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.”