Month: November 2018

Nation Songs and their Meaning – By Layla Koch

If you are a student in Uppsala and sociable to an average extent, you are most likely member of one of the 13 student nations. And if you like devouring good food, pretending to be fancier than you are, and drinking too many different alcohols, chances are high you have also attended either a gasque or a sexa. These fun, often physically detrimental events have one common theme, which always gets to me: the songs.

Every five minutes, a slightly intoxicated guest will raise their glass and propose a song, which all attending Swedes will magically know by heart. It might be an increasingly fast song or a song with movements or a song where suddenly everybody will stand on their chairs. They are beautiful and traditional, but as an international student something about them annoys me: I have no clue what I am chanting and cheering about. So, in an effort to help us all, let’s unravel this mystery.

For this article I chose the three most common songs. Due to my limited knowledge, I know them as the ‘thank-you-song,’ the ‘drinking-song,’ and the ‘ending-song.’ You will sing them at every dinner in addition to your nation’s individual anthem, so listen up: This is important.

The ‘Thank-You-Song’: Det var i vår ungdoms fagraste vår

Let’s start with the most difficult song, because IT IS NOT IN THE SONGBOOK. This still gets me mad. Det var i vår ungdoms fagraste vår dates back to the 1700s, but the version we sing today is from around 1900. It was further popularized by the band Sven-Ingvar’s 1965 hit, however, they sported different lyrics. Since it is not in the book—which we all paid for(!!)—I will bless you with it here:

Det var i vår ungdoms fagraste vår,
vi drack varandra till och vi sade gutår!
(Och) alla så dricka vi nu N.N. till,
[solo:] (och) N.N. han (hon) säger inte nej därtill.
(För) det var i vår ungdoms fagraste vår,
vi drack varandra till och vi sade gutår!

This song talks about how in our youth’s most beautiful spring, we drank to each other and raised our glasses in a toast to N.N. (insert your name, if you’ve been a good person), and N.N. will not say no to the toast. As an alternative to this, people will also frequently make up a funny rhyme in response to being thanked, because LIFE IS NOT DIFFICULT ENOUGH ALREADY. (laugh-cry)

You will sing this song to club workers, cleaners, song masters, and basically everyone you want to thank. During the last Städdag (= cleaning day) at my nation, I was elected cleaning queen and had this song sung to me for the first time. I could not do the solo, because I had not memorized this song. Don’t be like Layla. Prepare!

The ‘Drinking-Song’: Helan Går

Oh, Helan Går. This is the song you chant to your neighbors while waiting for the main course. You already know you have not been responsible and now are giving up on feeling okay the next morning. Traditionally, you sing this song as the first so-called snapsvisa (= Schnaps song). It was officially played in an 1845 opera, but many historians believe it to be of much older origin. Fun fact: When Sweden won the 1957 ice hockey world championship in Moscow, not all team members knew the words to the national anthem Du Gamla, Du Fria, which is why they sang Helan Går. So, yes, everybody knows this song.

One advantage: It is super easy. As all toasting songs, it does not have many lyrics, and content can be compensated by volume anyways. ‘Helan’ means ‘the whole’ as in the whole glass and also ‘first Schnapps’, and ‘går’ means it’s going down, so basically ‘Bottoms up!’. The remainder of the song talks about how if you do not drink the first shot, you will not get the rest either.

This is the song you should remember from your time in Uppsala, because you can easily teach it to your friends back home and make them believe you actually learned Swedish! Also, it’s fun! (Drink responsibly, though!)

The ‘Ending-Song’: O Gamla Klang och Jubeltid

We have thanked, and we have toasted. Now it is time to wrap this up and send everybody to the Släpp (= after-party) or home depending on their state. The soundtrack to mark this occasion? ‘O Gamla Klang och Jubeltid’ of course! This song originates from 19th-century German student tradition where it is known as ‘O alte Burschenherrlichkeit.’ Although the lyrics are very close to the Swedish version, due to history the song is no longer popular in Germany. However, it was translated to Swedish in the 1920s and is now an essential part of nation life.

This song is all about how wonderful it is to be a young, careless, and irresponsible student, and how this time goes by too fast. It keeps repeating ‘O jerum, jerum, jerum / o quae mutatio rerum!’ This basically means, ‘O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus / O that things change!’ (Don’t worry, I also did not take Latin. It’s Google Translate.) Because of its historicity, the song only talks about four main scientific branches. Therefore, if you study neither medicine nor law nor theology, just sing the philosophy part! And don’t forget to stand on your chair during the last stanza as the song proclaims to raise your glasses to your friends, while you are both still young gods, so that your bond will remain forever.

Notwithstanding, however beautiful student life is, we do all want to graduate at some point, so DO NOT SIT DOWN after this song or—legend has it—you will sing it forever.

This concludes my short dive into nation songs. I hope you could learn a bit more about what you have yelled on numerous occasions and will maybe retain some of it until you are back in your home country. I love the tradition of these songs, because they are uniting and so fun. What is your favorite nation song? Does your culture also have songs everybody knows? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Until next time!


Far, far away in Uppsala: Time to consider a Master’s degree – By Horacio

Studying will always be one of the most profitable investments we can make. Undoubtedly doing a master’s degree can expand your unique abilities and open doors even in unique places where you could never have imagined arriving. That was my reasoning when I carry out the decision that it was time to ambition more! My trip started a little over a year ago, in Bogotá, Colombia, a democratic country located in South America just around the corner, only 9,644 km away! A long jump from South America to northern Europe, as we colloquially say in my country “jump the puddle” (Popularly referring to crossing the Atlantic Ocean and in my case the Baltic Sea also, a triple jump!).

If you live in South America, and start to thinking of higher education, in general, the first viable options to come instantly to your mind are the countries of the North American continent (Canada, the United States), and the traditional ones of Europe (England, Spain, France, Germany), but, Sweden? Mm, to be honest maybe not. That’s what I sincerely want to talk to you about: look beyond what you typically know!

Sweden is undoubtedly a magnificent country. I will not describe you about what it is like to typically live and diligently study in Uppsala, my kind words fall short, but what I can undoubtedly tell you are that you can, fortunately, discover a boundless sea of unique opportunities and possible options that can solely be limited by your own fears. I’m not going typically writing to you about the weather seasons, on how to instantly fall in love with autumn or flirt with spring and summer or understand and appreciate the rare beauty of winter. Nor about new customs like taking breaks in the typical day to traditionally have a fragrant cup of hot coffee invariably accompanied by a delicious cinnamon roll, a local custom known as Fika (If you are an assiduous reader of our blog, you may have a clear idea of what Fika is.). Much less of the tranquility and personal security and of the profound peace that you can get to discover while you are cycling along the several kilometers of bike paths that exist throughout the city. Nor do I faithfully intend recreating in your mind walking along the Fyris River, crossing the beautiful bridges adorned some of them with lovely flowers of exquisite vivid colors and to sit one Sunday afternoon in one of the many benches or stands that exist on the riverbank to heartily enjoy the pleasant sight,  to shoot charming pictures, read a delightful book or just to talk to a dear friend or a potential love story. No, my dear reader, I earnestly desire you to discover it for yourself.

Do your homework. What typically do you like to do? What is undoubtedly your genuine passion? How do you visualize your dear life not in five but in 10 years? What would you like to promptly change at this precise moment? What steps are you taking to attain that goal? Do you have dreams? The most critical thing before seeking a master’s degree is, to be honest with yourself! Do not worry about the economic resources; there will always be a decent way to gain access to this specific item.

If you already have a little clearer what kind of professional and personal life you sincerely want, then it’s time to eagerly seek a master. To typically study in Sweden, you must promptly go to the web portal that traditionally groups all the accredited universities of this specific country: Since October 16 and until January 15, official registration is open for the academic semester that begins precisely in September, so you, fortunately, possess enough appropriate time to comply with the specific requirements, remember the masters are usually taught in academic English, so do not worry for the Swedish language at least from the academic point of view. I would cherish you to consider the University of Uppsala for your master, but that conscious decision is precisely yours alone, search, research, read, in other specific words, take an informed decision.

Taking on new challenges will always be accompanied by a dose of fear, uncertainty, and curiosity; I have been in your shoes and I know what you may be living. And more when it comes to leaving your country, your roots, your family and friends, which we know as our safety net. That’s why you should plan this decision very well.

Economic resources. Keep in mind there are both governmental, and university scholarships explore these options, send emails, contact people, lose your fear! Some programs even have scholarships through Erasmus Mundus. The investment made in a master’s degree will open doors later; it will expand your range of action and you can become a global citizen!

A final word of advice. What can I gently tell you? Voluntarily assume the extraordinary risk to intentionally leave your comfort zone. These last few graceful lines are respectfully dedicated to you, yes to you! The extraordinary person who fantasizes every memorable night before going to bed on unprecedented opportunities, that fondly imagine 1001 life scenarios, who passionately ask what if? My dear friend, valiantly attempt it! Undoubtedly remember, the youthful years are naturally going to pass anyway regardless of your ultimate decision, two fruitful years unanimously pass in a heartfelt sigh! And maybe if you earnestly seek, you will invariably find the most pleasant of all surprises.

“One day, without fail, somewhere or someplace you will inevitably find yourself; and that day, only that day, can be the happiest or the most bitter hours of your life.”
– Pablo Neruda (Chilean poet).