Reflections: SUDes Ambassadorship, China & a Life in Lund

Hey hey!

After a little over a year of being SUDes Ambassador, this will be my last post, and I will use it to FINALLY post that China gallery I’ve been promising on every post, and reflect upon my time here. Buckle up, it’s a long one, but I promise it’ll be worth it! 

It’s been a big 13 months, which began with final crits for Urban Landscape and the ambassador kick-off weekend, blending into late spring in Sweden, summer at home in Scotland and a trip to Italy with classmates to visit an exchange student friend. I turned 25 and directly after crossed my first new country of the age off by hitting San Marino for the first time in the dead of night. I returned to Lund afterwards straight into a role as an international student mentor for LU during first semester, which resulted in a load of new friends and a reactivated social life – I would highly recommend taking part in this scheme! The super fun times then had to take a back seat because classes returned for Urban Dynamics, which was a heavy workload and a lot of stress. A few weeks in and it was off to new country number 2, China. For further info on this, see my previous post. If you want more photos, they’ll come at this post’s halfway point!

Post-China, the workload got INTENSE. I mean, like, crits every couple of weeks, super high expectations, and new visiting tutors and critics every week kind of intense. Somehow, I ‘finished’ the project and got to go home for Christmas and New Year with my family, with the horrors of thesis pushed to the back of my mind. January came, and the realities of having to do my back-up thesis finally hit me – no Cuba or Jamaica for me, because no funding for me either. Aberdeen was it, and I dreaded it. The tutors loved the site, liked my ideas, and were encouraging, but I’ve been unable to maintain motivation and excitement for it for such a long semester. I lived there for 20 years of my life so it’s just not exciting for me in the same way China was, since it was so different and unlike anywhere I’d been before. I had a mid-crit, a check-in, and recommended to present later, and I set up exhibitions and attended a LOT of presentations. As it stands, I’m due to present my thesis mid-September but have very little drive to actually do the last little bit of work. Hopefully I find it over summer, since I’ve basically taken the last month off for graduation, friends, beaches, etc. In the coming days I’ll go to new country 3, Finland, with my flatmates from my undergrad years in Edinburgh (which I miss greatly every day).

Here is the mega-slimmed-down China gallery at last! My reflections continue afterwards.

So, how does one reflect upon not only a job, but 2 years and a place and pretty much 5-10% of my life so far? It sounds like a small portion, and indeed the time has flown by, but it’s a significant chunk at a very significant stage. Being in your mid-20s is strange enough as it is (half my friends are working full time adult jobs and getting married and firing out babies, the other half are mega broke students who can’t wake up before 9am or decide what movie to watch or whose place we want to drink at) and spending these years in a completely new country and culture with all new people with my entire future as a giant confusing abyss makes it that much stranger. I can be sure that being an ambassador was a great experience, and one that I am better for. I wrote some ridiculously long response emails (really, who’s surprised?) and gave a few tours and hopefully inspired some people to take the leap and study at LTH. I explored new places and shared my experiences with some of the best people I could have ever met.

I still question my decision to come here often. I still don’t know for sure what I’ll end up doing with my life beyond September (except for temp moving home and attending a lot of weddings). I still wonder whether this masters was the right thing for me. Compared to where I grew up in the Scottish countryside, Lund is giant, but compared to where I studied before, Lund is small – maybe even too small, and my perception of distance means Malmo and Copenhagen never felt as close as they actually are. Lund, for me, has lacked in what I always thought I’d need to have a balanced social, personal, and work life. In some cases, my assumption was absolutely bang on (boo hard to meet new people, boo lack of dating for the gays, boo lack of places to go out at night, boo high bar and restaurant prices), and it doesn’t help I’m resistant or opposed to some constraints made by the culture or geographical location here (i.e. paying to get to somewhere to meet friends, not being able to talk to strangers in places without seemingly being insane). In many cases, I’ve been pleasantly surprised, and I see that maybe what I always thought I’d need to have a fulfilling life was wrong. The friends I have made and the people I have met while I’ve been here have exceeded everything I could’ve hoped for and helped me keep growing as a person after the point when most people would have stopped, expanding my horizons and opening up my world to experiences and opportunities beyond the reach of many of the peers I left behind. Through them, I’ve engaged with cultures previously unknown to me, made surefire friends for life, and built a kind of family away from home through shared experiences and exploration (inc. 7 new countries!) that I will forever be grateful for. It’s kinda cool as well knowing that in almost every corner of the world, I’ll know at least someone to grab a drink with or get a floor/sofa for the night.

I urge you not to let my negatives above affect your perception of this city. Everyone wants different things in life, and Lund at least does deliver something positive for every kind of student from every kind of background. I choose now to look at it in another way, more like the second half of the prior paragraph – I’d lived in and loved Edinburgh for the prior 5 years, and I don’t think I could ever love a place as much, but what I wanted from my masters (as well as the degree and such) was to do it in a new country, with a different culture and new people, and for that Lund certainly gave me what I asked for, just not in the ways I expected. I choose to associate Lund not with its physical embodiment of a place, but for its impact on my life, the growth I’ve achieved, the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had. It helps that the place is beautiful as hell though.

Anyway, I’ll leave you now. I hereby pass my ‘ambassador baton’ to Tere, who I’m sure will do an amazing job. For those of you who contacted me through the year, I’ll still be around when you arrive in August/September so feel free to visit the thesis studio and say hi, or come to my presentation! #SUDesRepresent!

Joe x

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