One of the awkward things that I did during my first week at Chalmers was calling my teachers by their first names. No “Professor”, “Mrs.”, “Sir”, or anything extra! I needed time to get used to it, but hey! Now that I am, I feel comfortable talking about anything with my teachers. It feels like they are friends, and I feel that there is no strict hierarchy in school. Of course, we all need to respect each other, and I love how the relationship between students and teachers are more like a family.
It has never crossed my mind that I would be invited to my teacher’s house in Norway to have dinner together after a field-trip. I also went kayaking with my teacher, Magnus, and my classmates. It was my first time kayaking, and he taught me everything. There was also a time where my classmates and I were invited to go on a picnic together with our teacher, Anna, this summer. Were these experiences awkward, you ask? No! Not at all. They were super fun! I think all these experiences would not be possible if the learning environment in school were stiff and too formal.
As I came from a country where hierarchy matters a lot, I feel lots of changes in the way I see things here. Even though Chalmers apply the flat-hierarchical system, I appreciate that everything is done with a base thought of respect, equality, and kindness. Everyone respects the personal spaces of one another, the way they look, the way they speak with different accents or languages, and everything else. As there are more than 90 nationalities here at Chalmers, diversity is embraced, everyone is welcome, and these different backgrounds make everything better. Whenever we have a discussion, it is always exciting to see the colorful ideas coming from different perspectives. In addition to that, teachers here are always open to any ideas! I would say that teachers at Chalmers have done an excellent job in guiding us to develop ideas – rather than pushing some specific knowledge to us very strictly.
Now that I am working as an intern at Chalmers Marketing and Communication office, I also feel the same way in the office environment. Everyone still calls their colleagues by their first names but treats everyone with respect. This non-hierarchical culture has been a great learning experience for me, and it has been my honor to experience it.
Text by Alberta Maria Titis Rum Kuntari
Pictures by Gheorghe Maleca, and Tove Wennberg