Through his master's studies, Lewis gained a broad perspective on sustainable development. This, together with the international aspect of the programme, is important to sustainability as holistic understanding is necessary to create sustainable systems. It also allowed him to explore his own interests.

Where are you working today?

I work as a Contract Operations Analyst in Statkraft that develop and operate renewable energy assets within hydropower, wind, solar, gas and biomass, supply district heating and buy and sell energy.Lewis McNamee, alumn from the master's programme Science for Sustainable Development

Tell us about your background. How and why did you choose to study in Sweden and specifically at Linköping University (LiU)?

After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, I decided that the degree had not gone into the area of sustainability in the way that I hoped. At the same time, I had not had the opportunity to study abroad such as in an exchange semester. These two reasons led to me pursuing an international masters’ degree in sustainability. I was aware that Sweden has a good reputation for environmental teaching. When I was looking at the available programmes in Sweden, LiU stood out in sustainability due to the multidisciplinary education offered at TEMA. As I believe this Is an essential part of sustainability, it sold me on the university!

Tell us a bit about your programme. What did you enjoy about studying here?

The programme gave us a significant amount of autonomy in our studies. This was excellent as it allowed each student to tie it into their own backgrounds, whilst learning from each other. This is important to sustainability as holistic understanding is necessary to create sustainable systems. It also allowed us to explore our own interests which meant I was far more motivated to engage, as well as teaching me lots of new areas. The department staff was excellent as well – always open to a chat about your ideas and their own research and interests. This was also reflected in the teaching, where it was clear that the lecturers were experts in the taught area, as well as passionate about the subject.

How did studying in Sweden differ from being a student in your home country, and in other countries where you’ve studied?

Studying in Sweden mostly different from studying in the UK in terms of the amount of autonomy granted. My bachelor’s degree was very structured – there were lectures, assignments, etc. But you were always told what you were doing – you didn’t get to explore areas of interest. This was not my experience in Sweden, where we could interpret assignments to pursue our interests. For example, you may have an assignment to investigate resource impact. Beyond that you get to choose what resource impact you’re investigating, and the impact of what. This was often combined with peer exercises, where you could hear about others’ topics – perhaps giving you new, interesting areas to explore!

The other major difference would be the teaching style. There was a lot more open discussion within lectures, problem classes, etc. As well as a more welcoming atmosphere to get opinions of lecturers and to learn more ideas from them.

What was student life in Linköping like?

Student life in Linköping was great! It is well known in Sweden as having a good student life, due to the number of student associations, as well as a good student population. The entirety of the city is highly cyclable which means there is no need to fear about having to drive/find a car. There are also excellent public transport links (particularly busses) which are relatively cheap and regular, and even run late into the night. All this makes it easy to get around as a student, without worry about how you are getting home.

The associations can sometimes feel a little closed off to international students, as often their committees and activities are Swedish focused, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity to engage. There are also two international student-focused groups in the International Students’ Association and Erasmus. These provide plenty of activities to international students, and an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. There are also many other options to get involved both with international students and Swedish culture through other initiatives led by the university and the local kommun!

Do you have any particular memories that stand out?

One of my favorite memories is having an “international party” with friends from the course, where we all contributed foodstuffs and music form our home countries. It was an amazing way to experience lots of different aspects of cultures you wouldn’t have any idea existed!

There was also a trip I took part in, to Kiruna, above the Arctic circle, led by the International Students’ Association. There I got to snowmobile, sauna on a frozen lake and see the Northern lights – it was one of the best experiences of my life!

What were the advantages of studying in a medium-sized city in Sweden?

I think the advantages of a medium sized city are in the compromise between big cities and smaller communities. It was large enough that there was a good amount to do, and that international students could engage well without feeling like outsiders – almost everyone speaks excellent English, and much of the city is well suited to international students in terms of guidance and understanding of different cultural norms. At the same time, not being a major urban center means it still has a lot of local character, meaning you are able to feel like you’ve been genuinely engaged with Sweden, rather than living in an international exclave.

How have your studies at LiU helped you in your career? What has stood out as being the most helpful part?

I think the creativity and self-motivated drive I learned in my studies have really helped me. It’s pushed me to continually improve my skillsets and to learn new things, as well as be confident in making my opinion known – backed up by evidence. This has been noted as strengths by my current manager. It has also taught me to be open to lots of different ideas and to work with different backgrounds. This has made me a strong team player, able to take the best of others’ ideas and combine them to a workable solution.

Why do you think others should choose to study in Linköping? What do you think is unique about LiU that you can’t find anywhere else?

Certainly, TEMA is a rather unique department in a university. Featuring a broad range of expertise across a lot of subjects and a focus on cross-disciplinary learning is a rare learning environment, but one which is well suited for sustainability. Beyond that I think LiU offers lots of opportunity for students to get involved and explore their interests whatever those may be – there is a strong focus on students influencing their courses, lots of activity groups and a good city feel with lots to do, but also accessible countryside.

What advice do you have for future international students at LiU?

Be prepared that you will likely have to be self-motivated to make the best out of your programme! But also, be open to all the different things on offer and try to meet lots of different people through different groups. Make the best of the time you have there!

What, if any, tradition will you continue in your home country? Is there anything you would have loved to be able to take home with you?

I’ve continued the Swedish tradition of open and balanced exchanges – believing everyone has the right to make their voice heard and that flatter hierarchies work best. On a less serious note – kanelbullar! And I will forever miss saltlakrits! And make sure you get a doughnut at Simons Rosteri in town! In short – lots of great food (though try not to eat too much)!

More about the programme