What Blandine says about the Master’s in Biology, General Biology
Blandine Lyonnard from France
How did you end up in Sweden?
“I did the first two years of my Bachelor’s in biology in France. I wanted to go abroad, and considered Sweden because I wanted to improve my English. I also wanted to discover a new country, culture and language. I looked into Erasmus programmes and ended up doing one year of Erasmus in Gothenburg. Even before going to Gothenburg, I already knew that I would stay longer if it would be nice. One year is really short when you want to integrate and discover more, so I decided to do my Master’s programme in Sweden as well.”
What attracted you to the programme in Lund?
“I liked the fact that the programme is general, allowing me to do what I want. I can choose my own courses and Lund University provides a huge diversity of courses that I’m interested in. I looked up all the courses beforehand, and I found a lot that interested me, so I thought it might be the right place for me! I feel quite free in this programme. I wanted to study ecology, but not only focus on plants or animals – I wanted to do a little bit of everything instead. It was the perfect programme for me in that sense.”
What is the structure of the programme like? What are your typical classes like?
“The programme has 4 blocks of 15 credits per year. Each course is different. The first course I took was actually in Swedish. In the beginning it was really difficult to understand the language, but the course focused on something I really wanted to learn more about – mosses, lichens, and mushrooms – and I wanted to learn more Swedish as well. The course involved a lot of field trips; we had a one-week field trip in Småland as well as field trips every Monday and Wednesday. It was basically 08:30–16:00 every day, but there was not too much to do at home. The course I took after that one was in the Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science department; it was called Global Ecosystem Dynamics. We had fewer classes in this course. We had a lot of computer exercises and group projects. The course I’m taking now is a bit of a mix of the first two, with some more lab work. It really depends on the course you’re taking. I really like that we can take courses from other departments as well.”
What was your favourite field trip so far?
“I really liked the one-week field trip in Småland, because we were all living together in this typical old Swedish house for a week. It was near a really big lake, so it was super beautiful and we were super lucky because it was still sunny. We saw many different places around Småland where I had never been. I also really liked the field trip where we looked at lichens in Billebjer Nature Reserve close to Dalby.”
What do you think of the teaching style and way of studying here?
“I really like it! We are encouraged to breathe and not be too stressed. On the first day of school during the first year of my Bachelor’s in France, they had a big talk with the new students. They said that you should think twice before deciding to do a PhD and that you have to be really, really good or you won’t manage. It was quite a stressful environment. When I arrived in Sweden, we also had a talk, and they said “if you want to do a PhD, come talk to us. We will help you.” It was such a big difference. And it’s really like that with the teaching here; the professors are really trying to help and there is more of an exchange with them. You’re a bit more on the same level, whereas the system in France is more hierarchical. There they teach and talk, while you listen and write, and you don’t have too many discussions. It’s more dynamic here; the professors are really there to help, not just to pass on the knowledge.”
How does the General Biology programme differ from the other specialisations in the Biology department?
“In the other programmes, you have courses you need to take, and when you do your Master’s thesis it needs to be linked to the programme you’re taking. In the general one it just needs to be linked to biology. You’re free to build the programme yourself. You can also do that to some extent in the other specialisations, but much more so in this one.”
How international is your programme?
“Highly international. There are only a few Swedish people. We’re a small programme. Conservation Biology is the most popular programme; they have around 25 students. We have 8 students in my programme. It’s really international in the classes and in the programme. The students are from all over the place – Europe, America, Africa, Australia and Asia. I think it’s really nice."
Are there any opportunities for networking within the department?
“I think so, yes. There are a lot of opportunities to meet people from different study backgrounds and fields. If you ask for advice from the professors, they are really accessible and helpful. If there’s a researcher doing something that you’re interested in, you can go talk to them. It seems easier to engage with people here and find the information you want.”
What do you plan to do after your studies?
“I want to do a PhD, but I don’t really know in which field of biology yet. I’m discovering a lot of really interesting fields in this programme. Lund University and this programme are quite well connected with research, so I will get to see more research and hopefully find out what suits me the best.”
What do you think of Lund as a city?
“The city is great. I would say it’s cute. I like the city centre, it’s really beautiful. The surroundings are also nice and worth discovering. It’s really nice to bike here because it’s not too hilly.”
What’s it like to be an international student at Lund?
“It’s really nice. Lund is a quite international city due to the University and how open it is to international students. Lund is nice because there is something for everyone and every personality. At first it may seem a bit much with all the nations and other activities. One can feel a bit lost in the beginning, not knowing where to go, and there’s so much to choose from. But you will quickly learn what your preferences are, and you will quickly meet a community of people who share your mindset. It is easy for everyone to feel at home in this city, no matter who you are. It’s very inclusive.”
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities in Lund?
“Yes! It feels like I’m involved in new stuff every week. The thing I’m most involved in is ‘Lund Matvarukooperativ’, a member-run organisational cooperative that aims to sell local organic veggies and fruits directly to the consumer. We don’t make any profit. The farmers give us their prices and we sell the products at that price. The goal is to connect local, small-scale producers with people around Skåne. Our principle is that producers must be organic, small-scale and local. I’ve been elected to be coordinator of the food working group, which takes care of everything related to food and contacting the producers. Every two weeks we have an order. We ask the producers what food they have a week before, then we send out a form for people to fill in, then we go get the food and distribute it to people. I also play football with Helsingkrona nation, they have a girls’ team. I work at Smålands nation sometimes as well, and I’m getting involved in another organisation called Extinction Rebellion, which fights against climate change and tries to make the authorities realise we really need to change things.”