Lessons Learned in January

1. I learned about Handball.
I really had no idea about this sport before this month; I couldn't have even said how it was played or that there was a professional league for it... but this area of Sweden has been hosting the Men's Handball World Championship so it's been hard to escape it. I've watched at least half a dozen matches on TV. My initial very inexperienced and naive conclusions were that it was a bit of a boring sport, looked too easy to get super injured, but didn't look all that hard to play otherwise... seemed a little too simple, with too much scoring. I've since gathered from friends who've played that it isn't that easy and that it's played more strategically than it looks, but as a sports lover, it's still not my favorite. Even so, today I found myself skipping my plans to get some tea and watch the sunset at a cafe to instead watch the final at home on TV. Hm. France beat Denmark for the title, by the way.

2. I learned how special "graduation" from college can be in Sweden, despite how differently it is done...
In Sweden, there usually is no ceremony or anything of closure where everyone completing their bachelor or master degree receives their diploma together with some celebration and fanfare. They have a big high school graduation tradition (will have to tell you about that craziness another time!), but nothing for university, for the most part. Everyone here tends to finish around different times, depending on what they study, how long their education took, when they decide to do their theses, and where they may have studied abroad. A few of my Swedish friends when they were in California made sure to go to their exchange university's major graduation ceremony in June to check out what they were like. I saw the lack of graduation traditions here as sort of anticlimactic, where everyone at different times just trickles out of the school they've been attending with all their friends for years... there didn't seem to be any closure or celebrated excitement about completing a degree.

But then last week I was invited to a party to celebrate a Swedish friend completing her thesis and therefore being done with her masters. It was a formal dinner party that included a cocktail hour beforehand and later on moved into a student club for dancing afterwards. Dozens of friends came just to celebrate my friend and her thesis partner completing this big step. They all got to say goodbye to these two who were moving away from Lund later that week, and congratulate them and only them. Their classmates and friends weren't distracted by their own wrapping up of their student life... they planned special gifts for Rebecca and Erik and made heartfelt toasts to them over dinner. It was sort of like an engagement party (without the romance) mixed with a goodbye party... and not like graduation parties as most Americans know them because your friends can come and just celebrate you because they aren't busy with their own party and family! I was absolutely charmed by the evening. Not everyone in Lund does this, and if I had to pick I would still want the graduation ceremonies, with the traditions of the cap and gown and speeches and the feeling of completing your studies with your friends doing the same, but now I see how special it can be without all that.

3. I didn't really learn a lesson, per se, but I was reminded of how much I like my classmates and know I'm in the right program as this semester got started.
We have a course this quarter called Strategic Change and Leadership, and many students from the Corporate Finance masters program are in it with us. They lend a different perspective and background, which is great, and this was most notable the other day when three of those students were giving a case study presentation. They could have focused on discussing marketing plans, product innovation, or organizational performance, but as they went through their slides one of the girls actually said with a laugh but meaning it, "Being finance students we feel really insecure if we're not working with numbers in these cases, so we have a few charts here for financial performance..." I laughed to myself, knowing that I and many of my friends in the course hated how numbers-oriented that case study was and that our eyes just glaze over at charts like those. Not that we don't understand them, we just don't love working with them. My thoughts were confirmed as not one or two but three people from my program in the next few minutes raised their hand to pose a question and started with some form of the phrase, "Now numbers really aren't my thing, but..." That's why those of us in my program get along so well... most everyone is driven, business-minded, but analytical in a not so quantitative way... just how I like it. :)


Popular Posts