What to expect from studying in Sweden!

I am sitting on the plane that will take me to where it all started one year ago, nostalgically going through my old pictures and movies that bring me back to all the highs of last year.
Maybe a few days ago you were on such a plane as well, on your way to Sweden to study. Or maybe you would want to be? For all of you who are making your way out here, or are thinking about it, here is what you can expect to happen to you (at least it did to me)!

You will…

… gain some weight

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I fika, you fika, we fika… No wonder Fika is actually a verb, the Swedes live by it! Your classes will constantly be interrupted for coffee breaks that often go with some type of bun (bulle) or cake. Group assignments are definitely fika-worthy, and meeting classmates outside of class even more! Thank god there are so many types of buns to go with all these occasions. There are kanelbullar, lussebullar, kardemummabullar, semlor, … Some you can get all year and others pass by only in very specific periods of the year. The darker it gets, the more you will give in to sweet temptations and you might just notice this in your curves. But hey, at least you’ll be warm in winter!


… live by the light

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A Swedish day starts early, and you’ll automatically learn to do the same as days get shorter. To get as much as possible of the daylight you better set your alarm and get out! O how you will cherish the sunrise and sunset!

Student parties run by a tight schedule as well, so pre-drinks (förfest) as early as eight o’clock are not an exception. You head out to the club by ten if you don’t want to spend the night in the queue, and hit the dance floor until around two. That’s when the (confronting) bright lights are turned back on and everyone is guided back to the front door. And you’ll be happy to get back in bed early so that you don’t miss out on any sun rays the next day!


… be well taken care of

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Swedish education is very personal. Your class group is likely to be small, your professors will probably know you by name, and you also address them by their first name. Their interest in you will go way further than just your grades or attendance. They like to know about your emotional health, your hobbies, probably even your gold fish pet. So don’t shy away from some more personal questions, people really value and respect your opinion and are open to constructive criticism as long as you use as many positive words as possible.


… meet the world

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Many international students come to Sweden to study, so you for sure won’t be the only one packing a whole other language, different foods and some crazy habits in your luggage. This is one of the best things about living abroad though, you will learn so much about other cultures and become a true ambassador of your home country. You might even notice and appreciate some aspects of your own roots that you may have taken for granted before. But the very best remains of course the many potlucks where you will taste the world on your plate!

This photo was taken over the last summer in India, where I travelled to see one of my friend’s, Radhika’s, home base. At the start of last year I would have never imagined going to India, let alone being welcomed like a true family member.


… become a professional cyclist

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In most Swedish cities, your bike in shining armour will take you anywhere. Even though Stockholm can be quite messy sometimes (even disastrous when you end up in Slussen), Swedish cities tend to be very bike-friendly overall (especially the smaller student towns like Lund and Uppsala). It is the best way to catch as much of Swedish nature, it burns off some fika and runs 24 for 7. So once you get hold of a cykel at the second hand market, you will flaunt the streets riding your speedy steed on your way to school and anywhere else.


… work a lot

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To my experience, Swedish universities sure know how to keep you busy. Lengthy, open discussions are a common teaching method, reading two books in preparation for one single lecture is nothing extraordinary, and group works follow each other back to back.

However, the life-work balance is very important in Swedish society, and this counts for student life as well. Weekends are sacred, so your school work is expected to be completed somewhere between 9 and 5 on a weekday so that you have those days to truly relax. And so I do just that… 🙂


… change your style

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Next to upgrading the overall fashionability of your outfit, you will start dress for any occasion. *Layers* are the secret to any weatherly surprise. You’ll learn fast enough that a clear blue sky can turn into a thunderstorm five minutes later, that snow still falls in April or that rain and sunshine are a perfect pair. So you have to be able to cover up, strip down or zip up at any time of the day. In the end, it does make for some impressive rainbows anyway.


I am back in Sweden for six days now, and the summer break has been so good to me that I think some parts of my heart are still under way over here, but I’m glad to be back. A small jump in the cold, cold water today with some old and some new friends under the cloudy sky (completely ignoring the sunniest weather forecast) confirmed just that.

Puss och kram,

Elke

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(Many cookiepoints go to Kostas Mandilaris, one of my new neighbours, for this picture. Thanks!)

Elke

A Belgian student at Stockholm University, studying a Msc in Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development. Contact me at elke.studyinsweden(at)gmail.com
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