Month: September 2017

Homesickness: A normal part of living abroad – By Jorja Zambars

To all of our newly arrived international students, we would like to say a big “Welcome!” By now you will have landed in a new country, moved into your new accommodation, and met your new classmates. You will have found your way to campus, and done your first grocery shop in a foreign supermarket. You may even have bought yourself a bicycle, and had to remember how to ride again. For some of you, it may even be the first time you have lived outside of your family home. These first few weeks are energising and exciting, and full of memorable new experiences. But as you start to settle in, and the novelty starts wearing off, it is perfectly natural that you start to miss home.

One of the biggest challenges our international students face, especially those living abroad for the first time, is homesickness.

What is homesickness?

Homesickness is defined as the distress caused from actual or anticipated separation from one’s homeland, family, friends, and an environment which is familiar. It commonly leads to one feeling sad, worried, and having difficulty focusing on topics unrelated to home. Simply put, feeling homesick is not fun at all.

Symptoms of homesickness can be cognitive, behavioural, emotional and physical. They can include:


  • Preoccupying thoughts of home, and all that you left behind
  • Negative thoughts about your new environment, and critically comparing it to home
  • Idealising home
  • Obsessing over all that you are missing out on by not being at home
  • Thoughts of inadequacy


  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Social withdrawal


  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
  • Feeling tired, drained and unmotivated


  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscular tension

Homesickness varies in severty from person to person. While many international students are able to overcome these feelings, for some it can be quite debilitating.

What to do if you start to feel homesick

First of all, it’s important to realise that homesickness is not a sign of weakness, but a normal part of the international student experience. In fact, nearly all people miss something about home when they are away, so the actual prevalence of homesickness is close to 100%, mostly in a mild form. In the international student population, homesickness is often experienced more intensely. If you find yourself feeling sad and longing for home, know that you are not alone. These feelings won’t go away overnight, but you can find ways of coping, and eventually get through it. Once you remove the homesickness glasses, everything in your new environment can be received in a much more positive manner. Each individual has their own way of dealing with homesickness, but here are a few tips and strategies to help you started:

  1. Talk to others

As I mentioned, homesickness is something that is felt to some degree by almost every single international student. So find someone to talk to and share what you are going through. Getting your feelings off your chest may make you feel instantly lighter, and it may also comfort you to know that others are going through the exact same thing. If they know that you are feeling down, your new friends, classmates or dormitory mates may go out of their way to cheer you up, and might also share with you new strategies for overcoming these emotions. We understand that not everybody feels comfortable initiating conversations with others. If you feel shy or are having trouble making new friends, we suggest joining a language exchange group for example.

  1. Keep busy and get involved

While withdrawing and staying in your room may be all that you feel like doing, it won’t help you in the long run. One of the best ways of overcoming homesickness is to distract yourself, so go out and have some fun. Join a club, start exercising, explore the city extensively and say yes to all the social invitations that come your way. Plan a weekend away, sign up to work at a student nation, learn Swedish, and make a bucket list for all the things you want to do and see while you are here. If you are busy enough, you might just start forgetting how homesick you are.

  1. Keep in close contact with your friends and family

Connecting with a close friend of family member can instantly brighten your mood, and make the distance between you feel shorter. These days, with social media and smart phones, it is so cheap and easy to stay in touch with people, no matter where in the world you are. Book in weekly Skype calls, send photos and videos back and forth, and ask your friends to keep you closely updated on everything they have going on. It may help you to conquer your feelings of missing out. And your family and friends are likely to be just as interested to hear about your new life in Sweden.

  1. Learn to make your favourite meals from home

Food is more powerful than you think, and eating your favourite comfort food can help you to feel more at home. There are several international grocery stores in Uppsala, so you should be able to find many of the products you require, or at least a good alternative. There are also a variety of restaurants in town specialising in international cuisine, so you may be able to have a taste of your homeland at one of them. You could find other students from your country, and take turns cooking for each other. Or, you could invite other students with different nationalities to dinner, so that they can enjoy a meal from your country. If you are lucky, they may even cook one of their national dishes for you in return.

  1. Make your own traditions

Remember, feeling homesick is about your instinctive need for love, comfort, security and stability, all qualities that are regularly associated with home. So whatever you can do to make your new environment feel like your own, the better. One way of doing this is to establish new traditions. They don’t have to be complicated, and can be as simple as grocery shopping on a Sunday morning, or taking a brisk walk before dinner. The more you build routine in your new life, the more familiar things will feel.

  1. Stop comparing everything to home

Try to stop judging everything new against what you are used to, and idealising your old life. When you are homesick, it is very easy to fall into the pattern of thinking everything is better at home. Remember that nowhere is perfect, and make an active effort to focus on the positive aspects of life in Sweden. The grass is not always greener on the other side – it’s just different.

  1. Remember that your time here is limited, so try and make the most of it

Whether you are an exchange student here for six months, or a Master’s student here for two years, at some point your time as an international student will be over. This is such a special period of your life, and one that you will look back on for years to come. It will go faster than you think, so make every day count and take advantage of every opportunity you are given.

Remember that if you really feel as though you are struggling we are always here to help. You can contact my colleagues Lina, Hannah or I at the International Office, speak with your programme coordinator or get in touch with the Student Health Centre.


Guided tours to Gripsholm and Linnaeus Hammarby – By Adolfo Canales

A day in Gripsholm Castle.

Gripsholm Castle, is located in Mariefred, Sodermanland, not very far away from Uppsala, in front of the castle you can find a lake called Malaren, just about 60 kms west of Stockholm.  Since the King Gustav Vasa, Gripsholm has belonged to the Swedish Royal Family, and it was used as one of its residences until 18th-century.  Today is now a museum, but its still at disposal of the Royal Family.

Here are some fun facts:

  1. This was a Carthusian convent for almost thirty years until it was confiscated by the King Gustav I during the Swedish Reformation.
  2. The king Gustav tore it down, and built a fortified castle for defensive purposes.
  3. The castle was constructed between 1537 and 1545, and often serve as the residence of the royal court.
  4. Sigismund, later king of Sweden was born in here in 1566.
  5. This place is known as the widows castle, because it served as home for all the widows of the crown.
  6. For a short period it was used as a prison in the 18th-century.
  7. Gustav III spent several months in this castle every year.
  8. It has a theater inside, where the king Gustav III and his friends performed.
  9. Gustav IV Adolf, sign his abdication in this castle.
  10. The museum includes a baldy stuffed lion which has become in most famous one in the recent years, I am sure you all have seen him.

A day in Linnaeus’ Hammarby.

‘Omnia mirari etiam tritissima’, which translates to ‘Find wonder in everything, even the most commonplace’. Linnaeus.
Most of you might not recognize the name of “Linnaeus” or more properly the name of “Carl Linnaeus”. He was a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature, among other things.

Here are some fun facts that I learned of him when I visited his summer house in the small estate of Hammarby in Uppsala:

  1. He was the eldest of five children.
  2. His father was a Lutheran minister.
  3. He entered the University of Lund after a year of studies he was transferred to Uppsala University.
  4. He was the first to name the humans as “homo sapiens”.
  5. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy and ecology.
  6. He could host as much as 300 students from all over Europe and the world in the garden of his summer house.
  7. He lived in Netherlands for three years.
  8. The Swedish King Adolf Fredrik made Linnaeus a noble in 1757.
  9. At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.
  10. He died on January 1778 and was buried in Uppsala Cathedral.



Things that surprise me in Sweden – By George Roussos

Ok, so, here’s the thing; I come from a small, Greek country, where nothing is taken for granted in terms of working. And by nothing, I mean absolutely nothing. This can range from cell phone service, to actual services, like being serviced in a queue. Train schedules exist, also, just for the sense of the word. There’s no such thing in Greece as public means of transportation ever being on time.

Before I moved to Sweden, I knew. I had heard of this land where everything “just works” (is that a Steve Jobs patented phrase?), where people got what they wanted and knew when they were going to get it. Things were supposed to be so smooth in this far-away place, that every person in line can get serviced, roads are so well laid-out you will never get lost and there is everywhere a sense of everything being right. So I arrive in Uppsala expecting all of the above. After all, I had visited Sweden last year, so I knew what to expect. Boy, was that not enough though! Visiting is one thing, but actually moving here… oh man. I’ve been telling the Swedes since day 1 that, when you come from a country where the worst is to be expected in terms of things working, getting to Sweden is a vast change. Everything works, everything is seamless and the Swedes never lie about timeframes. Instead, they just never commit.  On the other hand, getting to a different country means interacting with a different culture and, in its core, a completely different system. Which brings me to my list of things in Sweden that actually still surprise me, even though I have been living here for 2 months now.

  • Swedes never want to commit to anything time-binding. This one I have noticed everywhere. No Swede will ever commit to a specific timeframe, instead, they will use the word “soon” when they want to refer to something that should be happening in the near future, or they will respond to your question with “it’s hard to say when, really”. That means two things; it can appear like they’re fast, when said thing happens in a sensible time-frame, or it can sound extremely vague and appear like nobody wants to help you. I just find that the Swedes are generally not that confident and they hate having to commit to anything, so they do this instead.
  • Everything is automated. And I mean, like, literally, every single thing. I never carry cash on me (which is why I am broke right now since I lost my debit card and I have to get a new one. Dumbo!), because everything is paid with cards, BankID, or Swish. Then, there are the doors. Oh my god! Those little buttons you see next to every door? You press these and doors open for you, a red carpet drops and someone sings to you a welcome song. Two of these three things don’t happen. Also the buttons are mostly for pregnant women. Also, I am not a pregnant woman. But I still use the buttons.
  • There’s a queue everywhere. And I mean, e v e r y w h e r e. It starts from apartment hunting and goes all the way down to using the toilet. The first time I went out, I had two beers and I had to use the toilet (naturally). I get into the pub, and I see people lined up and I’m like “what…”. I walk up there; and I realise… this is the queue for the toilet! That was when it hit me: Jag är i Sverige, älskling!
  • Lunch break is a sacred time and forsaken thy be, if you interrupt this. When I got here, I got so unlucky (obviously), I had to visit the dentist. So, after waiting, they pick me up and, while fixing my tooth, the dentist goes like, half-joking, half-serious “oh we’re supposed to be having lunch now”, to which I reply, speaking like a person with their mouth wide open and tools inside it “I’m so sorry. Leave me here and go eat!”. And he said it’s ok. But I know he meant it. I know he was fuming he had to fix my tooth during lunch-break. Which, by the way, not my fault, because I had booked earlier. So, sorry not sorry.
  • Phone plans are either ridiculously cheap, or incredibly expensive. In Greece, there’s this saying that goes like “I pay so much for so little data”. Ok that’s a lie, but we say this on the daily. Prices are ridiculous. 1GB of data will easily cost you, like, 50kr over there. When I came here, I realised that, with enough digging, there are cell phone providers that will get you a ton of data monthly, for 100kr. That is crazy. On the other hand, you know what else is crazy? Some other providers that will charge you the whole 150kr for 500MB of data. Hello? Is this 2017? 2009 called and they want their internet prices back.
  • A personal number is needed for everything that needs to be done in this country. Oh my god. Oh my god. Ok, so my friends know about this and honestly make fun of me, but this number is needed for, like, everything. From ordering pizza online to getting a bank account. I swear. If you don’t have this, you’re, like, a nobody in the country. I had to figure this out the hard way. I’ve been here since June and, as I am writing these lines, I am still not registered! I have been ringing those Skatteverket minxes since the beginning of this world and, whenever I do get a hold of them, they’re just like “well you have to wait between 2 and 12 weeks”. And I’m like what???? That not-commiting-to-anything-time-binding thing we spoke about? This! On the other hand, I did apply when everyone was literally having their vacay-cay sipping cocktails, while I was here, in Sweden, drinking warm coffee, in July, thinking “oh man I love Fall so much. Where are the pumpkins?”. So, I guess I should be registered soon, now that everyone is back. On the other hand, you have to get creative. Doing things without a personal number is tricky and, overall, a hassle, but possible. Banks will give you an account and you can get a phone subscription without it. What you can’t do, is order lettuce online and be identified. No biggie.
  • Town smells like falafel. I mean this. Every time I am in downtown Uppsala, I swear the town smells like a falafel. Or garlic. Or generally food. Which brings me to the next thing that is actually both impressive and good…
  • There are food spots EVERYWHERE! Every food imaginable! Burgers, pizzas, kebabs, shrimps, you name it! You can be sure you will be walking around Uppsala and you will be able to find a food spot next to you. That is good for me, not so good for my wallet; poor thing has been hit so hard by these divine smells. Wait, I think I smell sushi.
  • Coffee here is boring. So here’s the thing. I drink a lot of coffee. And I personally like filtered coffee; in Greece, flavoured coffee is the norm. Hazelnut, caramel, everything. Not so much the flavour, as the aroma. So imagine my surprise coming here, dreaming of all the different coffee flavours I would get to try, since Sweden is renowned for consuming tons of coffee and instead realising the only kind of filtered coffee you can get is the blah one. Or, you can get this instant coffee, which is called snabbkaffe or whatever but it literally smells and tastes like bacon, unless it is brand, so you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. My roommate put it simply; “We drink our coffee boring”. Speak the truth, girl. I have noticed.

I think these do it. You know, I love Sweden. I think it’s a great country, it’s absolutely, insanely beautiful, people are always polite, the culture is rich and everything just feels good. And I love Uppsala, my big small town, which has everything, at least for me. But at the same time, you cannot not notice how Swedes do things in such different ways; thing is, these ways actually do work!


Uppsala’s International Students Orientation Week – By Diego Castillo

One week prior to the beginning of classes, the International Committee (IK) and the Student Nations arrange a large number of activities with the goal of welcoming international students to Uppsala. These activities are a great opportunity to get to know the city, culture, meet new friends, and of course, learn more about the Student Nations. Since classes have not started yet, and the weather is still very nice outside, this is the perfect time to go out and experience many of things Uppsala has to offer!

During this year’s orientation week activities included guided tours of the city, FIKA, Swedish games, beer pong, pub-quizzes, mini waffle day, a light hike to see viking graves at Gamla Uppsala, among many others.

Viev from Gamla Uppsala

Besides the events organized by the IK and the Student Nations, I highly recommend taking a look at the “Nationsguiden” app (an official app to check what is going on at Uppsala’s Student Nations) and see if there is a restaurant, pub, or FIKA open and go there with your friends as well. Going to a Student Nation outside of the organized events is also a great way to learn more about a nation, meet some of its members, and determine if it is a nation you would like to join or not.

Friends and I enjoy dinner at a nation’s restaurant

It might also be the case that the department you will study in has also organized a few welcome activities. Make sure you go to these as well such that you can get to know your classmates and in some cases get free food too!

ecue at the IT department – Photo by Divyansh Khunteta

My first week at Uppsala has been hectic and with many things going on at the same time. Take advantage of this week to go out as much as you can, make new friends, and enjoy all of the activities that have been organized. This week is specially designed to set you on the right path towards an awesome experience at Uppsala!