4 Years of Blogging 

On the 8th of February 2013, barely 1 month into my Erasmus exchange study program, I published my first article in ‘Lost in a Cup’. The title was ‘Sweden at Heathrow‘ and talked about my first contact with Sweden on the tarmac of the busiest airport in the UK.

Since then I wrote other 84 articles and published 40 odd pages through the years although most of my work was written in the first half of 2013 during my exchange.
If you want to read more about the choice of title for this website/blog and its chosen content check out the About page.
If instead you want to find out more about me, the writer, check out the Biography page.
Plans for the future are to keep analysing Swedish society and student life as I’m now once again in Uppsala to study although things have changed a lot since 2013. This time I believe I have more direct contact with Swedish people as opposed to last time in which I hanged out mainly with internationals. Also I am now an ‘ämbetsman’ (officer/elected worker) of 2 student nations here which are at polar opposites in the ideals they have and way they function (lots of interesting material, hurra!).
As always keep comments flying in either publicly or in a private message (check out ‘Get in touch’).
Last but not least give a Like to the Facebook page which if you enjoy this so that you will get the latest publications on your newsfeed: http://www.facebook.com/lostinacup
Stay lost and drink espresso!
Alex
P.S. Are you in Uppsala this evening and want to celebrate with me 4 years of blogging? Plan is to have a few beverages at my place, some tea and a good cup of Italian espresso and then off to the student club ‘Valvet’ at Östgöta Nation. Fun times all around!

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Greeting People

The first thing that happens in a group situation, with people from different parts of Europe that gather in one place for a training course, is a meet and greet session. In my books, this was also the most entertaining part of the first few days of the course I followed, as you can tell cultural differences a mile away.

As the course was in Spain, the organisers used the Spanish way to greet the participants so a hand shake and two kisses on the cheek. Most entertaining was seeing the reaction on people’s faces, the majority of which could not mask their sense of surprise and slight unease to all this southern affection. Most taken aback were the Palestinian girls who were totally shocked by the forwardness of the spaniards.

Also I had some difficulties: when greeting one of the city councillors I went in for kissing her right cheek first whilst apparently in Spain you start from the left.

Overall very entertaining, I strongly recommend this experience just for the fun of it.

Reflections on the Russian plane disaster

86542463_029932319Since the latest airplane crash, in which a Russian airliner went down on the Sinai peninsula killing all 224 people on board new questions on airport security have been raised.

Before the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 suitcases were not scanned for bombs and the rule that if the passenger isn’t on board the suitcase gets offloaded wasn’t in force.

Then following the terror attacks of 9/11 the amount of security has increased considerably. The foiled attempt of bombing the transatlantic planes from London to the U.S. resulted in the prohibition of passengers transporting liquids of a greater quantity than a 100ml in their hand luggage.

The latest bomb that involved the Russian airline from Sharm El Sheik to Saint Petersburg will push for a further tightening of security amongst the airport staff and stricter controls on suitcases.

I for one, believe that current security is already very high and that a further increase could bring a greater invasion of our privacy and peace of mind. Although I am perfectly aware of not being a terrorist, I still feel uneasy about the policemen with their machine guns casually walking around public places. What if one of them goes crazy and starts shooting everybody, it would be a massacre! The intense scrutiny at passport control when entering the UK also makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps my old passport photo and the tatty cover are elements that make my experience particularly tricky but I can only imagine what an Asian person must go through.

Overall, on a pessimistic note, there will always be a way of killing people en masse, even in civil aviation. There are measures we can take to make it harder, but there is no guarantee that this will prevent another attack. We need to fight the cause at the root and accept the fact that by living our day to day lives we put ourselves at risk. This risk, however, must not deter us from being human and living our lives to the full. Only this will make us resist the terror that the extremists want to inflict on society.

Student Traditions

The concept of ‘Student Tradition’ is something that if one asked me a year ago I would never have imagined it being of such importance let alone a possible topic to write one’s dissertation on!

What are these traditions?

They are a series of rituals, costumes and ‘ways of being’ that have distinguished the student population from the ‘normal people’.

In some old universities you can still feel this atmosphere but it is not easy to get into these closed communities and if you are not a student you can see only the outside of it.

J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter captivated the world with beautiful the castle and student traditions songs and rivalries that pick up a lot of authentic traditions in the university world.

My mission is to try to uncover the past of these traditions and comparing the differences between the various universities and the different countries.

Did you have student traditions in your university? What were they like? What did you enjoy most?

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Forever Young

Italy and Sweden are two very different countries for many reasons.

One of them is the prime cause of mortality for under 25 year olds:

  • In Italy the first cause of death is road accidents.
  • In Sweden its suicide.

Many could read this and say it’s typical, Italians are all crazy drivers and Swedes get manic depressed during winter, but there is much more to see then just that.

The religious factor plays its role, as Italy is predominantly Catholic and Sweden Protestant ad secular and because of this people tend to have different understandings on the ‘consequences’ of committing such an act (I would believe fear of ending up in hell for taking your life is stronger in Italy than Sweden).

What is the real cause at the basis of it?

Difference in climate and hours of daylight/darkness? For sure, the impact of atmospheric conditions on the population’s psychological well-being  is important but also society in Sweden tends to be, by stereotype and partly by fact. more shy and individualistic then the Italian one. It might be the strong sense of family, love for the mother (that beyond the stereotypes is actually quite true) and ties to the community that somehow prevails and any idea of terminating one’s life would be seen as an act of  ‘selfishness’.

No denying that it is a deeply tragic fact in Sweden too, but somehow I get the impression that in Italy it is, if possible, even harder to accept for the religious/cultural factors connected to it.

Whist depression might be strong ‘common sense’ and road safety are also strong in Scandinavia and this is the reason why out of a sample of 100.000 people only 3 a year die in road accidents in Sweden whilst in Italy it’s 7.1.

Strangely enough even the suicide rate difference between the two countries is similar as in Italy has a stable figure of around 5.9 out of 100.000 whilst Sweden has an unstable rate that varies reaching it’s all-time low in recent years that is around 12 but before used to be around 16. These studies were done 10 years ago and due to the current economical and social situation in Italy the rate of suicides has definitely  increased by some margin.

Today is the anniversary of the death of a school mate, just one year younger then me at the time. On the 12th of April 2010 Leonardo Secci, 16 years of age, on his way to school just as he reached the gate on his moped, got hit by a car.

The teachers, friends and two ambulances were useless; nothing could be done as he left us the moment he hit the ground.

Leonardo Secci Memorial

That day the entire school stopped; no more lessons, no more bells were rang everyone was on the balcony or in the garden on that sunny day. Some were praying, others were cursing, loads were smoking and most were in tears.

The sensation of surrealism that you could breathe in those hours is indescribable.

Leo was a cool guy. Young, clever, funny, popular and everyone knew him or heard of him..

Two weeks prior to the incident I remember my first long conversation with him as he came for a trial session to the gym where me and a common friend of ours used to go.

Once we finished he went out of his way to gave me a lift to the beach once we had finished, he drove fast and had a very light helmet but so did everyone his age and although at the moment I felt a bit scared I never thought it was worth mentioning to him as I was grateful for the lift and was in no real position to be able to do so.

I’ll never forget that day.

The most recurrent song on the radio at that time in Italy was ‘Young Forever’  and for all of us at school it became a tribute song to Leo’s life cut short far too early.

In general, I think if you ask around you will find that in Italy many young people will know at least one person who lost their life on the road, in Sweden instead, I find that many know of people who decided to take their lives.

Two beautiful countries, two ongoing tragedies.

If we encouraged more cultural exchange programmes for school kids in the two countries could we possibly have a positive influence on new generations of Swedish and Italian young adults?

Worth a thought..

Useful Links:

http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/2/108.full.pdf

http://gamapserver.who.int/gho/interactive_charts/road_safety/road_traffic_deaths2/atlas.html

Road Safety project ‘Vivo Sicuro‘ (live safely) that I and a few mates as school reps started one year later in tribute to Leo but to work on trying to prevent other people from dying on the roads: http://www.vivosicuro.it/