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Winter is coming…

Every day that passes sees the sun set at a distinctly earlier time than its predecessor. I have witnessed the beauty of a European summer and as September marches to a close I am beginning to prepare myself for the obsidian abyss that will be the coming winter in Uppsala, Sweden.

Thank Thor (and all the Viking gods) that this little student town has no dearth of activities in which to get involved. The primary means of staving off seasonal depression will no doubt be the “Nations” – an amalgam of an American fraternity and Australian student union. There are 13 different “Nations” which represent the various provinces of Sweden – a system historically designed to provide new students with way of connecting with other, geographically related students. They have since transcended this narrow framework and provide the best way of engaging in the panoply of student sports, arts programs, and fermented yeast appreciation events. It doesn’t hurt that the Nations are expressly written into the Swedish Taxation Legislation, permitting them to sell alcohol at a rate far below the heavily regulated state levels.

I have the benefit of dual-membership, a decision made to exploit the free entry into the Tuesday night (yes, Tuesday night) clubbing scene at ‘Snerikes’ Nation, and the outdoor adventure group found through ‘Norrlands’ Nation. It is through Norrlands that I auditioned, and was welcomed into, the Nation Choir. With Christmas coming (eventually…), being a member of the choir means free access to a variety of events and parties, and liberal quantities of schnapps.

Beyond this, the weekends have been occupied with a series of trips to various cabins set up in the surrounding forests. Uppsala benefits from being placed essentially in the middle of a national park which means 20 minutes on a bike sees any intrepid explorer ensconced in nature. This allows for foraging, and the forest-garden has yielded mushrooms, blueberries, and lignonberries (from which I made a jam).

Double rainbow during the pre-cabin bike ride
Double rainbow during the pre-cabin bike ride

The classes, or class in my case, are straightforward and engaging – favouring the Socratic method to the lecture-delivery often found in Australia. The subject ‘Criminal Law Theory’, which I am taking currently, has provided me with a chance to see a new, philosophical side to the criminal law, one which I am grateful to have.

I have only been in Sweden for approximately a month, but have found the time to be actively involved in several different extracurricular activities while still focussing on my university work. There is no doubt in my mind that the coming few months, irrespective of the winter, are going to be ones to remember for the rest of my life.

Duncan Handel


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