End of year reflections: why I chose Uppsala and Sweden
As some of you may have seen, all of the digital ambassadors had a meet up this weekend in the magical Umeå. Part of our training involved a workshop with the lovely Martin from Spoon Advertising, where we had a writing task asking us to interrogate why we chose Sweden, and why we chose our cities. It’s the first time I’ve really consolidated my motivations for how I ended up in this wonderful country, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. If you’re thinking of studying Literature here, coming here from the UK or coming to Uppsala in particular, this might be helpful for you!
The back story
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, rural England. My ancestors are all completely, bangers-and-mash-British back until the Saxon period (at the very least). Growing up, I felt self-conscious about my family’s lack of mobility outside this little corner of little Britain. I knew I wanted to know more about the world, know another language, meet people of all different backgrounds. I felt it would make me a fuller, richer person, and it would also provide a lot of material for my favourite vocation growing up: writing.
Push comes to shove
But why Sweden? A decision (you know the one: the big, confusing, aimless one) my country made on June 24 2016 helped nudge me in the direction of Sweden. Brexit made me realise I didn’t want to live on an island that seems to want to separate itself from its friends. From studying in a multicultural university in the UK, to living and studying in the US for a year, I knew meeting, knowing and loving people from all around the world, getting to know their stories, was the most invigorating thing (I felt) you could do with your life. So Brexit was the first nudge in Sweden’s direction for me. Something else that was playing on my mind (after I had graduated from my Bachelor’s and was unemployed and lonely last summer in the UK), was thinking about the Swedish friends I had made on my year abroad in the States. One in particular, one of my best friends Marit, always told me about Swedish traditions – where you gather together with family and friends to take a break from the stresses of work, and enjoy each others’ company: at a summerhouse on the archipelago, or around a maypole at Midsummer. I loved this attitude of not everything having to be centred around work and competition – things I had found quite central to US and UK living and working mentalities. I thought in Sweden, this offered a much happier, healthier way to live.
Money, money, money
On a financial basis, the decision to study in Sweden seemed to be a clear choice. Whilst the UK are still in the EU, I do not have to pay tuition fees. When Brexit happened, I knew this could be a ticking time-bomb, and that this financial imperative might disappear. As much as, in my opinion, Brexit is a very misguided route for the UK to be following, it gave me that extra nudge to leave, and start my Swedish adventure as soon as possible.
Love at first sight: Uppsala
Now for a sentimental anecdote: after graduating from my Bachelor’s in the UK, I wanted to go on an emancipatory *twenty-something-girl finds herself in an Eat Pray Love fashion travelling across Europe* trip. I travelled to Uppsala to see Marit, and I was only there for one evening, but somehow I fell in love with it. It was a city, but one you could know intimately. The student nations felt like little homes, but not exclusive, privileged ones in the way I personally had experienced some sororities and fraternities when I studied in the US. It was July, and the sun barely went down at night. The city was big but small at the same time. There were so many things that made Uppsala feel uniquely a little bit magical. Now that I have been here for a few months, the student nations in particular feel even more like little familial places. From the casual fikas had with friends, to the student performances put on in great halls, to the gasques with endless songs (and snapps), the student nations feel like the place you naturally gravitate back to – to gossip with friends, to study for exams or to celebrate big achievements.
Studying Literature in Sweden
And then what about the actual studying? I knew Uppsala was one of the best universities in Sweden and even in the world, but rankings didn’t matter to me so much. When I studied in the US, people would often ask me “Why are you studying English here – you’re from England anyway?” I found this opinion quite narrow-minded and misguided: I study Literature, and the conception that the study of Literature is strictly bound in a historical sense to English or to England is a bit of elitist and redundant opinion. I am fascinated by studying literature from all countries, backgrounds and creeds (for now, written in English – but hopefully when I understand a bit more, written in Swedish too!). When I applied for my course I saw that it would give me the depth and freedom to study a great breadth of texts, whilst still being specific in my Master’s – something I found extremely appealing. I knew that my course would also attract students from all over the world, with very different pedagogical approaches to studying literature. Now I have been here for a little while, it is my Hungarian and Australian and Latvian course mates, who have focussed on such different approaches to literature before coming here, who open my eyes to new ways of analysing texts and culture. We have discussions in ways that I don’t think I could have gotten from a course back home in the UK, where a lot of people studying Literature there are from the UK already.
Getting to know the lingo
Finally, I always wanted the challenge of learning another language. Growing up in a community where people didn’t often move away, I have always kept a sense of teenage rebelliousness in me: wanting to prove people wrong, and show that I know what I’m doing (even when I really, really don’t). Forcing myself to live in Sweden, trying to assimilate and learn Swedish, highlights for me on a daily basis that I really don’t know what I’m doing at all, but it is in these moments that I am shown and challenged in who I really am and who I want to be. I take Swedish lessons as part of the Nordic languages department in Uppsala, which go at a nice pace and test me extensively. I volunteer in a theatre group who teach Swedish to refugees through theatre – and that is entirely in Swedish, so in the few months I have gotten to spend time with them, my comprehension has come along leaps and bounds. Being here has reinforced that I should always be challenging myself, always testing my boundaries, always trying to meet people and help people and learn their stories, which are so different and so varied from my own.
What about you? What’s your story for why you want to come and study in Sweden? Let me know in the comments, and if you have any more questions about studying in Sweden from the UK, studying Literature in Sweden, or any other queries, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.