Nursing students from Sweden bring global perspective to University Park

They like Beyoncé and Coldplay. They enjoy Penn State football and prefer their own cooking to dining hall food. And if you saw them walking through campus, you’d probably think they were typical Penn State undergraduate students.

But Rojda Coskun and Karin Callenas are, in fact, Swedish nursing students who have spent the past semester studying at University Park through the College of Nursing’s student exchange program with Jönköping University. The program is coordinated through the University Office of Global Programs, says Beth Cutezo, instructor in nursing and global studies coordinator for the College of Nursing.

“We have had an exchange program for many years,” Cutezo says. “Students from our college as well as those from Sweden have commented on the richness of the experiences they have garnered through this program.”

Coskun and Callenas spent the past semester taking nursing classes, participating in campus life, and visiting other cities for a well-rounded American experience.

For the academic component of their experience, the two women carried a 12-credit course load, which included NURS 250 Professional Role Development, NURS 251 Health Assessment, NURS 452 Women’s Health Issues and NURS 492 Emergency Care and Safety. They also took part in an independent study with Cutezo, during which they participated in community engagement and service-learning opportunities, such as flu clinics at University Health Services and health screenings at FaithCentre in Bellefonte for medically underserved residents.

Such activities have served to underscore the differences between nurses in their home country and their American counterparts, say the pair. In short, the scope of practice is much more limited in Sweden, they say.

“Nurses don’t do physical assessments like listening to lungs or heart sounds,” Coskun continued. “Doctors perform those tasks.”

There are also differences in the approaches the two countries take to nursing education, Cutezo says. A university nursing program in Sweden lasts only three years and consists entirely of nursing courses; there are no general education requirements to meet. Once course work is completed, students do not have to pass a licensure exam to practice, as they do in America.

“Additional study is required to become a surgical or specialty nurse,” she says. “Nurses in Sweden typically work for a year before pursuing education for a specialty.”

Some of these differences may be traced back to the very different health care systems of the two countries.

“In Sweden, we have a national single-payer health-care system and pay higher taxes for it,” says Coskun, noting that while a doctor visit may cost $10, surgeries are performed at no cost. Everyone in Sweden receives the same level of care regardless of income or economic status, she adds.

But university life in general is also much different here, they note. While at Penn State they live on campus with other international students, Swedish universities generally do not have on-campus housing. Students live in apartments off campus and cook their own food, which they take to class with them instead of eating in a campus dining hall.

“The food they serve here is pretty much the same every day,” Coskun says good-naturedly. “I would rather cook myself what I like to eat.”

Students at Swedish universities are typically older, they say. Coskun is 22 and Callenas is 23; both are senior (third-year) students in Jönköping.

“Most young people take a year or so after high school to travel or work before attending university,” Callenas says.

Outside class, Coskun and Callenas found plenty to keep them busy. One thing they enjoyed was a Center for the Performing Arts production of Mamma Mia, a musical based on songs by the 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA. And spending fall semester at University Park gave the women their first taste of American football when they attended a Nittany Lions game at Beaver Stadium.

“The arena was really nice, but the game was too long!” Coskun laughs. Callenas, an ice hockey fan, attended a New York Rangers game on a recent bus trip to New York City (where she and Coskun also shopped and visited Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn). They have traveled to Chicago, Toronto, Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C. Having use of a rental car, which they could drive with their Swedish driver’s licenses, gave them plenty of freedom to explore.

Typically, Cutezo says, the exchange program includes sending several Penn State Nursing students to Sweden during the summer. These students complete a five-week program on children’s health issues, completing 3 independent study credits and fulfilling the Nursing program’s elective requirement.

Coskun and Callenas, for their part, feel the program is worth the commitment. “We loved the campus, and everyone has been so friendly,” Callenas said. “We are very glad we came here.”

For more information on the College of Nursing’s international study opportunities, visit:


Media Contacts: 

Beverly Molnar

Work Phone: 
Cell Phone: 

Marketing Communications Specialist, College of Nursing

Last Updated January 26, 2015