Alexander Johansson, who is studying Architecture at Chalmers. His trip to Lisbon will take over a week by train, with several stops in world metropolises such as Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
“My plan is to turn this into an inspirational journey where I will stop at several places along the way to study architecture. It will be a good entryway to my studies this autumn and hopefully a fun experience.”
Jenny Andersson, a fellow student in Mechanical Engineering at Chalmers can’t wait to reach her destination, Lausanne in Switzerland.
“My trip will take 24 hours in total. I am planning to overnight in Munich before travelling further. My biggest
concern, however, is how to pack. I have to fit my whole life in a small bag.”
“That’s one of my biggest concerns as well. I don’t even know what to pack yet or how much space I will have for my luggage in the passenger compartment” says Biotechnology-student Linnéa Dehlén. Her trip to Tromsø in Norway will take about 30 hours by train and bus.
“As a student, it is difficult to justify any other choice when the flight is cheaper and faster than the train. The travel grant makes it possible for me to travel in a more sustainable way.
Some of the students had already begun to explore the possibilities of taking the train before they became part of the project. The recent trend of “Flying Shame” – feeling guilt over the environmental effects of flying – has a strong hold on Sweden.
“I can admit that I am ashamed of flying. These days I try to get to places by bus or train as much as possible,” says Jenny Andersson.
“We feel it too. This project eases that guilt a little bit,” says Alexander Johansson and Linnéa Dehlén.
During their journey, the students will post updates about their experiences on Chalmers’ social media channels.
“Maybe we will be able to inspire others with our travels. I hope we can show everyone that flying doesn’t have to be the starting point for travelling in Europe,” says Linnéa Dehlén.
The exchange destinations
Tromsø (Norway) – Linnéa Dehlén, Biotechnology
Trondheim (Norway) - Ingrid Larsson, Mechanical Engineering
Lisbon (Portugal) - Alexander Johansson, Architecture
Lausanne (Switzerland) - Jenny Andersson, Mechanical Engineering
Madrid (Spain) - Simon Hagelin, Industrial Economics
Milan (Italy) - Linnea Johansson, Civil Engineering
Munich (Germany) - Sarah Torstensson, Automation and Mechatronics
Delft (Netherlands) - Maja Lindborg, Architecture
Mons (Belgium) - Jakob Ånevall, Chemical Engineering
Turin (Italy) - Amalia Björklund, Architecture
Text: Vedrana Sivac
Photo: Johan Bodell