It was a clear, fresh spring day today, with a warm breeze and trees in bloom. One of those days that makes you feel optimistic about the promise of spring and all that nonsense. It was a good day to start something new.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my final test and completed Swedish For Immigrants.
My SFI class – Monday to Friday, 9-12 – had been a constant of my life in Sweden and, coming to the end of the course, I started to feel a little bit lost. I would be able to continue my education in Swedish as a second language by enrolling on a course called SAS, and could in theory continue with that through to the equivalent of completing high school in Sweden.
But SAS is geared less at getting you to fluent Swedish and more at giving you a standard Swedish-style education so that you can study at a Swedish university. It didn’t feel like an ideal fit for me, but knowing that my lack of Swedish is the biggest thing holding me back in the job market, continuing on the language track seemed like the right thing to do nonetheless. I sent off an application.
Then I happened to meet up with a fellow ex-Londoner, Scarlett, who asked if I had thought about doing Korta Vägen – “the short way”. I had never heard of it. She explained that it was a combined language course and work placement intended to help foreign graduates find a suitable job in Sweden. It sounded much more up my street.
After a bit of initial research I had found out several key pieces of information:
1. I met the criteria for the course.
2. In order to enroll, I needed to be recommended for the course by my advisor at the job centre (I was not registered as a jobseeker and did not have an advisor).
3. The next Korta Vägen was starting in about a week, after which there wouldn’t be another course until the autumn.
I couldn’t help but wonder why, during six months of studying SFI, including weekly sessions with a “job coach”, in a class alongside plenty of other highly educated foreigners who haven’t been able to get a job, no one had ever thought to mention this programme to us.
Apparently, as well as needing contacts to get a job in Sweden, you need contacts just to find out about the schemes that exist to help you get a job.
With a bit of determination and luck I managed to cut through the Swedish job centre’s bureaucracy in under a week, going through the whole process of registering, attending a compulsory information session, getting my advisor’s contact details, arranging a time to meet him, and persuading him to get me added to the list for the course. I started Korta Vägen today, 8 days after learning that it existed.
Starting the course seven months after I arrived in Sweden didn’t feel like much of a shortcut, but after the introductory session today, I think it was worth investing the time I did to complete SFI. It meant that I could understand almost everything, could ask questions in Swedish without feeling too nervous, could chat to others during our fika break without having to switch to English. In fact, most of the other people I met today lived in Sweden for several years before taking “the short way” – so perhaps I’ve got the balance just right.
I was also lucky. A couple of friends from SFI were equally keen to get onto the course, and equally suitable for it, but found themselves stalled by a lack of forthcoming information from the job centre and quirks in the system.
Maybe the truth is, at the end of the day, there is no short way to getting a job in a foreign country. I know a few people who have been lucky, but for most of us immigrants, it takes time for the stars to align so that the right job comes up when we’re in the right position to take it. Here’s hoping that Korta Vägen helps everything to fall into place that much sooner.