Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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So I decided to answer one of the questions that WU’s OIE has set up as a way to earn course credit (if that sentence made any sense) so here it is:

Question #2: How is the education system you are experiencing different from what you are accustomed to in the U.S.? From your perspective as a student in the U.S. how is it beneficial and disadvantageous? Consider the perspective of your host-country’s students, how is it beneficial to them? Is it unfavorable to them in any way? Talk about your perceptions of the education system and how your perceptions might be different if you came from a different background.

So at least in Sweden (and pretty much every other European nation that I can think of) higher education (ie college/university) is either free or relatively inexpensive. When I say relatively inexpensive I mean I’ve talked to a German student who pays 250 Euros a semester because he is a member of the gym and thus has to pay 150 Euro extra for that cost. University in Sweden is free for all Swedes and also members of the EU. From my discussions with Swedes I’ve gathered that this is due to Sweden a.) being a welfare state, which means everyone gets taken care of. EVERYONE. (When I told them about our healthcare system they were disgusted, and rightfully so, but that’s another post for another time) And the government believes that having educated citizens is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone gets taken care of, financially, medically, etc. b.) taking great pride in what those in the nation can accomplish. I don’t know if you realize this, but Swedes take great pride in Sweden. Sure, they’re not as open about it as Americans (but honestly, who is?) but when they talk about their country, the accomplishments of their fellow Swedes and just the system of education/healthcare/environmental protection they get very patriotic. A great way to help everyone reach their full potential (Swedes are very big on reaching their full potentials and doing what makes them happy in life, which is one reason why NO ONE is allowed to work over time. Ever. That time should be spent with the family) is to educate them, therefore the education system here is spectacular. It’s no wonder why Sweden is continually in the top 10 industrialized nations in the world when it comes to education (right there with them are other Scandinavian countries: Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland who all share the same beliefs as Sweden regarding the individual).

From my perspective as a student from the US I think this is VERY beneficial. Seriously, how is not paying for a quality education ever a BAD thing? Sure, people get scholarships (I personally know a girl who is at Willamette and who does not have to pay a cent due to her scholarships. She doesn’t have any loans, and she won’t owe any money after college, but that is a rare case) and students take out loans, but I believe it would be better for the USA if we could somehow find a way to make college affordable to everyone and not through loans that have ridiculous inflation rates, and not through working their asses off to find the most random scholarships (what up giant scholarship that I applied for?).

None of the people that I have talked to have complained about their education system. Sure it’s a lot of hard work, but HELLO you are receiving a college education for FREE and it’s a damn good one at that. And really, who would complain about that?

I don’t know if my perceptions of the educational system would be changed if I came from a different background. I understand that the educational system in America is the way it is for various reasons, all of which are most likely too caught up in bureaucracy to change, but honestly, who in America would turn down an equal, but FREE education? I think the answer is no one. And we would definitely have more people going to college if that were the case. I can’t tell you how many people I know from my high school (a decent high school in a college town with an 83% graduation rate) couldn’t go to college because it cost too much, even with scholarships. Overall I think the education system we have here in America is sad. I believe that it really just allows for a bigger discrepancy between the upper class and the lower class, with a declining middle class slipping into the gap. While there are always exceptions to every rule, I believe education in America is too expensive for far too many people, even though we do have quality education.  And I don’t think that opinion would change regardless of where I was born.

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