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The engineering students Elias Ågren, Joakim Eriksson, Johannes Norén and Olivia Walfridsson will take the train to reach their study destinations in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Photo: Anna-Lena Lindskog
The engineering students Elias Ågren, Joakim Eriksson, Johannes Norén and Olivia Walfridsson will take the train to reach their study destinations in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Photo: Anna-Lena Lindskog

Press release -

Exchange students take the train abroad - for sustainable travel

The journey itself will be part of the goal when four students from the engineering programme in industrial economics at Umeå University leave for a spring term of studies abroad.
In order to promote sustainable travel, they have each been equipped with an interrail card instead of flying to their respective universities in Europe.

"It felt like a fun project and it's good to do something to support sustainable travel," says Olivia Walfridsson, who will be studying economics courses at a university in Barcelona for a semester. “Every small step is important.”

To study abroad, is it really environmentally sustainable when the trip usually takes place by air? How does one make the aim of giving students increased international experience go hand in hand with sustainable development? Researchers and teachers at the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at Umeå University asked themselves this. When they participated in internationalization days organized by the Swedish Council for Higher Education, the idea was born to send the students away by train instead of air.

“Uppsala University had done something similar, but not Umeå, so we applied for money and received grants from the deputy dean's strategic funds” says Konrad Abramowicz, IKP and associate professor. “We chose to address the invitation to exchange students traveling within Europe.”

One way or both

Studying abroad is popular among students in the engineering programme in industrial economics. Next year, around 20 students will be leaving for a semester’s exchange studies, half of which will go to European higher education institutions through the exchange programme Erasmus +.

Of these, four students have been selected for the project, named Erasmus + on track. Students are equipped with interrail cards and must travel by train to or from their universities abroad, or both ways if they wish.

“Johannes and I are going to the same university in Milan, so we travel together and it really becomes like a real interrail journey” says Joakim Eriksson. “We look forward to the trip, otherwise when you fly, the trip is just something to get through.”
"We are thinking of going to Amsterdam and then Paris and after that through Switzerland to Italy," says Johannes Norén.

When their parents were young, many young people ventured through Europe by train. Since then, train travel across borders has been made more difficult, as European train companies have no common booking system. However, the interrail cards are still there and have grown dramatically in popularity over the past year. The four students note that train travel does not need to be difficult.

“You can find all train schedules by googling” says Joakim Eriksson. “So it really is just that flying has become relatively more accessible so that the train appears to be more complicated.”

Hope to inspire more

Elias Ågren will study statistics, modelling, project management and international marketing at the University of Porto, Portugal. The choice fell on Porto for the proximity to the Atlantic and the opportunity to surf. Porto is 400 km from Umeå, as far as coast to coast in the USA. Therefore, he plans to fly there, so that on the way home he can send course books and other heavy luggage by mail and take the train with a light backpack on his shoulder.

“I have previously thought about interrail travel some summer, so I might add on the interrail card myself so that I can make the trip a little longer.

Konrad Abramowicz hopes that more students through the project will open their eyes to the train as a travel alternative, both within Sweden and abroad. Part of the project is that the four students will document their travels and report about them, on social media and in blogs.

Follow the engineering students' train journeys and studies abroad on Instagram

Press photos for download

For more information, please contact:

Konrad Abramowicz, associate professor, Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Umeå University
Phone: +46 90 786 79 01

Joakim Eriksson, student, MSc in Industrial Economics, Umeå University
Phone: +46 70 496 91 92

Johannes Norén, student, MSc in Industrial Economics, Umeå University
Phone: +46 730 98 50 90



Umeå University is one of Sweden's largest institutions of higher learning with over 33,000 students and 4,000 employees. We have a well-established international research profile and a broad range of study options. Our campus constitutes an inspiring environment that encourages interdisciplinary meetings - between students, researchers, teachers and external stakeholders. Through collaboration with other members of society, we contribute to the development and strengthen the quality of our research and education.

Press contacts

Anna-Lena Lindskog

Anna-Lena Lindskog

Communication officer Faculty of Science & Technology +46706422956

Umeå University

Umeå University is one of Sweden's largest universities with over 36,000 students and 4,000 employees. The university is home to a wide range of education programmes and world-class research in a number of fields. Umeå University was also where the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 was discovered – a revolution in gene-technology that was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Founded in 1965, Umeå University is characterised by tradition and stability as well as innovation and change. Education and research on a high international level contributes to new knowledge of global importance, inspired, among other things, by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The university houses creative and innovative people that take on societal challenges. Through long-term collaboration with organisations, trade and industry, and other universities, Umeå University continues to develop northern Sweden as a knowledge region.

The international atmosphere at the university and its unified campus encourages academic meetings, an exchange of ideas and interdisciplinary co-operation. The cohesive environment enables a strong sense of community and a dynamic and open culture in which students and staff rejoice in the success of others.

Campus Umeå and Umeå Arts Campus are only a stone's throw away from Umeå town centre and are situated next to one of Sweden's largest and most well-renowned university hospitals. The university also has campuses in the neighbouring towns Skellefteå and Örnsköldsvik.

At Umeå University, you will also find the highly-ranked Umeå Institute of Design, the environmentally certified Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics and the only architectural school with an artistic orientation – Umeå School of Architecture. The university also hosts a contemporary art museum Bildmuseet and Umeå's science centre – Curiosum. Umeå University is one of Sweden's five national sports universities and hosts an internationally recognised Arctic Research Centre.