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.