I arrived in Stockholm on the 15th of August and I must say I've enjoyed immensely these 3 months I've already spent here. The EMDC master programme I'm following has you move between at least 2 different countries during the master. If you're not new to this blog, you already know that my first year was spent in Barcelona, studying at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. For my second year, I'm to study at KTH Royal Institute of Technology here in Stockholm.
Although classes only started at the beginning of September, I chose to arrive on the 15th not only to have 2 weeks to get accustomed to living in this new country but also because the EMDC summer event was to happen on the 20th to 22th of August. Much like what happened in the winter event I described in an earlier post, in this summer event, all the students of the current EMDC batch along with some select students from the previous batches, teachers and coordinators gathered together for 3 days of relaxation, socialization and getting to know some interesting research topics in the field of distributed systems. Similarly to previous years, this year's summer event was also organized at Fejan, a small island in the archipelago to the northeast of Stockholm. Everything from the great food served (tried moose for the first time!) right next to the water to the traditional swedish sauna followed by a dive in the cold water was amazing. We also had time for a night walk around Fejan, kayaking around the neighbourly islands and to play some volleyball after a tiring day. The feeling of being totally immersed in the surrounding nature is exhilarating.
This immersion with nature is actually a constant here in Stockholm. Being one of the cities referred to as 'Venice of the North', it's guaranteed that you're never too far away from a canal, river, lake, sea. The distinction between those concepts is actually not so clear because when you look at a map of Stockholm and the surrounding areas, it appears that Stockholm is just a collection of big islands. But, as I was saying, the city is totally integrated with nature, so much so that you happen to have an entire national park spanning more than 10km around and through the city. In less than 20 minutes (and just using public transportation and walking) you can get from the city centre, with its high buildings and offices to the middle of an entire forest surrounded by nothing but trees, shrubs, birds and the occasional deer.
I'm currently living in Lappis, a famous neighbourhood dominated by student housing and about 15 minutes away from the main KTH campus (or 20 from T-Centralen, the central metro station). Most of the rooms here are integrated into corridors containing between 8 and 14 rooms. Each room has a private bathroom and the kitchen is shared by the entire corridor. My own corridor is one of the big ones with 13 people currently living here. Curiously, only 3 of those people are Swedish with the remaining ones coming from all over the world: India, Hungary, Germany, China, France, and others. Fortunately, everyone is really nice although some of them are rarely seen outside their rooms. All my colleagues from UPC are also living in Lappis (albeit in different buildings) as well as some of the ones that studied in IST. The remaining ones got accommodations in Kista, where the technological KTH campus is located (approximately 1 hour away from Lappis and where I have most of my classes).
My room here is quite bigger than the one I had in Barcelona (about twice, almost triple the size). The 3 windows look over the Lappis forest which, by the way, is an awesome place to go running: fresh air, next to the sea and lots of different tracks. On my first few days here I made the obligatory trip to IKEA to get some bed sheets, towels and some furniture to put in my room and bathroom. The bathroom is pretty simple and quite different from the bathrooms I've grown accustomed to: there's no separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom (I had to put a curtain to keep the water from going all over the place) and there's a single tap which you can direct either to the sink or to the shower. The shared kitchen is pretty big with 2 of everything: ovens, fridges, freezers, sinks. You also have 2 cupboards (one of them with a lock) and a drawer reserved for each room so there's plenty of space.
The transportation system is pretty great. You buy a single card (SL card), charge it and can use it everywhere in Stockholm: buses, metro, train, ferries, etc. A 30 month pass is quite expensive: 520 SEK with the student discount, 790 SEK without (close to 60 and 90€ respectively). Everything's usually on time and there are plenty of buses around with great coverage. The metro network is also pretty extensive.
As for the university itself, KTH, the main campus has a very old-school look (kinda reminds me of a brick-version of Hogwarts). The Kista campus looks more modern but also has less charm. This semester I'm having 4 classes: Philosophy of Science, Academic Writing, Advanced Topics in Distributed Systems, Implementation of Distributed Systems. The Philosophy course has already finished and although I was very reluctant to take it at first, I ended up enjoying it thorougly! We did lots of reading on some essays by philosophers of science like Kuhn, Popper, Lakatos, Longino, had 4 seminars/discussions and had to write an original essay with at most 10 pages for evaluation (you can check mine in the attachment to this post). The other courses are still going strong: for the implementation course, Anh and I are evaluating distributed genome sequence alignment tools; for the advanced topics we are currently preparing a presentation on the modelling of network interactions through markets (buyer-broker-seller interactions); and for academic writing we're studying how to write the different sections of a scientific paper.
This post is getting quite long so I'll leave it at that. On the following post I'll highlight some of the cool stuff I did here and explain my experience in finding a nice thesis and its implications.
Cya in the next post!