International students in Stockholm study in Nepal

With the school year drawing to an end, Stockholm International School had a lot to celebrate as it marked two years of its Nepal Project, a partnership with a primary school in the Himalayan country.

International students in Stockholm study in Nepal

“One of the best things about my school is that it teaches you to be a global citizen, and the Nepal Project takes this to a new level.”

These words from a student summed up Stockholm International School’s Nepal Project, the largest service endeavour the school has ever undertaken.

Since launching the partnership with a Nepalese primary school in 2014, the student-led team of ten has raised funds to help the 60 Nepalese students, with an annual springtime trip allowing them to oversee the changes as they are put into practice.

The school’s community is truly global – SIS offers an international education from preschool to grade 12, with students from over 60 countries – and now its students are working to ensure they have a positive impact on a global scale. 

At the Nepal Celebration on Tuesday, the students behind the project spoke enthusiastically about its goals and progress, as well as sharing a video of their unforgettable trip.

As the audience of students, parents, and other interested members of the SIS community arrived at the school auditorium, they were treated to Nepalese food, while two members of the student team applied traditional bindis to the guests’ foreheads.

Project Ambassador and tenth-grader Julia Vestberg, who was dressed in a Nepalese sari, began by explaining the project’s aims. 

Inspired by the United Nations’ 17-point action plan for a world without poverty or social inequality, the team have chosen to focus on five of the goals in particular: no poverty, no hunger, quality education, sustainable cities and communities, and strength and partnership.

These goals are put into practice both throughout the year at fundraising events, and during a week-long trip to Nepal, during which ten students from grades nine to 11, led by Project Ambassadors Krešìmir Krajnovìć, Julia Vestberg and Hallie Marcellus, visited the Shila Devi primary school.

Jill Limacher spoke about her experience of the trip and showed a video of the SIS students at the school. 

The team from SIS arrived in Nepal in March 2016 with 12 bags of donations, providing each Nepalese student with toiletries, a toy and other basic items. Last year a student had personally organized a shoe drive, after discovering that many of the Nepal students walk for over an hour to get to school – some even carrying younger siblings on their backs. This year Julia organized a drive for toiletries.

But as Jill explained, the aim of the project is not merely to provide financial aid, but “to support the Nepalese community by building personal and meaningful connections”. The SIS team connected with the Nepalese students, teaching sports and games as well as basic health and hygiene.

Students Giordan Yates and Sebastian de Paz spoke about the support SIS offers Shila Devi, and how they raise the funds to achieve it. Since the first Nepal trip in 2015, the students have worked hard to raise awareness in the school community about the project, and to collect donations which will make a real difference to life in the Shila Devi school.

While the trip is crucial in allowing the team to build connections, most of the Nepal Group’s work is done here in Sweden throughout the year – and the whole SIS family gets involved.

The Student Chairman of the project, 11th-grader Krešìmir Krajnovìć, who has now been to Nepal twice, said: “The Nepal Project has been such a success because so many different people worked really hard. All the members of the team are crucial.We have built it up to become one of the defining points of our school.”

The aim of the project now is to continue as a long-term sustainable effort, continuing to provide the Nepalese students with daily lunches, shoes and uniforms – a legal requirement in Nepal – as well as making new investments in infrastructure and educational materials.

SIS has provided the school with solar panels, allowing the school to produce its own electricity, and is now looking into options for improving access to clean drinking water. 

This is all made possible by students and parents coming together for fundraising events, which this year included three large events; a Fit For Nepal week, a Global Citizen walk, and a concert by the school band.

Regular Friday meetings allow anyone in the SIS community to contribute ideas and get involved, and the team make sure the whole school community is kept up to date with their work, so that everyone at SIS feels close to the project. Furthermore, there is total transparency about what is done with the money raised, allowing students and parents to see the tangible difference they have made possible.

The involvement of the entire school was something which Krešìmir also emphasized.

“For those of us who worked on the Nepal Project, it was really important that the whole community – students, parents and staff – were aware of what we were doing so that they have an understanding and feel a connection to the project,” he said. “Very few schools have anything like this.”

He added that the project hasa positive impact on students from both schools and is truly symbiotic.

“The students in Nepal get material help but at SIS, we get the benefit of understanding this other culture,” he said.

“Those who go to Nepal get to travel, learn about a different culture and be involved in a service project which reflects UN global citizen goals. The highlight of the project is knowing – and seeing – that all your effort has a real world impact.”

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Stockholm International School.

All photos and video: Stockholm International School.


‘Everything is on hold’: The ups and downs of working in Sweden in summer

Office fruit disappears, trains and restaurants shut down, and it is impossible to get anything done if it involves a Swedish colleague. The Local's readers report from Sweden's deserted summer offices.

'Everything is on hold': The ups and downs of working in Sweden in summer

Many foreigners in Sweden end up deciding it’s best to do as the Swedes do and take at least three weeks off in July, as it’s almost impossible to get normal work done. But this doesn’t work for everyone.

Some would rather take time off when the climate is best for a trip back home. Others haven’t been working long enough to earn the holiday. Others are simply too new to understand what July in Swedish offices can be like. 

We asked readers who have worked through most of July to tell us about their experiences. 

READ ALSO: Why do Swedes take such long summer holidays? 

What’s it actually like in the office? 

“Life kind of stops, everything is on hold. You have no one to sign off, approve, help, assign or complete tasks,” reported Sebastian Perreira, an IT worker based in Stockholm. 

“The office is empty, chat is silent, the business is completely on pause,” agreed Sara, a marketing manager from Italy. Elie, a railway engineer from France, estimated that only a quarter of those who normally work in her office are present. 

It’s not just the human contact and the chitchat that disappears. Many workplaces put office cleaning and other basic services on pause. 

“There is a lack of sanitation in office spaces as everyone is out on vacation and also all maintenance work, such as building ventilation etc, is done during this time which makes it difficult to sit in the office space sometimes,” said one respondent, who preferred not to be identified. 

“They stopped the supply of bananas…” groaned Hongru, a statistician from China working at Linköping University. 

An engineer working in construction. Photo: Sara Winsnes/Imagebank Sweden

What about getting to the office and time off after work? 

It’s not just reduced services in offices themselves, but in the entire city. 

“Many restaurants I usually go for lunch are closed for five or more weeks during the summer,” reported José, a software engineer from Mexico, something Perreira agreed was “absolutely ridiculous”. 

Santhan, a PhD student at Umeå University, said that he had struggled with “being alone at the end of the day instead of doing evening sports or activities”. 

“Rail maintenance works are planned when the majority of Swedish people take time off,” said an electrical engineer from Ireland. 

Karan, a cyber security consultant from India, said he had been struggling with the “reduced frequency of public transport”, but Shubham, a mobile app developer, said that he actually liked the fact that public transport was “not too crowded”. 

So could anyone get anyone work done?

“It’s definitely challenging,” reported Mia from the UK, saying she felt “totally uncomfortable” with all the decisions and deadlines that “no one will really remember after their five to six weeks off”.

“Honestly, getting anything done is a struggle, so I focus on individual projects and self-development that I can do by myself. Also, even Swedes who are working aren’t really doing anything.”

“At our company, all of the developers or engineers are Swedish, so they naturally tend to go on vacation all at the same time, sometimes for up to eight weeks,” said Danny, a software developer, also from the UK. “When something goes wrong and a fix is needed urgently, we either have to hack something together without them or use the on-call engineer, which costs a lot of money.” 

One foreigner spending her first summer in Sweden working for a German multinational said she had found the main task assigned her impossible to complete.

“I am supposed to organise a board visit for the end of September. I was only able to book the hotel rooms, but not able to discuss the catering as the responsible person was on holiday. I also need to book restaurants for two evenings. But the restaurants which could fit the requirements of this important meeting are closed, I was not able to visit them, discuss the menu or complete the booking. Next time, I will start the process in March!” 

Foreigners dealing with colleagues in other countries often faced the biggest problems, as few of the their overseas colleagues understood the situation they were in. 

“Foreign clients don’t understand Swedish culture. Or worse, think the Swedes should change their culture,” said James, a construction industry manager from Scotland, who said he was struggling because “the support we need is not there and the team is struggling” and “nobody cares.”

Another foreigner who worked in software development said the big issues came when changes needed to made to another team’s software, as there were “usually no people to go to”. He expected more problems come after the summer. 

“Most of the work done during summers, or even a few weeks before summer, needs to be reexplained again and again after vacationing colleagues return back with vacation brain fog.”

Perreira said that foreigners stuck alone in offices were often left with “boredom and a feeling of guilt”. 

“You either have nothing to do, because things are very slow, or you need to feel peer pressure but there is none, since everyone is off. So you end up accomplishing very little and feel guilty afterwards.”

Some work better

Some respondents, however, said they found summer an unusually productive time. 

“I can get a lot done without the usual meetings being necessary,” said Danny. “Swedes tend to get upset if they are not invited to a meeting, but I’ve found that they don’t mind at all if you take a decision yourself over the summer.” 

Nayane, a Brazilian business intelligence manager, agreed that the best thing about the summer was “no meetings”.

“I’m working with some very specific things that require no interaction with other people, so it has been great!”  

One software tester from eastern Europe said she had benefited from “a lot of focus, way less distractions with meetings and interactions and the possibility of dedicating most of the time to technical tasks not involving communication”.

“Without being bothered, you can actually accomplish a lot of things from the backlog,” Perreira added. 

Alice, who works in delivery and analytics, agreed that summer offered an opportunity to tick items off the to-do list that she never usually had a chance of getting to.

“You get the time to do things you’re not getting to in usual circumstances, like time-consuming projects that are not top priority,” she said. 

Some find it hard to work but don’t care

Several respondents agreed that it was hard to get much done, but didn’t seem too concerned.

Charan, a data manager from India, said that despite a “slightly higher workload”, the long days meant he could both work and feel like he was on holiday. 

“It is very much possible to enjoy the Swedish summer and work simultaneously,” he said. “The long, sunny days and relatively warm weather makes it easy to work and during times of less work to do, it is also possible to connect from a holiday destination and keep working.”

Steve, a UX designer based in Stockholm, who is not using his real name took this to approach to an even greater extreme.

“It’s the best country to work during summer, especially in a corporate environment,” he said. “Since everyone else was gone and workload amounted to almost nothing, I ‘worked’, but really was just taking vacation.” 

He didn’t even stay in Stockholm during his working weeks, he said, instead enjoying “a normal travel-filled vacation”. 

A summer cottage. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT

How many will take the summer off next time like a Swede? 

Nearly two thirds of our 42 respondents had worked throughout the summer, with most of the rest taking only two weeks off. 

Several said their experiences of working this summer had convinced then to take a Swedish approach next summer. 

“I will take four weeks off next year and not feel any guilt,” said James, the Scottish construction manager. “I will take time off during the summer at the same time as the Swedish people in my office,” agreed the Irish electrical engineer. 

But others, particularly those from India, felt that as summer was the best time to be in Sweden, they wanted to save their travel months for January and February, and the post-Monsoon months in October and November, when the weather is cooler in India.

“It is the best time to be in Sweden, and the worst to be almost anywhere else in Europe,” explained Perreira. “So why waste vacation days now when you can go to Southern Europe in autumn or spring, and to Southeast Asia during the winter?” 

He said he didn’t plan to take the summer off Swedish-style unless absolutely forced to by future family circumstances. 

“Unless I start dating a Swede and end up being forced to spend half of my summer in a cottage in Skåne, nothing will change.”