Life in Uppsala – Unexpected Experiences and Little Surprises! – By: Arshia

I’ve been in Uppsala for over a year now, and I still cannot believe how fast time has flown! The past year went by in such a blink, and was full to the brim with experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere but here. Now that I’ve seen Uppsala through all its rolling seasons and colours, I thought I would sit down and take you through some things and experiences that really stood out to me, or were completely unexpected!

  1. Getting used to the growing daylight takes just as much – if not more – adjusting to!

Before coming to Uppsala, I had heard from so many people about how dark and dreary the winters can be. Anecdotes of waking up to darkness, getting out of classes to darkness, forgetting when to eat meals, and being surrounded by a shroud of sleepiness, were all around me from people who had already spent some time here. So, even though I was nervous, I was prepared to expect something difficult to get used to. What I did not expect however, was just how disorienting exiting the winters could be! I would often wake up to the sunlight streaming in through my windows, expecting it to be well after 9:00 AM, only to realise it was just barely 4:00 AM! Remembering the 3-hour-daylight of the winters, I would always assume I had a whole day left just because the sun was still up, and then a quick glance at my watch would let me know it was time to eat dinner and start winding down for the day. It took me quite some time to re-adjust to living in a world filled with sunlight!

Moral of the story – don’t trust the sun to tell you anything!

  • Waiting in line is half (or at least one-third) of the nations’ experience.

One of the main factors contributing to a rich student-life in Uppsala is the nations. From activities, sports, pubs, clubs, gasques and everything else under the sun, nations have a lot to offer, and I highly recommend trying out every single thing that even mildly catches your eye. One of those things is the club-nights. It is super interesting and fun to experience things like club music in a nation library, surrounded by leather-clad books with faded gold lettering, or remixes of ABBA playing throughout the night with everyone singing their hearts out. But before you even get to those parts, you have to do the dreaded waits outside the nations. Walking by the cathedral one Friday evening when I was still new to Uppsala, I was shocked to see the line of students extending across the street and up the little hill of the cathedral. Having been here for a year now, the sight is as plain as anything else. So, if you want to go to the nations, you might as well start liking the idea of waiting for near or upwards of an hour. It’s not so bad in the summertime, but if you want to go to the clubs during peak winter, I’d recommend a thick jacket and warm socks.

  • Don’t expect your classes to get cancelled because of bad weather.

This is perhaps not so much of an Uppsala-specific thing, but an overall Swedish thing, but I thought I’d say it nonetheless because it was pretty unexpected. Growing up, it was fairly common to have classes cancelled because of heavy rain, low temperatures (not low by Swedish standards, of course), or extreme heat, but here, classes just do not get cancelled. Buses could be skidding on ice-covered roads, trees could be angled from a blizzard, or the snow could reach your shins, but you just have to get to class. By now, you must have heard of the Swedish mindset towards bad weather – that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing/preparation, and that is absolutely correct. So, now that the winters are on their way, get the warmest clothes and shoes you can find so that on a day when you wake up and look outside your window to find the world shrouded in white and snow falling horizontally from the wind, you know you can still make your way to class. You’re probably even going to see that one person who refuses to let anything come in the way of their daily jog (maybe that’s an exaggeration, but only by a tiny bit).

  • Learning that Uppsala is one of the largest cities in Sweden

While this is more of a little fact than something you realise through living in Uppsala, I included it on this list because of how often it hits me that Uppsala is considered a big city. Coming from India, one of the most populated countries in the world, with some pretty large cities scattered throughout, Uppsala feels much more like a cosy little student town than a city, let alone the fourth-largest city in the country.

During my bachelor’s in Delhi, I would think nothing of travelling near two hours (one way) just to visit a friend who lived in a different part of the city, but here, commuting for two hours would get me to another one of Sweden’s largest cities – Västerås!

Being used to bustling streets, bright lights, and loads of traffic, Uppsala felt incredibly empty and quiet when I first arrived, despite there being a whole bunch of new students roaming around. But now that I’ve been here for a year and have seen what ‘empty’ and ‘quiet’ truly mean (wait for the summer vacation when every person in the city seems to vanish off the face of the Earth – more on this in my next point), the beginning of the autumn semester felt incredibly crowded!

  • Summer vacations are taken very seriously

This is another thing that is more of a Swedish thing than a specific Uppsala thing, but I love it and it absolutely deserves a place here. Summer vacations mean everything to Swedish people (as they should)! While you’re definitely going to see a lot more people coming out to experience the sunshine when the summer days begin to set in, there’s going to be a good month or so when everyone just disappears. No emails will be responded to, no work will be done, no people will be seen – vacation means vacation, goodbye! 

  • Bonus unexpected experience – the bananas in Sweden are really hard to peel!

What more can I even say about a point like this? It just is the truth! Perhaps it’s because they’re not grown locally, or they’re a different type of banana than what we have back home, but the fact remains! The first time I ate a banana, it was a battle between me and the banana to see who would persevere (it was getting embarrassing), but thankfully, a friend of mine who is more used to Swedish bananas whisked the fruit out of my hand and saved me the trouble. But never you mind, it is a practicable skill and you will be pleased to know that I finally figured out the trick to peel the bananas.

That concludes my list of unexpected experiences as a student who has lived in Uppsala for a year! What are some things that you found surprising once you arrived in Uppsala? What made you wonder, and what left you confused – share your experiences in the comments and let us know!

1 Comment

  1. Eduardo Waschburger

    Eu morei durante 1996-1997 em Upsala, estudando consumerlaw na Universidade. Uppsala é um lugar muito rico em sua diversidade cosmopolita. Gostava muito de correr na floresta durante a noite com uma amiga sueca . Ótimo texto, ah senti falta do churraso (assado de carne bovina), que fazemo aqui em Poro Alegre, sul do Brasil. Abraços!

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