I chose Chalmers for many reasons a convincing reason is that I wanted to be part of medium sized cities and larger cities also tend to have easier modes of international travel, so it was easier to pick the city life over other smaller college towns where other renowned design school exist. E.g., Umeå University, Lund, and Uppsala. Furthermore, I personally love to travel. I have travelled for as long as I can remember – through southeast Asia when I was five years old to cities in Germany during my early twenties. It has been my dream to not own a car, downsize my living space, and experience a different city life outside of America. Since this was so important to me, I wanted to live in a slightly smaller European city where life could be a bit slower without compromising the amenities of city living. Gothenburg checked off a lot of these boxes for me.
Secondly, my ranking during my application process was Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Malmö due to the renowned universities Chalmers, KTH, and Malmö University, respectively. This was because of some preliminary research that led me to like Gothenburg more than the other schools I could choose from. During my university search, it is safe to say that I had some happy accidents that made my choice to make Chalmers my number 1 pick. Coincidentally, before the pandemic I lived with a roommate in my home city (Atlanta, Georgia) who had finished her masters at Gothenburg University and had a lot of good things to say about the city. She mentioned the advantages of being in a European city without a language barrier, the diverse group of international friends she surrounded herself with, and the networking opportunities she was able to utilize to pursue internships during her two-year master’s program. The attributes she mentioned sounded quite university agnostic since I was also quite pleased to hear that she was able to find many social circles between the universities that overlapped. This meant that Gothenburg, in general, had a large network of young professionals I could lean on not only in an academic setting but also after I graduate while I make new friends in a new country studying various disciplines.
Thirdly, Chalmers has some of the strongest academic research connections in the EU. Though I applied to the Interaction design program, I was not completely sure about what industry I would want to work with for my academic research projects, internships, or the master’s thesis. Research students and professors have developed strong ties with universities in Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, and many more. This was apparent from the backgrounds of the professors from my program before I even started my master’s application process. This was another strong sign for me to consider Chalmers over the others.
Chalmers is also known for its Industrial design engineering master’s program
which vastly aligns with my bachelor’s degree. I wanted to keep my options open in case I decided to choose a more technical engineering-heavy course load that would allow me to blend my design courses with engineering projects. At Chalmers, and in Sweden, the course structure is very fluid compared to what I am used to. I discovered that my program allows for almost half of its courses as electives where students can cherry-pick their expertise and pursue a deeper understanding of other subjects and disciplines while still pursuing a design degree. Another reason for why I picked Chalmers and Sweden for my master’s.
Fourthly, picking a school out of many options can be a gamble. There was a certain sense of uncertainty I had to learn to embrace. Fortunately, I have made drastic choices in the past such as switching cities several hundred kilometers away because of a job, lived alone and independently for extended periods of time, and backpacked through Europe on a few occasions. All these adventures have taught me to embrace discomfort – the kind where it helped me grow and introspect about who I am as an individual. So, for me, picking a master’s program in another country was yet another moment of discomfort I looked forward to. Granted, to pick the correct ranking, I did my due diligence by joining Facebook expat (or expatriate) groups, explored the student housing options, understood the likelihood of scholarship procurement, discovered the best neighborhoods via hoodmaps.com, compared cost of living for cities via nomadlist.com, gauged social interaction potential via the Meetup app, etc. I know what you are thinking – yes, I am a planner, and yes, I did this for every city I applied to! As a fee-paying student, I was adamant to cover all my bases to receive the “best bang for the buck”. My goal was to mitigate the risk of choosing the wrong city or university as much as possible. In the end, I am now grateful I did my research.
Lastly, a lot of what I have mentioned so far is what I like to call safety net planning. The true reason for why I picked graduate school is because I love design (and still love engineering). In the end - ask yourself what it is that you are looking for overall. Sometimes, like my case, the decisions are holistic and not just about the university. There are several factors that play a role so ask the questions that could help you understand your choices better.
P.S. I applied for a master’s because I have been journaling about it for four years before I decided to make a portfolio and apply! Yes, that is a long time. The pandemic made it easy to find the time and self-reflect. Maybe you can also find the best tool for you that will help you understand your decision path? Just food for thought. Either way, I hope you enjoy the process along the way as much as I did 🙂