My name is Dan and I have just begun my exchange in Uppsala, Sweden after two months of backpacking around continental Europe and Scandinavia. Uppsala is student city (fourth largest city in Sweden), situated in central Sweden about 40 mins north of Stockholm.The city itself is beautiful and old with a really rich history. It boasts a huge cathedral, viking burial sites from the 11th century and of course the University, which was opened in 1477. It has been a big shift from big city life in Australia and it has been fun adjusting to the Swedish culture and way of life.
Despite having been on the go for 2 months before arriving in Uppsala, the first week did not provide many opportunities to relax and recharge my batteries as, like all new students, I needed to settle into my new accommodation, buy a bike and tackle shopping in a foreign language. All of which done while participating in O week activities and nights out. I can happily say I made many new friends and got to try out traditional fika a fair few times!
Separate to the university are what are known as ‘Nations’, a concept unique to Lund and Uppsala, they which are effectively student run societies all providing different services, activities and benefits for members in addition to nights out on different days of the week. There are 14 in total originally based on various regions in Sweden such as Gothenburg, Norrlands etc. I joined both the Stockholm and Södermanlands-Nerikes (Snerikes) nations which have nights out on both Tuesdays and Thursdays and provides a great opportunity to connect exchange students like myself with Swedes from various backgrounds. What drives these nations are deeply seeded traditions and long running histories that date back hundreds of years. Just earlier this week I was able to attend a “Gasque”, which is a formal dinner that acts as a welcome for all new members. At this dinner we sang songs and ate traditional Swedish food whilst observing strict manners and formalities. For the few international students present it was great experience as for many of us were not used to such a traditional event.
Another interesting aspect of my exchange so far has been the shift to university housing. I am staying in a reknowned student area known as Flogsta and for me, this is the first time I have had the chance to live in dorm style accommodation. At first I thought it would be challenging to share a kitchen and living area with 12 other students but after only a short time we have become like a family, sharing meals and conversations almost every day. Despite that, Flogsta is not without a few unique qualities. The most bizarre part of living at Flogsta is the the imfamous ‘Flogsta Scream’. Every night at 10pm it is commonplace for students to open their windows and scream at the top of there lungs out into the night. I remember reading about this bizarre tradition before coming over and I didn’t really believe it happened, but sure enough at 10pm every night without fail there will be someone screaming. Another notable aspect of Flogsta is the community that has been developed around the trading of 2nd hand items. The beauty of the overlapping semesters is that there is always someone trying to get rid of clothes or furniture and being a way out of town, it is common to see various pieces of furniture being lugged up and down the street to save people from making the 3km journey to the town or further 2km to IKEA. This community trading has been really helpful for me to be able to furnish my room for not much at all.
Finally, the bike culture here is also something unique which I have grow to love. From where I, and a large number of other exchange students are staying, it is a 3km, or 10 minute cycle to the centre of town. This is where the university, nations and shops are. Without a bike this distance turns into a 40min walk, which even in the warmer summer weather is impractical. As such, your bike becomes your best friend and trusty steed. You rarely ride alone too with groups of students forming convoys regularly 10-15 bikes strong. Some of the best times I have had on the bike to date have been going to and from the nations on a night out. Where the Swedes can ride before they can walk, the addition of alcohol to exchange students not as comfortable on two wheels can, and has yielded some spectacular stacks and tumbles.
Coming on exchange has been the best decision I could have made and I am very excited for my next four months!
Bachelor of Accounting Co-op
Uppsala University, Sweden