By Anushka Tay
In the autumn, shortly after starting the MA Fashion Cultures course, we were given the opportunity to do an Erasmus exchange with Stockholm University. Although study exchanges are pretty common in the humanities, it’s less usual to find opportunities at art school universities. Whilst many of my classmates are international students that moved to London specifically to study at London College of Fashion, I’m a home student. So, I decided to take the plunge, trade in British rain for Swedish snow, and spend the spring semester studying in Stockholm.
This initiative was started by our current course leader, Dr Shaun Cole, but I’m the first student at LCF to go to Stockholm University; and similarly, no one from the MA Fashion Studies programme in Stockholm has yet gone to LCF. So, I was given this rather daunting task of setting the precedent for what will hopefully become strong links between students of both institutions.
Stockholm University is one of the few places in the world to offer a dedicated Masters programme dedicated to the academic study of fashion. As a more humanities- and science-based institution, however, exchange programmes across the whole university are common and very established. What I found exciting was the opportunity to choose from a selection of courses to study within the wider Institute of Media Studies, which the Fashion Studies Centre is part of. I took three options: two in Fashion Studies, and one in the Cinema Studies programme. I could have taken more courses related to film, journalism and media; but decided that fashion courses might be the most relevant. In hindsight, however, I would urge future students to consider taking a range of units, as this could feed into your research and study approach in a way that you didn’t expect.
Having now studied here for over two months, I’ve been taught by several different lecturers, including two PhD students. The courses are of course heavily influenced by the teachers’ own research topics and published work; so a true wealth of knowledge about Alfred Hitchcock was imparted by Jan Olsson during my film studies course in Hitchcock, in light of his recent book. Nonetheless, all courses have embraced the Swedish ‘democratic’ teaching method, whereby a formal lecture platform is eschewed in favour of a seminar format, and a huge mandatory reading list. The degree of informality differs with each teacher of course, but overall all staff have encouraged comment and discussion during classes. The trouble here is that the Swedish are famously reserved (even more than the British, it turns out!) and it has frequently been difficult to get into real debates. I’m not sure if absolutely everyone in Stockholm has this experience in their classes, but I’d advise future students to be aware of this and be prepared to talk a lot yourself!
As my study exchange nears its end, I’m simultaneously beginning preparation for the Masters project back at LCF. In the next part of this series on the exchange, I’ll discuss more practical considerations of moving abroad for four months.