It is that time of the year when the buzz and vibrancy of Uppsala returns with the arrival of new and old students after the long summer break. One place which takes centre stage in any student’s life in Uppsala is a student nation. If Uppsala was Twitter, then the words ‘Student-nation’ would most certainly be one of the top trending words. Apart from being the epicentre of a student’s social and cultural life, student nations also provide employment opportunities. It is probably one of the very few employment opportunities in Uppsala for non-Swedish speaking International students. Though relying just on the income from working in a student nation is not a very wise idea. The nations are organisations run by the students and so quite naturally the pay is not something that can be correlated to a regular job. Working daily is generally not possible as it is bound to affect one’s academic performance. The real USP of a job at the nations is the complete package of some money, food/drinks and a huge opportunity to socialize and make new friends. The salary generally differs from nation to nation. The bigger nations are known to be more generous in their compensation package than the smaller ones. The pay is generally higher for private rentals and during special occasions like Valborg. One can work in a variety of positions during a nation activity. The usual jobs include bartending, helping in the wardrobe, serving, manning the door, washing dishes etc.
My recent experience of working for a student nation
The whole concept of a ‘Student nation’ was so new and fascinating that I decided to experience it in close quarters and the best way to do that is by working in one.
I decided to try out a shift in a nation during my second semester in Uppsala. It was the second week of the new semester and I opted for the supposedly easier wardrobe shift at the Friday Club at Varmlands. The first few weeks of the semester generally has the new students flocking to the clubs in large numbers. The enthusiasm mellows down a bit as the semester progresses. My first shift, being at the start of the new semester was extremely busy with a constant inflow of students wanting to use the wardrobe facility. Luckily I had 4 other fellow workers to help me .This allowed me to take breaks, avail the free drinks (non-alcoholic) allowed for the club workers and mingle with new people. After the end of the club, all the club workers of that day clean the nation together. Though it was a pretty hectic day, I ended up making many new friends. After my first taste of a nation shift, I decided to continue the new trend. I actually became a regular as a wardrobe staff in Varmlands during its Friday clubs. To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and have made many friends and memories throughout the semester. I have also worked in few other nations and at times they have offered a higher per hour pay. But the rapport I had with the club-masters and my fellow staff made sure that I keep coming back to Varmlands. Some of my friends had similar preferences and attachments to other nations. On the downside, there have been instances where the shifts in some of the nations were not enjoyable due to either mismanagement or rudeness of the Nation staff. Thus it is important to choose a nation (for working), which has a balance of good pay and good people (in the management)
– How can I get a job in a nation?
Every nation (club/pub /rentals) has its own facebook group where they advertise the vacant positions. One should join all the groups and respond to the relevant/convenient post
– What is the general pay package?
The pay ranges from 15 kr to 60 kr /hour + tips .Most shifts will have food and drinks included
– Do I need any documents/proof?
The requirements vary from nation to nation. Generally a ‘personnummer’ or the personal identify number provided by the tax office is a must. Some nations may also ask for a copy of the resident permit card and passport. These have to be sent to the Second Curator (2Q) of the particular nation. To get the salary one should also send the following information:
Swedish personal number or coordination number:
Swedish bank and account number:
– Is it necessary to be a member of a particular nation in order to work there?
One can work in any nation without even being a member.
– How and when do I get my salary?
The salary will be directly transferred to your Swedish bank account (if and when provided). Normally the payment is never made in cash. The salary will be sent after a week or next month (for special events) depending on the event.
– Do I have a choice regarding the work I want to undertake in a shift?
Yes there is always a choice. Depending on availability, one can choose between the different vacant positions i.e. wardrobe staff, glass picker, bartender, dishwashing staff etc.
– Is prior experience necessary?
Most of the shifts don’t require prior experience. Specialized tasks like bartending, serving (especially during rentals and gasques) and cooking may require prior work experience.
I arrived in Uppsala less than a week ago and I’ve had to get accommodated quickly!
Landed in Arlanda Airport and tried to buy a train ticket from inside the airport. No luck, the machines only sell tickets to Stockholm. Once outside the airport I found a tourist helpdesk, they directed me to the main train station where I bought a ticket to Uppsala from a big yellow machine. Train time – around 20 minutes.
Arrived at Uppsala train station. Luckily my UK Sim card has no roaming charges so I used google maps to find the best route to my new home (either no. 2 or no. 3 bus to Kantorsgatan). Took money out at a cash machine only to find that the bus machines accept solely card payments. Bought my bus ticket (aware that the cost of the bus ticket was less that the charges that would be applied to my overseas card transaction) and hopped on bus number 3 with my luggage in tow. After arriving it occurred to me that the ticket I bought at the train station may have applied to the buses as well, but it was too late.
My new room: big, bare and grey/white. How much more student-y can you get? I have a shared apartment with one other person who, as I later found out, had been living there alone for 4 months prior to my arrival. I had no internet, kitchenware, sheets, blankets, towels, study materials, food and limited toiletries. My classes in Basic Swedish started the next day. I had to register. I had to get items. I had to get food. I had to get to know the city. I had to do all this relatively quickly.
A few hours and a few bus trips later and I had some food, information from the University, paper and pens, a blanket and a little more knowledge about Uppsala.
There are so many flies in Uppsala.
Introductory class to Basic Swedish. Easy to find, helpful, awkward. The first day of class if always awkward. Talk to others or spend time on your phone? I did the latter, but only because I was trying to figure out where I could buy towels after class. I made a shopping list. I half-listened. They told us about tours, Nations, the fact that help was limited right now because most of the staff were on holiday. We got all the information in person, in our welcome pack and by email. Somehow, we always forget or lose track. The information is still never where you need it when you need it.
They told us Summer only lasts 6 weeks in Sweden. Maybe that’s why there are so many flies around right now.
After class, I ventured out to IKEA, around 40 minutes by bus. I bought as much as I could carry: pillows, towels, sheets, patterned fabric, a bin, a rug… I was unsure about the rug, it was quite large, but it was nice and it was cheap (200kr), so I bought it too.
When I tried to get on the bus the driver said something to me in Swedish (something about ‘matten’) I thought he might have been saying I couldn’t take the rug on the bus, but when I replied ‘sorry, pardon?’ in English he smiled and waved me on. Same as anywhere, there are nice bus drivers and not-so-nice bus drivers.
Now my home was starting to feel like home. Every hour I scanned the FB group ‘Uppsala University buy and sell’. Occasionally I could bulk buy items
Classes continued and, naturally, friendships formed. I was a master’s student in a group with other master’s and PhD students / academics. Two days in and we were already quite talkative. After class I tried to buy tickets for the group tours, but the card machine wasn’t working. We only found this out after waiting in a queue for 40 minutes. So, shopping instead, this time for clothes and a frying pan. Every time you think you’re set up, you think of something else you need. I kept scanning ‘Uppsala University buy and sell’ for used bikes. I needed a bike. I really needed a bike.
That night I researched the student nations. To get a student card you need to join a nation. There are 13 to choose from and I wasn’t taking the decision lightly. I made a list of pros and cons for each. I considered their libraries, work opportunities, size, parties, clubs, pubs, food, gasques, sports teams, history, websites, Facebooks and, ultimately, whether they seemed open to accepting international students. I narrowed it down to three relatively small clubs and made my final decision.
My student card was on its way.
Bike, bike, bike, bike. I still needed a bike. The 35-minute walk to campus seemed longer considering the possibility of a bike. After class, I went again to buy tickets for the group tour. Unfortunately, Stockholm the next day was fully booked and it was Stockholm’s pride parade. What a day to go. I joined two classmates for a Chinese Buffet lunch. There’s a big Asian presence in Uppsala, I can hear people all around the City speaking Thai, Hindi and Mandarin, not to mention the copious Indian, Chinese, Thai restaurants and massage parlours.
It’s nice, it’s diverse, everyone seems happy and friendly. I think I’m going to like it here.
Oh, and I finally bought a bike – from Bibblans Cycle shop. I bumped into my Swedish Professor in the shop who encouraged me to get one without hesitation. ‘You will need one’ he assured me and reminded me they cycle on the right here.
What happens when you cycle in Uppsala in the summer? You get a healthy diet of flies.
Top things to remember:
1. Make sure you have an EU sim with credit on arrival, otherwise get a Sim ASAP – the University welcome pack has a Sim included, so if you can make it there first it’s helpful.
2. Get a flight in the morning if possible, your first few days will be busy, but your first day especially busy.
3. Join ‘Uppsala University buy and sell’ Facebook group.
4. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on arrival.
5. Buy a bike ASAP with a very good lock.
6. Join a Nation.
7. Make sure you have a card you can make Visa/Mastercard payments with, some shops don’t accept cash and getting a bank account here is a lengthy process.
8. Be friendly, walk around and get a lay of the land. It’s not a big City, but it’s beautiful and it’s your home for now!
August will see me pack up my bags and hop on a flight to Sweden. Naturally, this move requires slimming down the wardrobe and being selective in terms of what to put in the suitcase. Studying Sustainable Management, where better to start managing sustainably than in your own life. I’ve had clear outs over the years but approached this one with a different mindset after being inspired from The Minimalists Ted Talk.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes minimalism as “deliberate lack of decoration or adornment in style or design”. The Minimalists take it a step further claiming it as a “tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important”. The philosophy stretches beyond decluttering and is a welcome respite from the consumer culture I’ve become accustomed too.
The past two weeks has been a real challenge, trying to adopt this living style and pairing back on the “stuff” in my life. I still have a full wardrobe so definitely a long way to go yet I am already feeling the benefits of having less unnecessary things. I’ve compiled a list of tips for you to try if you to want to declutter and focus on what is important in your life.
Embedding this routine into your life will mean you’ll be less susceptible to fast fashion bargains and think more consciously about the item. What needs is it satisfying in your life? Will this cheap item be up for review in 6 months’ time? If the answer is maybe, don’t buy it. Save your money and invest in something more worthwhile. Donating, recycling and selling off these items will hopefully put you in a great position to start the new academic year with a fresh start.
Early on, when my age just reached double digits, I became fascinated with a particular painting. It was alive,a scene in motion. It was also a little morbid. It is titled Valdemar Atterdag holding Visby to Ransom, 1361 or Valdemar Atterdag brandskattar Visby den 27 juli 1361. How do you pronounce that? No one knows. Painted by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist, dated 1882. It depicts Visby in disarray. The Danish king Valdemar IV has laid out three great beer vats and demands that the people of the town fill them with gold and riches. If they do not, he will burn the city to the ground. Not very fun times, the middle ages.
I wouldn’t have imagined that I would be living in that city. I visited it last October, and I didn’t realize until later that it was the same place as in the painting. The old town is much more modest than Hellqvist’s depiction. It’s much nicer than what’s shown in the artwork as well. No invading soldiers. But like the emotion of the painting, I did feel a sense of fear. The thought of moving halfway across the world to live on an island in the Baltic Sea. I don’t have much experience with islands. Hearing the word, I imagine a sandy piece of land with a single palm tree. While I do like alone time, I could imagine I might feel isolated living on a big rock protruding from the depths. My visit to the campus there was rather pleasant though. In fact I liked it much more than any university that I’ve visited. It felt homey. I had learned from a previous attempt at higher education that I really don’t like the anonymity in a herd of students as I had thought I might. In fact I only was in class for two weeks before I concluded I was going to leave (although my decision was partially based on not wanting to do a very tedious assignment. You could say I’m a bit lazy). My good feelings about the place did have a hint of uneasiness.
I soon came to the hurdle that is the immigration process. I found the Migration Agency’s website to be pretty confusing. Different sections seemed to contradict each other, some of the information was vague. To make things worse, I was rather delayed at collecting the money needed to show I can sustain myself in Sweden. It’s a whole lot of money. A whole lot. But it maybe won’t last all three years, as travel is much more important than food, of course. I look forward to budgeting though. Seems fun. Like a game. I’m sure many people agree. You have the control. The power. The taste of independence, while scary, is delicious. A good trick is to never shower so you save on utilities. And people? Who needs them. Going out is just a waste of money if you ask me. Sitting alone in the dark doesn’t empty your wallet.
I’m not a very outgoing person. I’ve never had very many friends. Not that people don’t like me. They love me. I am irresistible. My flowing hair hypnotizes them. Unfortunately, this does not satisfy me. I tend to avoid people, a habit that doesn’t serve me well much of the time, but most of the time it does. Many have told me that at university I will find my “tribe”. In fact it’s a little suspicious that they say the exact same thing. If I do find one, I’m not so sure I’d really be into a hunter-gatherer lifestyle if that’s their sort of thing. I have considered befriending the animals of the forest instead. I don’t doubt that I will find the tribe, but how long will it take? One difficulty is that I find many of the best places to meet people unenjoyable. Often my peers are aliens to me. But after some time, I just might find an E.T. And if you are reading this and are in Visby, I would like for you to ignore what I say here. Don’t let it affect your view of me. It’s not that I have a hard time with people, it’s that I am mysterious and hard to understand. What do I do? Where do I go? Why do I do the things I do? You may never know.
Meanwhile at present I face another task. After two experiences of traveling with a mighty collection of bags, two weighing around twenty kilograms (and I have the physical strength of a twelve-year-old) both times, I vowed to live a spartan life and release the majority of my possessions, never wanting to go through that again. Then I didn’t do that. My flights to Europe however have some serious luggage weight restrictions. That gives me the motivation I need to purge my belongings. Learning what is essential, now that is a wonderful thing. I have taken many clothes to second-hand stores. Then I bought more clothes at those stores. I had the fantastic and original idea of shipping things. I can even ship things I’d want very soon, before I even leave. I congratulated myself on my genius. I also found that not packing twenty books really reduces the weight of the luggage. Those books, however, are a symbol of hope for the future. I used to read a lot. I would get up early and read. I would stay up late and read. And this year I have finished one single book. I’m optimistic though, maybe next year it’ll be two.
I do feel a little overwhelmed at times. There are so many things to do. I’ll have to visit the immigration office. Open a bank account. I will want to buy things for my apartment. I will have to cook. And I’ll have school on top of that. I don’t have time for this when I need to perform copious amounts of procrastination. Even now I spend most of my time not doing what I should be. This is my way of life, what I enjoy doing. I have been putting off selling some of my larger and more expensive possessions. I should be getting a head start on my studies. I should be reading up on some Swedish. I should be memorizing facts about Abba to fit into society there. Lately I have been doing some things though, as I have said, like booking my flights. I arrive late at night, so I need to get some kind of lodging, though I already have an apartment (for which I need to call about scheduling to pick up the keys). I’ve been thinking as an alternative, I could just wander the streets until morning. Sounds easier.
The day is ever approaching. I’m not the type to get excited. When I was accepted, I thought “Oh, okay, cool, I guess.” Yes, I am looking forward to it. It’s an adventure. A new point of view. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t really care. What I do know is to look out for invading Danish kings.