Namira - Uppsala University

Semester 1, 2017
B Commerce / B Law

Academic experience

At Uppsala University, one UQ semester is equivalent to 30 ECTS. The number of courses you take depend on the degree you do abroad. As a law student, I had to do Masters level courses (which are not as intensive as they sound, so do not worry!) that were worth 15 ECTS each. The semester is divided into two periods in which one course is taken. In the first period I took 'Comparative Constitutional Law' and in the second I took 'Comparative Legal History and Contemporary Jurisprudence'.

Compared to UQ, the class sizes are much smaller, relying more on group discussions. As time goes on, your ability to read and identify the relevant discussion topics gets better. The classes are all conducted in English and contain a mix of Swedish and international students. By pure chance, my first course had 10 Australians out of the 16 enrolled, while my second course allowed me to develop some lifelong friendships with Swedes and international students alike!

Personal experience

From the get-go, Uppsala University and its people were so friendly and welcoming. There were so many opportunities to meet people! In our orientation week, we were offered countless programs by the different nations that by the end of the week I had become friends with people from all over the world. Even apart from that, you can meet amazing people, both local and international, in your courses, corridors and Swedish classes (which you should definitely take!). You get to learn the Swedish language (jag talar jättebra Svenska!) and culture.

Not only can you embrace the Swedish lifestyle, Uppsala is such an international university that you get to learn about lifestyles from all around the globe. For instance, I learned that a capsicum is called a pepper in North America and a paprika in Europe. This led to some very confusing times but these memories always ended up being entertaining and educational!

Accommodation

The university lets you have three preferences as to which accommodation you would like to stay in. They give you plenty of information about every living space for you to come to a decision based on what you personally prioritise. For instance, if you want to be close to town then Klostergatan or Rackis may be your cup of tea. However, if I were to recommend one, it would be Flogsta. Although a Swede I met on the first day called it the “ghetto of Uppsala”, it is definitely the most social accommodation of the lot. There are 12 buildings with 7 floors, which contain 2 corridors of 12 people. It has a mix of Swedes and international students. It is also where I met my core group of exchange friends, who came from all over the world (Germany, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, USA – you name it). Together we’d do everything: fika, make dinner, scream our hearts out at 10 pm for the nightly Flogsta Scream (yes, it really happens) or cycle into town together. So while sharing a kitchen with 11 other corridor mates sounds daunting (and sometimes can be), you also get the opportunity to swing by your mate’s place at a moment's notice because they literally live in the building next door. Flogsta is also well known for its corridor parties if that is your sort of thing.

Flogsta was also great on a practical level because it had the best grocery store (ICA Väst) in Uppsala right on its doorstep. You could go into town by bike (takes 10 – 20 min based on your skill level), bus (several lines went through Flogsta frequently til late – namely the 2 and 5) or even by walking (which would take 35 – 40 min).

Budget  

I will reiterate what most people say about Scandinavia – yes, Sweden is expensive compared to other European countries. But it is quite comparable to living in Australia, so your common sense will take you far. At the time I went on exchange 1AUD = approximately 6.5SEK but I divided by 6 to make things easier.

Many people have the misconception that you have to sacrifice extra travelling during your semester abroad. I say nej tack (no thank you) to that! You can definitely plan weekend getaways to other European towns if you plan smart. If you are under 26 you can get much cheaper prices on some flights with SAS (by using SAS Youth), and Norwegian Air (use the code UNDER26). Sometimes it makes a huge difference – I paid half the price of an adult fare for a trip to Riga, Latvia! Furthermore, if you see in your timetable that you have a decent chunk of time free but you aren’t sure where to go, Skyscanner is a great website. You can put in the dates and see which country is the cheapest to fly to! It definitely helped me in choosing destinations, and also led me to towns I wouldn’t have ever contemplated visiting before I came on exchange.

Money can also be saved travelling from Uppsala to the airport. Taking the bus is cheaper than the train and takes about 50 min. Using the UL app (UL is the TransLink of Uppsala) can let you order a bus ticket that lasts for 2 hours from where you live all the way to the Arlanda Airport.

Along with those tips is the usual advice – staying in hostels is always cheaper than hotels, preparing food is better than eating out, etc. But be sure to experience the local cuisine and occasionally treat yourself! For example, eating falafels from the falafel trucks is a must. They’re cheap, filling and oh so tasty (seriously, get one with halloumi).

Professional development and employability 

Going abroad was such an eye-opening experience and helped me strengthen a lot of my employable skills. At first, it may seem nerve-wracking having to put yourself out there, but trust me: almost everyone else is feeling the same pressure as you. There is no harm in starting up a conversation with the person next to you! Doing a semester exchange offers such a vast array of challenging opportunities that you really learn to adapt to new situations and strengthen your communication skills. Not only does it improve your flexibility and communication, it also exposes you to so many new cultures, background and perspectives, teaching you to be more aware and respectful of people’s differences.

Highlight 

It is so difficult to choose a highlight from my semester abroad. Honestly, these 6 months were just a constant stream of new memories, cities and friendships! While I travelled all over Europe during my exchange (managing to visit 12 countries while studying!!), I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Sweden itself. My friends and I did several road trips around Sweden, seeing its lesser-known towns, and of course going up north to Lapland, where we went dogsledding and saw the Northern Lights! The Swedes also have a number of really fun celebrations, including a festival called Valborg and fancy ball-type events called gasques. It was really nice being immersed in Swedish culture surrounded by Swedes!

Top tips

  • Get a bike
  • Join a nation and get involved in the events
  • Norwegian: UNDER26, SAS has youth prices
  • Remember to explore the city/country you are actually living in, not just using it as a home base to travel all over Europe
  • Experience gasques and Swedish celebrations like Valborg!
  • Eat falafel from the falafel trucks (Ramos Falafel is the BEST)
  • Go fika! Have kannelbulle, semla, princess cake
Namira - Uppsala University