This week I headed off to Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden for both some academic and cultural fun! My class spent our time in Malmö, to learn about the impact of migration on the Swedish public health system, and to hear some of that delightfully Danish-influenced Swedish. Seeing the difference from Stockholm was very interesting, particularly from a political science perspective. Malmö seems to have taken a much more inclusive and multi-cultural approach to immigration, with a correspondingly positive impact on public health.
One of the biggest highlights of my Study Tour was a guided bike trip around Malmö trying foods from several different cultures. We were able to sample delicious Lebanese, West African, and Swedish food, all while taking in the scenery and history of the city. As Europe’s third most bike-friendly city, the tour was a truly great experience. The plethora of bike paths and relative lack of cars meant that even someone with my (lack of) cycling experience could have a wonderful time exploring the city. This is also great news for Sweden’s public health, as the encouragement of partaking in an active life style is an essential component of one’s mental and physical well-being.
Malmö is home to 179 different nationalities, making it arguably Sweden’s most multicultural city. I was definitely reminded of being back home in NYC during my time here, and it was so wonderful to be exposed to so many different cultures all during my trip to one Swedish city.
Another extremely interesting feature of Malmö was the prevalence of street art, particularly in comparison to Stockholm. I was definitely reminded of my time spent studying in Bogotá, Colombia. It may seem unlikely, but street art has a public health connection as well. The positive impact on social and community engagement, as well as the mental health benefits provided through artistic and political expression, all help to holistically advance public health. On both an individual and community-scale, Malmö’s encouragement of expression through art-friendly policies and the hosting of international art festivals such as Artscape is an important effort toward advancing these benefits.
Our class had the opportunity to meet with Rebecca Nielsen of RFSU, the Swedish Association for Sexual Education. Learning about the reproductive health aspect of public health in Sweden was both incredibly interesting and impactful for me personally. In my previous studies back home at Marist College, I always managed to find a way to tie back whatever topic I was studying to the overarching issue of women’s health and bodily agency. One of the largest issues regarding this topic domestically is the lack of knowledge provided through sexual education classes. Learning about the sexual education process here in Sweden was incredibly insightful. The stark contrast in the sexual education process in Sweden compared to the United States is especially notable in the way that the curriculum is handled in schools.
As a Russian-speaker, I was also extremely happy to have the opportunity to speak to some Russian tourists during my time here, apparently everybody agrees that Swedish herring really is the best!
Learning about Swedish Midsommar traditions during our food tour was definitely a memorable highlight of the trip for me, I’ll never forget about the “Små grodorna” or little frog dance.