Erasmus Chronicles – Linkoping, where the Bicycle is King.

Linkoping and its surrounding areas of interest (e.g. University campus Vallan and US, Ryd, Ikea…) are on average 30 minutes walk away from where I live. I learnt the hard way, on my first day, that walking everywhere is not an option in the long run. I also learnt the first day, no one walks anywhere and few take the bus. Public transport is difficult in my opinion – you need to find a “quickomat” or ticket machine to get a ticket for the bus and so far I have only found one in Ryd. Or go somewhere very specific – don’t know where – to get the local equivalent of an Oyster card. You can only buy tickets on regional buses, by card (no cash on buses). Clearly, bikes are the superior mode of transport in this country.


But what about winter and the snow? I imagine some of you asking. It is true, that the rest of the world that is not used to snow (and all transport comes to a halt – I’m looking at you Brussels), we tend to shy away from the cold. Not in Sweden. Where the rest of us tremble at the thought of biking in the cold, they brave it with – warm cloths. That simple. And they clear the roads with salt.

Bike lanes are clearly signed

Speaking of roads – Linkoping has the best biking infrastructure I have yet seen (and I have visited – briefly – in the Netherlands). You can get anywhere without being in danger on the road. They either have a separate biking path on the sidewalk, or a designated lane on the road. With everyone biking, the divers are aware of cyclists and there is none of this irritating honking of horns and silent swearing. That being said, the cyclists respect road rules, stopping at red lights and indicating their directions like any other road user. It’s a system that works well, and could easily be implemented everywhere else with a bit of effort.


Tip #4: They drive on the RIGHT side of the road. So do the bikes.

Knowing that I would need a bike eventually, I had even brought my helmet from Manchester, not knowing if it was mandatory or not by law (however, always heavily suggested everywhere even if not legally binding). So I did what everyone looking for a second hand bike would do. I googled it. Turns out, there are local second hand shops (see suggestions from the Univeristy here – a receipt is needed for insurance coverage) as well as bikes being sold off by students who either no longer need them or are leaving. Those that are sold by students are either on the university notice board, or there is a Facebook group – ESN Linkoping Flea Market (also has various other items such as kettles, routers, furniture, etc.)

Tip #5: Suggested price for second hand bikes is between 700-900 SEK. But you be the judge, you can find some for more and some for less.

CaptureThe bike I eventually got seems to be fairly standard. No gears (tiny inclines are a bit challenging, but let’s be honest, I am also very out of shape), peddle brakes (rumour has it this is because hand brakes risk freezing during winter), a kick stand, bell, lights, and the metal thing on the back to put stuff on. Sometimes they also have a basket and lock. But you can also find mountain bikes, city bikes with gears, with hand brakes on the group and definitely in the shops. So it depends what you are looking for. There are some legal requirements for bikes in Sweden – both front and rear lights, front and back wheel reflectors, and a bell. I still have some fixing to do to make this bike “legal”, but for now, it should be fine.

Tip #6: Umm, maybe don’t by the very first bike you find? I mean mine is fine and everything and it does the job… but those peddle brakes will be the death of me.

So, now that I have a bike, I can honestly say that I no longer feel stuck. If I wasn’t fit when I arrived, I definitely should be by the time I leave!

Erasmus Chronicles – My Journey Begins!

My journey begins, at 3:00 in the morning, one august morning (the 16th to be exact…), where I am pacing my living room, waiting for the taxi to arrive. It arrives on time, and I arrive to the airport without a hitch, with 20 minutes extra than planned. There’s a large queue for the check-in and honestly, I panic slightly. But not to fear, it moves swiftly and eventually I give in my bag and off I head to security. Great! maybe this is foreshadowing that the rest of the trip will be this easy going. HAHAHAHA.

FB_IMG_1502856036269I procrastinate in the waiting lounge, using up whatever mobile data I have for that month – getting my money’s worth, I won’t be able to use it in Sweden! Eventually I meander to the departure gate, and everything is calm and collected. Not an issue in sight. We board the plane, sit down and I take a nap – after all, I had only slept about 2 hours that night. I wake up, after what I thought was a lengthy dose, only to realise we have yet to leave the ground! We are grounded. It’s too foggy in Amsterdam for planes to land, so the airport has restricted air traffic. Ok, fair enough. Better safe than sorry, I have a 4 hour layover anyway so it’s not like I can’t be a little bit late.

But wait, what time is it? I check my phone, TWO HOURS? We’ve been grounded for two hours! I do some very groggy mental math – it could be worse, I would still have an hour to get to my connecting flight. As long as we leave soon. Then the announcement comes on. We’re leaving! In 45 minutes. WHAT? An audible grumble echoes throughout the plane, apparently, I’m not the only one with a connection to catch. The captain lets us know he had ordered some food to be brought onto the plane before departure, but they were stuck at security. Our biscuits, they didn’t have their passport! Or so I liked to think, it made the situation a bit more lighthearted. After a few complaining texts to family and friends, I go back to sleep. I might as well make the most of the situation.

Tip #1: Travel insurance might seem like a waste of money – until the fog hits…

We eventually take off, and all finally seems right with the world. Amsterdam, I’m on my way! Hopefully, if my first plane is late, so will my second? About 20 minutes before arrival, the flight attendants announce the severity of the delay – some passengers have missed their flight, some have minutes to spare, some have also been delayed. My flight doesn’t get mentioned, so I hope that it means that it’s on time and I have enough time to connect.

I got to the gate 5 minutes before boarding. But I made it, and the flight was on time.


Compared to the plane to Amsterdam, this one was smaller. To be expected, it’s not like I’m going to Stockholm. I feel that should have prepared me for the smallest airport I have ever seen. It was adorable. One runway, with our one plane. One entrance and exit to the runway. One luggage carousel. One toilet.

We all wait for our luggage to start arriving. I wait, and wait. No new luggage was being put on and the next passengers were boarding the plane we just got off. Umm… Where’s my bag? I look at my carry-on luggage. It has my Practice Assessment Document (PAD), bike helmet and shoes – not much to go off on. I count my lucky stars that I didn’t put my PAD in the check-in luggage. I guess the trouble’s aren’t yet over. I trek over to the customer service, inform them over my missing luggage and then decide to split a cab fare with another student to the University.

We arrive, and get our documentation and accommodation sorted. He’s staying in Ryd, where most student accommodation is. I’m in Flamman, a smaller accommodation building. We say our goodbyes and decide to keep in touch by Facebook (I still owe him half the cab fare!). The international office has organised free transport that day for students to their accommodation. And so, I’m off to discover where I will be living the next 3 months.

I get dropped off with (some of) my luggage, and told which direction my room is. The rest is for me to figure out. Ok, I can do that. But my first challenge was to figure out how to get into the building. I had been given two keys and two fobs… I try everything until I figure out the fob isn’t instantaneous – I need to learn to wait. Patience is a virtue and all that. I find my room on the top floor. It has exactly what was said – bed, desk, chair, LAN cable, bookshelf, toilet and built in wardrobe. What more could a girl want?

Oh yeah, food and bedding. Time to go shopping I guess. Google maps has become my best friend.

Tip #2: Bring good walking shoes – converse are not good walking shoes. Who knew?

My Destination – in the distance!

I walked about 45 minutes to IKEA, and probably longer on the way back. Oh, did I mention it was boiling? Yeah, I failed to realise August is summer for the northern hemisphere – including Sweden. 24 degrees, in black somewhat thicker sweatpants and leather converse shoes. I melted on the way there and back. I also managed to get the world record in blisters. I was crippled for the rest of the day, but, I had bedding, instant noodles, bananas, some pots, plate, bowl, mug, and cup. Oh did you not know that student accommodation is well stocked with all kitchen stuff? Yeah, neither did I.

Oh, and my luggage arrived. At 23:00, when I was pretty much at Snoozeville. I unpacked, made my bed and went to bed, swearing I would find a bike as soon as possible. For the sake of my feet, and my sanity.

Tip #3: 23kg is a lot of room for check-in luggage. Use all the weight/space you paid for and bring your own bedding. Save your pennies – you will need them for other essentials!

#Hellomynameis… in BSL?

*This post was inspired by a fellow student’s blog, Luke. Read it, it’s quite good!*

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I don’t consider myself a classical literature enthusiast, but this quote really strikes a cord. Juliet is telling Romeo that regardless of his name, it is the person behind it that she loves. He is more than his name, an identity that has been given to him but does not define him as a person. But despite what Juliet may think, you can gain a significant amount of information from a name.

Hello, my name is Nur Milenkovic. I’m a student nurse.

When I introduce myself to my patients and their families, they gather several tidbits of information about me, and some assumptions.

  1. I have an Americanized accent (this prompts a guessing game of where are you from?)
  2. I am a student nurse
  3. I am a foreigner
  4. If they speak Arabic, they know half of my heritage (“Do you know what Nur means?”)
  5. If they have heard of Balkan last names, they know the other half.
  6. Depending on intonation and body language, they know my current mood
  7. They know how to call for me, and make me take responsibility for my actions.

That’s quite a lot from just saying hello.

Recently, there has been a flurry of activity in relation to Hello My Name Is…, which was set up by Kate Granger in a successful campaign designed to improve the communication between healthcare staff and the patients that they care for.

I’m a doctor, but also a terminally ill cancer patient. During a hospital stay in August 2013 with post-operative sepsis, I made the stark observation that many staff looking after me did not introduce themselves before delivering my care. It felt incredibly wrong that such a basic step in communication was missing. After ranting at my husband during one evening visiting time he encouraged me to “stop whinging and do something!” Kate Granger,

Communication is one of the 6Cs of nursing, yet is often forgotten in the flurry of activity that occurs in a care setting. How can you deliver person-centered care if you do not even take the time to build that therapeutic relationship? Throughout the first year of my course, we were told again and again that is was important it was to introduce yourself when you first meet your patients. It all seemed like common sense at the time, but it wasn’t until I was on my first ward experience that I understood why it was drilled into us from day one: people coming and going, busy staff, and organised chaos. The staff simply forget (I’ve done it too, over the phone when talking to the parent of a patient… “Hello, is this so-and-s0’s Mum? You asked me to ring you when your son woke up.” Oops).

Patients would wander down the hallway, with a bit of a confused look on their face. When I go up to them and ask if they need anything, they said they are looking for their nurse, the one with brown hair in a bun – that could be anyone. The extra time it would take to find the nurse could have been avoided if they been told clearly who their nurse was first thing in the morning. They wouldn’t have been waiting for an additional 10-15 minutes, which can be a very long time for a parent with a screaming child.

Wait, but what are the 6Cs of nursing, I imagine hearing non-nurses ask. Well, here they are: Compassion, competence, commitment, communication, care, and courage. I will let you figure out why each is vital in a nursing profession, but I will tell you that you need all six to provide holistic care to a patient.

I firmly believe it is not just about common courtesy, but it runs much deeper. Introductions are about making a human connection between one human being who is suffering and vulnerable, and another human being who wishes to help. They begin therapeutic relationships and can instantly build trust in difficult circumstances. In my mind #hellomynameis is the first rung on the ladder to providing truly person-centred, compassionate care. – Kate Granger,

The activity that has been occurring on various social media in relation to #Hellomynameis (Twitter especially) has revolved predominantly around being able to introduce yourself to patients who may be hard of hearing/deaf. So in honour of that, I thought I would help those of you who may not have see it yet, and add a few additional ones (because, why not?)

*The following signs are all right handed, and performed in order from left to right

Hello, My name is…


I’m a nurse (I couldn’t figure out student nurse)

How are you?


You may need to look up the responses here, otherwise you won’t know how they actually feel!

Although patients who require me to adjustment the way I introduce myself may not get quite as much information about me from my introduction as those who are able to hear, they will at least know who and what I am (and that I need to learn BSL properly).

So who am I? (Spiderman reference, anyone?)

Hello, my name is Nur Milenkovic. I am a student nurse.