The picture I have posted above is of a button next to the front door to my student housing building.  The front door from the inside.  In order to leave our apartment building, we must press that button with the little lock, and then turn the handle on the door.

I encountered the same security protocol in our academic buildings.  You see, all students at Gothenburg University are given a Student ID Card, and that card serves as our ID, our library card, and also our pass to enter academic buildings and classrooms.  The card is programed with the buildings and classrooms we are supposed to be in, and will only open the doors in question.  Once inside the room, with the door closed, the door can only be opened from the inside with a turn of the handle, and the pressing of a similar button to the one above, albeit blue with a white key.

When our professor first allowed a flock of students into the room in this way, halfway through our first lecture, I was largely taken aback by the protocol.  In the United States, we also have student IDs to enter our dormitories and some academic buildings, but their use is nowhere near as ubiquitous as it seems to be here.  And in the United States, I have never seen the internal security locking measures, which my significant other claimed to be of higher security than many military installations, and which I have on authority do not exist throughout the rest of Europe.

It made my head spin, as I tried to negotiate these choices.  Ultimately, I suppose it’s intelligent from a security mindset to keep people where they are supposed to be in an academic setting.  Moreover, the internal locking mechanism means that, in the event of an emergency, shooting out the lock of a classroom door would not open that door, which would give the students and professor inside additional time to solve the issue at hand.  I was only able to find one incident in Swedish history since 1996, a shooting at a high school with two casualties.  I don’t know what would make Swedish universities instill such security protocols as internal, panic room-like locking measures, but I’ll update as I learn more.

I have never felt as safe anywhere as I do in Sweden.  I am used to being the target of street harassment ten times a day, no hyperbole, in the United States, and it hasn’t happened once here.  I have not yet felt unsafe on the street.  And I have yet to see a single police officer or police car out on the road.  The internal locking protocol is the first physical manifestation of security intent that I have seen while here.  But it’s quite the interesting manifestation.

Erasmus Göteborg gothenburg security lock

Written by Hayley Margules  (Check out her blog on Tumblr as well)