Month: February 2019

Be careful with the kiss on the cheek! (French advice) – By Johan


Let us imagine a situation. You are a French student who just arrived in Sweden, more precisely at Uppsala. You are very happy to be here, you have heard that Swedish people are very cool and that Swedish women are beautiful, so you can’t wait to meet Swedish people. Fortunately, the different nations allow you to participate at many events and parties which offer opportunities to meet new persons. You have two options.

The first is that you can be brave and break the ice with strangers and start the conversation (you don’t need to precise that you come from France because everybody can hear it).

The second option is to be introduced by people you already know and then the mistake is coming. You start by a “Hello” or “Hi”, you approach the cheek and then it’s a disaster… The person on the otherside goes back by looking at you as a crazy man. “Damn what I he doing? He wants to attack me? We never met before and I already want a physical contact?” Yes indeed, we want because it ordinary for us to say hello by this way and its curious how a respect mark in one country can become a cheeky one in another. After this refusal, an unease takes place and you wonder if you are hideous or if your breath stinks but after explains you just realize that is not the right way to say hello. So, you can laugh about that and you use this subject to start the conversation and this mistake could be a good opportunity to talk about your culture.

So, for all the persons who kiss on the cheek to say hello, I recommend you avoid that to avoid being discomforted. For all the persons who would say “Yes but we can do it and say after that it’s our culture like an excuse” I think that there is better way to speak about your culture without embarrass people you are meeting. It’s just an advice. You just can use your hand to say hello and it’s the same to say goodbye because I don’t think that embarrass the person you just met is a good way to make a good first feeling.

However, we can notice that Swedish like hug to say goodbye. Even if you don’t really know the person, you could have the right to receive a wonderful hug (imagine my surprise when a woman gave me a warm hug even though we have just exchange two words). So, the question is, why some Swedish are annoyed with cheek contact while they are ready to make a contact with your whole body with hugs? It’s a question for who wants to be a millionaire.


People of Uppsala #1: Dag Hammarskjöld – By Lidewij

Let me introduce Dag Hammarskjöld to you
Part #1 in the series “People of Uppsala”

Although Uppsala is not too big of a city, it has produced quite some remarkable people. They walked on the same streets as we did, or have lived in close proximity to our corridor student homes. Some of them have been of great importance for our home away from home, Uppsala that is. Others have left an international imprint, or just on us. All of them have one thing in common: we think they are worthwhile to write about. And that is what we will do.

During my semester in Uppsala I work as an intern at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. I am involved in their inclusivity project and research how UN agencies operationalize and promote inclusivity at the country level. I am conducting this desk-review on The Gambia, while also contributing to other activities related to their UN 2030 Agenda work. The Foundation has been set up in honour of a great civil servant, the second secretary general of the UN. The man who effectively restructured the UN, who created a base for peacekeeping, who was a exceptional negotiator. The man who died in a plane crash on a mission to mediate in the 1960’s Congo crisis. The man who posthumously has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Last monday, I was all ready to start. I walked towards the office in the snow and although it was -15 degrees, I could not have been happier. The cold did not withhold me to go outside but the office heating was not as strong. Anita, the office manager, told me to go back home. I could take the book about Dag Hammarskjöld with me, to read, to get to know a bit more about the “remarkable man” as she said it. Once in my room I curled up in my chair under a plaid, with the book on my lap (the book is called Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings of his Life and is written by Henrik Berggren) . I realized that all the superlatives used in the same sentence when someone speaks of Dag Hammarskjöld, are indeed not misplaced. Let me introduce him to you, through some quotes I have read in the book.

“Wild roses and night-flowering silene flower on the slope down to the old path. The hawks mother have found their way to the honeysuckles that clings to the east wall. The trees are swollen with lush greenery.”

Hammarskjöld grew up in Uppsala, in the famous red coloured castle. Most of his writings about his youth are not too happy, having a difficult relationship with his father. His father had high expectations of the four Hammarskjöld boys, which they all felt pressured by. This written piece, however, presents a happy memory of his childhood surroundings.

“As a schoolboy here, I was in a certain position – it is not too much to say that it was a lonely one, since the other boys consistently regarded me as a rather critical stranger – and in a sense grew in me of being not only uninteresting but – at least occasionally- “a minus.”

He was remarkable, in the sense that he often felt alone for no good reason.In most of his writings he reflects on his position in life, unsure about it, and how he thought it was difficult to socially interact. These reflections are brutally honest and show a personal insecurity. He is also just a man. A man who dared to present his vulnerable side and exactly that made him strong at the same time, I believe.

“A wind from my unknown goal. Stirs the strings. Of expectation.”

Not only was he unsure about his position in life, his future was also rather insecure. Dag Hammarskjöld graduated as an economist and had imagined an academic career. His PhD time, however, wasn’t as he expected and he decided to follow his father’s path as a civil servant for the Swedish government.

More importantly that his economic background, are the philosophy courses he had followed during his academic years. These courses have formed his values, values he greatly lived by. Especially the value of neutrality, which he considered to be the greatest good of all times. Especially for civil servants.

“To say yes to life, is to say yes also to yourself.”

When Dag Hammarskjöld came to be the second secretary general, he have said: “For all that has been – thanks! To all that shall be – yes!”. This saying clearly shows that he was ready for the new job, for a position where he would not have to struggle (or at least in a smaller manner) with its holy objective of neutrality, as he had done the years before while working in the Swedish government. The quote “To say yes to life, is to say yes also to yourself”, I believe, represents the same attitude while it being more personal. He considered it once in a lifetime opportunity for which he wanted to give everything.

“To observe as Hammarskjöld tackled an international crisis was like watching an artistic masterpiece or listening to an outstanding musical work.”

Urquhart, a UN colleague who was impressed by Hammarskjöld mediation skills and, as you can read in the quote, compared it to outstanding achievements. Dag’s most known diplomatic successes are impressive: the release of American soldiers by China during the Korean war and the resolution of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. He practiced the form of preventive diplomacy which has been an important heritage for the UN.

“What I ask for is absurd: that life shall have a meaning.”

Let me end with this short but powerful saying. Reading the book, I believe that this quote represents Dag Hammarskjöld and his position at the UN the best. Like I have said, he was also just a man. A man with doubts. Just a man. Just a person.



Adventure in Uppsala libraries – By Huiyu, Chuang

What you can do in Uppsala libraries are more than academic study

If you come from the places southern than Sweden, the first challenge of your adaption in Uppsala around this season is definitely the cold. Just check the weekly temperature on the weather forecast(minus 7 to 11, minus 16) or take a glimpse at the snowy scene from the window, it is shocking enough to attempt me to stay indoor. However, staying in a ten to twenty meter room for a whole day sounds very boring and pessimistic. Then where can I go to avoid the cold but also have some fun and gain new knowledge? Libraries in Uppsala is a good option. They are not merely the places where people always associate with academic study. Among all university and city libraries in Uppsala, I choose three libraries to display their multi-functions which we all can benefit from. By taking this library adventure, you can more or less a have partial understanding of Swedish culture in terms of their interior design, value of life, and the accumulation of social and cultural assets.

  • Carolina Rediviva (Uppsala University Library)
  • Karin Boye-biblioteket(Karin Boye library in English Park Campus)
  • Stadsbiblioteket (City Library in Uppsala)

Karin Boye-biblioteket  A personal space for relaxing and self reflection

Sometimes, after the fight for a hectic day, our body and mind are in need of a personal space. The space is not necessarily to be totally silent or private, but we expect the environment and atmosphere to be cozy and free enough. In that moment, we earn our personal time either to reflect our whole day, our next plan, or simply just to take a break. To find this place, many people think it is mostly to do with the personal status, but there is something special a space can do to stimulate this feeling. I found these elements in Karin Boye-biblioteket during my first visit.

Just a couple of days after my arrival in Uppsala, I asked the librarian where I can find a meeting room inside the library. The librarian nicely explained to me, “There is no specific meeting room in the library, but you can find almost everywhere in the campus with compartments or chairs and tables put together for people to discuss.” Next, she showed me a graphic about volume use suggestion in different areas of the library from normal voice & group study area, low voice area, quiet area, to quite reading room. Though it is a suggestion, a clear division between collaborative and individual learning shows respect for different users and ensures all of them can enjoy good quality time in the library. Before climbing up to the first floor, at the small corner right next to the stairs I found a basket. Some fluffy blankets sit right inside the basket. They are provided by the library for anyone who needs to keep warm during their reading at the library. Once everything I needed is well taken care of, I grabbed a seat against the window.  While dropping myself off to the story, though my physical being stayed in this warm space, I was free to be brought to anywhere without hindrance of any kind of weather condition.

Carolina Rediviva – A living museum to appreciate historic architecture and installation

Have you ever thought of making a pilgrimage to the library? This is not an exaggeration but the attitude I hold every time when I visit Carolina Rediviva. No matter the building itself as a historic architecture or the interior installation of collections and reading area, every piece of this library displays itself as a precious treasure that you feel like you are visiting a private museum.

The building have sit on one tip of the triangle together with the cathedral and castle since mid-18 century. At first, it was university’s main building and not used as a library until late 18 century after the new university building was built. From the perspective of landscape, the way of my entry has to go through an upward slope, which somehow creates a sense of holiness.  Currently, the library is under renovation, so visitors have to enter from the side door. The ground floor looks simple but precise. While taking a bird’s eye view from the first floor, the carpet with several white lines extending to the end becomes the background of all the objects and gives fluidity to the space. Following these lines, I am lead to the great reading room (A). In front of me is a hemisphere area, a bust of marble sculpture poses himself in the center surrounded by other bookshelves filled with art related portfolios and books. My right and left hand side are rows of study tables heading to two book walls symmetrically echoing to each other. The colorful book covers shine upon the tall beige columns and ceiling. I am in awe of this incredible scene where the magic power of knowledge has been ingrained in this particular place for more than three hundred years.


Stadsbiblioteket – A social venue to exchange ideas

A municipal level of library is a melting pot where gathers people with all kinds of backgrounds. Not being limited to students or researchers gives me a wider perspective to examine whether Uppsala deserves the prestige: the city of learning, from the social functions that Stadsbiblioteket possess.

Outside of the library, first of all, you see a row of posters promoting the latest cultural activities. The topics range from political, gender, environmental, social issues. Going up through the stairs, the magazine and newspaper area is at the right hand side, but it is rather chaotic for these materials are usually for quick and skim reading and encourage casual conversations or multitasks while reading. If you want to find a more quite place, go straight to the main building. The reception desk is a three dimensional circle cut into five pieces. As long as you have questions, get a number from the machine, and wait for your personal librarian’s assistance. For an international student who has zero Swedish, asking for help is nothing shameful. From the official website, direction boards, indication on the bookshelves, and some practical paper information are almost in Swedish. Even I tried to use google translation in advance, it is not easy to find what I want on the spot. As a simple sentence from its official websites said, “At the library, you can get help finding a book for you.” This slogan is not only for people who have language difficulty. It also applies to different types of learners such as those who need bigger text print, audio service, sign language, etc.

Behind the reception desk, a small podium is set there. Two sofa and an advertisement board give me a hint for this setting must be a book forum. In this same area, special book stands present the book suggestion from the librarians based on the monthly theme. At the periphery of the rectangular library, rooms for language practice particularly Swedish, youth books and games, biography, novel, audio collections are available, down to the basement for children books, or to the second floor for collections of foreign languages and studying room.  The library also hosts activities to increase social interactions such as lectures, exhibitions, book club, help for homework, etc.

The latest PISA assessment result (2015) shows students in Sweden score 500 points, on average, in reading – above the OECD average of 493 points. Their performance stands competitively out from the total 72 participating countries and economies. Reading is an ability to learn new knowledge, which easily happens in the library. As libraries are not just a place for academic study, its versatility becomes the stimulus to attract people’s continued visit. As long as going to the library is like an adventure, a habit of doing cultural activities, various motivations are satisfied, and that could bring about a power of life in all stages and seasons.


Working in the Nation as an International Student – By Layla Koch


Welcome to a new semester in this beautiful town of ours, which offers so many opportunities to everybody who is ready for adventures, new friends, and cold nights. My name is Layla, I am an exchange student, and just five months ago I was in the exact same situation as all of you newcomers. I did not know anybody in Uppsala, could barely understand the Swedish cashier, and was completely overwhelmed by the concept of nations. So, in an attempt to give you all an insight, I today want to take a moment to talk about my nation story so far.

And no, sorry to disappoint, I am not here to tell you which one to join. All 13 nations are wonderful in their own way. That burden of choice rests upon your shoulders. However, I am here to tell you about my experience of getting involved and working at my nation this past semester, because it honestly was the best decision I made back in August.

My Position: Klubbverket

So, let’s get started! This past semester, I was a club worker, which is one of the most intensive jobs to have at nations. If the full-timers are the backbone and brain of the nation, as a club worker you are the limbs. You are the hands that make burgers and the feet that work long shifts. Without club workers, nations cannot function.

More concretely, I was the main responsible for one shift at the pub or kitchen every week. In addition, I worked the gasques (= formal dinners) and cleaning days, which both take place around once a month. And yes, that adds up to quite a lot of hours, unpaid hours in fact! I do not want to sugar coat this: Some days, I spent more time at the nation than at home. However, I was lucky enough to have a pretty low-intensity study load, which definitely helped me coordinate the on-average 15 hours of club work every week with the rest of my schedule. In fact, as an exchange student, I very much enjoyed choosing more emphases than ‘just’ university.

What I Learned

As a club worker, I learnt a lot. First off, I learnt how to function with little sleep and lots of coffee. During my first proper week on duty in September, I worked a gasque (~ 20h) and my regular pub shift (~ 10h) a mere eight hours after. That was rough. However, that also meant that I very quickly made friends with my fellow club workers. And as an international student, you will know that it isn’t easy to make friends with Swedes! However, I succeeded and still am very close with them till now.

Second off, I learnt a lot of practical skills. I learnt how to pour beer correctly, how to cook some bomb burgers in a professional kitchen, how to stick to Swedish alcohol laws, and how to clean even the worst of stains. I memorized a lot of Swedish songs and had discussions on politics with customers at 1 am. Being a club worker taught me so much about Swedish culture, people, and traditions, which would of have been difficult to learn outside of the nation.

My Favorite Memories

In addition to my position and learnings, I would lastly like to talk about my favorite memories to also show you the really fun part about club work, ‘cause who wants to work all the time?! Definitely not me.

As a club worker, I got the KK-card, which enabled me to access all släpps (after-parties) and nation clubs for free and skip the queue. That meant a lot of nights spent on the dance floor. One of my favorite memories is therefore with my club worker friends blasting out the lyrics of some song we had insider jokes with at any kind of party. If you spend that much time together, you quickly have lots of shared funny stories. And lots of funny photos.

I also got to attend a gasque and ball by the Kurators Konventet put on specifically for all the club workers and full-timers. That was really cool, since for once we all did not have to work but got to dress up and be served by others. From experience, I can tell you: Those who work the hardest, also party the hardest. After the ball, we danced for hours and then ended up chatting till 6 am at one of our homes. At 7 am, I bought toilet paper at ICA Folkes while still wearing my floor-length ball gown.

Seizing Your Time

You have now heard about my experience as a club worker, however, there is also so many other opportunities for you as an international or exchange student to make your stay in Uppsala more memorable. Nations make that process much easier, since they offer many ways to make your voice be heard. One of my most valuable realizations this past semester was: Nobody else is going to make my year abroad special. That obligation lies with me. Only I can make these ten months I’ve got wonderful by being open, taking chances, and getting involved.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to truly make the most of your stay! Get out there and experience Uppsala student life! It has something for everybody and promises not to get boring. And don’t worry, not everything is as intense as club work! Right now, you are probably swamped by everything, but at the end of the day, it does not really matter which nation colors you are wearing, as long as you seized the time you had. Worry less, enjoy more!

If you have any questions about nations, student life, or club work – please feel free to leave me a comment! I hope to meet as many of you as possible during the five months I’ve got left.

All the best,