Coming from abroad, new students receive full-service welcome—including social events
From the moment their planes depart this weekend for Sweden, nearly 1,000 KTH-bound international students can relax knowing that everything they need to get started here will be taken care of once they hit the ground.
The annual begins early Saturday and ends late Sunday. Hundreds of newly-enrolled master’s and exchange students from around the world will be met by KTH student guides at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, where they’ll be escorted to charter buses that whisk them directly to the door of KTH Entré.
“It is meant to give students a smooth and seamless start at KTH, to make them feel welcome to their new hometown, to KTH,” says Marina Wellén, the coordinator for Arrival Days. “We take care of the practical steps so they can concentrate on being new students at KTH.”
Picked up at airport
The airport charters run hourly, dropping students at the door to the KTH Entré, a one-stop for pretty much everything they need to do—activating their IT account, receiving building access cards, signing housing contracts and collecting apartment keys (and a colorful tote bag containing a new blanket and pillow). There’s even luggage storage.
On hand to support, help with luggage and answer questions are KTH staff, students and representatives of THS, the student union at KTH. Wellén says students lend a continuity to the event, having been similarly welcomed to KTH in previous years. “They have the big picture of what it’s all about,” she says. “They really want to give back.”
The mission is to leave no one behind, Wellén says. One year, in the final hours of Arrival Day, the entire team remained on duty late, waiting for a single student arriving on the last bus from Arlanda. “They provided him exactly the same service that hundreds of others had received earlier that day.”
Preparations begin eight months in advance and involve dozens of people from a constellation of groups, including IT, accommodation, student recruitment and the information and service office. The collaboration makes it possible to deliver everything at once, hassle-free. “That’s another unique thing. Everything is in one spot,” she says.
Opportunities for social interaction
But Arrival Day doesn’t just provide logistical services. One of the key collaborators in the reception is THS. Volunteers from the student union are right there in the reception hall making sure no one is left out of dozens of social activities organized for new students each day during the next three weeks.
Gabriel Pinheiro, head of THS International , says that incoming students can choose from museum and city tours, sports like kayaking and football, parties, cookouts and various mixers, “set to appeal to as wide a range of interests as possible,” and run by as many as 150 student volunteers.
These THS activities are meant to facilitate interaction and create opportunities to establish new friendships that will sustain students through the course of their studies, Pinheiro says. “They’re leaving their family and friends behind and moving alone to a new country; most of them know nobody in Sweden.”
Social life is one of the pillars of THS, he says. “It’s not just about studying, if you just work you will get stressed out and tired.”
Perhaps the best testament to the union’s efforts is the continued involvement of so many international students every year.
“Whenever we open up applications for volunteers to work on reception, we always have international students joining us. They want to be on the other side, because they feel like they’ve gotten so much out of it.”
Story and photos: David Callahan