Month: April 2017

Raft Building – The week before Valborg! By Mayra Rulli

Uppsala hosts many events during the year but Valborg is extra special for all students. In this magnificent event, there are numerous activities to do and watch, being Forsränningen (River Rafting) one of the most expected ones either for does active in the raft run or for the spectator. Firstly, it is not really easy to get a raft once the selection is made by a lottery, but 120 lucky teams get to experience it each year. The building starts on Saturday, one week before Valborg (The River Festival), and it goes on until the following Friday, when you should have everything ready.

Building the raft
My friends and I (Frida (team captain), Feli, Fine and myself) amazingly got a raft and for all of us this is the first time doing it. We chose a Harry Potter theme and decided to make the Hogwarts Express (we named our raft “The Raft That Must Not Be Named” (I know, sounds great!)).

For those who are building rafts for the first time I guess it can be a surprise what you will find at the building area on the first day (you don’t have to go on the first day if you don’t want to as you can start any time during the week as long as you finish by Friday). Of course, everyone knows that the building happens outside at one of Uppsala University’s building grounds, which means that if it is raining, snowing, hailing, sun and blue sky or any other weather condition possible, you must find a way to do this (Wednesday 26/04 had all the conditions mentioned = nightmarish). Then, you arrive there on your first day and check out the equipment you have to work with: three different sizes and formats of Styrofoam, three 3,60 meters’ pieces of wood and a bottle of glue (that is not really effective when you want to glue Styrofoam on Styrofoam, seriously). Additionally, you may get saws, nails, hammers and other useful stuff that you can work with.

Now come the tricky part, how can you use your pieces to fit the design you want? Well, starting with drawing your ideas on the Styrofoam might be a promising idea, because them you can see what pieces will be best everything that you want to do and what material you will have left (at least that is what we did and it worked). After that, you can start cutting the Styrofoam and shaping the way you want. For us it started okay on Saturday, we managed to create a good frame for our base Styrofoam and the weather was nice even though it was cold. The next days were not that nice, it was raining and cold, seriously, how can you work with glue and paint when it is so wet? Not easy, sometimes you don’t, but we managed to cut and glue everything by Wednesday (the nightmarish day), but not with that glue I mentioned before because that doesn’t work well for that, so most teams buy foam glue that is really sticky and will get your pieces and details together (and it will leave you with really sticky hands, almost impossible to get off!!).

After getting your raft approved, you can start painting and that’s when you noticed that you have managed to put some nice stuff together. We did our painting on Thursday, which was the nicest day in the week as it was sunny and even though there was some hail, it wasn’t that much. Oh, and don’t forget to make some paddles (why sawing is so difficult?). WE DID IT!!

So, after a week of building on both bad and pleasant weather, we did manage to build our raft (I know, it looks amazing). Moreover, it is super cool to see all other teams working on their rafts creating amazing designs, and the friendly atmosphere with loads of people, tasty food, cotton candy, kanelbulle, music and more.

Today (Saturday) we will load the rafts to trucks for transportation to the starting line. Clearly, the anxiety for tomorrow just grows, the river water is around 4°C (super fun) and the chances to falling in are high. Can’t wait to get started.


Valborg, a quintessential Uppsala student tradition

If you have started looking into student life in Uppsala you have probably heard of two things, the student nations, and Valborg. Held on 30 April every year, Valborg or “sista april” (last of April) is without a doubt the biggest annual event in Uppsala. On this day, tens of thousands of people from around Sweden arrive in Uppsala to take part in the festivities, and as a student you will be at the very centre of these celebrations. Ideally, the sun will be shining, and it will be warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts. But being Sweden, there could be sunshine, rain or snow, and the Swedes come out in force regardless. When we talk with international students about their time in Sweden they always bring up this day as one of their most memorable experiences. It is a big day for Swedish students too, but it is hard to grasp just how significant the day is in Uppsala until you see it for yourself, which is why it makes such an impression on international students. Whether you are considering studying at Uppsala University or are a current international student getting ready to celebrate, Valborg in Uppsala is a day not to be missed, and one that you are unlikely to forget.

Singing traditional spring songs

So, what is it exactly?

Walpurgis Night is the English name for Valborg, and is called so because it is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga. Traditionally thought of as the “witches’ night”, Walpurgis is recognised in many countries throughout Europe as an old pagan practice. On this date large bonfires are traditionally held to ward of witches and other evil spirits. It can also be thought of as a day to celebrate the end of the cold, the beginning of spring and the welcoming of warmer months.

Valborg in Uppsala is extra special and dominated by a number of student traditions that date back many years. If you want to experience Valborg to the fullest extent, we recommend taking part in the following activities:

Champagne breakfast, or “champagne frukost”

Usually, Valborg begins bright and early with a champagne and strawberry breakfast. This is an early indication that champagne plays a big role in the last of April festivities. You may wish to organise a quiet champagne breakfast at home with your friends, or you could have a picnic breakfast down by the River Fyris in order to reserve a coveted position by the water. If you wish to join a bigger, organised breakfast event you can also attend the Uppsala International Committee’s champagne breakfast which is usually held at a student nation.

Running the falls of the River Fyris, or “forsränningen”

It has been over 40 years since the iconic river raft race was first started by two former engineering students at Uppsala University. Apparently, they wanted to see if it was possible to make it down the river through the centre of town on a man-made raft while the water was at its highest. Needless to say, they succeeded, and the tradition continues on to this day. In the week leading up to Valborg teams of students who wish to get their toes wet convene on the grassy area at Campus Ångström to build their rafts out of Styrofoam. Each raft usually has a theme, and each year the rafts and costumes get more creative. At 10 am the race starts, and each team makes its way into the water. As they travel down the river through the centre of town they encounter several rapids, and many of the boats fall apart. It is always entertaining to see which teams make it to the end, and the friendly rivalry between the rafts. During the race the river is lined with literally thousands of people all trying to watch. As space is so limited, we recommend getting there early to secure a spot!

If you would like to read more about how the running of the falls started, you can read the following article.

To read about the raft building at Campus Ångström, and the activities that are held during the week, view the following link.

One of the rafts in the running of the falls

One of the rafts in the running of the falls

One of the rafts in the running of the falls

Traditional herring lunch, or “klassisk sillunch”

After the running of the falls people flock to parks or private parties to enjoy a traditional Swedish celebratory lunch consisting of pickled herring, boiled potatoes, hard bread, chives, and sour cream. The herring can be purchased inexpensively from any grocery store and comes in a wide range of flavours, such as mustard, tomato and onion, or classic pickle, or you could try making it yourself. The largest gathering takes place at Ekonomikum Park. Here, thousands of people sit on the grass enjoying lunch with friends, classmates and family. There are usually so many people in the park at the one time that making phone calls can be difficult, so if you are going to be meeting friends in the park we suggest deciding on a clear meeting spot in advance. If you are enjoying a formal lunch, the food will usually be accompanied by snaps and lots of singing. If sitting in a park is not for you, you could attend an organised traditional herring lunch, such as the one at Uppsala Concert House.

A plate containing classic Valborg food, including pickled herring

Different flavours of pickled herring in jars. Image taken by Joel Wåreus,

The crowds at Ekonomikum Park

The crowds at Ekonomikum Park

Enjoying lunch at Ekonomikum Park

The donning of the caps, or “mösspåtagning”

One of the most well-known activities taking place in Uppsala each Valborg is the donning of the caps. After lunch, large crowds gather outside of Uppsala University’s famous library Carolina Redoviva to watch. At precisely 3pm, the Vice-Chancellor of the university along with other dignitaries walks out on to the veranda of the library and looks down over the sea of people. They raise their white caps, waving at the people below, and the people respond by waving and cheering back. On the library stairs, underneath the balcony, are members of the student unions and student nations, and a choir or band. After the donning of the caps they start playing traditional spring music and entertaining the crowds. The white caps were first introduced in Sweden during the 1800’s and were used by students to show that they belonged to a student union. Later, it was worn by students when they completed their high school studies. Today, when a student in Sweden finishes high school they still wear a white cap during their graduation celebrations. It is popular for Swedes to bring their caps out to wear again each year on Valborg, including those who graduated high school many, many years ago. In Uppsala, the white caps have yellow and blue lining and a yellow and blue cockade. For a 360-degree view of the donning of the caps, have a look at the following link.

The donning of the caps. Photo taken by David Naylor

The donning of the caps. Photo taken by Lars Wallin.

Champagne race, or “champagnegalopp”

If you feel like amping the party up a notch you can take part in a champagnegalopp at one of the student nations. The champagnegalopps begin at 3pm on Valborg, and are so popular that partygoers often line up for hours to ensure they get in.  Part of the fun of a champagnegalopp is being able to buy a bottle of champagne and then spray it all over your friends and other party goers. So if you attend a champagnegalopp be prepared to get very wet! Make sure you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting soaked in champagne. As there will be plenty of dancing and jumping around, comfortable shoes are a must. And to be extra careful we recommend keeping your mobile phone and wallet in a plastic bag.

Bonfires, or “majbrasor”

As I mentioned earlier, Valborg is an old pagan custom to welcome the arrival of spring, and protect against unwanted spirits, and the tradition of gathering around large bonfires lives on today. Apparently the bonfires started as a way of scaring off predators before farm animals were released into the fields to graze. As the days are brighter and longer, the bonfires are usually lit at around 9pm as night approaches. In Uppsala and other cities around Sweden, hundreds of people stand shoulder to shoulder around the dancing flames, and often sing old spring songs which welcome the warm spring sun. If you are in Uppsala and wish to see one of the biggest and most popular bonfires, we recommend heading out to Gamla Uppsala in the evening. There is usually a lot of activity in this historical location, including the bonfire, speeches, choirs, and fireworks.

We hope that one day you will all have the opportunity to celebrate this day for yourself in Uppsala. For those of you who are gearing up to experience your first Valborg, we wish you a happy and hopefully warm and sunny day! We encourage you to get out there and do it all, but please stay safe and act sensibly. Since 2009 Uppsala University, together with Kuratorskonventet and Uppsala Municipality, has promoted with the campaign Every other water, or “Varannan vatten” on Valborg. To encourage responsible drinking and less focus on alcohol in general, over 70 000 bottles of water will be handed out to individuals.

A big bonfire on Valborg night. Photo taken by Aline Lessner,

Experience Valborg on Instagram!

If you would like to see how our student bloggers in Uppsala will be celebrating Valborg this coming Monday, make sure you keep an eye on our Instagram account TaggedforUppsala, where several of our students will be doing a take-over.

Jorja Zambars, International Office

How I learned how to be a normal human again. – By Su Fang

Here’s what normal humans do: they can go to the grocery store, cook their own food, exercise, socialize, sleep, and not be constantly stressed while doing all those things.

I really hadn’t realized just how stressed I was at my home university until I came here and found myself thinking, “Wow, I have time to make myself a proper meal and eat it? NICE. What, you mean I could get 8 whole hours of sleep tonight? SCORE. Wait, a whole hour of free time that I could do whatever I want– go to the gym for an hour, sing in the shower for an hour, eat Swedish candy for an hour? ALRIGHT!”

… and then it hit me: this is what being a normal, healthy person is supposed to feel like.

While I think that any change of environment would have helped me come to this realization, I think a huge factor was the academic environment and attitude here. I’m currently taking two courses, one that’s a ‘100% study load’ and another that’s a ‘25% study load,’ and I usually have 10 hours of class each week, give or take. Most of those class hours are seminar-style rather than a lecture, and pretty much all of the work is done outside of class in the form of readings, to prepare for the seminars. By no means is the environment lazy or unmotivated, but it feels much more focused on student learning rather than testing and “efficiency.” Looking back at it now, I’m realizing the extent to which my home university is focused on this “efficiency”: fit as many students in a lecture hall as possible, cover as much material as possible in the class period, and transition to your next class within 10-15 minutes.

At Uppsala, my classes are usually 2 hours long in total, with a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of class. That’s really not all that different, time-wise, from the “breaks” at my university, but the attitudes surrounding the breaks are entirely distinct. Here, the breaks are to clear your mind, stretch your legs, get some coffee, and ask your friends about their weekend– not so you can power-walk to your next class and quickly stuff your face with some yogurt because you’re always in a be-as-productive-as-humanly-possible-mindset.

The breaks did take some getting used to though. I actually found them really annoying at first. (Because come on, if we’re going to be here for another 45 minutes, we might as well just get on with it…) But then I started realizing that my brain gets a little pouty after 45 minutes and just refuses to continue absorbing information. So, much to my chagrin, I’ve started giving my brain the breaks it demands, and it turns out that doing nothing for a little while is really helpful for doing everything else later on. Seems pretty silly that I had to move to the other side of the globe to learn how to a) do nothing and b) be a normal human, but without a real change of pace, I’m not sure that I would have otherwise.


A vegetarian in Sweden – By Mayra Rulli

‘Special’ diets are usually a big issue in many places when, but not only, we want to eat out, right? For instance, in my home country (Brazil) there is a strong culture of a necessity to eat meat in preferably every meal. Therefore, it can be extremely annoying when you go to a restaurant there and you do not want to eat meat for whatever reason. Hard for a vegetarian, right? Now imagine a vegan, it is basically impossible to get anything to eat unless you go to specifically vegan restaurants, which are not common at all. From there things just get harder and harder, gluten free options for example are essentially never available, I personally have friends that are gluten intolerant and have to always bring their own food or just eat before leaving home. Moreover, that is not something that happen only in Brazil, many other Americans or European countries have the same problem. However, if you want to study in a place where you can find vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, lactose free, nut free or whatever your needs may be free basically wherever you go, Sweden is your place.

Well, starting from the basics…

Okay, I will admit, back home it was quite easy to go to the supermarket and get loads of fresh vegetables for decent prices, but you know even though vegetables and greens are quite important in a veggie diet, we do not eat only that. Here you can go to the supermarket closest to your house and you will find all sorts of vegetarian/vegan options that you can choose from, that is vegetable based milks, yogurts, cream, ice-cream, cheeses, burgers, sausages or basically anything you can think of, specially great assortment of mushrooms (summer will be amazing for that, you can go pick your own mushrooms in the forest). And that is not the only think, you can also find a whole session of gluten free products with nice goodies. Talking about goodies, Swedes have a tradition of eating candy only on Saturday (at least for the kids), which is the Lördagsgodis, and if you are vegan or vegetarian you can enjoy it as well as everyone else as here you can find all sorts of gelatine free gummy-like candies.

I know, talking about fika again? Yep, we all love fika! Everyone enjoys going to cafés or having fika with friends in any place. In all cafés, you will be able to find vegan and gluten free cakes, cookies, pastries, chocolate balls, and many other options.

Eating out
It is unlikely that you will go to a restaurant or any place to eat really, and they will not have at least one vegetarian/vegan options. Moreover, of course we also like to have that not exactly health fast food once in a while, right? Well, Sweden’s favourite hamburger restaurant chain provide you if different options of veggie burgers that you can choose from, just beware with the barbecue option if you are not a fan of spicy food (lots of jalapeño on that one). The student nations also always offer veggie option on their pub, restaurants, brunch and any other events.

Invited for dinner
Have you ever had that uncomfortable feeling when you are invited to a friend’s/relative’s house for lunch, dinner or whatever occasion, and you are not sure they know you don’t eat meat and you are not sure you should bring that up? Usually, you don’t have to worry about that here. Many Swedes are vegetarian or vegan and it is totally okay with other people if you do not eat meat, they will not tease you or make any jokes, and most importantly the person inviting you will be the first to ask whether you have any ‘special’ diet or not. You will most certainly feel welcome to eat in all places.

So, if that is one of your worries it is okay, you will not starve in Sweden and in most cases, all the new food you will be able to eat will be better than you could ever imagine. Swedes do not kid when the topic is food and they will lure you to many events with food (we all love that).


Exploring the University’s Libraries – By Gabrielle Ingenthron

I love books. Ergo, I love libraries.

So naturally, I didn’t stand a chance the very first time I went to study in one of the campus libraries. My fingers were itching to grab at every title I saw and carefully turn the pages of the most delicate books I could find. You know those kids who stare in wide-eyed wonder when they go to Disney World for the first time? Yeah, that was me in the Carolina Rediviva Bibliotek. I think I distracted my neighbors by doing absolutely nothing except sit and stare at all the book shelves and architecture of the main hall for the first ten minutes I was there. It was just so beautiful.

What’s fun about the layout of some of the libraries is that the desks are often scattered throughout and in between the shelves – so if you’re a diehard book fan like I am, don’t be surprised if an interesting title on a nearby shelf draws your attention away from your work. Uppsala has a whole slew of libraries, filled with books and magazines and journals and even postcards (yes, you read that correctly). In total there are eleven, not including all the mini libraries each student nation (13) has at its home base. I have yet to visit every single one, but it’s on the bucket list to do before I leave Uppsala.

Now, in order to have access to all these beautiful books, one of the first things to do once you’ve settled in Uppsala is to is march yourself to the help desk at the main library and sign up for a free library card. If you can, memorize the number so that you can still request books on days you accidentally forget it at home (like I do, almost every single time I go to the library).

Next, familiarize yourself with the online library search engine (which you can find by Googling ‘Uppsala University Library’) because it will become your best friend when you have assignments due. Most of the time you can request a book you need online using your library card number and a librarian will have it ready for you in a few hours, but be prepared to spend some quality time searching the shelves if not – that’s where finding these books can be tricky. Be sure to look at the library floor plans to understand how they are organized by topic and by category letter, which you will find when you look up the book online (there are a number of computers in each library available to search for books or to use for university-related purposes). Each library is different so don’t be afraid to ask a librarian for help. They’re very nice and always willing to explain the system to you.

Another thing to be aware of is that there might not always be online copies of the literature you need for class. Most of my required readings for my courses at my home university were available online, so this was definitely a bit of a surprise. A lot of the history books I need here are only available in physical copy – of which there often only exists one or two in total. Thus, when you’re in a class with (at least) fifteen other students all vying to get their hands on the same mandatory book for the seminar that week, it can feel a bit like the Hunger Games as you race to get it done before someone snatches up the book for the whole week.

The best solution in instances like those is to overcome any shyness you may have, reach out to all your classmates, and create a Facebook group with them in it. This way, you can divvy up the readings amongst each other if you’d like, as well as coordinate sharing the books and resources. It’s a great way to stay on top of huge reading loads, and an easy way to make friends in class!

Credits: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/

One of the coolest things about these libraries is that there are people of almost all ages using it. It’s not unusual to find yourself sitting across from a professor or an older Masters’ or PhD student at a desk as they do their research. I personally find this kind of neat, as you get to see your professors in the same boat as you are: spending lots of time at the library as they work to hit a deadline. It definitely makes them more relatable (well that, and the fact that you typically refer to them by their first name here in Sweden).

Lastly, for your own sanity, many of you may be relieved to know that most of the libraries are in buildings with cafeterias and/or bakeries that can provide you with coffee and delicious cinnamon buns to help motivate you on a work day. Furthermore, there are microwaves everywhere in case you prefer to bring a lunch from home, with many tables just outside of the library-zones for you to eat at.

One thing to know, however, that the university’s libraries actually have limited hours. I found this a bit unfortunate, as they typically close between 6-8pm and I have yet to discover one that remains open later. Nonetheless, there are a great number of books in English and lots of variety in the libraries, which are each dedicated to different areas of study (i.e. law, economics, humanities, etc), making them an excellent resource. The atmosphere is very pleasant, the architecture is lovely, and the rooms have plenty of windows to allow sunlight in so that you don’t end up with too much of a Vitamin D deficiency.

So whether you are someone who love books as much as I do or you just need somewhere to do research and stay on top of your workload, I highly recommend exploring the libraries. They’re a great asset to the University!

If you’re interested to know more about the libraries from a historical perspective, check it out!


Five Swedish Food Related Holidays – By Michelle Ochsner

Swedes love their food. From eating candy, or godis, every Saturday to an entire day dedicated to eating waffles. There seems to be a special calendar day or event for consuming any kind of food or pastry in Sweden, and on those days the cafes are packed for extra special fikas, and being together with friends, and family.

Here are 5 food related holidays in Sweden I find the most exciting!

Credits: Carolina Romare/ & Tina Stafrén/



I never thought I would… By Lucie Kulhankova

I do not know if you heard, but it is official spring here in Uppsala. We have first blooming flowers, sunshine and I even met a hare on my way to school today. Spring means we are spending a lot more time outside. Last week I was sitting with my friends after a long a day in nature and one of them looked at us and said: “You know guys, I never thought I would find so many great people here is Sweden!”. And of course it was the most heart-warming thing I ever heard, but it also made me realize how many things I never thought about happening before coming here! I have to admit to myself that even though I promised to my friends back home that I would not change. I kind of lied and there are so many things that I would never imagine happening to me that did. So here are my top five of my Never thought I woulds.

I never thought I would…cycle so much

The last time I was cycling I was around eight years old and I fell and scratched my knee. I remember stubbornly swearing to myself that I will not ride that devil´s instrument ever again. I actually kept that promise for quite a while…and then I moved to Sweden. I am pretty sure that someone thought: Let’s make transportation around this country very inconvenient for people without bikes! Everything here is made for cycling. The way for bikes is several times wider than for pedestrians. One has a bigger chance of crossing the road on a bike than on foot or in a car. On every corner, there is a bike stand so people can safely leave their ride there. Buses are not very frequent and I wish you the best of luck if you want to take one later in the evening. So whether you want to or not, biking will simply become a big part of your life! And the worst part is that you will probably start to actually like it. You can get everywhere around the city in a just a couple of minutes. Checking for bus schedules or numbers for taxi will become a faint memory for you. And since all of your friends are also biking, you will bike together most of the time. And let me warn you, it will feel like an 80s movie!

I never thought I would…drink so much coffee

Don’t tell this to my Swedish friends, but I always was more of a tea person. I guess you already have heard about Sweden´s high caffeine consumption. And you probably did not pay too much attention to it. Well, you should. I am pretty sure that people who do not drink coffee are deported from this country straight away since I am yet to meet at least one. You have coffee at home, at school, at any meeting, at fika and then again at home. The good news is that it also comes with the best tradition of them all: fika. If you have not heard yet about fika, you should know that it is something you will meet a lot while living in Sweden. It is basically just a fancy word for having a nice cup of coffee and something yummy with people. You can fika after school or maybe even in a class. Sometimes fikas can even mask important events like interviews or dates!

I never thought I would… have it so easy eating out
Chances are that in your friends’ group you have someone who is vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant or eats raw. It is also likely, that eating out can sometimes prove to be quite a challenge and someone always feels a bit left out. Well, welcome to Sweden, land of great options for all of your deep food desires and preferences. Whenever we go out for dinner here, we don’t even really have to think about our vegans and gluten-free friends. They will always have something they can eat! And when I am going to buy some milk I can always go for an ecological or plant-based option. This was very new to me! In my home country, if I wanted something “special”, I needed to go to a special store and vegan or dietary products were really limited in normal shops. Way to go Sweden!

I never thought I would… join a fraternity

Well, not exactly a fraternity in the as-seen-in-every-US-movie way. In Uppsala, we have 13 amazing student nations that are open to any student.  They are a centre of social life around here with each of them having a pub, café or a club of some sorts. Basically, if you want to go out and have fun, nations probably will be your first choice. But it is not only Friday clubbing that nations offer! Whatever is your idea of a good time, you can find it there: quiz nights, board games, yoga, gasques, flea markets, choirs, sports teams and so much more. And in case you can’t find what you are looking for, you can always start your own club! And honestly, if you are not a member of any nations, you are committing yourself to staying in or paying way too much money for a beer!

I never thought I would… find so many great people at one place
I know this is kind of cheating since my friend came up with that way before me. However, I do have to mention it. There are so many great things about my experience here, but it all ultimately goes down to the people around me. Even though the countless dinners, movie nights and hangouts with my friends are not the best way to study hard. I met some amazing teachers and mentors here.  For the first time, I felt like I am being treated like an equal and that made me learn so much more than I normally would. I got a lot of academical freedom here. But I also gained an amazing support system at the University. So whatever I wanted to do, whether it was joining an iGEM competition in the summer or taking some extra classes, I was always surrounded by people who were trying to make it happen for me. So in the end, it all goes down to the fact that I never thought I would grow so much as a person here.


Uppsala: The right choice. By Arindam

I had mixed feelings about travelling to Uppsala to what would be my first trip outside India. I was excited to explore a new place with a totally different culture. At the same time I was also apprehensive of leaving my comfort zone. Eight months into my Swedish adventure and the thought process has completely changed. Uppsala has become a home away from home. I feel that I have made the best possible decision by choosing Uppsala University for my masters. The biggest gain is the chance to study at a renowned University with world class facilities located in a beautiful country known for innovation, opportunity and equality.

There are quite a few other reasons why Uppsala has captured my imagination. I have listed some of them below:

People: Swedes are known to resemble their weather i.e. cold. Well I feel this pre conceived notion is quite exaggerated. I agree that they don’t like ‘small talk’ but most of them are quite friendly, polite and always willing to help. Moreover most Swedes can speak English and so language will never be a problem. To add to that Uppsala has a lot of expats (mostly students) and this leads to a pronounced multicultural vibe.

Location: Uppsala is located less than an hour (by train) away from Stockholm which permits hassle free travel during the weekends to check out what the capital has to offer. Arlanda airport, the main airport of Stockholm is situated just 35km south of Uppsala. It is actually closer to Uppsala than to Stockholm.

Biking: One of the first things one should buy here is a bike. The cheapest and easiest means of commuting around Uppsala is by a bike. Reasons for biking: 1) saves money 2) environmental friendly 3) good for health 4) perfect joyride. Uppsala is a bike-friendly city with dedicated bike paths everywhere .No matter what the weather is, a bike will never go out of trend in Uppsala.

International class: One thing that is guaranteed is that a normal class at Uppsala University will have a mixture of students belonging to different nationalities. In my programme, there are students from different countries ranging from Paraguay to Poland and Indonesia to Iceland. This provides a scope for cultural exchange like never before.

Student nations: Student nations are the heart beat of a student’s cultural and social life in Uppsala. Each of the 13 nations is named after a specific region in Sweden. Each nation offers a plethora of activities that are ‘for the students, by the students’. Noteworthy mentions include cheap food, accommodation, scholarships, work opportunity, club nights, formal dinners and musical events. I frequently work at a student nation and trust me it is the best way to meet new people and to socialize.

Scenic beauty: Uppsala is a picturesque city that is wrapped in history. The many tourist attractions the city has to offer include the royal mounds, ruins and burial sites of Gamla Uppsala, Uppsala castle, Botanical garden and the Linnaeus museum. ‘The Right of Public Access’ allows everyone to enjoy the beauty and adventure of the Swedish countryside. It permits the public to roam freely on private land, to hike or camp overnight and to pick wildflowers, mushrooms and berries. I haven’t yet experienced the thrill of an outdoor adventure on long summer nights. But I have exciting things planned in the coming months.

I am almost halfway through my master programme and it has been a wonderful experience. I have survived the cold winter months and now it is time to cash in with the pleasant summer just around the corner. I am certain that coming here was the right choice for me and I am sure that you won’t regret it either.



How I Chose My Nation (And So Can You!) By Erika Loggin

My first two weeks in Uppsala were packed with orientation activities, walking tours and meeting new people. And every day, I was asked at least a dozen times, “What nation have you joined?”

Here’s a bit of information so you don’t just stare blankly and shrug like I did: Uppsala has 13 student nations named after different regions in Sweden. I’ve heard them compared to sororities and fraternities in the United States, or even the houses at Hogwarts, but I don’t think there’s a true equivalent outside of Sweden. The nations are student organizations that go back for centuries. Today they run pubs and cafes and hold club nights, fancy dinners, and other events. And, within your first month here, you’ll get to join one.

You need to join a nation to do pretty much anything student related in Uppsala (and your nation card can get you a discount in some coffee shops – very important!), and there are lots of other perks. Your nation might offer fitness classes or free coffee while you’re studying. Joining Östgöta will save you 11 kronor at their waffle buffet (which I clearly visit way too often), while joining Snerikes gives you free entrance to their Tuesday night club. Each nation offers a lot of similar benefits and opportunities, yet they are all unique, which makes choosing one so difficult.

Orientation feels a bit like speed dating. The nations hold different events like pub quizzes and Swedish food nights, and you get to spend a couple hours exploring their buildings and speaking with current members, trying to see if you’ve found the right fit. I tried to picture myself belonging to each nation I visited. Did I like the music they played in their pub? Did they have a cool coat of arms? Could I see myself sitting in their library, guzzling complimentary coffee and cramming for an exam? For a lot of different reasons, the answer was usually no, not quite.

Then I went to Smålands. To continue this awkward analogy, I knew I’d found “the one.” My friends and I arrived early for an event, so we waited on comfy leather couches in the library, eating dessert with some of the nation’s current members. While we talked, I didn’t feel like I was trying to impress anyone, and I also didn’t feel they were trying to sell me on their nation. The people were friendly and I felt instantly at home.

Smålands is a smaller nation, so they don’t hold too many huge events or club nights. But the size of the nation also makes it easier to get to know people and to see familiar faces at the Saturday fika. Smålands also holds a weekly pub quiz and has some of the best burgers in the city. It might not be right for everyone, but it was right for me.

That’s what it comes down to in the end: What do you enjoy and what are you looking for? If you don’t know now, you’ll know it when you’re there. Plus, no matter which nation you join, you can still attend events and even work at any of them. Good luck finding the right nation and making your home here in Uppsala.



How to: Lose your house keys and bond with Swedes. By Michelle Ochsner

If you were anything like me you’d love to believe you’re always super organized, and something as silly as losing house keys would surely never happen to you. Still no matter how many times your friends tease you for the amount of times you check your backpack, to see if your wallet hasn’t suddenly disappeared from the last time you checked, the unthinkable can still happen.

I was walking to my class one night when I realized my wallet containing keys to both my building, and room had slipped out of my pocket. Of course at this point all that important information I received on arrival day is just shoved in a drawer now locked up in my room. That’s it I thought, my Uppsala life is over and now I have to live on the streets. Since Studentstaden was already closed I would have had to call a number for someone to come break into my room, which would cost me 2500kr. I know Swedes speak exceptional English but something inside of me always feels bad that Swedes aren’t even able to speak Swedish in their own country around me so I decided against calling for the time being.

Before I arrived in Sweden I was warned by many people that Swedes are typically quite reserved but once the barrier is removed they are proved to be hospitable, and some of the kindest people. 3 out of 4 of the people living in my corridor are Swedish, some quite reserved, and stick to themselves but still friendly. I quite often have very nice conversations with one of my corridor mates so I decided to send him a message to let me into our building, and corridor so I could at least be at home before making any quick decisions. This is when I truly understood what Swedish hospitality meant. He called Studentstaden for me to organize when I could pick up my extra set of keys the next day, cooked me dinner, prepared plenty of snacks and tea, good conversations, attempts at lock picking, and let me sleep on his couch for the night. His kind actions, and words made me feel so much better about the situation. He truly went above, and beyond to make me feel like more of a guest in his home, even though my room was just across the hall from his. As everyone feels when they first move here, the number one thing on everyone’s mind is “will I make any friends?” I can really say I have met so many lovely people through my exchange who have helped me out so much throughout this situation, asking if I needed anything and conducting search parties to find my missing wallet. My other corridor mates that I don’t speak to very often also asked what they could do, and showed me so much kindness.

The next day after retrieving my extra set of keys, and being informed that I would need to spend 3000 kr to change the locks to my room I received an email from the reception office at the Evolutionary Biology Centre that someone had returned my wallet. I can never thank everyone enough for such great hospitality, and helping me figure things out which has now saved me so much money. It has made me appreciate Sweden so much more now, and befriending swedes is a must do as they will treat you with such generosity, and warmth.

So, what’s my advice if you are ever put into this scenario? Firstly, read ALL the information given to you upon move in. Figure out how to easily access important numbers for whom to contact in any given situation. I didn’t realize this until my corridor mate pointed it out but StudentStaden has an extra set of keys for all exchange students. If you lose your keys especially after Studentstaden closes, don’t panic. You will find someone who will let you crash at their place for the night to avoid the hefty fee to break open your room; then retrieve your spare keys the next day. Still try to find the original missing keys to save you the money, and time from having to change the locks. Moving to a new place can seem scary, but everyone else is in the same position trying to make friends, and figure out how to live in Sweden. Most people also don’t know what exactly they’re doing so take a step back, and it will work out in one way or another.