Anwen Davis from the United Kingdom
What about the Human Geography programme appealed to you?
“I did my Bachelor’s in Geography. Even though it was both the physical side of things and human geography, I’ve always been more of a human geographer. I think it’s super interesting, the diversity of it all. In this programme, you start off doing a course in geographical thought, the history of doing geography, and how it’s come to be the multi-branched discipline it is today. Next, you go into economic geography and then landscape geography. It’s such a diverse programme in what you learn! I find it quite interesting that in that diversity there are all of these common threads. You can really just have one idea or one example of something you like and apply it to everything. I know course mates who have a topic that they’re really keen on, and they have written an essay on that topic for every single course. Not because they’re just lazy, but because you can think of different themes and theories to apply to that topic in every situation. It’s really cool and diverse. Plus, I think normally studying geography teaches you a lot of soft skills like research and analysis. It’s not a lot of hard skills that people recognise on a CV, but in Lund, you do a compulsory course in GIS [Geographical Information Systems], so that is a hard skill that is great for your CV.”
Why do you think it’s important for people to study Human Geography?
“When people think about geography, they often think ‘oh, you must know the capital of Zimbabwe,’ and I respond, ‘no, I have no idea’. People sometimes don’t really understand what geography does. It’s the study of people, places and spaces. There are a lot of overlaps with anthropology, in terms of theories and academics. But geography is all about studying the inequalities and development in the world. I think that’s really important because as a global society, we should want to minimise those inequalities and help everyone have the best opportunities possible. Geography helps by theorising these issues and by locating things in places and spaces. ‘Places’ and ‘spaces’ sound like the same thing, but to a geographer they’re very different. The same way historians look across time to understand how patterns emerge and how things came to be, geography is like looking across space to do the same thing. I think it’s important because it’s something that is often misunderstood and overlooked, but it has a lot of value in terms of development and people.”
Do you have opportunities for practical experience or networking in the programme?
“Yes, I think the practical work will be very helpful going forward. The last course in the first year is a field trip. This year we went to Kiruna, and we had a class with the Human Ecology students to design an independent project. It’s good because you get to put all your qualitative and quantitative analysis skills, as well as GIS, into an actual case. If you don’t have a field work trip like this, I think that going into an interview for a job would be very hard. But having this real project case you can talk about is very valuable. As far as networking, the diversity of the course means you get to know your fellow students and lecturers quite well. There are people from all over. We have more Danes than Swedes. There are Estonians, Brits, Americans, it’s a big range. You get to build up a large network.”
What was the topic of your project during the Kiruna trip?
“My group did a project on the double extractivism of Kiruna in terms of it being marketed as both a mining city and a tourist destination because of its connection to wilderness. You have this double contradiction whereby the city is an industrial economic haven for Sweden. It produces a lot of money for the economy. I think it’s the biggest mine in Europe. At the same time, it’s also a place where people go to see the Northern Lights and take the dog sled tours. It’s almost ironic. We explored these parallels and mapped the different discourses that come with that, such as gender and nature. It was really interesting!”
What do you think of the teaching style and the way of studying at Lund University?
“It’s completely different from the UK and most other universities. Sweden is unique in the way it teaches. It was a shock coming and realising that we are doing courses one at a time, for one month each, with an exam or essay at the end. Then you start the next one a few days later. In the UK, you do 3 courses for the whole semester. It was a bit of a shock at first, but I actually prefer it the Swedish way. I think with this mode of teaching you can really go quite deep and cover a lot of ground in a topic.”
What has been your favourite course so far in the Human Geography programme?
“The Kiruna course was really cool to be able to go to a different place to study and work in groups. In terms of the experience gained, it was definitely one of the best courses. However, since it was a student-led group project, it was also very intense compared to the other courses. I also really enjoyed our course on Landscape Geography. I enjoyed that particularly because during my Bachelor’s degree, landscape and nature were two things I always hated. Whenever they were mentioned I reacted with ‘nope, I’m not interested’. But the way this course taught the subject, I felt like I learned a lot more. I was able to actually appreciate the topic and theories more. It was enjoyable because I challenged my own preconceptions and beliefs about something that I thought I knew already, but I actually didn’t.”
What is it like to be an international student at Lund University?
“I think that because Lund is such an international university, I never fully acknowledge or realise that I’m an international student. Everyone speaks English, so the language barrier is not an issue. Everyone, especially in the University, is really welcoming and warm. You don’t really feel like an international student because there is so much room to make friends with other international students and Swedish students. Since Sweden is so big, a lot of people are coming to Lund from different parts of the country as well, so they’re in the same situation.”
What do you think is the best part of the Human Geography programme?
“Everyone in the programme are friends and we’ve all built a strong relationship with each other. That friendliness and comfortability with each other means that we learn so much more because our discussions are so much better. The skills you learn from each other are more noticeable. I feel very comfortable in a class discussion saying ‘no, I don’t agree with that’. Having the ability to challenge each other in an intellectual setting is something I value quite a lot.”
Why do you think prospective students should choose the Human Geography programme?
“I think it’s an interesting programme because you don’t need to have studied geography before. The people who have are the minority. As long as you are interested in analysing and broadening your knowledge, understanding discourses and geographical patterns, and have an interest in inequality, then it’s a great programme! Human geography is well respected as a discipline since you use both qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as GIS. If you are interested in the world, people and places, and if you’re open-minded enough to be able to change your perspective, or at least understand a variety of perspectives, then it’s an interesting programme to study.”
Do you have any advice for prospective students coming to Lund University to study Human Geography?
“Be prepared to read a lot, but don’t let that be off-putting. There is a lot of reading, but as long as you are organised then it is manageable. Organise reading groups at the very beginning with your classmates. If there is a complicated text, then go to the library and sit and chat about it. That really helps. Everyone is in the same boat. If you’re finding something difficult, it’s not because you’re stupid, everyone is finding it difficult. That’s something the lecturers emphasise as well. They will say ‘look, this is the tenth time I’ve read this article and I’m still learning from you guys!’ That kind of exchange learning is really encouraged. Make sure you monopolise on that and go for it!”