Thomas Perring

Thomas Perring
Second Year, History
I am a Second Year History Student spending a year studying in Uppsala, Sweden as part of the Erasmus programme.

University Life

University Life

Much like some smaller UK cities, Uppsala is based massively around university life. Being one of the top research university’s in the world it has a massive student draw. It also backs this up by being absolutely stunning (The main parts of it anyway).

Whilst the city to the east of the river is where urban sprawl has taken hold, the western parts of Uppsala boasts scenic and architectural beauty in abundance, with botanical gardens, the tallest Cathedral in Scandinavia (which they like to boast about) and the oldest University in Scandanavia (Which they also like to boast about. This is mainly because of the long-standing feud against Denmark…whose university was built nine months afterwards.)

The Swedish education system is massively different than the UK’s. Not only is it free but it is much more relaxed (which is a trait shared with most of Sweden) and much more research intensive. This was done to allow people who had part-time or full-time jobs the opportunity to continue studying, which means you are often in a classroom with more mature students than usual. As I have been slack with the blog posts, I have already completed the 15.0 credit module of ‘Media in Contemporary Armed Conflict’ and am now studying ‘Sweden in the 17th Century’ and ‘Culture in Armed Conflict’, all of which require long, long essays. So far I’ve done three 1,500 words essays, three 2,000 word essays (which I had two days to do as part of a take home exam) a 5,000 essay, and I have a 10,000 word research paper coming up… But one exam in three modules could be worse.

Through these I have also met a whole lot of Swedes who, I am glad to report, are not a socially awkward as I had been told prior to arriving and have been helpful in showing us around the city and giving us some useful (and some not so useful) Swedish phrases. These have been used throughout my travels to mixed reception, probably because, as I have been told, ‘I sound like a Norwegian putting on a bad Swedish accent.’

Sweden in Seconds: Fika

THE cornerstone of Sweden. That may be a tad dramatic but fika is an extremely important part of Swedish social life and it is gloriously tasty. Fika is the tradition of eating pastry, or cake, with a cup of coffee (tea is frowned upon which I have found out to my chagrin) at any point in the day. I was told it was meant to be in the afternoon but the Swedes practice fika all the time. If you feel any emotion the Swedes usually suggest fika as a solution/reward and it is a habit that has stuck with my friends and I (I must have spent more money on coffee and pastry than anything else at this point) and I must admit it is a tradition that I will be lobbying for in the UK. So strong is the lure of fika that a man won’t ask/isn’t allowed to ask a lady on a date but rather to fika as fika is what friends do, allowing them to get to know each other before a date. I am currently using the fact that it is starting to get cold here as an excuse to build up my insulation via fika… I’m not the only one.

FIKA!

FIKA!

 

A City of Nations

A City of Nations

What makes Uppsala a completely unique experience is the Nations and there are thirteen to choose from; Gotlands, Gästrike-Hälsinge (GH), Göteborgs, Kalmar, Norrlands, Smålands, Stockholms, Södermanlands-Nerikes (Snerikes), Uplands, Värmlands, Västgöta, Västmanlands-Dala (V-Dala), Östgöta (ÖG). The Nations are the student hubs in the city.

During the welcome week familiarising myself with each nation became a priority and they host a vast array of different events to persuade you to join up with them (Unlimited pancake morning being a particular highlight). This was also the prime time to meet other international students – the Swedes didn’t start until the week after – and get to know the people I’d be living with on my floor. Typically this involves going out to a nation on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (through to Sunday) where there is a club night. Yes. The pancake and pastry places become clubs.

Due to the cold night temperatures here, Swedes start drinking extremely early with the nations opening for business at around 19:00 and shutting at 2. It is a massive change from getting the night bus back to Queen Mary campus at 4 in the morning and drunkenly re-evaluating life choices with the prospect of a hangover looming. The city is relatively small so I am usually in bed by 2:30, which is surprisingly pleasant.

The people I live with are from all over the world (with around 30,000 international students coming to Uppsala each year) and I live with a ridiculous assortment of nationalities: An American, an Aussie, a Swiss, A Pole, an Austrian, A Venezuelan, A Ugandan (Amongst a whole host of others) live on my floor, making the drabness of the Hotel seem a lot less bleak.

In early September we went on a two-hour hike to a huge lake between Uppsala and Stockholm. This re-emphasised the beauty that I had imagined Sweden to have and the swim, albeit exceptionally cold, reaffirmed that I had definitely made the right choice in coming to Sweden for the year.

 

Sweden in Seconds Part Two: Systembolaget

The dreaded Systembolaget. This is the government run alcohol store where you have to go in order to buy any alcohol over 3.5%…but it is not open on the weekends. This means that Friday afternoons necessitate a mad dash to purchase the light refreshments. This monopoly means that the price of alcohol is extremely expensive, in the guise of trying to curb alcoholism. As most Swedes say however – “It doesn’t.”

 

 

 

The woods around Uppsala

The woods around Uppsala

More Uppsala woodland

More Uppsala woodland

Lake Ekoln

Lake Ekoln

First Days in Sunny Uppsala

Where to begin! I’ve been in the sunny clime of Uppsala Sweden for three weeks now and it is a far cry from anything I have experienced but my word, what an experience I am having.

This city is the definition of a student city. Being Sweden’s fourth largest (with a population of just 140,000) may not seem to be a draw for students and yet around 25,000 students descend upon Uppsala every year. I travelled to Uppsala by bus (And yes, you do pass a huge IKEA…and a Volvo dealership…) and the moment I stepped off was met my ‘Buddy’ who kindly informed me to drop all my things off at my accommodation because “There is a party at Flogsta tonight!” Having not been to Uppsala before, getting lost on the way back to Hotel Uppsala (accommodation with two floors for students) was inevitable and yet was one of the most satisfying first evenings in a city I have spent as it is nothing short of beautiful.

I awoke a tad groggy in the morning and decided to settle in for the first day and do all the mandatory paperwork which one is plagued with when going on an Erasmus. However my ultimate top tip for Uppsala is from my second full day. Be forward. The university has a huge amount of international students visiting so there is no need for the standard first day jitters and instead meeting people is about attending events at Nations (which I shall explain later) and throwing yourself into the Uppsala experience.

Uppsala also offers Basic Swedish for students which, although not mandatory, is a great way to instigate conversation with the famously introvert Swedes!

(PS Everyone here speaks fluent English, which is nice when you see words like ‘Realisationsvinstbeskattning’ and begin to think that it’ll be one of the longest years of your life)

Sweden in Seconds Part One:

One word: Systembolaget. Although Systembolaget (“affectionately” nicknamed ‘System’) isn’t the only place to buy alcohol, it is the only place to buy alcohol over 3.5%. You also have to be over 20 to buy alcohol here. This is because it is government owned chain and the government here in Sweden are trying to curb alcoholism in the young. As most astute students have eloquently noted however “It doesn’t.”

13th Century Cathedral which is the tallest in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. Much to the chagrin of the Danes...

13th Century Cathedral which is the tallest in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. Much to the chagrin of the Danes…

Vibrant and stupendously pink Uppsala Castle

Vibrant and stupendously pink Uppsala Castle

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