Highlights From My First Month: Part One

Note: I am only using names of people I have permission from and public figures. I’ll use other means of identifying the rest.

19 augusti 2015

The day I departed on my Swedish adventure! It was a bit weird how casual the whole thing was: I got to the airport with my family, checked my bags, went through security,and then waited for my flight to board. I flew IcelandAir, which was really comfortable and had great service. During this first flight, I saw a gorgeous view of the coast of Greenland.

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20 augusti 2015

My second flight from my stopover in Reykjavik was also nice, but a lot shorter. I sat with an older couple who I had actually been talking to at Keflavik by chance. When we got to Stockholm, I made my way to the baggage area and met up with my Buddy in the terminal where we waited for the Welcome Desk to be set up. As an exchange student of Uppsala University, you have the opportunity to request a Buddy, who functions as a guide and perhaps a person to hang out with during your time there. I was surprised that there was no stop for customs when I got off the plane; very strange. I did, however, have to do that in Iceland. Anyway, once the welcome people arrived, I got a shuttle to Uppsala’s Ostgöta Nation where students were picking up their welcome packages and keys. A nation is a sort of student organization, but it really is more than that. There are thirteen altogether and they each hold events, pubs, and clubs.  Each has a certain vibe which you eventually figure out fits you best. Even so, students have access to all the nations with their nation card; as part of a nation, you can get discounts and other special offers. Overall, these nations are meant to be a place to meet people and have fun, and there’s almost always something to do there.  

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At my accommodation, I found out my access card didn’t work; so a guy who works for the housing office had to let me into my apartment. It would take me a few days to get a new card, but luckily one of my flatmates arrived and lent me her extra one.

My room at Rackarbergsgatan is really nice. Here are some photos of it from when I first arrived:

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I unpacked and later met my buddy for fika. Fika is when you meet with people to have coffee, tea, and usually some sort of pastry. It’s a chance to socialize, whether planned or spontaneous. There are even fika breaks during classes and organized activities like choir. It’s a huge part of Swedish culture.

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After our fika we walked around the city a bit while my buddy pointed out interesting and helpful spots for visiting students. We later convened for dinner at another nation, Värmlands. One of my Buddy’s other Newbies (that’s what we’re called) stopped by to join us, and then we were joined by some more of his friends. Even on my first night, I met a whole bunch of people! After dinner, we went to another nation (this nation-hopping happens a lot) called Uplands and had drinks in their Biergarten.

21 augusti 2015

I threw myself into the city to “get lost” and explore. There are so many great sites here and the people are super nice. I’m glad I did this because it gave me a chance to interact with the city on my own and get a feel for it.  Doing that also made it easier for me to learn how to get around; the more time I spend in it, the more I know. Fortunately, Uppsala is a very safe place to do this (so don’t worry, Mom and Dad). Still, it’s best to keep your wits about you and just be sure to carry around a map; luckily the welcome package gave me a bunch.

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I also had a purpose for going out into the city: I had to load up my Telia phone card (this was before I realized I could do it online) and buy a bus card (at ICA — the main supermarket chain here).

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22 augusti 2015

Jess, the first person I had met on an Uppsala Facebook group (we have the same residential building), and I went on a tour of some historical spots in Uppsala. Our tour guide, Mikael Norrby, was funny and clever; he led us through places such as Domkyrkan, which is the cathedral that  basically functions as the North Star of this city (Fun fact: A student of Uppsala University can request that the bells of the cathedral be rung for their funeral. I think I’ll take them up on that offer….but about 70-80 years from now); and the Gustavianum, which used to be the old Main University Building, but is now a museum. Here are some photos from that tour:
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That evening we saw a show about the history of Uppsala in the square (between the cathedral and museum). It was all in Swedish, but I could understand a bit (I have already studied Swedish for two years at my home university). Even without understanding the language, you could pretty much understand what was happening. The actors were dramatic and hilarious, so the show was a lot of fun.

Just one thing: Knowing the language has been really helpful. You can definitely get away with only knowing English here bcause Swedes know it really well, BUT I’ve definitely been better off being able to understand and use it; mainly because most things you have to read are in Swedish (food labels, signs, etc.). Just something to keep in mind. Most of my international friends here are taking the Basic Swedish course to learn some Swedish, so that’s another option.

23 augusti 2015

I spent this day going around the places we visited during the tour again to get a better look and spend more time at each. I used my first public toilet here where I had to pay. Yes, you have to pay to use some public toilets; here they cost 5kr and in Stockholm 10kr. Speaking of toilets, you’ll notice here that the stalls are much different from American ones (if you are familiar with American restrooms). They are usually completely enclosed rooms the size of stalls and almost always have a sink in there. I know that was a weird section there, but this information could be useful!

That night Jess invited me to a lawn barbeque in our area, where I met a bunch of people, some of whom I would end up spending most of my time with in the coming weeks: María (Spain), Anabel (Spain), Mpume (South Africa), Ismail (Morocco), and EJ (South Africa).

24 augusti 2015

I went with my new friends to another barbeque nearby where there were a lot more people. It was a great social event; organized by the University Welcome Week. We left the barbeque at some point and started checking out nations; first Snerikes (too quiet), then stayed at Gotlands for awhile and met some more people; we later moved on to Kalmars, but it was soo crowded and loud, so we ended up at Uplands Biergarten again.

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25 augusti 2015

I had my appointment at Migrationsverket to get my residence permit. It was a pretty quick process, but a word of advice: make sure you are aware of when they are taking your ID photo.

I also visited Ikea for the first time (well, I’ve been once back home). The top floor is all set up to look like rooms of houses; so, that’s fun. Downstairs is where you can find more products to buy. I got a duvet cover and curtains. Word to the wise: if you’re going through the self checkout, you can only use a debit or credit card, not cash.

A group of us met at Smålands nation for an info. session/fika, where I met a girl who had lived in my university’s neighbouring city for fifteen years before moving to Japan. What are the chances!

We moved onto a tour with Norrlands nation; this was more of an outdoor tour where we went to some similar spots as the other one and a few more including the castle.

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The guys who led the tour also had more student insight for us, which was helpful. On this tour, I met someone who I would also become close friends with: Hannah (Germany).

*I don’t think I’ve mentioned this up till now, but it was shockingly hot this first month. Don’t be fooled, it’s not as cold as warned during this time. I mean, I still find myself outside with just jeans and a t-shirt. So, I suggest you bring clothes you’re comfortable in for warmer weather (if you arrive around the same time I did).

26 augusti 2015

This was the day of the International Fair! At the fair, there were tables all around the ground floor of the University Main Building. We got some really helpful information and copious amounts of papers describing resources and activities for students. The most popular tables were those for the nations, where students could find out more about what the nations offered them as members. Some of my friends and I bought our International Gasque tickets. A gasque is a formal, traditional dinner and dance. The nations also host some over the course of the school year.  After we went for lunch, my friends and I returned to the UMB for the Welcoming Ceremony. During the ceremony, hosted by Mikael Norrby (yes, the tour guide), we heard from the Vice Chancellor Eva Åkesson, the county governor, and student union leaders. In between these speeches, there were also musical performances from university and nation orchestras, bands, and choirs; very entertaining.

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After the ceremony, we were invited for fika at the student union where we met some more people, including a German-American guy (it’s neverending, but wonderful all the same). We moved onto Kalmars nation where they were hosting a Swedish food night. I got  Swedish veggie balls (instead of the classic meatballs) with the gräddsås (a brown sauce), potatoes, lingonberry jam, and salad. Could it get any more Swedish? Or delicious? Really, it was super good.

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At this dinner, I met a student from Mexico who would later join us for more outings. Following the dinner, we made our way to Norrlands for a “Swedish Crash Course”. I knew a lot of what they presented, but also learned some other fun stuff. They even showed one of my favourite youtube videos called “what do you think about Swedish People, Swedish Culture?” (you can easily find it on Youtube). After that, we followed the crowd up to Norrlands club.

27 augusti 2015

I did my laundry here for the first time on this Thursday. I figured out the booking system, but was a bit confused when it came to the machines. Luckily, there was another student there doing her laundry and she showed me the ropes. Once I had successfully washed and dryed my clothing, I walked to the Ekonomikum to meet others for some games organized by Norrlands nation. There was brännboll and kubb; I went with the brännboll. Brännboll is very similar to baseball, but in my opinion way more fun. Basically you serve the ball to yourself and try to hit it and get around as many bases as you can, but if the ball gets back to the “burner” before you make it to a base, you have to go back to first. Multiple players can be at one base and the goal is to get as many runs as you can. Each team spends two periods (twelve minutes/period) in both the infield and outfield; so the game is about forty-eight minutes. The clock doesn’t stop, either. It was just really fun and nobody took themselves too seriously as athletes.

After the game, I met up with Hannah and the German-American guy to relax under a tree. We stayed there long after the others left, just talking; it was nice. When the weather got a bit too gloomy for us, we went back to my place to dry off and hang out with Jess in my kitchen. We made plans to go to Göteborgs nation for a karaoke night. Now let me tell you, that was something to behold. It was more a sing-along than karaoke because the crowd, including myself, got way into the music.We couldn’t care less that we were practically on top of each other in the small pub; it was just two hours of pure entertainment.

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