Two people walking in the snow Wintry Sweden. Credit: Lauren

My First Semester in Sweden: Highs and Lows

Starting your studies in a new country can be a bit of a rollercoaster, but you know what they say: life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it! (Or maybe it was only Ronan Keating that said that? Anyway, he’s got a point, no?)

I think what Ronan Keating was trying to say is, it’s how you deal with those ups and downs that’s important. Even though I’ve experienced good and not-so-good times in Sweden so far, I’m enjoying the challenge and I‘m learning more about myself and this country every day!

Here are a few of my highlights and lowlights from my first semester studying photography in Sweden.

HIGH: Meeting a moose at Slottsskogen (and other adventures!)

I guess we didn’t technically ‘meet’, but it was a treat to see a massive moose at Slottsskogen, the big park in the centre of Gothenburg where you can see lots of animals native to Sweden. Crossing my fingers that I can see one in the wild if I go further up North!

Photo of the author Lauren happy that she is visiting a moose in Slottskogen, Gothenburg!

Me in winter elf mode, visiting a moose in Slottskogen. The moose was uninterested, but I liked it. Credit: Rosie Slater

I was also lucky enough to see a sloth AWAKE (very unusual, apparently) at Universeum. As part of the University of Gothenburg’s welcome programme, international students got to visit this awesome indoor rainforest for free!

Fish in an aquarium, people walking across a bridge in Universeum's jungle section and a sloth wakes up

Fish, people and wide awake sloth at Universeum in Gothenburg. Credit: Lauren

Other adventures in my first semester included a trip to Gothenburg’s archipelago with friends and seeing some cool performances when I volunteered at Gothenburg Fringe Festival.

LOW: Study Struggles

I was so excited to start my Masters in Sweden, so it came as a bit of a shock to me when I found it really hard to get back into the studying groove. It had been a few years since I completed my bachelor’s degree. I had been working in order to save money to come to Sweden and I was used to doing things at my own pace and not dealing so much with deadlines. I was reading more crime thrillers than art theory; everything was more Girl on the Train than Girl with a Pearl Earring. Nothing wrong with that! But a couple of years of a tad too much Netflix had left my brain feeling a little… mushy.

However, a couple of months in and I started to get back into the swing of things. And my New Year’s resolution is to BE MORE ORGANISED, which will help a lot with the study stress!

HIGH: Rediscovering the joy of the darkroom

When I spoke to my very kind and understanding tutor about this^, she advised me to do the kind of work I most enjoyed. For me, that is making photographs in the black and white darkroom. It’s a traditional technique and it’s what I love most about working with photography – being up on my feet, making something with my hands instead of being hunched over a computer, swearing at Photoshop.

For me, the magic of seeing an image appear when the print is in the developer never gets old. Having the opportunity to use the darkroom as part of my studies is amazing! It’s helped me fall in love with photography again, and has given me some fresh ideas to work with next semester.

Washing chemicals off black and white prints in the darkroom.

Washing the chemicals off some prints in the darkroom. Credit: Lauren

LOW: Moving house twice in a 6 week period

It’s true what they say – it really is hard for students to find a place to live in Sweden, particularly in the bigger cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Uppsala. The start of the semester is an especially hard time to find a room or apartment. That’s how I ended up having to move my life twice in the space of 6 weeks, jumping from one 2nd hand short-term contract to the next. Making several trips on the tram carrying boxes from one side of the city to the other (TWICE!) was not that fun! So if you’re even considering coming to study in Sweden, start looking into housing options – like, NOW! Even if you haven’t yet decided to come to Sweden (which you should, obv), it’s super important to start early on this – trust me!

Luckily, there is lots of info on the Study in Sweden website to help you find accommodation in Sweden!

HIGH: Finally finding a nice apartment (complete with cat)

Thankfully, after a lot of frantic phone calls, messages and scouring Facebook ads, I managed to find a great apartment. It even has a cat! Okay, so the cat doesn’t technically belong to my apartment. But he does sit outside every day and greets me when I come home. Bonus! And I’m now a Swedish housing expert, so if you have any questions feel free to email me!

LOW: The Cold Swedish Winter

I’m from England, so the prospect of the Swedish climate didn’t scare me too much. How bad could it be? The seasonal climate here in Sweden is not a huge change for me.

…….the cold, though.

It’s the kind of cold that seeps right into your bones, especially when a face-shatteringly freezing wind is blowing. And I live in the SOUTH of Sweden, for crying out loud! However, I have been told in the past that I’m ‘nesh’ (UK-speak for ‘particularly sensitive to cold temperatures’ – wonder if there’s a Swedish equivalent?).

I mean, it definitely is colder here. But it’s nothing the right clothing can’t solve! Also, it is pretty magical when it snows!

People walking in the snow

Snow walk! Credit: Lauren

HIGH: Making new friends

With a new country, new university and new semester comes new friends! It has been awesome getting to know my new classmates and, of course, my lovely fellow Study in Sweden digital ambassadors!

Study in Sweden Ambassadors in Malmo

Despite the twists and turns of the rollercoaster, I can’t wait to see what’s next on my Swedish journey!

So, what are you looking forward to most about coming to study in Sweden? IS life a rollercoaster? Who is Ronan Keating? Is there a Swedish word for ‘nesh’?! Let us know in the comments!

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