Bottomless filter coffee for $1 AUD, a plentiful of thrift shops, and ABBA songs played as the fourth song on a night out. This is “Bachelor [Degree Student] in [Scandinavian] Paradise”.
Sweden is more than just Muppet chefs and sophisticated furniture designs. Thanks to globalisation, Swedish ingenuity permeates our everyday living – Skype, Spotify, H&M, the Celsius temperature scale, zippers, Hövding bicycle airbag and Alicia Vikander. So, why not assemble the pieces yourself and construct your dream exchange experience?
Reminiscent of Canberra, Uppsala is a quaint University town only 30 minutes away by train from the metropolitan Stockholm. With historic establishments standing since 1477, Uppsala’s exteriors put Sydney’s Hogwarts to shame (sorry). Facilities are modern and spacious, and lecture sizes are intimate. Each semester is divided into four study periods, meaning each course runs one after the other as “semi-intensives” lasting around four or five weeks, with a final exam or assessment immediately after. Uppsala values immersive education, where the lecturers really try to engage with students. If you fail or cannot make your final exam, there are no consequences for taking the re-sit. Your re-sit mark will become your final grade, with no “pass with supplementary” unlike ANU.
Student life here is bountiful. Thanks to the Erasmus Programme and other extensive exchange initiatives, Uppsala is home to a diverse international student community. If you are given the opportunity, I highly recommend taking the Basic Swedish summer intensive course. No bond is stronger than practicing the nine Swedish vowels tongue twisters and adventures to countryside castles, old Viking towns, and an elk farm.
Swedish culture doesn’t stop there. If you’re a culinary thrill seeker, you can indulge in delicacies like salt cod roe in a tube (Kalles Kaviar), sandwich cakes (smörgåstårta), cinnamon pastries (kanelbullar and sweets in general), crayfish parties (kräftskiva), and salted liquorice (saltlakrits) in every form imaginable…just to name a few. Also prepare yourself for Swedish takes on other cuisines – a heated argument between an Italian student and the Swedish teacher after discovering that Swedes put ketchup on spaghetti Bolognese is testament to this.
The centrepiece of Uppsala’s thriving student life is the Student Nations. Each of the thirteen Nations hosts a myriad of social events, and are also responsible for running student cafés, pubs and nightclubs. Simply put, it is ANU rescom on steroids. These are completely student-run institutions that have existed since the 17th century, often within decadent castle-like buildings as old of the Nations’ itself. Events they host regularly include fancy dress dinners, songbook dinners (literally singing, drinking and eating into the night), daily fika (a Swedish social practice), club nights, and much more. I simply cannot describe it. It is something that you must experience for yourself.
One of the first things people often ask me is: how cold is Sweden? There’s no point in sugar-coating this one. It’s cold. However, when a frozen river that runs from Uppsala to Stockholm means an annual ice-skating marathon (see Vikingarännet), there is much fun to be had in this winter wonderland. Think snowball fights, making snow angels, and catapulting a 22-pound snowman off the seventh floor (not saying I tried this or anything…)
Another thing people often ask me is whether I’d go back. In a heartbeat, YES. Anything to do the infamous 10 pm Flogsta scream again (I’m not even going to explain this, just Google it).