The view of Lake Vättern from Vadstena Klosterhotell

Swim, study, swim

There’s a nice view from the reception of the Vadstena Klosterhotel. A grassy lawn, a few picnic tables, and the short wall of rocks that follows the curve of Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second-largest lake. If you want to go for a swim, you can climb over the rocks, and there’s even a small rock staircase that leads you into the sandiest part of the beach. Great for a quick pick-me-up swim.

I went for a lot of those swims last week. Along with 26 other students, representing universities from nine countries, we spent the week in Vadstena for the first “Swedish STS Summer School,” a week-long PhD course put on by my department.

The course started after lunch on Monday for most people, but for me it started the day before with the last of the preparatory work. Jet-lagged and with my sleep schedule all thrown off, I powered through a day of printing papers, organizing folders and making lists. All in the hope that things would be organized enough to let me focus on my other role at the course—being a student. (In the end it all went according to plan.)

I arrived at the bus station around 10:30 a.m. on Monday. I found our chartered bus pulling into the station at the same time, relieving the last of my worries. People arrived a few at a time and waited in the hot, sunny weather until it was time to leave at 11. Then, right on schedule, off to Vadstena!

It was a busy week. Our program started at 9 a.m. every morning, and the days were filled with lectures from five different teachers and presentations by 12 of the students. Our only break was Wednesday afternoon, and it was well-needed after the Tuesday evening session that went until almost 10 p.m. Still, there was time for the odd swim in the morning before breakfast, between lectures on a warm afternoon, or later into the evening for the more adventurous of us.

Swimming aside, it was also a very interesting and valuable week. I got lots of ideas that should be useful for my thesis. Some inspiration, too: two of our five lecturers started our as engineers as well, before moving on to studies of science, technology and society. It was also nice to meet some other PhD students who are early in their studies, and who I should get the chance to catch up with at other courses and conferences over the next few years. (Some as soon as next month, when I travel to Torun, Poland for the annual conference of the European Association for the Studies of Science and Technology.)

This week-long course was also a good way to beat my jet-lag. The weekend before the course, I kept on waking up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall asleep for another couple hours. After those full days it has been no problem at all.