Ask Maya questions about KTH and read more about her decision to study at KTH, thoughts about Sweden, advice to prospective students and her plans for the future.
My name is Maya Sleiman. I’m a 22-year-old master's student from South Lebanon. I’m completing the two-year programme in Civil and Architectural Engineering at the School of Architecture and Built Environment at KTH’s main campus. I earned an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science from Smith College in Massachusetts, USA.
When I’m not working on my classes or organizing with THS or MAIN, you’ll find me translating science or political theory pieces from English to my mother tongue, Arabic.
What made you choose KTH?
As a senior engineering student trying to see through the blur of her unknown future post-graduation, I spent many hours bouncing between university websites looking for a top-ranked Civil Engineering Master's Programme that simply offered the following: flexibility to explore with enough courses to specialize, English as the language of instruction, and the possibility to earn a scholarship.
I ended up with less than a handful of universities in Europe, and KTH landed on top of the list. I was ecstatic to receive a scholarship to pursue my studies here. Not only could I explore both civil engineering tracks I was struggling to choose between back then, but I was offered the chance to do it all in the heart of one of Europe’s most sustainable and innovative cities, Stockholm.
What do you like most about KTH?
One of the things I value most about KTH in general and my programme in particular is how integrated it is within Stockholm’s job market. Our lectures are given by some of the brightest names in Sweden’s engineering society, which is valuable for aspiring engineers looking for a practical view of the field, including the challenges they will face and the tools they will use when they eventually leave the classroom.
On a less academic level, I am thankful for KTH’s vibrant student life. Student groups and chapters (shout out to my family at MAIN!) provide students with an eventful social life and space to create both friendships and unforgettable memories that will give you that kick to power you through your studies.
What are your impressions of Stockholm and Sweden?
One of Stockholm’s best qualities in my opinion is its accessibility, both in terms of spatial movement and social spaces. The city’s transport infrastructure allows you to move effortlessly between its different islands and neighborhoods, which is a huge plus for young students like me who don’t own cars and want to lead more sustainable lives. On top of that, the abundance of beaches, national parks, and public squares connected with a network of bikeable and walkable roads adds to the city’s open atmosphere.
When it comes to people, Swedes seem to have figured out the secret behind balancing their work and social life (I, myself, have yet to figure that out!). I interned at a geotechnical consultancy this past summer, and really appreciated the laid-back atmosphere and non-hierarchal structure. I mean, having a morning coffee, lunch break, and an afternoon fika with the CEO of your company – every day – is pretty cool, right?
What is your best memory from your time at KTH so far?
It’s very hard to pin it all down to a single memory, but the times I have spent with my two student families – THS International Reception and MAIN – have been packed with unforgettable memories. Be it ice dipping in frozen lakes, singing around bonfires at sunrise, building a Super Mario themed boat and pushing it through Stockholm’s chilling waters, or dancing like a frog around the Midsommar cross, there’s one thing I know for sure – I will be graduating from KTH with many memories to cherish.
Are there any differences between studying at KTH and your home university?
One of the main differences between my undergraduate programme and my current classes at KTH is the latter’s strong focus on engineering practices in the field. Smith College gave me a solid base in engineering fundamentals and a set of soft skills that shine through my academic and professional work, but KTH’s technical practicality allowed me to truly see how tangible my engineering knowledge is.
This gave me a sense of confidence and ownership of my engineering work that, I would say, is generally rare among fresh graduates. To put this into perspective, during my above-mentioned internship I was conducting design work according to methods developed by the same engineer who lectured me two semesters ago at KTH. It still amazes me how we, as KTH master's students, are in the midst of creating the very knowledge that is used all around us by engineers in the field.
What would you like to say to students thinking of choosing KTH for their master's studies?
If you want to study at an institution that values innovation, gives you a close insight into engineering practice, and gives you access to the brightest names in the field, then KTH is the place to be.
If you are also looking to sculpt your management and collaboration skills, KTH is a space where students create, plan, and execute – be it organizing job fairs like Armada and LAVA, planning advocacy events like Equality Week, or leading various organizations like THS International and student chapters.
Are you taking part in any student activities?
Yes, at times “too” many to handle at a time!
I was part of the THS International Reception both as a buddy in Spring 2019 and as a manager in the Project Team in Fall 2019. Planning and taking part in a month-long event-packed reception designed to welcome more than 1700 international students into Sweden can be hectic, but meeting new students from all around the world and developing a sense of camaraderie with your fellow managers is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I am also a member of the MAIN Group as well, where I currently serve as event manager. MAIN has been my personal source of support in the past year, and its warm friendships have made Sweden’s cold winters a mere cool breeze!
I am also a student ambassador to ÅF-Pöyry, an engineering and design company with headquarters in Stockholm. Through their Future Talent Programme, I have met some of the brightest Swedish and international engineering students studying in Stockholm, Göteborg, Lund, and Linköping in addition to many engineers at the forefronts of the energy, industry, and infrastructure sectors.
Do you have a dream job after graduating from KTH?
Working as an engineering consultant in the field of geotechnical engineering would be an exciting start!