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.