Finding a Safe Place in the Classroom

Can I study in Stockholm full-time? Education is free here, after all.

My first two weeks of classes have me considering relocation. Not that I do not love learning in the big city of New York, but the calm pace and interactive style of a Swedish classroom is quite a contrast to the busy, noisy, and chaotic environment that comes with studying in a city like New York, especially when learning a topic as heavy as Human Trafficking.

For session one, my course is Human Trafficking in a Global Context. My instructors, Polina Smiragina-Ingelström and Ninna Mörner, provided a safe space for us to learn and share knowledge. In fact, on the first day of class, we discussed trigger warnings – how triggers differ for everyone, how to cope with the triggers we will face through the course, and how we wish for our instructors to cater to these triggers. Some may think this is a minor thing, but it was huge for me; it set the tone for the type of transformative learning that will take place over the next few weeks.

Now, I am not oblivious to the emotional triggers of discussing topics such as human trafficking. I am pursuing a degree in Forensic Psychology and spent years learning about the correlation between law and psychology. However, I have never had a professor who acknowledged the heaviness of the topic and worked with me to overcome it, and that is what each class with Polina and Ninna consists of.

In each class, the instructors display a presentation that discusses the topic and reading for that day. Throughout that presentation, we have several discussion questions and activities that we work on in groups. The activities range from group debates – which get quite heated and fun to the point where no one wants it to end – to case studies, where we decide whether the person is a victim of human trafficking and what course of action is the best way to help them. Also, each week we watch a documentary where victims of human trafficking share their stories. It is both heartbreaking and eye-opening as it forces you to realize that there is an actual crisis at hand and motivates you to want to advocate for the justice and rights of all humans. There is never a dull moment in the class, as the lectures are interesting, the discussions are engaging and interactive, and the victim’s stories are heartwarming ad motivating.

One thing I also love about how this course is how graded assignments are structured. In Human Trafficking in a Global Context, we have a quiz, a presentation for our own U.S. trafficking conference, and an anti-trafficking campaign, all due the last week of the course. Therefore, instead of stressing about presentations and quizzes during the first two weeks, we can focus on absorbing the material and work with our group partners to ensure that what we present perfectly represents our grasp of Human Trafficking and our best creative potential.

In fact, for my anti-trafficking campaign, my group and I are doing a graphic animation educating people on online grooming; this is monumental for me as I have never created an animation. However, this course has encouraged me to unlock aspects of my creativity that I did not know existed.

When I first decided to apply to DIS Stockholm, I had no interest in studying Human Trafficking. I leaned more toward Psychology of Criminal Behavior, a course they offer. However, as I pondered on the topics I want to research for my senior capstone and how to use the academic experience abroad to globalize my research, one topic that constantly came to mind was child sexual exploitation and pedophilia; coincidently, these are both topics covered in the Human Trafficking course offered at DIS Stockholm.

I guess you can say the faiths are aligned; here in Stockholm, studying Human Trafficking is where I am supposed to be. Thank you to Polina and Ninna for providing a space where I feel safe, heard, and valued and where learning is conversational and interactive. It is truly the best example of transformative learning.

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