Change can be scary. There’s no doubt about that.

But the thing is, sometimes change is exactly what you need. Starting over can be intimidating – but it brings you a healthy dose of fear, mixed with excitement and opportunity.

Uppsala was exactly the change I needed in my life. It worms its way into your heart so quickly that when it’s all over, it’s a shock to your system. I’ve already said a few goodbyes to friends I am not sure I will see again, at least not for a long time… I was warned before coming here that reverse-culture shock is a very real thing when exchange is over – and I think I am already feeling the effects.

As my time here draws to a close, I find myself reminiscing more and more on the memories I have made here and the lessons I have learned – and so I have compiled some of the most important ones in a list of tips for anyone heading to Uppsala in the future!

10 Things Exchange in Uppsala Has Taught Me:

  1. Forget playing it safe: say yes to adventure more often. Take advantage of every moment you can, because it will be over before you know it. Spur-of-the-moment decision to bike into the middle of a forest at night in search of one of the reputable Swedish forest raves? Why not! Be spontaneous – you’ll be surprised by the incredible adventures you’ll have.
  2. Talk to your Swedish floor mates, and don’t give up after any initial awkward encounters (Swedes can be a bit reserved with strangers)… because who knows, they might just become some of your closest friends.
  3. No matter the different social or cultural backgrounds of all the people you’ll meet, you will always find people who get you – people who’ve been through similar experiences and with whom you truly connect. It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let it isolate you! You will make friends who love you for who you are – sometimes you just have to pluck up the courage to talk to a stranger. What you need to remember is that we’re all here for the same reason, and we’re all in the same boat – everyone is looking to make friends!
  4. Plan adventures with your exchange friends. If you’re a travel bug, do it with the friends you find here in Sweden: it’s an easy way to make memories you will always remember in new places, and an even better way to get to know each other.
  5. Visit Sweden. Get to know the country by traveling to places such as Stockholm, Sigtuna, Gotland, Abisko… Sweden has so much to offer – don’t forget to explore the country you’re living in while planning your trips!
  6. Don’t forget that Uppsala is only your temporary home. You shouldn’t feel like you have to be constantly planning trips just because others are. The best way to feel comfortable here and make the most of it is to make sure you spend time getting to know the people here and remain involved with activities going on in Uppsala. While I highly recommend traveling if it’s an opportunity you get, you will have a harder time making very close, permanent friends here if you are always gone. You should also absolutely not feel pressured to spend money on travels if you don’t want to or are concerned about costs: Uppsala is a lively, quaint place and you will love every second you are there whether or not you travel throughout the semester.
  7. You need so much less than you think you do when you move away – don’t over-pack. Moving away for six months is a great way to practice living efficiently. I arrived with a small carry-on suitcase, a backpack, and a box mailed to me with my shoes and clothes for warmer days – and I still felt like I had too much at times! Furthermore, you will almost definitely end up bringing back purchases you made while here in Sweden. Pack smart.
  8. The nations are a wonderful way to be involved in the campus environment and meet new people – you will undoubtedly hear this many times, but I can’t stress it enough. Go to the nations! Whether it’s for fika, dancing, studying, or working a shift, you will be so glad you did it.
  9. Budgeting – if you haven’t had a lot of experience doing this at home, you most certainly will have to learn to do it here. Sweden is not cheap, and your bank account will empty faster than you expect it to. Make sure to sit down every now and then and look at your activities and travels and plan everything efficiently. Being involved around Uppsala can have its expenses: it does sometimes mean opening your wallet for events like fika, entrance fees on club nights, gasques, gym membership, spin lessons… you name it. Plus, budgeting is a life skill – may as well learn it now!
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be in terms of classes, sickness, mental health, logistical questions, Swedish culture, navigating the city… you can always find someone to help you out in Uppsala. I highly recommend signing up for the International Buddy Program – not only do you get an automatic friend, but they will patiently help you with all of your mishaps. Full-time Swedish students are also a great resource –if you want the best tips, they have them!

While uprooting your life can seem frightening, it’s one of the best decisions you will ever make. Enjoy every second, because you will miss it when it’s suddenly over. Coming here is so worth it – don’t hold back!

/Gabrielle

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