After an amazing two months travelling Europe and staying in cheap youth hostels, I was very happy to arrive in Uppsala, to my very own room and (joy) bathroom. It felt wonderful to be able to stroll out the door without having to check my valuables were all locked away safely.
However once orientation week began I spent very little time in my room as the days were packed with activities organised by the student nations to welcome all international students.
Uppsala is a student city, and the social life is centred mainly on the 13 student nations, which are essentially different clubs with their own traditions and history. The nations offer cheaper places to hang out and have ‘fika’ (the Swedish custom of coffee and cake) and many have club events where you can dance the night away until 1am after which the strict licencing laws require them to shut down.
Every student is required to select a nation to join up as a member, once you have your membership you are welcome in all of the other nations.
The nations also offer students the opportunity to work (for an extremely modest pay) – I recently worked behind the bar at one of the nations and found it a great way to meet new people and pick up some Swedish language practise.
Throughout planning for my exchange, I was most looking forward to the prospect of living on campus and getting the full university experience Australian students often miss out on. My housing in Flogsta has exceeded all my expectations, through the many quirks and immersion in student culture you experience while staying here.
Flogsta is known as the student ghetto of Uppsala, being the biggest student accommodation in the city and the area where most international students stay. It is not the place for those wanting peace and quiet, and it’s a rare occasion when there is not some kind of corridor party going on.
Speaking of noise – it is now 10pm and there are about fifty students screaming out of their windows. The ‘flogsta scream’ is a tradition dating back to the 70’s where students scream their frustration out of their windows every night at exactly 10pm and go right on screaming until 10.01pm. Yes, EVERY night. It’s actually a lot of fun, and an excellent way to keep track of the time if you don’t have a clock near by.
While the partying has been great, I would have to say my favourite part of living here so far is being able to bike everywhere. Everyone rides a bike in Uppsala, and it is an incredible way to travel when you’re living in such a pretty city. While going out is expensive, it is a relief to not have to worry about taxi fare or having to catch the night rider home – however it does require a little extra coordination learning to ride a bike while tipsy.
One of my favourite moments last week was when some friends and I were riding to one of the nations and discovered the police had set up a patrol looking for people riding without their bike lights. Everyone seemed very well informed about their presence, and there were a huge number of people in the area hopping off their bikes to walk past (as you can’t be fined if you are not on your bike). It was like the Swedish version of our hidden speed cameras.
Lights and a super strong bike lock are a must though as, while Uppsala is an extremely safe city, the Swedes seem to enjoy their bike theft; and apparently there are many students who, while intoxicated, love to see a bike thrown into the river. Bikes are extremely cheap to buy second hand here; many of my friends bought their bikes from an infamous gentleman going by the name of ‘Erik,’ who appears to have an endless supply. The bikes tend to have old bike locks still attached to them, so we are beginning to suspect Erik is not one of the most upstanding citizens of Uppsala.
The great thing about living in a student city is that there is always something going on, and at the moment people are always outside making the most of the sunlight while it’s still around. During the official welcome reception our international officer made a well placed ‘Game of Thrones’ reference when he announced that “winter is coming,” and with winter comes darkness, with an average of only 5 hours of daylight a day (I said daylight, not sunlight). While that seems to depress most Swedish people, as an Australian who has never experienced anything that could qualify as a real winter, I have to admit, I’m excited. Snow, and the prospect of a potentially white Christmas is something I’m very much looking forward to.
If you needed any more reasons to study here, I might just add that I am currently taking a full time study load and only have to go to Uni for 5 hours a week. The choice seems clear to me!