Wednesday, August 27, 2014

International master’s student completes European bike trek to Umeå

International master’s student completes European bike trek to Umeå

[2014-08-22] How many people would consider embarking on a 2100 km month-long bike ride through Europe in the middle of summer to reach their study destination in northern Sweden? Ethiopian Hailemelekot Negussie, a 27-year-old beginning master’s student at Umeå University, can claim to be one to have travelled this unconventional way.

Hailemelekot Negussie, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is among the hundreds of international students that will be starting their studies in the 2014/15 academic year. He is enrolled in the two-year master’s degree programme in IT Management and is also a Swedish Institute Study Scholarship recipient, which covers both living costs and tuition fees.
So why did Hailemelekot, who prefers to be called Haile, choose to cycle through six countries instead of taking the more convenient route via train or flight? “I wanted to take a month to travel and decided to do something unconventional by bicycling through Europe,” said Haile.
After weeks of planning, Haile flew to Milan, Italy, to begin the challenging carbon-neutral adventure. He purchased a standard 18-speed city bike with a six gear cassette and was eager to begin pedalling. “To be perfectly honest, the planning and the actually journey are two very different things,” he said.
On the 2nd of July, Haile, who is an avid runner, began his bike trip in Turin, Italy. He had a large travel backpack which he realised was much too cumbersome, so he dropped it off at a friend’s who later shipped it to the International Housing Office at Umeå University. It was now up to Haile to bike through Europe to be reunited with his belongings.
His ride did come with its share of challenges. There were a total of 25 destinations along the way to Umeå, including challenging treks through the Alps, highly trafficked motorways, and treacherous weather conditions. Haile had two accidents, including a scary incident where he crashed and flipped over in a tunnel near Hannover, Germany, requiring a visit to the emergency room. That setback didn’t upset Haile, who eventually hopped back on his bike and continued the quest to reach the Kingdom of Sweden.
Hailemelekot Negussie's route from Turin to Umeå.
Haile was able to keep his travel budget incredibly low for an entire month as lodging and food was entirely arranged through the friends he's met through the Couchsurfing social network and Warm Showers community for long distance cyclists. He also says having chocolate bars, peanuts and staying hydrated was crucial on a typical biking day. Both websites allow members to stay as a guest in host’s home for free. He made a lot of friends along the way and was often personally accompanied to tourist destinations.
The trip did involve a few bus rides in Germany, including a ferry trip in Rostock, but Haile eventually crossed the Swedish border on 27 July. For the last stretch of around 1100 km, he rode the train from Älmhult to Stockholm and then finally arrived in Umeå on 1 August. In total, Haile’s journey covered approximately 3200 km. He is now eager to begin his studies at Umeå University.
Haile was searching a study programme in IT with English language instruction and was focusing on universities in the United Kingdom and Sweden. “I decided on Umeå because of the high satisfaction of its international students,” said Haile, who worked previously as a network engineer at Techno Brain, a multinational company based in Africa.
As for future career aspirations, Haile hopes to be an entrepreneur in the IT field, and help expand the access of technology in Ethiopia and the African continent.
When asked whether he would ever do another long-distance bike ride, Haile answered “yes” without hesitation.

Fun Facts

Destination stops by country (in order):
  • Italy: Turin, Ivrea, Aosta, Courmayeur
  • France: Chamonix, Passy, Cluses, Annemasse
  • Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel, Berne, Zurich
  • Germany: Frankfurt, Hannover, Berlin, Rostock
  • Denmark: Nykobing Falster, Naestved, Køge, Copenhagen
  • Sweden: Malmö, Älmhult, Stockholm, Umeå
  • This was Haile's first time in Europe and first bike expedition.
  • Haile’s favourite destinations were Rolle, Switzerland and Delary, Sweden. 
  • He used internet at people’s homes to plan the next day’s journey 
  • Longest distance in one day:180 km 
  • Average daily distance:120 km
  • 32 travel days from Turin to Umeå.

Photos courtesy of: Hailemelekot Negussie

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