Robert - University of Stockholm

B Commerce / B Laws
Semester 1, 2013

Academic experience

In Sweden, each semester is broken into ‘Period A’ and ‘Period B’, each with their own exam times. This means that you may take as few as one subject at a time. Additionally, unlike Australia where most courses are worth the same number of units, in Sweden, courses vary significantly. For a full-time load, I had to take 30 ECTS worth of courses, and I fulfilled this in only two Law subjects (each worth 15 ECTS, and one in each period). This means I only had to worry about one subject at a time. The exams were much longer – 4 or 5 hours – but they were quite easy and you’re welcome to bring in food etc. They are not bad at all, despite what you may initially fear given the duration!

Personal experience

Stockholm is a great city to get outs of different things. Every Thursday night, the Student pub on campus – ‘Bojan Café’ (pronounced “Boy-arn”) goes off and is great fun and great value. For a fancier night out, check out the myriad of hang-outs around Södermalm and Östermalm (two inner-city districts). It is Sweden though, so they can be pricey. Make sure you visit Café Operat out and about and experience lot, Berns and Sturecompagniet at least once. These fancy bars are some of Stockholm’s favourites, but for good reason. Wednesday night is usually student night, and be sure to get on the guest list for free entry (before 10 or 11 pm). 

Make certain you get to a concert or Ice Hockey game at ‘Globen’ – one of Stockholm’s major arenas (and easily the most famous). Go Ice Skating at Kungsträdgården (in the centre of town). Take a free walking tour through the city centre, or the oldest town (‘Gamla Stan’) with a knowledgeable guide (Google ‘Free Tour Stockholm’). Visit Fotografiska, an amazing photography gallery with ever-changing exhibits, the Vasa Museum and the ‘Moderna Museet’. In summer, stroll along the foreshore and have seafood and cider at one of the floating restaurants (expensive, but so worth it).

Accommodation

I lived in ‘Lappis’ (short for Lappkärrsberget – the Swedes abbreviate everything!), a large residential area right next to the Stockholm University main campus (at Frescati). It’s a mere ten minutes walk and you’re in class, or at the Universitetet (“The University”) Tunnelbana (metro) stop. Lappis is an amazing mixed community of Swedes and foreigners. Though a little old, it’s widely regarded as the best place to live as a student in Stockholm. The SU Housing Office publically states that placement is random, but an emailed request to live in Lappis won’t hurt.

Budget

For living on a budget, set up your room with IKEA products (surprise surprise!). For groceries, the really cheap option is ‘Lidl’ which has pretty much everything, but very little choice – ie: there is one brand for each type of product. Visit ‘Hemköp’ or ‘ICA’ for marginally higher prices, but a much better selection and better produce. The Hemköp at ‘Mörby centrum’ is huge and convenient to the University.

Highlight

Your newfound Europeans will find it amusing how convenient, and close, you think all these wonderful European destinations are. Make the most of it. I visited Ireland for St Patrick’s Day, France for a game of Rugby, Norway for a road trip and camping holiday, and took a cruise to Estonia, Russia and Finland (to name a few). Make the most of the cheap airfares. Ryanair and other budget carriers are fine, but often more inconvenient. For not much more (especially when you add the cost of transport to the regional airports that the budget carriers use), you can fly full-service airlines like SAS and Norwegian Air. They’re great and in my mind, well worth the extra few dollars. For SAS, be sure to book Youth Fares – they will save you a lot.

That said, if you’re living in Sweden, make the most of your time in that country too! Your local transport card (‘SL Card’) will take you a LONG way. Instead of paying per-trip, the card lets you make unlimited use of the extensive Stockholm transit network for a given period. Take day trips to places like ‘Björnö Naturreservat’ (Björnö Nature Reserve) or ‘Nynäshamn’ and explore the area. Buy cheap camping gear from Clas Ohlson, hire some kayaks and go camping on a deserted island of the Stockholm archipelago, or go camping and swimming at Lake Erken. Make the most of Sweden’s natural beauty (and the liberal laws that allow you to camp on private property!).

Of course, make sure you visit the icy wonderland in the far north that is Lappland. You could travel with ‘Scanbalt’, a student tours company, but their tours are bad value and rushed. Take a little time to organise your own. You’ll save money and have more fun. We flew SAS to Kiruna and hired a house at ‘Camp Alta’. The hosts at Camp Alta also help organise all your activities and are lovely people.

Top tips

  • Create a Facebook group as soon as you meet some other exchangers you might, possibly, maybe become friends with. You will relish and be thankful for the ease of communication and collaboration it supplies. Our group saw posts ranging from ‘Who wants to go to the shops this afternoon?’ to ‘Who wants to go on this international trip for $80 with me next week?’ and was the very best way to keep in touch. I was very lucky to have a fantastic, diverse and very close-knit group of friends in Sweden and the Facebook group’s facilitation of our adventures was crucial in that. I can’t make this recommendation more strongly! You must do it.
  • When you first arrive at Stockholm Arlanda airport, don’t be conned into paying for the ‘Arlanda Express’ – the express train into the city. For half the price, take the bus. Flygbussarna (departures every 10 mins; 45-minute journey) and Swebus (every 30 mins; 30-minute journey) are convenient, reliable, cheap and drop you in the very centre of town. There is also a way to get to/from the airport using only your SL card (via Märsta Station), but wait until you’re well versed in the local public transport before you try that!
  • Get a 28 Degrees credit card (before you leave). It was a fantastic and easy way to pay for absolutely everything with zero fees for international transactions, and even ATM withdrawals (when you maintain a positive balance).
  • Wait until O-Week to set up your phone with a sim card. You will almost certainly be given a free one by a company called ‘Comviq’. If you’re not, still go with Comviq anyway – they’re the best value. Their ‘Kompis 70 Surf’ recharge is the best deal they offer for prepaid if you want both data and calls/texts.
  • For winter, get some woollen inserts for your shoes. They’re crucial. Also, make sure your shoes have good grip for the snow and ice!
  • You don’t need to carry your passport for ID. Your Australian Driver’s Licence will always be sufficient (I never needed my Passport for ID in Sweden – not once).
Robert - University of Stockholm