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Mohammad Galal Khafagy from Egypt visited Skokloster along with about 50 other foreign researchers. (Photo: Fredrik Persson)

Researchers at the castle

Published Aug 27, 2018

A stroll along the oldest main street in Sweden in Sigtuna leads to a look inside the armoury in Skokloster Castle, and then a cup of coffee on the grounds. Relocation organises outings to help people who are new to Sweden and KTH feel a bit more at home.

A bus load of visiting researchers from KTH alight in the car park outside Skokloster Castle. Earlier in the day, they had been in Sigtuna, where they explored the medieval streets and buildings by themselves. This afternoon will consist of a guided tour and coffee.

Lotta Rosenfeldt  from KTH Relocation leads the group towards the Castle. KTH Relocation organises activities for people who have come to work at KTH.

“Some people are here for just a few months; others come to stay permanently. One significant common factor is that they often feel pretty isolated. It's easy to fall into the habit of going to work in your free time,” says Rosenfeldt.

It tends to be quite quiet when the bus leaves KTH to drive to the outing destination.

 “We try to do a bit of matchmaking on the bus – bring people together who work in the same department, live in the same area or come from the same country,” continues Rosenfeldt.

The guided tour reaches the castle banqueting hall – which was never completed.

Shima Holder from Barbados is doing her post doc at the Department of Fibre and Polymer Technology. Like many other people on the bus, she knows what it feels like to be a new researcher.

“I have lived and worked in other countries. None of the other places I've been at arrange events like this to bring us together. Firstly, I would never have seen these kinds of places, and secondly I would never have met these people,” states Holder.

More relaxed

Wenlong Wang from China spent virtually the whole of her first year in Sweden doing research.

“I've now managed to become a bit more relaxed and am going to try do a few other things. This is the first outing I've been on,” says Wang.

Guides in period costumes welcome visitors to the 17th Century Castle, one of the best preserved baroque castles in the world. However, it soon becomes apparent that construction was never completed on the castle. Work on the banqueting hall came to a halt when the owner, Count Carl Gustaf Wrangel died, which is why the hall looks as though the builders have simply gone for a tea break, the guide explains.

The castle tour continues to the armoury with its rifles, epées, swords and armour, plus various oddities such as stuffed animals and a Greenland kayak. “Fascinating” and “amazing” are just some of the comments afterwards.

At the end of the guided tour, the group is taken to the Castle’s café. Jakob Redlinger-Pohn from Austria and Ines Lourenco from Portugal are engaged in a lively conversation about what they had done before coming to KTH.

German Leon Martín was also on the outing with his family.

The Leon Martín family from Spain sit down at an outside table. Dad, German, is here for a month as a visiting researcher. When he’s at work, mum Isabel and children, Rocío and Mario go sightseeing in Stockholm and to Skansen and Junibacken.

Start a partnership

The family are renting a visitor apartment on Drottning Kristinas väg and think that everything has worked smoothly on the practical side, thanks to Relocation. But one month, isn't that too short?

“Well yes, but that's all the time we have as Isabel must go back to her teaching job. And in the time I've been here, I’ve still managed to find out what they do here. It can lead to us starting a partnership, maybe,” says German.

After coffee, Davood Saffar, Zeinab Moradinour, Fateme Ghasemifard and Hadi Emadi go for a stroll round the Castle. They all come from Iran and have got to know each other during their time at KTH. Moradinour arrived in 2010, with the others joining the following year. Even though they have now been here long enough to feel at home in Stockholm, they still choose to go on the trips Relocation arranges.

“It’s good that there is a schedule and everything is organised. We had never heard of these places and so we would never get around to going there ourselves. We like both the guided tours and the coffee,” says Ghasemifard.

The bus drives back to campus. The participants disappear in different directions, many in small groups. Mohammad Galal Khafagy from Egypt and Evenagelos Liakos from Greece leave together. They are both at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, but had never met each other before today.

“We were introduced to each other by Lotta and discovered we both live in the same block in Tensta,” Mohammad Galal Khafagy says.

Text: Ann Patmalnieks

What KTH Relocation does:

Lynessa Hansson (left) and Lotta Rosenfeldt run KTH Relocation.

Relocation  organises regular events, information get-togethers and outings. The aim is to iron out as many questions as possible and whet the appetites of participants to learn more about Stockholm and Sweden. Relocation meets around 800 people a year.

However, the majority of the work done by KTH Relocation, about 70 percent, concerns accommodation. KTH has 250 apartments in total in Stockholm where foreign employees can live for their first year. After that, they are given information on how to find their own accommodation.

Day trips like the one to Sigtuna and Skokloster are arranged each year, but most activities are usually shorter, such as guided tours or After Works on campus, nature walks with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and visits to the bell tower in Stockholm Cathedral.

“The bus and boat network means everything is easily reachable in Stockholm. It is not hard to find your way around the local area,” Rosenfeldt says.

Most people form a network with other foreigners, but Relocation also arranges activities to help make contact with Swedes, such as scheduled lunch dates  for instance.