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Uppsala is more than just a cathedral

Insert mandatory, cliche photo of Uppsala Domkyrkan here.
Insert mandatory, cliche photo of Uppsala Domkyrkan here.

The environment is very friendly and welcoming to foreign students, and the majority of people speak English. If learning some Swedish is your goal, everyone assumes at the beginning of a conversation that you speak Swedish, so until they hear you struggling or you ask for English, you get to muddle through a conversation at your leisure.

University life is a little bit different. Courses are taken usually linearly and not simultaneously, so in one semester you will still do four courses, but you will usually take them consecutively, with an exam or other assessment task due four weeks after beginning the course.

Uppsala University also has a thing called “student nations”. They are basically student-run organisations all around the city centre that own several buildings and provide student services. Membership of one of these nations is mandatory (technically not but you gain nothing from not joining) and the membership card acts as your university identification.

Where I live in Sunnersta.
Where I live in Sunnersta.

I joined the Norrlands nation and spend quite a lot of time in their cafe and pub. Pub is members only and serves cheaper drinks than other pubs as it’s subsidised by members. Expect to pay Sydney prices for your pint as taxes on alcohol are extremely high here. Contrary to popular belief however, alcohol bought from the Systembolaget (Sweden’s state-owned alcohol monopoly) are on par with Australian prices, with some even being a little bit cheaper.

Several of the nations own clubs as well. Been to a couple of nights. Quite fun, even for someone who isn’t that much of a partygoer.

If you come to Sweden for less than 12 months, you will not receive a “personnummer”, which makes life a bit more difficult. Opening a bank account can be painful, and eventually when you get one, they will not give you internet banking nor a visa or mastercard. The debit card you receive will not work for online transactions. This became a problem as my Australian cards were rejected for paying my rent, so now I have to pay rent by going to the bank and doing a bank transfer, which also costs money on top of the bill… fun times.

Intense February sunset.
Intense February sunset.

If you’re one of the lucky people who happens to get ill in Sweden (I got pneumonia on my fourth day!), it can be a bit stressful. Quite a few doctors have no idea how to help you, and if you don’t have a personnummer, they can struggle to even see you as a human.

Australia has a treaty with Sweden where our medicare card is valid for public healthcare here when you have acute issues such as illness that are more appropriately treated in the current country of residence. Pointing this out is usually enough to get the help you need.

Sweden is just great. It is the simplest things that will have you saying “why don’t we have that?” like LED signs on busses informing you of the next stop so you don’t miss it.

You also might end up crying once you realise that the free wifi in cafes in Sweden is faster than the Internet you’re ever likely to get at home in Australia.

You can also ride a bike to almost anywhere, with elaborate tracks that go all around Uppsala. If you live within the city, it’s very convenient (I live in Sunnersta which is a 20 minute bus ride so less convenient). If you have to get a bus, it’s about $70 per month for unlimited rides for a student.

Yes, this is Swedish bacon, your new staple diet.
Yes, this is Swedish bacon, your new staple diet.

Stockholm is only about 40 minutes by train, and it’s a beautiful city. Large, sandstone buildings everywhere, with rivers throughout the city and cobblestone streets everywhere.

I would highly recommend going on exchange to Uppsala. It is like nothing else you will experience.

Oh, and time flies when you fika.

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