Education at Heart

A Course Assistant's Journey

“Every course, teachers and students spread different ambiance and insights that I could take as my learning curve for both my personal and professional life.”

Who are you and what is your connection to SSES?

SP: I’m Simone Pereira and I’m a Course Assistant at SSES, and have also been an SSES student.

ZK: My name is Zarreen and I was one of the Course Assistants for SSES for the last two semesters. I’m also a student at Stockholm University, completing my Master’s in Social Anthropology.

GA: My name is Gilvile Antonovaite and I am a first year MSc student in Operations Management at Stockholm University. Also, I have recently ‘retired’ from a Course Assistant position at SSES.

AF: My name is Artika Farmita, a KTH Master student. I was taking one of the SSES courses in my first year and volunteering at their events too.

What courses were you involved in as a Course Assistant?

SP: Trendspotting and Future Thinking at Konstfack, Ideation at KTH, Negotiations for Start-Ups at SSE.

ZK: Ideation at KTH, Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries at SU, Execution at SSE, and lastly Business Model Innovation at KTH.

GA: Execution, Business Model Innovation, Finance for Start-ups & Growth.

AF: I was involved in From Idea to Service Business, Design Thinking, and Social Entrepreneurship courses.

What is it like being a Course Assistant?

SP: It’s a fun experience! As a Course Assistant you have the opportunity of experiencing different university courses, while helping students with questions, and supporting the Course Directors. You’re able to develop many skills including organisational, administration and communication skills. Every course is different, so it’s never repetitive and each semester brings new challenges and opportunities.

ZK: It varies in each course, but overall it’s a very privileged position to be in to be able to learn from teachers who are well-established in their fields without the stress of assignments and assessments. There are other responsibilities, of course, that come with the job but these are teachable moments too and you’re never alone because you have your Course Assistant colleagues and the SSES team.

GA: It is fast-paced, fun, challenging and communicative. And all this, in a high ceilings (högt i tak) work environment.

AF: It feels amazing and beyond my expectations ever! If you think being a Course Assistant is just about archiving attendance lists, you got it wrong. It pushes out the best of yourself to give the best that you can for education.

What are your biggest takeaways and most memorable moments from this semester?

SP: This last semester has been very different to usual as we had to pivot and move all interactions and lectures digitally due to the global covid-19 crisis. Moving everything to ‘Zoom’ has made smooth communication even more crucial, as students and course directors will not meet in person. Blog posts are your friend in this situation!

ZK: I would say the biggest takeaway and memorable moment has been the response to the covid-19 crisis and the challenges it posed to the classroom dynamic. In the course Business Model Innovation the response has shown that education and teaching is adaptive and resilient if the right people are engaged and willing to make it so. I think a memorable moment more specifically would be when Guy Kawasaki came to visit and Ebba Laurin (the teacher) was so excited, she managed to find a relatable figure for anyone coming from outside of the business and entrepreneurship sector!

GA: That would probably be when SSES was one of the first faculties to go fully online during the corona outbreak. I was very surprised how quickly a decision was taken and further executed.

AF: Every course, teachers, and students spread different ambiance and insights that I could take as my learning curve for both my personal and professional life.

What trend are you most fascinated by at the moment?

SP: The sustainability transition is a great passion of mine, as we see younger generations become very sustainability focused. The impact this has on organisations, governments and policies is fascinating to follow.

ZK: I’m not sure if this counts, but the trend of companies recognising the very real effects of burnout and the stresses of modern day life. I guess it’s not very new in Sweden where work-life balance has already been prioritised, but it’s fascinating to see how these conversations and top-down acknowledgments are forming in different contexts around the world.

GA: I think it is very interesting to see how organisations not only focus on diversity, but also the inclusion. Including the diversity, with other words 🙂 And by working in interdisciplinary teams as an SSES student, this phenomena is something you definitely get even more familiar with.

AF: I am amazed by how SSES quickly adapted the learning practice because of the pandemic. Before each member school decided to change into online, SSES made decisions carefully, confidently, and decisively that are in line with science and social needs.

What was most surprising to you about your SSES experience?
SP: How much you can learn from everyone at SSES and how international it is! Sharing experiences with people from other cultures and countries has been a highlight.

ZK: I would say how easily I fit in with my colleagues and how much I learnt about entrepreneurship myself. Coming from the social sciences (and a very obscure social science discipline too), I knew very little and I thought that a lot of it would be very alien. But there is actually a lot of overlap and recognition of ideas that can be found from the social sciences, it’s just packaged and implemented differently!

GA: How many new tools I have gained. Many of the teachers within SSES are professors who have combined academia with also have worked in the industry. This means that they are bringing different ideas, skills on how to prioritize and how to structure things out to make it more clear, interactive fun for the students. Anything from colourful timelines, to structured slides etc. Tools that I have already used during my time as a project manager as well as when presenting at university.

AF: At the end of 2019, the Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) delegation visited SSES to discuss how the entrepreneurship and innovation education of Sweden evolved. Surprisingly, SSES involved me to represent them – more than just a Course Assistant. In addition, SSES gave me the opportunity to deliver some suggestions to my home country’s government and share stories about how SSES’ courses have contributed to other Indonesian student’s experiences.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for future Courses Assistants?

SP: Organisation is key! Keeping on top of things helps with the smooth running of business, and always remember there’s a great team at SSES who will help and support you at any time.

ZK: Boundaries! Be clear from the beginning about what your role is and how and when you would prefer to be contacted. It took me months to refrain from replying to emails at 10pm. You will want to be the best and most accommodating Course Assistant known to man, but you’re a student too and it’s important to not let others take advantage of how much you are willing to help.

GA: Go in with a 100%. If you do that, you will realize that this position can provide you with not only one, but many different skills. Skills that are applicable to any position, within any organisation in this always changing and developing world we live in today. You will, without a doubt, grow as a person after this.

AF: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. Act like a half-empty glass; not a half-full glass, and let the journey at SSES surprise you.