Joanna Joy Tan is a law student on exchange from National University of Singapore. For the first part of her six-month program, she is studying Swedish civil law; her second course will focus on public international law. “My professor makes comparisons between Swedish and EU law which gives the course more relevance, Joanna says. “My understanding of EU law has really grown since the course began,” she adds. “We have guest lecturers from the Swedish court system which gives a good balance between the academic approach and practical experience.”

“Despite the differences in the Swedish legal process and that of Singapore we share a common belief that justice be done. It has restored my faith in the legal system,” Joanna says. “It’s comforting to know that in spite of the differences, the outcome is similar. We’re all interested in fairness.”

“It’s been very good socially too,” says Joanna. The law faculty at the University have been active in organising activities for exchange students. “My mentor has also been really helpful, inviting us for dinners and get togethers,” she adds.

When Joanna visited Stockholm with her family for two days in 2006, she knew she would find a way to come back. “I loved the old part of the city, the preservation of the architectural heritage,” she says. Although appreciative of the differences, “in Singapore the only way to build is up. It’s a skyscraper skyline,” explains Joanna.

Joanna has another semester of law school in Singapore before she takes the bar exam. Her training will then continue in a commercial law firm in Singapore for six months. “I’m excited about the future, but I have no ten or twenty year plan for my life. I’m looking forward to the next six months at Stockholm University,” says Joanna.

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Joanna Joy Tan, Singapore (part 2)

We spoke to Exchange student Joanna Joy Tan at the end of her six-month stay in Stockholm. For Joanna, the chance to sample her own independence was important: "For the first time, I travelled on my own. I went to London, Paris, Berlin. I'm tougher than I thought.”

Just before Christmas break we spoke again to International Exchange student Joanna Joy Tan. She was on her way to meet her family in Switzerland before returning to her native Singapore.  “I’m at peace,” says Joanna.  “I’m ready to go home.  Of course it’s bittersweet,” she adds.  “It’s sad to say good-bye to the friends I’ve made.”

Joanna feels she has benefited socially by being part of the Erasmus program. "I've developed a network of friends throughout Europe, made valuable connections," she says.

Joanna also spent time with a Swedish family in Stockholm, friends of her family where she met Swedish people her own age. "I appreciate the hospitality I've received here and hope to pay it forward."  

“I enjoyed the balance between being in close contact with friends and having time for myself,” Joanna says, pointing out the difference in population density between Singapore and Sweden.

The chance to sample her independence was important. "For the first time, I travelled on my own.  I went to London, Paris, Berlin. I'm tougher than I thought. I slept on airport floors, got out of the box you could say,” she explains. 

Joanna feels the whole experience at Stockholm has equipped her to be on her own. “I guess self discovery would be the word," she adds.
 
"The Swedish system of one course at a time helped me to become more involved, more engaged in the learning process," explains Joanna. “I didn’t have to juggle courses,” she adds. A law student from the National University of Singapore, Joanna took two courses at Stockholm University, one in Swedish law, the other International law.

 "It surprised me," she says, "but the Swedish approach to law is close to that of my own country. The practical application, the way we structure an argument, that is. I felt comfortable with it,” Joanna explains.  She feels that the legal systems in both countries believe in fairness.

Joanna returns to the National University of Singapore for one more term to complete her law studies. Following her bar exam, she will take a position at a law firm in Singapore. "I'm ready for the next step," she says.

Text and interview: Sarah Hollister