My exchange experience in Sweden began, not in Stockholm, but in the town of Lulea, in the far north of the country, in the middle of winter. The sun only crept above the horizon for an hour or so a day, and the temperature never rose above -10 degrees. I spent my time ice-skating on the frozen archipelago that surrounds the town, before travelling beyond the Arctic Circle to the one-horse town of Abisko.
Abisko is truly a winter wonderland, with husky-sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing all on the cards. Topped off, of course, by nature’s most spectacular night show: the Northern Lights. Swirling greens, reds and yellows, dancing through the sky above the snow-covered silence of the Arctic tundra. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And this is all before the semester even starts.
Then to Stockholm. In the four months I’ve been here, I’ve learnt a few things about Sweden and the Swedish people. Everyone is happy, friendly and extremely polite (even if you have to put in a bit of effort in the beginning!). It’s not as expensive as you’d think – about on par with Sydney prices, although dinners out are few and far between. And it’s a beautiful country, whether you’re looking at the frozen lakes in winter, the trees blooming in spring, or the daylight creeping towards the midnight sun in summer. The student life is great as well, with lots of fun events, awesome parties, and the chance to meet people from all over the world!
And Stockholm is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Scandinavia, the last true wilderness of Europe. You can take a cruise across the Baltic to Helsinki and the Baltic countries (well worth exploring, especially to give your wallet a bit of relief!). You can take the train to cool Copenhagen, or over the mountains to the Norwegian fjords, or a ferry out to Stockholm’s archipelago. And being the capital of Scandinavia, Stockholm has great connections to the rest of Europe as well.
Finally, some tips:
- Bring plastic: everyone, everywhere, accepts card, and cash is unnecessary (but try to get a card with no bank fees!)
- Bring a good quality coat (but don’t trust in it): layers, gloves, a scarf and beanie are essential
- Get cheap flights: sign up for SAS’s Youth Fares through their Eurobonus frequent flyer program, and get cheap flights for Under-26’s all over Europe
- Save, save, save: life’s no fun if you can’t do anything 🙂
- Learn a little bit of Swedish: hej (hi) and tack (thanks) will do wonders
So, would I recommend Stockholm for exchange? 100 percent. It’s a fun, easy and beautiful city, full of awesome people, and the perfect base for amazing adventures all over Scandinavia. And if you come, make sure you head up north – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Daniel Barnett, Student ID 11411372