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A-Ö of Stockholm, KTH Sweden

Heyo, my name is Jack Pascoe and I’m a Bachelor of Information Technology student in my final semester of my degree. I’m in Stockholm studying at KTH (Sweden’s top technical university).

Stockholm is a really cool city, made up of 14 main islands and hundreds more smaller ones. It’s pretty cold, even in late summer when I first arrived. People call it the ‘Capital of Scandinavia’ primarily because it has the most people out of the all the cities in this region, and also due to its diversity and culture. Stockholm has a cool mix of everything, an old town called Galma Stan, a hipster mecca called Södermalm, a bustling shopping and business filed city centre called Östermalm and heaps more. But before we get into it, a quick disclaimer. Sweden is expensive. The 30% tax on most goods means that if you’re not careful you can spend way more than you’re comfortable with without realising it.

I love a few things a lot: coffee, ramen, basketball, programming, getting outdoors and coffee. That wasn’t a mistake I really like coffee. Let me tell you which Stockholm is good for.

Stockholm’s coffee scene is decent for Europe. Södermalm, that hipster district I talked about is the best place to find a good brew. My three favourites are: Drop Coffee, Johan & Nyström, Snickarbacken 7.

This feeds into a point I wanted to mention. Swedes have this really cool cultural activity called ‘Fika’. Essentially, it’s an opportunity for people to get together in the early afternoon and get a cup of coffee and a cake to take a break from work or meet with a friend. And oh boy. The sweets here are amazing. My favourite is a kardemummabullar, which translates to a cardamom bun. That’s right, a sweet bun with that weird spice cardamom on it.

These things are unreal. Your first experience with them will be confusing for sure, but I recommend you go to one of the coffee shops I recommended (Drop has the best buns) and try one.

Okay, we have coffee ticked off, now let’s talk Ramen – or more broadly authentic ethnic food.

We don’t realise how good we have it in Sydney. Our ability to find good, well priced authentic ethnic food in Sydney is such a luxury. I have yet to find food here that is as good at the same price I would at home, not even considering the tax. It’s essentially like buying pre-made food quality at the cost of luxury food in Sydney. So, prepare for that. That’s not to say that all the food is bad here. I’ve found some places that I really love. One is called Bird (http://birdsthlm.se/). This place is a fried chicken specialty place – very good, not cheap.

KTH has some really good social opportunities and seem to have a society / group for everything. I guess this hits my basketball point. There were some organised games etc, and I haven’t really gone out of my way to find a team etc. But if you have a passion, have no doubt that a group of people at KTH are already meeting regularly and you will be more than welcome to join them.

Programming. Stockholm is the birthplace of Spotify – one of the places I’d love to work. Kind of has the ultimate workplace vibe to it. Sidetracked. KTH being Sweden’s best technical university, and more broadly Europe means the classes are insanely engaging and up to date. I picked two programming subjects: Data Structures and Algorithms and Mobile Application Development, a design course: Media Technology and Interaction Design and two Swedish courses: one language beginner course and a Swedish culture course (free excursions!). Even if you’re not technically inclined, KTH has a really broad catalogue of subjects to pick from, and from what I’ve heard the quality is really high across the board.

Alrighty final point from that intro part.The outdoors. Stockholm is an amazing city. It’s ability to mesh futuristic infrastructure, old-towny buildings and sprawling outdoors is insane. If you like a city where you can ride your bike everywhere, go from your desk in class to a full forest in 5 minutes Stockholm is definitely for you. Sweden has something cool in relation to this called ‘Allemansrätt’ – the right of public access. This means:

“When you are in Sweden you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house or land under cultivation. We call it the Freedom to Roam.”

This means you can camp, fish, pick berries and mushrooms, bike, canoe and do essentially anything your Bear Grylls mind can think up, as long as you don’t disturb anyone or damage the land. Really cool. KTH has a bunch of societies for stuff like this; camping and trips around Sweden.

Alright down to the important stuff: Money.

People will tell you Sweden is expensive. Hey I did that before – and it is. But certain things are blown out of proportion.

Alcohol is surprisingly quite cheap. A bottle of Fireball here is $30, a bottle of Captain Morgans is $40. Specialty coffee is the same, food can be pricey depending on where you go. Meat is expensive in most supermarkets. My biggest tip is find the closest Lidl (Aldi for Sweden). Same high quality stuff, way way cheaper. I had someone who’s english wasn’t great tell me it was 30 times cheaper than the ordinary supermarkets. Now that seems like an exaggeration but you get the point. Ryanair and other low cost travel options are your friend. I flew from Stockholm to Warsaw, Poland for $30 Australian dollars.

Alright I need to wrap this up. Stockholm is in my opinion one of the coolest cities on the planet, and if you are studying an Engineering or IT degree KTH is probably one of the best options you have available to you. Flights from here to main land Europe are cheap, so it’s a great base for travels during the semester.

Jack Pascoe
Bachelor of Information Technology
KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
Sweden

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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