– Life in Jämtland is hard to beat

Helen Hanstock

Works as: University lecturer.
Comes from: Manchester, United Kingdom.
Employed since: Substitute lecturer, 2015; ongoing employment, 2019.

Please tell us about your background

– I come from the United Kingdom, grew up in Manchester and then Gloucestershire, studied Physiology at Oxford University and then got my degree in sports science (immunology) at Bangor University in the north of Wales.

How did you end up here?

– I have done orienteering for almost my whole life, and this interest brought me to Sweden many times over the years to compete during the summer. I thought it would be fun to live abroad for a while – especially in Sweden or one of the other Nordic countries – so I already had the idea of applying for a job in Sweden. A fellow doctoral student at Bangor University in Wales sent me a job advert for a substitute lecturer during the last year of my doctoral studentship. She thought it was something that would interest me. Even though the advert said that they wanted to recruit someone who spoke Swedish, I applied and got the position.

– I have always been a fan of winter sports, even though we do not have many opportunities for them in the UK, so it was almost a dream job to move here to Jämtland and have an opportunity to work not only within the sports science programme but also to do research at the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre, and to live so close to the mountains so I can go skiing the whole season!

How are you enjoying it?

– Being close to the mountains, having a relatively low cost of living, and with beautiful winters and long, bright days of summer, life in Jämtland is hard to beat. Maybe that is why I have stayed here much longer than I had originally planned. After working as a substitute for three and a half years, I applied for a permanent position and am now employed as a university lecturer.

What is the difference between working here or having a similar job in the United Kingdom?

– First of all, there is a big difference in the number of doctoral students – being a doctoral student in Sweden is a good job in itself, with good employment rights, like sick pay and the possibility of parental leave, for example. In the UK, there are many more doctoral students, and they receive lower wages and for a shorter period of time than here in Sweden. I have also seen figures showing that only 10 percent of doctoral students in the UK get ongoing employment within a few years and continue working in academia, so the years after getting a doctoral degree are very uncertain and competitive.

– As regards my position, I really like it how our class sizes are so small; I know all of my students as well as their strengths, weaknesses and interests. That also means that there are more opportunities for dialogue and discussion between instructor and students. I also think that Swedish students are quite independent compared with those in the UK who are haunted by high tuition fees and there is more emphasis on final marks for the job market.

– A third difference is the importance of bureaucracy and position in ranking tables. At British universities, there is a lot of emphasis on maximising the position in ranking tables. Here in Sweden, I think that, both as an instructor and a researcher, I have freedom in how I teach and conduct my research.

What do you like most about Mid Sweden University?

– Good location, small class sizes, outstanding specialised research centres with strong links to local municipalities and companies.

Tell us something about your work that you are especially proud of.

– I am currently working as programme director for our master's programme, which I am very proud of. It is unique in that we provide a mixture of online teaching together with campus meetings to train those who would like to coach and support elite athletes. Every year, we take on a variety of international students who each help to make the programme so dynamic.

– But at the same time, perhaps all researchers are most proud of their research, and I think that we at the Winter Sports Research Centre are world leaders in conducting close-to-practice sport research.

How are you able to affect society/developments/the environment through your work?

– My current collaborative project, Aegis, is an example of multidisciplinary work where we aim to improve respiratory health and potentially contribute to preventing the occurrence of asthma in people competing in winter sports. I think this is a good example of how I as a researcher can make a difference for a small section of society.

Why do you think people should apply to work at Mid Sweden University?

– Mid Sweden University has a unique research environment and distinguishes itself through its efforts locally and globally in relation to problems that we actually have the tools and experience to solve. Östersund is also a dynamic and growing small town with good travel connections and a fantastic quality of life.