Why Americans love studying in Sweden

International students from around the world often jump at the chance to study in the US. So why is that some American students are defecting to study in Sweden instead?

Why Americans love studying in Sweden
Photo: Linköping University

The Local spoke to a current student and alumnus of Sweden’s Linköping University to find out why they swapped the States for Scandinavia.

Lower fees

In the US, an undergraduate degree can set you back around $100,000 (€90,270) while the average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000-$120,000 (€27,000-€108,000). 

EU students can study for free at Swedish universities and while tuition fees vary for US students – and depending on the subject – it generally costs a lot less to study in Sweden. There are also scholarships available for international students that normally reduce tuition fees by 50 percent.

Photo: Anne Moyerbrailean

“It’s majorly cheaper,” says Anne Moyerbrailean, who recently graduated from LiU with a master’s degree in Gender Studies. “I think most master’s programmes in the US are about $30,000 (€27,000) a year. Whereas, at Linköping University, all I had to do was fill out a form and they gave me 50 percent off my tuition. You just can’t compare.”

Find out how to apply for master’s study at Linköping University

More independence

For Ohio native Adam Grachek, who is in the first semester of a M.Sc. in Intelligent Transport Systems & Logistics, a key difference between studying in Sweden and the US is that the university takes more of a backseat in students’ social lives. While LiU hosts many events and activities, students also play a more active role in organizing student life.

It’s far from the only way that independence is nurtured at LiU. American students might be initially surprised to discover a different approach to learning in Sweden. Whatever the programme, there is always a focus on independent learning and critical thinking — students take the reins of their own education, working in study groups to solve real-world challenges and develop skills that will be valued by future employers.

Photo: Adam Grachek

READ ALSO: The European university turning student ideas into startups

A global education

The world becomes more globalized each year and education needs to keep up. Anne found that taking gender studies in Sweden gave her a more global perspective on the subject — which she is unsure she would have gotten if she remained in the US to study.

“In my experience, there was more of a worldliness to the professors’ approach. I think the US, in a lot of places and ways, falls into this trap of just looking at the US context. Whereas I felt the professors at LiU took a really global approach to feminist studies. And the fact that we were reading texts in so many different languages definitely changes the lens on it.”

Browse international degrees taught in English at Linköping University

It’s more relaxed

Nobody said getting a university degree would be a walk in the park but the Swedish education system is certainly more laidback. For one, relationships between students and professors are less formal and often on a first-name basis. According to Adam, the arrangement of the academic year also takes the stress out of studying in Sweden.

“In the US, there’s one long period of five classes so the workload is more hectic. In Sweden, the period is split up better so that students can focus on one thing at a time. It’s still rigorous and intellectually rewarding with as much process and thought put into the classes but it makes it less stressful.”

Anne believes that the lower fees alleviate some of the pressure — although it doesn’t mean the education is taken any less seriously. It made her feel more relaxed about retaking exams without worrying about how many thousands of dollars the resit would cost her.

“There’s a flexibility and spaciousness. I think it really enhanced my learning experience.”

Diverse student body

There are around 2,400 international students at LiU enrolled on the university’s 28 international programmes. The diverse student body was a bonus for Anne who enjoyed meeting and studying with people from all over the world. It also led to much livelier and more enriching in-class discussions.

“We would talk about things I never even thought about – or came close to thinking about! That was really cool. Before I started the program, I thought I had a well-rounded understanding of systems like gender and sexuality. But through group discussions, I gained a deeper appreciation of the ways these systems shape people differently in different countries. Instead of just learning from books, the Tema Genus program granted me the opportunity to learn from the lived experiences of a diverse cohort.” 

Stepping stone into Europe

Studying at a European university is the gateway to a life and career in Europe where Americans can enjoy perks like more days of annual leave and benefits for families. For example, workers in Sweden get 25 days of vacation and 480 days of parental benefits to share between both parents.

Adam is getting a head start by working as a part-time international student ambassador while he completes his master’s degree, blogging about his study experience. Although Anne is now back in the US, she hopes that this isn’t the end of her European adventure and pictures herself one day living and working in Europe.

“I hope one day to actually move back to Europe and work for the UN or a similar organization.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.

For members


Explained: This is what studying in Germany will look like in autumn 2020

Germany remains a highly sought after study destination with lots to offer international students. With the autumn term set to begin, we spoke to students and experts to find out what it could be like to study here this year.

Explained: This is what studying in Germany will look like in autumn 2020
Archive photo shows students at workstations in the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center, the university library of Humboldt University Berlin. Photo: DPA

Moving abroad to go to university can be daunting at the best of times. So to do so in the middle of a pandemic might seem more than a little scary. But Germany’s roughly 350,000 international students still have lots to look forward to this year. 

“What students coming to Germany should know is universities still want to welcome new students and everyone in the sector is really committed to making sure teaching is high quality and that it’s safe,” says Gerrit Bruno Blöss, managing director of

READ ALSO: In Numbers: Who are Germany's international students?

In fact, Germany has seen an uptake in interest from students, Blöss says. This could be because of it’s late application deadline, or it’s international reputation for handling the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic well, he suggests. 

It could also be because of Brexit; UK universities may lose 84 percent of EU students to continental European universities, with Germany at the forefront of alternative study destinations, research from has shown.

But what will it be like to study in Germany this year? 

Mix of online and face-to-face teaching

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many universities around the world have been forced to close down class teaching and rapidly shift to distance learning, running online seminars and tutorials. 

For the Autumn 2020 term, universities across Germany and Europe are expected to use blended learning, which is a mix of online and face-to-face teaching methods. To be eligible for a student visa to come to Germany, international students must have at least some in-person teaching this year. 

Akos Kiraly, director of marketing and recruitment at Lancaster University Leipzig, says his university will offer a hybrid system where it will distribute classes on campus, as well as online through Zoom.

Alexander Pfisterer, lecturer at the University of Mannheim, recording a digital business lecture in April. Photo: DPA

“This year has been a challenge for all of us,” Kiraly says. “Generally speaking, we have adapted to the situation and are welcoming international students in the fall term. Most of the universities are prepared to teach completely online or in a hybrid model and can switch to online delivery if it’s necessary at short notice.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How (and where) to enroll in a Master's programme in Germany

Maxwell Shukuya, a student from the US who is doing a Mmaster’s in Cologne, says online learning can be tricky for international students.

“All of my classes were online last semester, and barring any unforeseen updates, the next semester will be online, too,” he says. “It wasn’t horrible, but it makes finding friends and practicing German difficult.”

However, Kiraly reassures new students that at many universities, those starting their courses online can receive additional support, such as extra tutoring and access to student support services.

No big parties – but still events

Everyday life for students in Germany and elsewhere will also be different to usual. Students shouldn’t be put off, though, Kiraly says. 

“With safety measures – such as wearing a mask and disinfectant – we can still arrange events and social gatherings,” he says.

“We know a big part of student life is meeting others. So even if it’s not the same, we are confident we’ll be able to provide events and gatherings. These won’t be big parties or gatherings any more, of course, but [gatherings in] a smaller circle.”

READ ALSO: 10 words that perfectly sum up student life in Germany

Many of the things that make Germany a popular study destination remain. The relatively affordable cost of tuition – usually around around €350 per semester – and living was a big factor in Shukuya’s decision to study in Cologne, he says. 

“I really appreciate that the education here is affordable. Not only do students receive an all-inclusive transportation ticket every semester, but they also have access to subsidized cafes, sports classes and gyms.”

Since June this year, foreign students within Germany can also apply for an interest-free loan of up to €650 per month to help facilitate their studies. 

Germany is an open minded study destination that offers unique opportunities, Kiraly says. “We offer one of the best educations worldwide, with an English taught offering.”

Student Constantin Pittruff watching a lecture from home in Sinzing, Bavaria in April. Photo: DPA

'Nightmarish bureaucracy'

Shukuya does have some frustrations with the German higher education system, though.

“Some professors can be fairly distant,” he says. “For example, office hours often seem rushed and straight-to-the-point.

“Straightforward things like signing up for classes and figuring out what exam you need to take for a certain module are way more complicated than they need to be, thanks to a pretty nightmarish bureaucracy. It often seems like no one, not even the instructors themselves, knows what to do.”

READ ALSO: EU students turn to Germany as a top study destination in light of Brexit

But overall, Shukuya is pleased to be able to study in Germany. “It’s a good idea to learn as much German as possible before getting here though,” he says. 

Blöss says he doesn’t want students to be put off from studying internationally because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Personally I would say if you can make it happen, still come and study abroad,” he says. “If you can do it later, then do it later, but don’t cancel your plans altogether. 

“This is a challenge that can be overcome,” he says. “That’s the message we want to communicate to everyone we encounter.”