René Erwee, Master's student from South Africa
René Erwee, Master's student from South Africa
 

One difference René finds particularly attractive is public transportation. “In South Africa, we use our cars to go everywhere, so it’s very pleasant with Swedish transport,” René say. “And it works so well, everything runs on time.”

Certain things can be confusing, the different levels of fat and salt percentages listed on product labels in supermarkets for example. “We don’t have that sort of thing in South Africa,” says René.

Being fluent in English is definitely an advantage. “My first language is Afrikaans but I’ve used English extensively in my work, says René. She has also begun studying Swedish and finds there are similarities to the Dutch derived Afrikaans language, at least in print. “I can figure out the Swedish text on television, but can’t understand the pronunciation at all,” she says.

A lawyer in Pretoria, René came to Stockholm University specifically to study Information Technology and law. “I spend a good deal of time reading and digesting material about the European Union,” René says. “Unlike law students from EU countries, I’ve never been faced with an EU directive. Although South Africa is influenced by what goes on in Europe, when it comes to the EU and its regulations, I have to work a little harder to catch up,” she explains.

Rene’s professors combine the theoretical side of law along with the practical. The subject matter covers such contemporary public sphere concerns as data protection security and electronic signatures. “I’m very pleased with the substance of my courses,” say René.

Walking along the waterfront is one of René’s ways to relax. “It’s beautiful there and in Gamla Stan. Stockholm is a nice city to walk in,” René says. “The city is neat, the shopping areas are well looked after.”

Part 2: René chose to stay in Sweden for her Christmas break

Photo: Sarah Hollister
Photo: Sarah Hollister
 

Master's student René Erwee, who hails from Pretoria, South Africa, chose to stay in Sweden and do some travelling during Christmas break. "I took the train down to Malmö first and stayed a few days,” Rene says. “It was lovely with the red brick buildings and the canals, kind of a miniature Amsterdam.”

During Christmas break, Master's student René Erwee, who hails from Pretoria, South Africa, chose to stay in Sweden and do some travelling. "I took the train down to Malmö first and stayed a few days. It was lovely with the red brick buildings and the canals, kind of a miniature Amsterdam. The pathways were lit by Christmas lights and it was absolutely beautiful," says René.

Taking a train from Malmö up to Gothenburg, she saw some of the western coastline of Sweden. "The sun was shining and the snow glistened like diamond glitter. Coming from a place where the beaches are warm and sandy, it was interesting to see these snow covered beaches," René says.

René, who began her program in the fall of 2009, appears pleased with the way her studies are progressing. "My program is divided into four courses. Course A covered substantial law issues such as intellectual property rights in a digital environment, privacy protection during information processing and e-commerce," Rene explains. 

Now at the half way point, René recently finished Course B of the program. This entailed writing a thesis where she focused on legal issues in mobile commerce such as consumer concerns and payment services.

"I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of putting together my thesis," Rene says. "I did a lot of research and reading on the subject. I learned so much from writing it," she adds.       

"The main theme of Course C is the Legal Management of Information Systems," says Rene. "This includes topics like legal information retrieval, information standards and document management."

Although René has a law degree and has worked professionally as a lawyer, she is not sure she will return to a law firm. "I may look for something in the industry, something to do with technology," René explains.

At the end of June, René will be returning to Pretoria. She looks forward to going home, but the arrival of heavy snow this year was special. “In South Africa the temperature ranges from 15 to 18 degrees in winter,” she explains. "I'd been to the Athabasca Glacier in Canada, but never actually seen falling snow," says René.

Text and interviews: Sarah Hollister