Hugo - Uppsala University

B Science/ B Law
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

On exchange in Uppsala, I studied three courses as part of my Marine Biology major. These were 'Evolution of Life in the History of Earth', 'Marine Biology' and 'Basic Swedish' as an elective. The system over there was a bit different in that the semester went longer, over about 20 weeks, during which time courses took place over either the first or second half. As a result, you wouldn't be studying all your courses simultaneously which in my opinion lightened the load. Classes were significantly smaller than your typical UQ lecture theatre and would take place in smaller rooms with 10-20 students, enabling greater levels of interaction in a laid-back environment.

The Marine Biology course I took in the second half of semester included a three-week field trip to the beautiful Swedish west coast town of Fiskebäckskil. Though I was at first maybe a tad reluctant to leave the excitement in Uppsala, the fun mix of Swedes and international students made this trip a different and memorable experience in itself. The pass/fail threshold for subjects abroad also made things rather stress-free academically during my semester and afforded me free time in buckets to explore the wonders of Uppsala and beyond.

Personal experience 

Trying to avoid clichés, exchange was a non-stop series of highlights and excitement. It was extremely refreshing consistently being exposed to new situations and ways of life. From smaller day-to-day exercises such as cooking meals with friends in the shared kitchen (with mixed success..) to partying into the early hours of the morning in a local corridor, a good time was never out of reach. 

The intensity and variety of experiences you are bound to have abroad ensure you will make lifelong friends with whom you can laugh about stories for countless years down the track. Sweden also provides a great platform to travel Europe and I managed to chalk up 11 countries during and after the semester. The many cultures, types of people and experiences you will have during your adventures undoubtedly help to open your mind to the world and teach you some valuable lessons. Also, try and pick up a little bit of the local language wherever you go - it's a great way to impress the locals (or at least crack them up!). 

Accommodation

When it comes to housing applications in Uppsala, I would 100% recommend putting Flogsta as your top preference. Though it may have a reputation as a sort of 'ghetto' area, the facilities inside the buildings will provide you with everything you need. The rooms are comfortable and of reasonable size, with heating systems and a bathroom with a nice toilet and shower (plenty of hot water). Most importantly, Flogsta is the social capital of Uppsala. With so many student buildings all in the one area, this is the spot where a lot of the action will happen. Don't fret if you don't manage to snag a spot here though, there were plenty of people who had an equally good time staying at Rackabergsgatan or Klostergatan, which are actually closer to the city centre. In any case, everything is all a short bike ride away - you will never be far from the action.

Budget 

You may have heard that Sweden is quite expensive, and this is true in comparison to many other European countries. However, the overall cost of living is pretty similar to that of Australia, so applying a similar mindset to back home, especially with regards to food and alcohol, should hold you in good stead. In my 5 month semester at the uni, I spent around $10 000, which allowed me to fit in a bit of travel and enjoy life in Uppsala. I then travelled for another 6 weeks or so after the semester and spent around another $5K.

If you're an expert budgeter you might be able to get by on a little less than 15K on exchange, but to avoid added stress and constantly having to think about whether or not you can afford things I would strongly recommend having a little bit extra up your sleeve. It's such a unique experience so every extra weekend away or night out you can squeeze in is worth its weight in gold in my opinion.

Riding a bike and buying groceries from 'ICA' will help save money, but it's also fun and reasonably cheap to eat lunch with friends at one of the nations (especially if you're a member), or to get beers and burgers for dinner (best burgers in Uppsala are at Värmlands!). Also, consider taking buses or trains as opposed to flying to nearby countries. The website 'GoEuro' compares the cheapest prices across these three modes of transport.

Despite the joining fee, becoming a member at a nation will also save you money, granting free entry into club nights, and providing discounts on meals as well as the various events taking place throughout the semester, such as gasques (Swedish balls). The two most popular nations for international students when I was there were Snerikes and Stockholms. If you plan on attending a decent amount of club nights throughout the semester, I recommend joining both (the free entry into clubs means you earn back the joining fee after 5 nights out, plus you get the other added benefits of being a part of the nation).

Professional development and employability 

Studying in a foreign country and having to adjust to a new way of life surrounded by new people poses many opportunities, and whether your experience is good or bad (if a bad one is even possible?) you will come out of it a better person in so many ways. More life experience means you will find it harder to be pushed out of your comfort zone, and as a result, you'll go about daily life with an added confidence. You'll be more tolerant and able to deal with a range of people and personalities, and you'll be more willing to throw yourself into new situations. I would recommend exchange for these reasons alone.

Highlight 

Without a doubt, the highlight is the people you meet while studying in Uppsala. It is a place where there are all types of people, and as a result, you have no trouble finding your kind. Despite the differences, everyone gets along with everyone. Have an open mind and it is sometimes these differences which create the most fun relationships.

One of the best weekends in Uppsala was over 'Valborg'. The streets come alive as people from across Europe visit the little town to celebrate the beginning of Spring with a huge party. Sleeping was put on the back-burner and replaced by forest raves, live music, home-made boat races and wild 'picnics' in the parks.

Plenty of travel was also done and an early trip North to Swedish Lappland is definitely near the top of my highlights. There's nothing quite like standing atop a frozen lake in the deathly silence of the Arctic watching the Auroras dance overhead. Do your tour with Camp Adventure, rather than Scanbalt (larger group tours). All your activities will be done with just the group you are travelling with, which gives you heaps more freedom and flexibility both between and during activities (the snowmobiling session is absolutely off the charts).

Top tips

  • Do it! While the prospect of going on exchange can be a bit daunting with all the doubts about the unknown, the anticipation is often the hardest part. Once you arrive, the activities during orientation week are a good way to meet people and settle into the Uppsala life. This combined with your corridor buddies, early parties and classes make it virtually impossible to not make friends.
  • Don't 'over' travel. During the semester, of course, get away here and there when you have free time, but just remember that some of the most fun you'll have is getting up to all kinds of mischief with your mates in Uppsala.
  • Be Australian. You're a bit of a novelty over there. Remember there's more than one way to drink a beer.
  • Uni towns are fun. The city of Uppsala is based around the university and dominated by students. Life, therefore, is largely oriented around young people. In a bigger city, you are more likely to be drowned out in isolated housing areas with less student interaction.
  • Join the Facebook page 'Flogsta häleri' when you arrive to buy and sell stuff.
Hugo - Uppsala University