Balancing schoolwork and free time is challenging for any college student. I have found that the activities I participate in outside of class can be just as valuable as my in-course experiences. This has continued to be true throughout my time abroad as well. One of my favorite things to do when I am not studying or writing lab reports is exploring Uppsala and the surrounding area.
Uppsala is a city rich with history and cultural significance. On a quick stroll through the city, one can easily see the domkyrka, a cathedral built in the 13th century, Uppsala Slott, a castle built by the Swedish monarchy and the gardens of Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy. Outside of the center, one can follow the trails Linnaeus would walk and see the flora he observed. One of these trails leads to Gamla Uppsala, a settlement dating back to the 3rd century. Having the opportunity to learn about the history of each of these landmarks has been incredible as it paints a fuller picture of the city and local traditions.
Aside from the various historical landmarks, Uppsala is also home to a significant student population with of a unique culture. Even under current pandemic restrictions, the nations, the source of most student activity in Uppsala, have kept with tradition by organizing online events to welcome new members. While student life has been impacted by the pandemic, events such as the ones organized by the nations allow students to interact in safe ways that protect the community.
A part of living abroad that I find most exciting is that Sweden also has its own unique set of holidays to celebrate! Many major holidays are the same, but Sweden also celebrates seasonal changes with holidays such as May Day and Midsummer. Recently Semlans dag passed which is celebrated by eating a semla. I am looking forward to participating in future holidays and learning about their significance.
One of the most difficult factors about adjusting to life in Sweden was the change in daylight hours and weather. Since Sweden is so far north, the days in Uppsala are only about six hours during the winter and up to 19 hours in the summer. When I first got to Uppsala, the sun would rise at 9 a.m. and set by 3 p.m. The dark skies and cold weather meant that many of my days were mostly spent indoors since my classes would often take up most of the hours of sunlight. On the occasions that I had time to spend outside, I would put on a winter coat and head into the cold to go on beautiful hikes in the nearby forests.
As the days are beginning to get longer and the snow has melted, there has been a gradual increase people staying outdoors. Many of the city cafes have set up outdoor seating, and the warmer weather has allowed us to swap our heavy coats for lighter jackets. In the past couple of days, I have begun to see flowers blooming and more birds are out during the day. With the increase in daylight hours, I am looking forward to spending more time outdoors and enjoying the wildlife in Sweden. I just hope that I am not up for the 4 a.m. sunrises! Vi ses, hej då!
This post was contributed by Aliya Boisselle, a Global Ambassador for spring 2021. Boisselle is a neuroscience major from Dallas, Texas studying abroad in Uppsala, Sweden. Follow Global Ambassador takeovers on our Instagram Stories @texasglobalabroad!