Uppsala: First Few Weeks

IMG_3306Long form blogging is harder than I thought. Short form blogging on twitter is pretty simple- have a thought. post a thought. continue with life. repeat. I imagined this would be similar to journaling, dumping my thoughts on a page. Only this time my thoughts would use through my fingertips onto a keyboard instead of pen to paper. But it takes more planning to sit down and create a coherent story out of the series of individual events that I’ve experiences so far. Especially when I know that someone besides myself will be reading it. Also, it takes time to sit down and write instead of running around Uppsala. I’ve decided that this blog will be directed at my family at home and used as a record for myself to remember this in the future. So, sorry if it’s more informative than entertaining. 

My first few weeks in Uppsala have been great. I feel like a freshman again getting oriented to a new school, new method of teaching, making new friends, and awkwardly showing up to parties too early. I didn’t have a very good reason for choosing to study abroad in Uppsala rather than any other place in the world, but I’m really glad this is the location I finally decided on.

I looked for a program in Europe (for my mom’s sake). I looked for an exchange so that I could be in classes with non-American students. I looked for a country that doesn’t only speak English (although I hear way more English than Swedish here). And I was drawn to Scandinavia because it’s a region I know very little about. It also helps that I’ve been obsessed with ABBA since I was little (thanks Mom), I like putting jam on savory food (which is popular here. Think IKEA meatballs and lingonberry jam), I really really want to see the northern lights/reindeer, and my favorite candy is Swedish Fish (Swedes really like candy, so I fit right in).

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IMG_3306[The Fyris River which runs through Uppsala]

Uppsala University is very well receptive of International Students. The first week was filled with planned activities for us including a welcome reception, city tour and events put on by the different Nations (social clubs) such as a pub quiz, crash course to Swedish culture, club nights, and karaoke. Many of the nations put on clubs in their beautiful old buildings during the week. So a lot of the partying goes on during the week instead of only on the weekends. However, social things usually start a lot earlier with pre-parties (pregames) around 6:30/7 and end earlier with the clubs closing around 1 am.

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 [Pink Party at Snerikes Nation]

Thanks to the advice of the lovely Michelle who studied here a few years ago, I live in Rackarbergsgatan- which was so difficult for us to pronounce the first week that my friends and I shortened it to Rackars. Initially I thought of it as an apartment and was confused as to why everyone kept referring to their place of residence as a corridor, but now I understand that it is more like people living independently with some shared areas. There’s a housing problem in Uppsala. Too many students. Too little housing. Swedes have to stand in a queue for years before they can get a room, so in the dorms you get a room and don’t get to choose who you live with.

I live with four other Swedes with whom I share a bathroom, shower, and kitchen (I also have a sink in my room which I don’t understand, but also don’t mind). They’re all pretty quiet and I rarely see them. When we do run into each other in the kitchen, the conversation doesn’t progress very far past “hello”, and they all eat in their rooms with the door closed. This is a very weird adjustment for me since I’m used to living with 30 people who are always hanging out, or at least make some sort of small talk.

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There is a more social dorm called Flogsta where corridors have up to 15 people and its mostly international students (It kind of reminds me of Burley at U of M. Its far away, you have to take a bus to get to campus or town, and they jam all the newbies up there) . But I chose to live here because I wanted to live with other Swedes, so I can’t complain. Plus, I would not want to trade this location- I am right across the street from the Economics building where my classes are held.

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[View walking home from class]

The way the classes are set up here are also different. Instead of taking four classes all at once throughout the entire semester, I take once class at a time for a few weeks. It reminds me of Spring semester- shorter. more intense. less classes. Except that I don’t have class very often and it’s not that intense, but from what I’ve heard it varies greatly from class to class. I am currently taking Strategic Communication in the Media Department. It has more practical application than most of the Communication classes I’ve taken at U of M. So far we’ve learned about organizational theories and strategic corporate communication. The class has more independent learning than my classes at U of M.  We only have two two hour lectures a week and 25-30 chapters of reading a week. So far, this leaves me with a lot of free time so I kind of feel like I’m still on break.

I was warned that it’s very difficult to make friends with Swedes. However, Uppsala has a “Buddy” program where they match you up with a student who’s been here for a while to show you the ropes at first. A lot of my friends have pretty bad buddies, but luckily mine is great! She’s from the northern part of Sweden, she’s spent time living in the UK and Cali, and it’s her first year at Uppsala. The first weekend she invited me out with her friends and her. It was really great to get to meet other Swedes and ask them about customs, advice and how to pronounce the street I live on. I now have two “honorary buddies”.

My buddy really likes the Oscars, so she’s been hosting movie nights these last few weeks and making her way through all of the big nominated movies. Surprisingly I’ve already seen a lot of them, but I joined for Captain Phillips and Gravity. It’s been a good break from the clubbing that goes on on weekdays. Its also been a nice way to meet some of her Swedish classmates and discuss the movies afterwards.

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The weather has been better than in Michigan! It stays pretty stead hovering around 30. Its only snowed a few times. My first night out it came down in beautiful large puffs.

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Taylour (the other student from U of M) and I went to IKEA the first weekend. It’s pronounce ee-kay-ya instead of i-kee-ya as we way. It looks exactly the same as the one in the US. But unlike the one in the Michigan this store is a lot closer, which makes reenacting the scene from 500 Days of Summer a lot more plausible. It’s also one of the cheapest places to eat, so I may be back soon.

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Most of the friends I’ve made are international from Germany, France, Poland, Austria, Ireland, Australia, US and others. Its been really great learning about their countries, but also I’ve learned a lot about the US and myself from trying to articulate my American experience.

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[Taco night]  IMG_3526
IMG_3409[Homemade bread from Johannasse, because Swedish bread isn’t as good as what he finds in Austria] IMG_3403
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I miss my friends and family back in Michigan, but my lovely roommates are coming to visit soon!

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This entry was published on February 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm. It’s filed under Swedish and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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