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,