Name, country of origin:
Elida Izani Ibrahim, Malaysia
Master's in Computational Social Science
Where do you work?
I started my Ph.D. at the Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, in August 2020.
What are your research interests?
Overall, my research interests are political sociology and cultural dynamics. My doctoral project looks at the intersection of these two topics. I aim to investigate political lifestyle bundles and how seemingly non-political preferences attach themselves to particular political meanings using statistical and computational tools.
Tell us about your background. How and why did you choose to study in Sweden and specifically at Linköping University (LiU)? What were you doing prior to coming to Linköping?
Elida Izani Ibrahim
I received my bachelor's degree in Sociology in Canada and after I graduated, I went to work at a start-up research unit in my hometown, Kuala Lumpur. It was through my work experience there that I realized I needed to acquire more skills in dealing with digital data, which led me to the decision of pursuing a master's. I thought very hard about which part of the world I wanted to expand my skillset and have an opportunity to live in. In many foresight studies, countries often cite the Swedish model as an example of the type of system they want to adopt in the future. So, moving to Sweden to me was like moving to the future! Luckily, LiU was also offering a master's programme that would directly address the gaps that I was seeking to fill in my development as a researcher. Therefore, it was a no-brainer that my next step would be to study at LiU.
Tell us a bit about your programme. What do you enjoy about the academics?
There are very few universities in the world that offer what the master's in Computational Social Science at LiU has to offer. Firstly, it is a new and upcoming field, full of potential for conducting innovative research by combining traditional and classic social science questions with new data and methods. I especially appreciate the emphasis on social science as it focuses on the behaviors of people and their interactions with each other and the world that produces all the data we see today. In the end, while the methods we learn are computational and we are expanding our ideas of the types of data that are now available, I like that my programme puts the human aspect at the center of our understanding.
Additionally, the combination of having international faculty who are experts in their field and small class sizes meant that we had a lot of opportunities to discuss ideas and have meaningful one-on-one interactions that I didn't get to experience as much in my previous education.
How is studying in Sweden compared to being a student in your home country, and in other countries where you’ve studied?
I had studied in Vancouver, Canada, and I do find some similarities here in Sweden. For example, the dynamic between student and instructor is not very hierarchical. Here, instructors respect and value students' input, and this is reflected in the way they teach and interact with students. Another thing I also found interesting the commitment that Swedish universities display towards ensuring their students have a life outside of studies. For example, I am used to campus libraries being open 24/7, signaling the pressure to be constantly studying. Here, the library has reasonable opening hours and so does the campus buildings themselves. It was fairly common in my previous school to see students stay on campus until late in the evening. While there is the option to do so at LiU as you always have access to campus as a student, you don't often see students study this way. They usually come early to campus and leave in the afternoon to engage in other activities. Coming here, I've tried to emulate that and it has certainly improved my productivity. Moreover, LiU has a vibrant student life full of associations with whom to build a community. I decided to be a part of the board of Stubinen, LiU's student film association, which really opened me up to the wealth of student-led activities in Norrköping. The overall culture is fascinating and fun, there are so many different traditions, and fun sittings to attend - it's really a great way to connect with other students outside of the academic setting.
What is student life in Norrköping like? Do you have any particular highlights that stand out? What are the advantages of studying in a medium-sized city in Sweden?
Norrköping is a great city to live in! Everything is close by and walking distance, the industrial landscape is beautiful, and the campus is well-integrated into the city itself making it feel like you're more than just a student here. With a medium-sized city, you also get to learn the lay of the land much quicker and you can start to make the city your own. I know that Cnema is a great resource for amazing films at a great price (with student discounts too!) and the museums always have activities going on all year round. I especially enjoy Kulturnatten and the Light Festival.
Why do you think others should choose to study in Linköping? What do you think is really unique about LiU that isn’t found elsewhere?
For me, it was definitely this programme. I don't see other universities in Sweden nor in Europe offer the same type of courses and competencies. The education and training that I've received have really helped me hone my career path. The programme's introduction to various technical skills, as well as LiU's emphasis on these things, is also an advantage for not only people interested in academia but industry.
What advice do you have for future international students at LiU?
Take advantage of the access you have to your instructors! Join a student association because they are so much fun and will open you up to the uniquely Swedish student traditions!
What, if any tradition, do you think you will continue in your home country?
I will continue to emulate the kind of work ethic that I've had the opportunity to see here in LiU and Sweden in general. In particular, their commitment to both their academics as well as their personal lives. I will also encourage others to have fika!