It’s the most wonderful time of the year… except maybe it doesn’t feel that way if you’re new to the Swedish climate, where each day gets darker and shorter during winter. I come from Mexico, which you can guess is pretty much sunny all year, so if you think the darkness and cold are making you feel a little bit blue, you are definitely not alone. There are actually some common symptoms of SAD –and no, I don’t mean sadness– I actually mean Seasonal Affective Disorder. Trust me, it’s a thing!
To be more specific on how shorter days and reduced sunlight can impact our mood, the following are some of the usual symptoms:
Feeling tired all the time
Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
Appetite changes, cravings, weight gain
Becoming less sociable
Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
Neglecting your own needs
While experiencing SAD often makes these symptoms last for several weeks or months, the good news is that that there’s something you can do to beat the winter blues!
1. Lighten up with some light
Light therapy is one of the main ways to combat the winter blues. Special SAD lamps or light boxes can be bought online, just search for “light therapy lamp” or “ljusterapilampa” in Swedish. Sessions for as short as 30 minutes per day can have a significant impact on your mood and energy levels. For an extra dose of sunshine, try opening blinds and curtain and sitting closer to windows during the day.
2. Get moving
This next solution is easy and free: fresh air and exercise. Take advantage of the beautiful forests all around Sweden by taking a walk or a run outside, especially if there is some sunlight. On days when you don’t feel like going out or the weather isn’t that great, you can try doing a workout session at home. There are tons of videos on YouTube for yoga, kickboxing, cardio, Zumba, you name it! Aim to exercise at least 3-4 times a week for 30-60 minutes. You can start slow, but the important part is starting. You might even get a friend to join you!
3. Drink plenty of water
Yes, this is usually a thing we keep in mind during summer, but don’t forget to get plenty of fluids when the weather turns cool, too. Drinking too little water can slow down your metabolism and make you feel tired and cause headaches. Also, cranking up the heater can dry your skin, so some extra water will certainly be appreciated by your body.
4. Keep an eye on your diet
With fika sweets and Christmas treats in every corner (I’m looking at you, pepparkakor), it can be hard to keep a healthy diet. If you want to stay fit and healthy during this season, focus on vitamin-rich and seasonal meals that strengthen your immune system, such as green vegetables and legumes. Some of the typical Swedish good-mood foods include eggs, pumpkin, horseradish, wild-caught fish (salmon, herring, trout) and mushrooms.
5. Listen to music
Music is a great way to boost your mood, whether you listen to your favorite tracks or play an instrument. Studies have shown that music can stimulate the production of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin and have a positive effect on your mental health. If you’re feeling jolly, you can listen to some Christmas songs, which always cheer me up. And since we are in the land of ABBA, don’t be surprised if you end up transforming into a Dancing Queen (or King) and get those endorphins going!
That’s it! I hope these tips help you survive the beautiful, yet harsh, Swedish winter. Do you have any tips for coping with the winter? Be sure to share them on the comments section below!
It’s been nearly two months since I arrived in Sweden. I had been looking for an opportunity to pay a visit at Royal Mounds in Gamla Uppsala and make myself feel being one step closer to The Vikings era. It’s been fascinating for me to learn or know anything about Vikings since I was a kid. Therefore, moving to The Land of Varangians was like a dream come true. Vikings from Sweden were called Varangians.
I know you must be still wondering about the title of this blog and why I compared this place to Heaven. There are three large barrows or mounds in Gamla Uppsala, which are called Royal Mounds. Ancient mythology says that three gods, ODIN, THOR & FREYR lying or resting in Kungshögarna or Royal Mounds. I believe that this place doesn’t need any other reason to be called a piece of heaven on earth. According to Ynglinga Saga, three legendary kings were buried in these mounds, which is the reason for calling them Royal Mounds.
Gamla Uppsala is outside of the main town, and it takes only half an hour to go there by cycle from Flogsta. If anyone wants to take the bus, then they have to go to Vaksalagatan and take Bus no. 2 or Central Station and from there Bus no 101. I was expecting for a sunny day, but the clouds were too busy to let any sunshine touch the ground. At least, it wasn’t raining, which is why I felt blessed. Maybe, Odin wanted me to visit him.
We never know! Me and one of my best friends, we went there together. I am pretty sure my silly excitement bothered him a bit sometimes, but he didn’t complain. When we arrived in that little village, I felt a spiritual vibe, and it was so strange. We were entering into Gamla Uppsala there was no way we could miss that ancient Church tower. It has been there for more than nine hundred years!
While we were walking down the road and I was looking for those mounds, one minute seemed like an hour for me! I was looking around me and acting like a thirsty crow looking for a sign of water! Suddenly I saw a signboard which was nearby the Church. We knew that this must be the way. We came closer to the sign, and my eyes caught that little piece of HEAVEN on earth! I couldn’t waste my time to stand there to read that signboard. I left my friend while he was reading it and went to see these mounds. I wasn’t sure how long I had been looking at those mounds until I heard my friend was telling me something. It gave me goosebumps just thinking about Odin, Thor and Freyr are resting in these mounds though it’s just a myth!
It’s been more than a thousand years and it still feels exciting when you think about that you’re in a historical place which was very important for the Vikings in terms of politics, religion or even for their economy. I hardly take my picture with anything but this time I couldn’t resist myself from taking some photos with these mounds. Who knows, maybe when my friend was taking my pictures with these mounds, Odin or Thor also wanted to give some poses with me to be in the pictures. We spent a while around the Royal mounds and then started walking by the other little mounds. It’s nice to see that they built a nice fence around these mounds so that people can’t go up and ruin its natural beauty! While we’re going down further, we saw some people came here to run, some of them maybe took a walk with their dogs and kids. On our way, when we looked left, I was able to see the whole Uppsala city from there.
We’re just following other people and kept going. The weather wasn’t that bad while the Sun was kind of playing hide and seek with clouds which were also pretty enjoyable to watch. I love the cold weather, which is the reason I don’t want to complain even though we were getting hit by cold breezes later. While we kept walking, suddenly we saw a little mound and there are lots of stones with different sizes of places in different places of that mound. We went up to see what are those all about and found out this is a meditation spot though no one took that risk to meditate there in that cold weather.
There was a nice bench to sit down and enjoy that amazing view of Uppsala city. The other side of that mound didn’t have any pathway to go down, just a little forest, but we could see another side of the mountain and people were walking down there. Suddenly I started walking through that little grove and thinking maybe I am the only one who is going down through this way in the last thousand years. I know I wasn’t, but it was nice to get the imagination going before my friend found out there was an old way to go down the mound.
Now, we’re on the other part of those mounds. Suddenly we saw a signboard about the water source of Uppsala city. When we went down a little bit further away, we saw a place which is one of the places throughout the city from where they pump up groundwater to the drinking water treatment plants. It was very interesting to know about all this and see that place.
There was another mound and we went up to see that spectacular sight. You can imagine it by just closing your eyes and think it’s that time when the sun is going down and, you’re on top of a mound; the whole sky was turning into a red-blooded painting. Few people was having had a picnic with their families and friends. It was getting dark so quick and we didn’t want to miss visiting that ancient Church by the mounds. So, we kept walking through the other part of that mound and went down. While I was walking down, it wasn’t possible to resist that spectacular view of the northern part of Uppsala.
When we entered into the Church’s boundary, I couldn’t wait to go inside and be amused by its ancient beauty. Some people still believe that this church took precedence over an ancient pagan temple but, there was a survey which showed there were two Christian churches instead. Uppsala was Christianised in the 11th century.
This Church was built in the latter part of the 11th century, and it was finished in the 12th century. Majority parts of it were removed after a fire incident in 13th century and left only the Choir part with the Central Tower. There is a wooden door at the entrance. It’s so lovely inside with all the chalk paintings from the 15th century and medieval wooden sculptures. I was feeling so calm and peaceful inside. After passing the main entrance, there is a place where people can light a candle by wishing something or praying. Also, the church pulpit and the interior hold that traditional medieval beauty. It was getting dark very quick outside.
When we came out of the church, the Sun had already left us. But I still wanted to walk around this place, where people like Anders Celcius, his grandfather Magnus Celcius or King Eric IX of Sweden are laying down. Additionally, the view from that place towards the city is mesmerising even though it was already darkish outside.
Before I visited here, some of my friends were saying that there isn’t much to see and they don’t want to visit that place the second time. I just laughed inside but said nothing. I knew that they just didn’t have that inner view to see the beauty of this old part of the town or the history of it. Maybe the mythological stories didn’t even give them a tiny bit of excitement. But I can’t blame them for that opinion, because not everyone will be able to go to VALHALLA and have a Fika with ODIN!!
It is hard to explain what exactly makes studying in Visby so special. Is it normal to feel this happy for such a long time, even if you are away from home? I went for a late-night walk through the old city, strolling through winding streets, feeling the cold air on my face, yet internal warmt has I looked through the lit windows of the small, cozy homes.
As I walked by the old houses that have stood the test of time for centuries, with each one having a different charm than the one before, I’m warmly greeted by the smell of firewood dancing in the air. My thoughts were flowing as smoothly as the sea was that day. I began to think of the many friends I’ve made here,and I’ve realized it is not just me that feels how special it is to study in Visby. My friends are international students, coming from different cities and countries around the world, and somehow, we are each captivated by this small, medieval town.
I’m from a very busy city, where silence is a rare sound. I’m used to the sound of cars honking, people chatting loudly, music playing from random areas on the street, while being surrounded by people all day. I’ve learned to mute out the sound of noise, in order to create my own mental silence. I had this idea that it would be too quiet to be living on an island, in a city that’s smaller than the size of my neighbourhood in Toronto. That I would miss the noise of people around me and the energy that came with that noise.
Yet, this extremely old, small, quiet city has bewitched me through its charm. I hear a different noise since moving to Visby, the sound of the sea hitting the shore, kids laughing in the nearby playground, or a friendly stray cat running up to me for a pat. I love the quietness of this city, where you can truly think without interruption, the open space between streets where you can walk freely, and the sound of the old church bells ringing every hour. In all honesty, I feel at peace and present.
I always thought that artists over exaggerated the colours of the sky when they presented their paintings, that it could never be as vibrant and beautiful in real life, but I was wrong. Every evening, I look forward to seeing what the sky will draw on its blank canvas, what combination of pink, orange, purple and blue will be wrapping the sky.
I knew that Visby held a special place in the Swedes hearts and now I feel that for myself as well. I’ve only been here for three months, but it is hard to imagine ever leaving this place now that it feels like my new home.
Welcome to all new students and the returning students as well. This year has been unusual as a lot of classes are now being done online including orientation for new students, but the good news is that 2020 is fast going away and we hope things continue to improve. For those following the TaggedforUppsala Instagram page, a lot of interesting things happened in the welcome week and continues to. As part of the second year, some students have the option of doing an internship related to their program of study or taking a course. Whatever the choice you make, it must measure up to the required credits for the semester which is usually 30 credits. Some students opt to do a course of 15 credits with an internship of 15 credits or some like myself do a 30 credits internship. The important thing is that you are learning.
FINDING A PLACE
Getting a place to do your internship is the same as looking for a job because you must write and submit many applications tailored to each company or organization you want the experience. You will need to plenty of determination because there will be rejections especially as a non-Swedish speaker, you have to look even wider, keeping your options open as language makes the core framework of the Swedish society. One thing I must add at this point is that getting a place is solely your responsibility and so you should aim to start early.
When you are considering where to do your internship, make sure it is relevant to your field of study and aim to get the experience which will be valuable during your thesis in the spring (coming) semester. If a place is not relevant, you may not get the approval from your department for it to be registered as a course (You do not want to be disappointed after putting in so much effort to get a place). As much as getting a place equates with finding a real job, most positions are not paid, and your goal should be the experience which can become a bridge to a full-time job after studies or a doctoral position after your master’s degree. Depending on your goal whether you want to continue your studies with a PhD or work, you will find places to match. Many organizations in Sweden accept interns and your department can also help you with the list of places you can apply even though the responsibility rests solely on you the student to secure a place.
For future PhD position, your goal should be more of research experience at organizations or projects where you can update your research skills, meet researchers in your selected field whom you can learn from. You have to reach out to many researchers based on how much their interest matches your career goals, work and background. You can find their contacts on the organization’s website where you can get relevant information about internship processes and priorities. If your goal is getting a job outside the academia, then your experience should be more focused on how the environment, systems where you want to intern works; this will give you an insight into the culture and how to secure a permanent position suited to your career goal (And possibly improve your Swedish, if you are not a native speaker). There are options of doing your internship anywhere in the world as students can even go back to your countries of origin but that is subject to approval by your department and it is good you make enquiries to know what your options are and work towards it.
It is very important that you start your search early for a place because like finding a job as I earlier said, it is very competitive, also apply for courses as a backup plan. This gives you more
options of securing the required credits for the semester should in case you cannot get a place when the deadline passes, and you are at risk of applying late, sometimes you may not even find late applications for courses after deadlines. It is better you consider applying for courses within the open period along with your search for an internship (as I did in my case) then you can choose not to register for the courses when you get a place for internship and you are admitted for the courses. It is always good to be realistic about the situation and stick with the rules of the program you are studying.
Ultimately, your goal should be to enjoy the process and the environment of learning here at Uppsala and avoid being overwhelmed with deadlines. Look out for new departmental and university information (you do not want to miss out on vital student information), always ask questions when you need help.
A new semester approaches, you already received your acceptance letter and while you are preparing the last (big) details before moving to Uppsala, you might be wondering which Student Nation you should choose and why you should even bother going, why they are so special, so let me share with you some tips and information about them.
Here is hoping Corona (SARS-COV-2) does not ruin anyone’s’ Fall plans though.
Nations are the heart of Student Life in Uppsala, you can do anything there, and I really mean anything. From studying to partying, from sports to eating and much much more!
Now, even though there is no secret formula on how to best choose your Nation, there are some things you can do to figure it out. If you want the fast or a tiny help, you can go to this blog post that has a very nice flow diagram about the Nations.
If you want to know as much of every Nation as possible before choosing, you can start by going to the Welcoming activities that Nations host during the International Welcome Week and go talk to the people organizing, I promise they will be friendly and happy to tell you about their Nation if you ask them. The second thing you can do is talk to the ones that are representing their Nation in the Welcome Fair, there especially they will be “selling” their own and answer every single question you may have. But more than only asking questions, use this time to just talk with them and see how you feel, talking with whom do you feel more comfortable?
Then it also depends on what you are looking for in the Nations, do you want to have more housing options, more available scholarships, party for free a specific day, fika discount, artistic activities, a small and close community? Of course, you can always look for all this their websites, but it is likely to be in Swedish and everything might not be there, so the best way to find out is by talking with the active members. You will find them in their respective Nation and in the Welcome Fair, it will be crowded, but don’t worry about it and talk with everyone for as long as you want.
What can you do in each Nation? That is for you to find out, but all of them have a Pub, with good burgers, beers and more. I have 3 favorite ones, but you should go try them all before picking (#Hint: Some use homemade patties and some don’t). Can you find the one Nation that serves mashed potatoes instead of fries with their burger? Every Nation opens their pub on different days, but you can always find at least one, even Sundays.
If you like partying, you came to the right place, Nations have agreements within them, so the week starts on Tuesday with Snerikes party, on Wednesday it is Norrlands turn, Thursdays it is Stockholms and Fridays are for Värmlands. On Fridays, you can also find Ostgöta or Snerikes sometimes. You can always enter all the parties for free before 9 pm and if you are a member of a specific one, you enter for free to their party all night.
If you are a food lover, apart from the pubs, some Nations have breakfast like Norrlands and Stockholm, or lunch like Stockholm with their salad bar or like Norrlands, Östgöta, and Västgöta. You can find delicious Fika in Kalmar, Göteborgs, Norrlands, and more. On Saturdays, Gästrike-Hälsinge Nation hosts a Pancake bar at brunch time, and on Sundays Snerikes has brunch.
If you like singing Göteborgs has Karaoke Thursday.
If you like sports you will find different sports groups in Gästrike-Hälsinge.
If you want to learn Latin dances, Värmlands has Salsa and Bachata classes on Sundays.
And if you like role-playing games, V-Dala has many D&D campaigns every Sunday; while in Gästrike-Hälsinge you will find Boardgames evenings.
Most Nations also have libraries, choirs, spex (theater groups), special lectures, Gasques, Balls, and most important: Very nice and friendly people.
Now one last tip, once you’ve decided on your Nation, a great way to start meeting the members is going to the Cleaning Day. Yes! I did say cleaning. They happen once a month on every Nation, there, Full-Timers and Half-Timers gather to clean the house along with everyone else willing to help. The day begins with a breakfast, then tasks are distributed, and teams go clean until it is lunchtime, when everyone stops what they are doing and have lunch together and sometimes play games before going back to your duties. When everything is done, it is time for the Sexa! (A nice dinner but not elegant like a Gasque or Ball) You celebrate a successful cleaning day, eat good food, have some drinks, sing many typical Swedish songs and have lots of fun with your new Nation friends 😉
And remember, at the end of the day, it does not matter which Nation you join because joining one gives you access to all of them, Amazing! And worst-case scenario, you can always change it whenever you want, or better: You can join more than one!
2020 has not been the best year, from Australian bush fires, trade wars and then coronavirus pandemic. What started like just another outbreak became bigger than what anyone would have imagined. It was not just another flu, another hoax, it remains a global challenge affecting our lives and every sector of the economy. Who ever imagined facemasks, hand sanitizers, tissue paper, food, hand washing, not touching our faces and not shaking hands or hugging each other would become such a big deal? No, this is not a drill, it is reality…… We are live in 2020.
The pandemic meant borders, schools, offices, places of worship, tourist sites would remain closed and everything would move online; work, academics, businesses, conferences, governance, relationships would all online for this long. People remain stranded in different places across the world and then it is scary because the virus spreads in such a way that some people who are carriers may not even become sick and they can spread it without knowing. Hence, we must stay indoors and contain the spread to flatten the curve.
It was always a luxury and envious to be working from home but now it has become harder having everyone at home (especially people with family members) and then trying to keep up with schedules. You are no longer voluntarily working or studying from home the way you have always imagined; it can be emotionally and physically overwhelming. This also meant as a student, my classes would move online, all my courses. Thankfully, I was done with most of this semester courses and I had just one left but even then, I must say spending so much time online is challenging. Online education is harder than you imagined.
Before I had classes at either SLU Ultuna (the Swedish University of Agriculture on the other side of town) or the Uppsala University’s Geocentrum, group work was done physically and then some bits online. As someone who prefers reading hard copies of documents, books because of the stress reading online was an unhealthy choice for my eyes, it gets even challenging. I must be online for the class as slides will be insufficient for understanding sometimes because there will be things said, questions asked that will be helpful, read course recommended articles online, do group work online, I even have my weekly fellowship with Mosaic church now online…… it is an online challenge. I miss my classmates, every one of them even those at the “hey!” level (because I can’t be close to everyone in a class of over 50 students). We only see ourselves when it is ZOOM time.
Also, Netflix is online (because sometimes, you gotta’ chill with Netflix)
The good thing is that Uppsala University and SLU study schedules are flexible enough to save you from being an online zombie and I have managed it well. There are so many resources online for academics and updates on coronavirus. My lecturers have been of tremendous assistance and reply inquiries so fast. My department, course counselors and even university management have been open about asking for help when you need one. Also, as a scholarship recipient from the Swedish Institute, they look out for their international students, which means you are not alone.
There is no lockdown here in Sweden, so I can go out for some fresh air while taking a walk. Sweden is a country that naturally practices social distancing because it is a culture of people who love their personal space and avoid conflict. You will understand after living in Sweden for some time, that it is nothing personal and nothing sinister or mean (LOL), it is what it is. I don’t even have to try that hard to social distance myself. (Thank You Sweden!)
Being online always is a challenge these days and I know I am not alone. It can be emotionally draining with all the propaganda, conspiracy theories and fake news on major social media platforms but you have the power to switch things on and off when they are not essential to your goal and daily schedule. You can also focus on the positives of being online, follow genuine leads and draw on things that boost your positive energy. As a student of Sustainable Development, I have discovered a lot of good webinars on topics like Degrowth, Political Ecology, Green Energy, Climate Education and other sustainability inclined discourse, articles that has been educative. There are also free and subsidized courses online you can enroll to learn things you have always wanted. Use your data wisely and make the most of the situation.
Coronavirus is not a hoax; it is something serious that has left us all reflecting on life. Being indoors and spending more time online as a student is a challenge but I make the most of my experience and focus on what counts.
Keep washing your hands and take your hygiene seriously. Always remember to stay home if it is not essential to be out there and yes, keep your distance (it is that serious, LOL!). This also means I am always eating since I go out only when it is essential. My next trip to fridge comes after I finish writing this.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Football leagues, NBA, NFL, everything, every place we used to scream and hang out……even the famous Valborg celebrations in Sweden was suspended. We miss life as we have always known but Life is precious and that is all that counts now.
“Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team’s goal.”
This has to be the most cliched way to start a post. Unfortunately, considering how I and many others who might be reading this post are not familiar with this word, I felt it was worth a shot. So, what is bandy? Well, it’s basically like ice hockey. And if you come from a place where ice hockey isn’t all that popular (Like India, for example), imagine field hockey but on an ice rink instead of a field and all the players wear ice skates. Oh and also, there’s a ball that you play with, in Bandy instead of a puck, like in ice hockey. To be honest, I can’t explain the game in-depth since I am not familiar with it all that much. Or am I? Well, that is what I’m here to talk about. Up until a couple of days ago, I had no idea what the word ‘Bandy’ meant. That was until I got to know about the crash course in Bandy that was jointly organized by Uppsala University and Sirius Bandy, Uppsala’s bandy team. If you’re like me and have no experience in skating or in playing hockey, the combination of skating on ice while playing hockey must seem quite horrifying.
However, I wholeheartedly suggest you give it a shot. When I heard of this crash course, I had similar reservations. “I don’t know how to skate, let alone ice-skate!”; “I’ve never played hockey before!”; “How can you teach someone to ice-skate within a month?!?” etc. But honestly, it was fun!
So this is how it works, the crash course is divided into the following components:- 4 one-hour lessons and a final match. The lessons, as well as the match, takes place on weekends so everybody can attend. On the first day, you are given a hockey stick, a pair of skates and a helmet. Remember to take a picture since you’ll be using the same equipment for the whole course. At least that’s the way it is recommended. You can always change it if it doesn’t suit you.
Day 1: You’re divided into two groups; the ones who have some experience in skating and the ones who won’t. If it’s not evident by now, I belonged to the latter group. The first day is all about posture and balancing. I advise anybody who is planning to take up this course to listen to the instructors very carefully, even if your instincts tell you otherwise. For example, the instructors told us to lean forward with our knees bent. It was quite weird as keeping my legs straight and stiff was helping me balance more. But soon, I realized why the instructors were asking me to do otherwise. Ice is hard, keeping your legs straight puts a lot of burden on your knees and soon, my legs and knees started to hurt quite badly. Also, while maintaining balance when you stand can be easy, when you’re skating, it turned out to be easier to maintain balance with the knees bent. Once you get the hang of it, it is quite something. It’s almost like gliding through the air. It’s really fun. Also, it’s always better to fall forward instead of backward since it’s easier to control a forward fall. So another tip: When you feel like you’re falling, try to shift all your weight forward. You may end up controlling your fall in the worst-case scenario, and not falling at all in the best-case scenario!
Day 2: Now, you are given the choice if you’d like to practice skating more, or if you’d like to practice hitting the ball while skating. I wasn’t comfortable yet with maintaining my balance on ice so I opted to practice skating more. But you can do whatever you want depending on your comfort.
Day 3: By day 3, people are starting to get more comfortable on skates. So the instructors teach you certain exercises to help practice maintaining your balance. Like going into a squat position while skating and coming back up again.
Day 4: By this time, almost everyone is pretty comfortable with being on ice so it’s mostly just a fun day of skating and playing some bandy
Final Match: The moment of truth. Everybody’s divided into two teams and there’s a proper Bandy match between the two teams.
All in all, the whole experience was really fun! Also, it can sound a bit daunting but it was really fun. The players at Sirius bandy are awesome and it was really fun chatting with them about their experiences, how they got into bandy etc. They were also really helpful and gave really good tips on how to skate properly. Unfortunately, on the day of the final match, it was windy and wet, so skating was a bit hard. But it was a fun sight, people falling on top of each other while trying to goal. If you get the opportunity, I highly suggest that you take it. They only admit limited students every year and its first-come, first-serve. The applications open around December and the course starts in January and lasts until the mid of February. It is completely free of charge!
You can find some pictures and videos of the course below.
In Nigeria, we refer to newcomers as “JJC” which means
Johnny Just Come. That was me in Uppsala last August when I first arrived after
2 years of consistently Uppsala dreaming. Let me quickly say Uppsala continues
to surprise me; it was everything I had imagined and more. Like life, a great
part of your experience here is what you make of it, your effort to seek the
things you want and the willingness to be open to adventure. You will get
frustrated at some “Swedish things” but instead focus on understanding the
people and the little things that matter to them is the magic in “surviving”
your Swedish adventure. Uppsala is beautiful!
I wanted to share how I ended up un Uppsala since this
is my first blog post for Tagged for Uppsala.
My name is Margaret Aligbe from Nigeria (You already
know that by now) and I am studying Masters in Sustainable Development. I had
always wanted to study in Scandinavia because from Nigeria, it was a less-traveled
route and it was somewhere up there with all the “laidback’’ lifestyle and love
for nature stories. I needed something different and needed some “green” and “chill”
in my life, after living in Lagos for so long (Have you been to Lagos? LOL). I wanted an escape period of learning, so I
made up my mind for a masters’ education. How I ended up in Sweden was partly
because Swedish people spoke very good English (you have probably heard this
before) as I confirmed for a former Tagged4Uppsala Blogger, Oluwafisayomi “Fifi”
Adesina and another Nigerian student at Linkoping, Mobolaji Folorunso. Becoming
a student at Uppsala University was the icing on my cake, there was nothing you
were going to tell me to change my mind when I made it my first choice and I
was determined to be here.
In Sweden, I discovered from my research before coming
here that the goal of learning is more about application than ‘’head knowledge”
which was fascinating to me. As a student, you focus more on understanding that
being worried about grades because in the real sense, when you understand what
is being taught, you have no cause to fail. The educational system at Uppsala
University reflects what the Swedish mantra “Lagom” meaning balance. Also, since I wanted to sustainable
development, Sweden a major player in the sustainability discourse had to be
the place to study; sustainability here is major, permit me to say, it is
sustainability on steroids, no one jokes here about it and yes, it is that
And yes, seriously, I came here because of Fika!
There are so many things about Uppsala to “gist’’
(Nigerian word for an informal chat or little talk) you about Uppsala and you
have read or heard a lot, but I will stick with the food Nigerian version and
the weather in another post.
The ‘’Naija’’ Cravings… (Naija is a shorter and savvier
way of saying Nigerian)
Food is central to our lives as Nigerians, in
families, parties, offices; food is something very “serious’’ not just to us as
Nigerians but to many cultures, I believe. This means, as an adult going abroad
to study, you are more likely to carry that “baggage” along even if you drop
everything else; your cravings stick with you on your journey. Children may
easily change their diets to what is available, but it is not that simple as an
adult, perhaps over time but since I just got here last August, it is fair to
want to eat Nigerian.
As a Naija girl in Uppsala, those cravings got more
serious. From wanting to eat local spicy or “pepperish” dishes like catfish
pepper soup; Semo and ogbono soup; Amala and ewedu with ponmo (cow skin); pounded
yam and egusi (melon) soup; moimoi; Beans or Ewa agonyi (similar to how lentils
are prepared) and Ijebu garri; yam and egg to wanting Nigerian Indomie Noodles …..I
had to fix my cravings because it was one of my best coping strategy away from
family. I eat a couple of Swedish food like meatballs (köttbullar), Cinnamon
bun (kanelbullar), semla; I cannot even count how much kilos of potatoes I have
eaten and I still drink so much coffee already but you see there is something
so strong about being a typical Naija foodie that it is such an old, die-hard
If you are a Nigerian or someone with the Naija
appetite reading this, be rest assured you will survive so well in this
beautiful city. You will be surprised by the food you will find here. There are
a couple of African and Asian stores spread around Uppsala where you can
find 95% of the food you crave for and
cooking ingredients like Maggi, Nigerian Knorr cubes, crayfish, dried catfish, ground
ogbono, egusi (melon), semo, poundo yam, raw yam, plantain (ripe and unripe), bitter
leaf, ugwu (pumpkin leaf), ugba, fufu, Iru, palm oil, the hot pepper we call “atarodo”
in Nigeria…the list goes on and on.
Below are some pictures of my Naija Foodie moments;
Buying these local foods can be expensive because price is based on weight, which would mean a small yam can be as high as 50 Swedish kronor (side-eye…lol) and then you begin to start calculating the price in your local currency (I know I am not the only one, who can’t help this behavior), in my case Naira or you start wondering why that pepper has to be so expensive but I eat I must.
Satisfaction with some frugality
As a student, being frugal is key to saving and one
way to achieve that is by cooking your own food. When you are buying a cup of
coffee every day for “just” 10 kronor, it eventually adds up and cripples your
budgeting skills. So, you want to eat well in a smart way! After buying that
monthly student bus ticket of 590 kronor (if you do not know how to ride a
bicycle like me) and you have paid your rent, food for the month is the next
major budget item.
When I go to
local supermarkets, I am always checking the dates on meat, milk, fish and vegetables.
You do not want to buy something you cannot finish before it expires, you want
to consume it while it is still fresh. Every time, food wastes, your money goes
(arrrghh…. the pain in Swedish krona), then you must throw so much away and
probably buy the same thing again. To avoid this cycle of waste, I spend more
on food I love to eat, this means, I buy less outside and eat more of home-cooked
When it comes to Nigerian food cravings, extreme frugality
fails but it is always worth it because I can basically live a whole month
without buying any extra food and I feel satisfied after every meal. I must add
that there will always be some fika here and there with free food. I try to eat some macaroni or spaghetti
instead of rice every time, this also saves me some money they are cheaper
options compared to rice and variety is the spice of life after all. To eat
Nigerian means you have to be very disciplined with your spending and as much
as it is good to cook meals weekly and storing them in the fridge for the week,
sometimes, having so much could amount to waste, as you may not want to eat the
same food continuously for a whole week; you have to be tactical in managing
your expensive ‘’Nigerian’’ food. You can also make soups like egusi, ogbono,
seafood okra or stew (our local tomatoes and pepper sauce), which can last you
for so long and you can eat it with different meals like yam, rice, spaghetti
or even bread. The trick is to find the perfect way to mix and match what works
for you; then you can prepare different types of rice and not get bored the
After months in Uppsala, I started to reduce my
portions, I cannot explain why but it happened to me, which meant, my raw food
stayed longer and I did not have to go to the African store often like when I
first came, I guess it is one of the things that has changed with my cravings;
eating lesser portions but drinking so much water; carbonated drinks are so expensive
with sugar tax (what is that? Lol), I might as well cut down on my Coke and
Pepsi cravings (In Nigeria, you need Coke or Pepsi to step down your food lol).
Disclaimer; No, I don’t eat my cooked food every time. No matter how frugal I try
to be, I allow myself to eat out sometimes if I can afford it, Cooking can be
hard work sometimes. I cut myself some slacks on my budget. It is not always
Meat is expensive. When I say meat, I mean beef and
In Sweden, people eat less meat and it is something
serious even though I have argued in class about how eating meat is
unsustainable based on how the meat is produced (a story for another day).
While we have free-roaming animals in many parts of Africa meaning we buy our
meat fresh less processed; here, it is mostly packaged and likely traveled over
a long distance before reaching final consumers which could is not
environmentally friendly. Meat is
central to our meals in Nigeria and so wanting to make soups mean I have to buy
meat but the secret is; how you buy (Freshly slaughtered or already packaged
determines how the meat will taste like), where you buy and in what quantity
you buy is very important in saving cost. You can also include fish in your
diet like Mackerel (called “Titus” in Nigeria) and other types like Alaska
Pollock (Called “Eja Panla” in Nigeria) or Stockfish (called ‘’Okporoko”) in
Nigeria and salmon Fillets which tastes really good. Another way would be to
buy chicken parts like gizzard or parts like liver and kidney if eating meat is
The least of your worries…
This is more of a Nigerian foodie experience but from
my interaction with people around the here, everyone has a way of surviving on
their local dishes here and that means wherever you come from, there is always
an amazing experience with every meal here in Uppsala. A city that is so big
yet very warm you would love it when you are here. Food will be the last thing
to worry about. Everyone is welcome!
When I chose Uppsala University for my
master’s studies, “Why?” became the most general question asked by everyone
around me at the time. Why Sweden? Why Uppsala? Why not somewhere else? … With
all these questions I actually started questioning myself about what lead me to
take the decision. So here are the main answers I found out myself to my own questions
back then and later realized to be so true after getting here.
Hope someone out there struggling with finding out “why?” will be supported by these thoughts and experiences.
University Culture Being a Sri Lankan, something I will never be able to experience in my country, is a culture like as at Uppsala University. I could have chosen a well reputed ‘modern’ university but I would not have been able to experience the rich historical culture that runs back to 1477 in any of those universities. Uppsala city indeed is a student city. I have found everything here very interesting from student life, nations, interactive classrooms to building architecture and holidays and all. The nations are something I had almost no idea about when coming here but nations play the best and most important part in student life. The nations are historical as same as the university and my opinion is that the best and safest way a student can enjoy nightlife, make friends and have fun is through nation activities. Nation pubs are also the cheapest options for food and drinks for students. So if you really want to experience this unique, historical, truly amazing university life, I assure you that “Uppsala is the place!”
The Calmness Something a fellow Sri Lankan student told me during our first week here is that it is too calm and quiet here and she doesn’t like it. But honestly for me, it is exactly what I wanted! If you are from a noisy and busy city, you will find the complete opposite environment here in Uppsala. I haven’t still been much out in Sweden but I believe the rest of Sweden is also quite the same. Before planning my studies here I did a bit of research about bits and pieces of everything that I thought would help me prepare and there I read about the overall calmness in this country. I am the type of person who seeks peace of mind and from the moment I got here I have loved how calm and beautiful everything around me is. When I say calm and quiet, it doesn’t mean the city is a ghost town; of course the city is fun and active all the time, but the noise and irritating crowd and busy nature – it’s not there! So simply what I mean is, if you love calmness, this is the best but if you love noise, this is not the best.
Nature Back when planning, I have read about how green and sustainable Sweden is; in fact, more than 50% of the country is covered by forest. When I got here during the end of summer, I loved how beautiful everywhere I saw was. The place I got to live – Flogsta, is in the middle of a bit of a forest and I started feeling truly blessed about my new life -surrounded by trees, with a view of a farm from my window and waking up to the sound of a black and white bird tapping on my window (the bird is called Eurasian Magpie I believe). I have never been a person who likes walking or cycling, but after getting here, during the summer, I loved all my walks and cycle rides no matter how long or short they were because the surrounding was so beautiful. Of course the colour has changed from green to yellow and brown and white with the seasons passed, and I take the bus now as it is quite cold these days, but the nature has always been lovely and if you’re a nature friendly person, this place will be your paradise.
People From majority of the posts I have read about Sweden, the impression delivered out about Swedes is that Swedes are not friendly. I was never bothered by this as I don’t judge any people by what others say until I get to know them personally as they are. After getting here I realized that what I have read is completely untrue. Swedes are really nice and helpful. I have met people who smiles and greets as they walk down the street and also people who just walks as you or they are invisible. But that’s how people from any part of the world differ from each other. However every Swede I have met and talked so far has turned out to be amazing people and is fun to hang around with. I have met extremely nice Swedish people in the bus who talk to me about their day and want to know about how I’m finding it to live in Sweden. So my advice is, if you’re really bothered about Swedes from what you have read before meeting them, just don’t worry because Swedes are friendly and even though the Swedes are not friendly as assumed (incorrectly) you will meet plenty of other internationals and you will have no problems with people whatever the situation is.
Language I could have gone to an English speaking country for my studies just to make things easy but I thought of taking up a challenge instead. I thought of the opportunity to learn a new language because I knew that I will eventually learn at least a bit of Swedish during my time in Sweden. When got here, honestly there were times that I regretted this decision because I have got really stuck in situations due to lack of Swedish but still I have survived well and I am improving my language skills. So I don’t regret it anymore and I am so glad that I chose Sweden out of all other countries.
Living cost This may sound unbelievable but from my experience, I have found the living cost to be comparatively cheaper here in Sweden. This is a major concern everyone had back then in Sri Lanka, including me and my parents because the currency difference is huge in my country and Sweden. But something I have learnt during my time here is that the living expenses compared to the salaries is quite low here. I work in few student nations and the small amount of money I get from these jobs is enough to cover all my monthly expenses.
From my experience as a student here so far, I have got everything I expected – by choosing Sweden and by choosing Uppsala University. It might not be the same experience for everyone but I believe that most of the students here are enjoying their time to the fullest. I’m so glad that I found my own answers to all the “whys” and decided to chase my dream. The student life is challenging in any part of the world and the work load is always there, but as long as you have a better environment to face all the challenges with a smile on your face, you will definitely have the time of your life.
I am Manish and this is my first blog as
#taggedforuppsala blogger. I have been a blogger for a year now, I usually post
on Instagram, but I stayed away from the blog page (I don’t know why!). And if
you are following us on Instagram you might find me posting more about activities
in and around Uppsala. The most common question that students ask me apart from
their academic questions is that when can they see the Northern Lights. Chasing
Aurora Borealis is on a lot of students bucket list and even though it’s
visible from September to April, it remains elusive. One misconception about
chasing the Auroras in Sweden is that you can see it all over the country.
Unfortunately, this is not true! Except if there is an extraordinary amount of
solar activity and a really clear sky.
I would say if the space weather conditions are
favorable you can see Northern lights from Uppsala. However, Uppsala is too far
south to reliably see the Auroras. You might want to head towards the North, to
the Arctic Circle to have the best experience of seeing the northern lights
either Kiruna or Abisko National Park (best chance of seeing the Auroras).
Abisko has relatively clear skies during the polar night compared to elsewhere
in Sweden, as Abisko has a special microclimate.
So how do you hunt these lights ?? it’s a 50%
scientific prediction and 50% pure luck, but when things go your way the sense
of achievement is huge. Seeing northern lights requires a complicated
combination of events to occur but I won’t get into the science of how an
aurora happens (you can google it!). But I’m sure you would like to know how to
increase your chances of catching a glimpse of the infamous Aurora borealis.
Aurora chasers avidly track the Kp-Index and
religiously monitor the meteorological data (you don’t want clouds to ruin your
chances) using various apps and websites.
Kp-Index relates to the intensity of interaction between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field in a horizontal plane. It is ranked on a scale of zero to nine, the higher the value the more the aurora can be seen at southerly latitudes. You can use apps like the “Aurora Forecast” or “My Aurora Forecast & Alerts” app. It is available in both App Store in iOS and Play Store in Android.
Space Weather monitoring: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to monitor the space weather. Getting to the geekier part of the aurora hunt, is to check for solar storms. Here you can check for any solar activity and coronal ejection from the sun, if there is any you can easily predict how the aurora will be over the next 3 days.
Aurora Ovation Oval: Aurora manifests itself in a huge ring above the Earth’s Geomagnetic North Pole which is referred to as the Auroral Oval. You might expect this oval to be visible from the same altitude around the globe but because it is centered on true north rather than the geographical North Pole, this is not the case. In this page you can check the aurora formation, helps you to find the region where the Aurora may be visible.
There are some groups on Facebook if you’re in Uppsala where people post if there is high probability to see the lights and it is also a great way to meet the people who share the same enthusiasm. Here is the link to the page.
I’ll give you some very basic settings you can use to
photograph Auroras, they’ll probably work in most situations. However, it also
sometimes will depend on the auroras you see. So, you might need to adjust the
settings depending on how bright auroras are and how fast they are moving.
Have a sturdy
tripod (very important: I have seen people trying to take pictures with
handheld camera, it won’t turn out good).
a DSLR that has
Lens that focuses
matrix metering mode.
Wide angle lens
(16-35mm) with aperture at 2.8 or 4 – the lowest number as your lens can go.
Exposure at 15
seconds for slower auroras and 10 seconds for faster ones. Adjust as needed.
Set ISO at 1,600
to start with and experiment.
If you are a
beginner, you’re probably not shooting in RAW, so you want to get the colors as
close to reality as possible straight from the camera, you can use Automatic
white balance mode.
Once you get to see them, there is a compulsion to see
more and more, they are addictive. It’s exciting, you get high from it. Part of
the charm is the thrill of the chase because there is never a guarantee that
you will see the northern lights, in these two years I have had the chance to
see it only six times.
TIP: If you travel all the way to the North to see
Northern Lights, be prepared to look for them. Go outside every night. Even if
aurora activity is not very high, but the sky is clear, you might get lucky and
see some beautiful auroras.