Deborah Suter
Deborah Suter. Photo: Private

My name is Deborah Suter and I live in Switzerland where I study at the College of teacher Education in Thurgau (PHTG) to become a preschool teacher. I am 21 years old and I began to study right after I finished the obligatory upper secondary school.

When I started my teacher education program I already knew that I would like to do a mobility semester. I choose Stockholm University since we have learned a lot about the Nordic school system and its high quality in class. I was very interested in differences between school systems and to learn more about what makes the Nordic school system good. Among the Nordic countries, we could choose between universities in Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm. In the end, I choose Stockholm University because the courses seemed interesting and a big difference from the other destinations was that the courses focused on Early Childhood Education.

The welcome activities and buddy program

What I really liked about Stockholm University was the welcome activities and the buddy program. This enables you as an exchange student to get to know different people as well as the university. I also recommend joining the Student Union as well. This allows you to gain access to student discounts and a variety of different activities organized by the Student Union.

Deborah enjoying the autumn in Stockholm. Photo: private.

Courses in Early Childhood Education

I took two courses that focused on early childhood education and explorative learning. In the first course which concentrated on explorative learning in science and sustainability (UB313F Early Childhood Education: Focusing on Science and Education for Sustainability) we could try out the things we learned in theory a lot. This gives you many ideas for how to plan your school days as preschool teacher.

In the second course (UB308F Early Childhood Education: Explorative Learning) we got a lot of insight into Swedish Preschools and had a chance to visit many different preschools. This course is fantastic to get to know the practical side of the subject as well as the learning environment provided by the teachers.

I enjoyed both courses very much. For both courses, we had to write an assignment about the subject. This was a little tricky as I normally do all my assignments in German but if you plan enough time into the assignment, it should work well. In addition, we had enough time for the task and the teachers were helpful if you asked them questions.

New ideas for thesis work

I got a lot of ideas and new theories and concepts from the courses, which helps me a lot for my upcoming thesis about explorative learning. In addition, the teacher was very helpful and provided me with additional advice on what to read regarding the topic of my future thesis.

Personal development and meeting new friends

Deborah Suter and her friend Philip Eberl in Stockholm. Photo:private.

Aside from the content that I learned during the courses, I have also learned a lot about myself. I could experience what it was like to live in a foreign country without speaking the language. I participated in the Swedish course offered by the university and at the end of the exchange semester; I was able to speak Swedish while shopping, which made me very proud. I also met many new friends, which made the time spent in Sweden very nice.

Similarities and differences between the Swiss and Swedish preschool system

Preschool education in Switzerland is obligatory and part of the school system and the children in the preschool are 4-6 years old.

The school day for the Swiss preschool kids is different from the normal day in Swedish preschool. For example, every child goes home to eat lunch with its family whereas in Sweden a lunch for the children is provided.

In both countries, there is a curriculum. However, in my experience, the curriculum in Sweden is a goal that all the teachers try to reach and in Switzerland the goals in the curriculum is a necessity that must be reached by each child in order to continue with their education.To reach the goals nearly every day there is a teacher led activity that strives to help the children to reach a specific goal. These activities are referred to as sequences. The sequences in preschool are different from lessons in school and should have a playful approach.

In the Early Childhood Education program at PHTG, we learn how to think of these playful approaches and plan sequences appropriate for the age of the children. The rest of the day, the children have free play, which is the same as in Sweden. Another difference is that the preschool in Switzerland is obligatory.

My advice to Swedish exchange students

In the air. Photo: Deborah Suter.

If a student from Stockholm University would consider coming to the College of teacher education in Switzerland I would recommend to do study visits in Swiss preschools. Because it is always the most interesting thing to get a practical look of the day in a preschool. We have many different modules about how to lead a sequence in a suitable way for young children. However, I have to admit that I do not know how many of the modules that are offered in English so it may be an advantage for a future exchange student to know German as well.