Hi again from Sweden!
Lately, I have been thinking about how we often speak of study abroad as a general experience. People say they go on study abroad and you have a picture in your mind of what that means. This picture may be shaped by your own experiences, stories you have been told, blog posts, etc. But after traveling around and speaking to people on different programs, I am finding that study abroad is not at all singular. Every experience is completely different from the next. Logically, this makes sense. Different countries, universities, majors each have their unique differences and cultures.
With this is mind, you can kind of choose a study abroad program that best suits your needs. Do you want to be immersed in the culture? Are you just looking for a picturesque place to insta? Do you want to be with other Americans? Do you want to travel? Do you work better in a structured setting? Do you want to learn the language? I remember being asked these questions when applying for my program and becoming very overwhelmed. There were so many things to take into account, and so many different programs to choose from.
People give the advice that any study abroad experience will be great. No matter what you choose, you will have fun, it will be cool, and you will enjoy yourself. I agree. However, this advice was not comforting for me. So, in an effort to provide more information, and perhaps comfort you, here are some things about Uppsala University that I think are unique and/or notable. Take them as you will!
1. “The Nations”— Uppsala seems to be one of the few universities with a strong student culture. Most of this student life revolves around the “student nations”. These are student-run groups that host events throughout the semester. They each have their own building and space situated somewhere near the university, typically with a restaurant and a couple rooms for parties, yoga, meetings, etc. There are 13 different nations and in order to participate in any of the events, you must become a member at one of them. From there, you can attend events hosted by your own nation and the other nations. Regardless, as a student, everyone joins a nation. You just choose one that interests you and sign up. Each nation hosts events, sports, club nights, pubs, cafes, trivia, etc. And since they are student run, prices at the nations are significantly cheaper than Sweden in general. You eat at the nations, you drink at the nations, you party at the nations, you study at the nations.
2. Gasques— This topic sort of falls under the umbrella of the nations. Throughout the semester, the nations throw these big elaborate dinner parties called gasques. Sometimes they are themed, sometimes not. Regardless, the gasques are an excuse for everyone to get dressed up and spend a formal night together. These are full day events starting around 4 pm and lasting as late as 2 am. You enjoy a three-course meal, schnapps, speeches, songs, and lots of traditions. There is no real purpose for the nights except to socialize and enjoy the company of other students, which is always fun and sweet.
3. Uppsala itself— Uppsala is a student city and it’s really fun to be a student here. It is the 4th largest city in Sweden, so there are plenty of stores, cafes, and restaurants to keep you busy. However, the city has a small town feel. It feels very homey— cobblestone roads, old buildings, very safe. Everything is located around the university in the city center. You can bus or bike, but most everything is within walking distance of the city, making getting around very easy.
4. Safety— As alluded to, Uppsala feels very safe. As a young woman, I feel completely comfortable walking at night here. Almost unsettlingly safe. I can walk home with headphones in at 2 am and I still feel safe. Compared to Austin, this feels significant to mention.
5. Accommodation— Uppsala has student accommodations in a couple of different areas. Most of the living arrangements are corridor style where 5-12 people live in a hall and have a communal kitchen. Sometimes the bathroom is communal as well. Most international students live in the big student residence, so most of the corridors are full of international students. However, some of the smaller corridors have a mix of Swedes and internationals in them. There are also options to live in a more studio style apartment, but rent for any of the options is significantly cheaper than the average Austin prices.
6. Interaction with Swedes— For the most part, I have made friends with other international students. I meet Swedish people, we go to the same coffee shops, and interact at the nations, but at least for me, I have not become close friends with many locals. They are very friendly, and all know English very well, so they are easy to talk to. However, as a culture, the Swedes are a shy and polite people. They are open to talking, but unlikely to strike up a conversation merely to fill a space. Transit is quiet, lines are quiet, but in more social environments, the Swedes are also more social.
7. Classes— Although there are exceptions, most of the classes taught in English are full of international students. So your classes are likely to be with the international students you have already met. Additionally, the class structure at Uppsala is very different than at UT. Classes are organized so that you take your courses for the semester one at a time, rather than having four subjects all at once. Depending on the course, you may meet as often as 4 times a week to as little as once every 2 weeks. It just depends on the course. However your classes are structured though, it seems as if all the international students I know have long periods without class in their schedule. This means class is less structured and a little more self guided. Teachers are very approachable and treat you as an equal. There is little ‘busy work’ and most of your grade is based upon one or two major assignments or projects. The objective is to discuss, think, and learn rather than to memorize material. With this, most classes are smaller and more discussion based, allowing time for exploration within the subject.
For me, Uppsala is ideal. The city is big enough for me to explore, yet cozy enough that I feel safe and comfortable navigating. I enjoy the events hosted by the nations and like that there is always something going on for students. It is nice to have these spaces to meet up with people and socialize. I have found my classes to be thought-provoking, without being stressful. I have really enjoyed my time here as a student. I have had time to travel, pick up new hobbies, and take a lot of time for myself while being here. Overall, these past 2 months have treated me well, and I feel very at home here in Uppsala. However, this is only my experience. This is what I know as study abroad. Every study abroad is different, and every person will find their own space within their program.
This post was contributed by Lauren Voigt, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in human development and family sciences.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Lauren’s experience abroad>>