The six months I was able to spend at Lund University was a truly incredible time. Definitely coming with its highs and lows but nevertheless, I would relive it in a heartbeat if I had the chance. The video shows just a few snippets of the year.
Things I would do again:
Make the most of ESN- amazing opportunities and trips/activities both nationally and internationally. Organised for you. Decently priced. Great way to meet people.
Join all the mentor groups at the beginning of the year- great way to meet people and keeps you busy at the beginning (you also don’t have to go to every event there is).
Join a nation
Join Skåne netball team- this meant I was meeting new people who were not just students. Also did some tournaments which was fun as I had not really played netball that competitively before. Simultaneously, it was also a chilled and relaxed atmosphere where you could take it as seriously as you wanted to
Things I would do differently:
Travel more within Sweden
Choose different module choices for the first semester as I enjoyed my second semester modules far more and did better in them
Start looking for housing earlier than I did, I think in hindsight I would start looking for housing before even getting a place at Lund as you can always cancel it if something better comes up and then you have got some certainty and your own space for when you first arrive
Somewhat linking to the last one, I would do my best to try and live within Lund, when I moved into Lund from Åkarp, I could really see the ease of being in the city and being able to cycle pretty much anywhere in 10 minutes compared to having to catch a train or bus
The proximity of Uppsala to Stockholm on train is an unparalleled advantage of this student city and should make Uppsala a strong candidate for any prospective exchange student.
To get to Stockholm, visitors have the choice to take either the high-speed direct SJ intercity train, or the slower commuter pendeltåg train which has more stops. In spite of the difference in time, both trains leave Uppsala regulary and arrive at Stockholm central station within an hour and cost around 85 SEK (£7).
Whilst the cost and duration of the journey pose no problem to the foreign passenger, navigating the complexities of Sweden’s code of conduct is an ever-present worry. Whilst in the UK conductors generally turn a blind eye to passengers using their ticket for a missed train, in Sweden you would be fortunate not to be thrown off the train for this misdeed. The uncompromising conductor is a Swedish staple, one which the British eye should simultaneously hold in esteem and be wary of, like the Swede’s flat-packed furniture.
The overzealous train conductors are in keeping with Swedish transport’s ruthless efficiency and punctuality. Neither train nor bus has been delayed or cancelled during my time here, a reflection of the success of Sweden’s nationalisation programme. Though double-decker carriages and well-kept schedules are certainly not ubiquitous across the country, especially in the northern territory.
Stockholm puts up the pretence of a European capital. The grandiose architecture, such as the Royal Palace (Kungliga Slott), Parliament (Rikstag) and Cathedral (Storkyrken) fosters an atmosphere of stateliness expected in continental capitals. The extensive network of buses and underground trains (115 SEK for a day pass) enables quick and easy transport across the city. And the diverse districts, from the cobbled old town of Gamla Stan to the vibrant bohemian streets of Södermalm, are synonymous with Ile Saint Louis and Le Quartier Latin in Paris.
However, Stockholm deviates from the norm in several ways. Structurally, Stockholm is different because the city stretches across fourteen islands connected by fifty bridges on the Lake Mälaren which flows out to the Baltic Sea. The waterways between the islands comprise 30% of the city, and another 30% of the city is parks and green spaces. Tourists are invited to oversee the reddish, ecclesiatical skyline from the 155-metre-high Kaknäs TV Tower or one of the many viewing platforms across the city.
Demographically, Stockholm is less crowded than many European counterparts with a population of around 900,000 in the city and 1.95 million in the surrounding area. The relatively smaller populace is noticeable around the city making sight-seeing feel less like a touristic venture.
Talking of sight-seeing, the capital plays host to a smorgasbord of cultural, recreational and artistic pursuits. Although Stockholm boasts an underground and offers ferries between Islands, I would recommend walking or using one of the app-controlled electric scooters abundant throughout the centre.
Gamla stan is a maze of tourist shops, boutiques and fine-dining. Built in 1646, the Royal Palace is prominent amongst the colourful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and is often a-buzz with the palace guard. Nestled beneath the cobbled streets in this district are pirate and Viking themed bars which are worthy of a visit despite the pricey menus. Indeed, a round of drinks at one of these venues cost upwards of £30!
Södermalm is another district deserving of your time. This formerly working-class quarter plays the part of a chic and youthful part of town. Here there are many vintage shops, cafes and bars.
Perhaps the most enticing element of Stockholm is the abundance of cultural activities. There are many free museums across the city. Alongside others, the National Museum, the Modern Art Gallery and the Swedish History Museum are three which should not be missed.
Even those museums with a price tag attached are often discounted for students. The Fotografika (photography museum) is a personal favourite. It hosts regular and interesting exhibitions from Swedish and international photographers.
Stockholm is also the home of Greta Thunberg and the origin of the Fridays for Future movement. One of which I was caught in the midst of one afternoon.
Though Stockholm is smaller than its European counterparts, it certainly cannot be conquered in a day. I hope my recommendations will serve as a useful starting point for anyone who wants to get acquainted with ‘the city that floats on water’.
Over the course of your time at Lund there will be many opportunities that I would recommend making the absolute most of. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus I was unable to experience some of these, but they are amongst events that ‘make’ people’s time in Lund. These include white-tie balls, tandem (where students cycle from Gothenburg to Lund on a tandem bike whilst people follow along on a party bus) and Kvalborg (a weekend in late April/early May where the beginning of summer is celebrated where everyone is in the city’s parks together)
ESN stands for the Erasmus Student Network. This is an organisation who run trips and activities for students across Erasmus universities. You don’t have to be on an Erasmus exchange to make use of the organisation. They run activities such as yoga, sittnings, pub crawls, games nights, local hikes and trips to national parks, in addition to trips abroad. During my time at Lund, ESN had trips to Lapland (both Finnish and Swedish), the Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, a cruise to Helsinki, St Petersburg and Tallinn. I believe the variety of trips can change but these are the types that can happen. I personally went to many of their events, as pictured below.
A major part of student life at Lund University is the student nations. This part of the university is run by students for students. There are 13 student nations at Lund which are dotted about the city. The nations are a really good way of getting involved and meeting people. When you join a nation, there are novisch weeks where you often get a mentor group who you prep for the week’s events with. Also, if you decide to work for a nation, which many people do, you can meet lots of people like this. The nations host a range of events also, such as yoga G&T, pizza nights, film nights, Mario kart nights in addition to pubs and clubs.
As an international novisch student, you will have the opportunity to be a part of a variety of mentor groups. These include the international mentor groups, facility-specific mentor groups as well as the nation mentor groups. I would say these are a very good way to meet people and keep yourself busy for the first few weeks at least. Even if you do not go to all of the events that are available to you, it is good to know they are there. The mentor groups often do a range of activities such as going to the beach, sittnings, tours of the city amongst many others as a way to ensure everyone and anyone can be involved.
As Covid-19 rolled ominously across Asia and into the West, initially causing a deluge of cases in Italy, eventually the cloud burst over everyone. The distant, fluffy, cumulus cloud metastasized into an irksome storm cloud which proved to be the ultimate rain check for everyone on placement.
We first heard about the coronavirus shortly after arriving in Sweden in January. We heard distant reports of a new illness affecting East Asia, like the lockdown of Wuhan and the quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan. Though saddening news for those impacted, such stories made the threat of coronavirus seem distant and almost unimportant from our perspective, like a small white cumulus cloud in a sky of bedazzling blue.
Yet as Covid-19 rolled ominously across Asia and into the West, initially causing a deluge of cases in Italy, eventually the cloud burst over everyone. The distant, fluffy, cumulus cloud metastasized into an irksome storm cloud which proved to be the ultimate rain check for everyone on placement.
What was to be begin with a trickle of stories concerning the spread of the virus became a monsoon of messages from parents, university staff and government urging for the repatriation of international students.
What were drips and drabs became a torrent of international students fleeing Sweden. They left for different reasons, for some it was the demand of their home institutions, for others it was the fear being stranded. But, one by one, students left and dutifully echoed the mantra of ‘get out whilst you still can’ to those who chose to remain.
But returning home doesn’t shrug off the shadow of coronavirus, does it?
Indeed, for many international students returning home was a step into the eye of the storm. Some countries have more cases of coronavirus and more stringent measures to enforce social distancing. Whereas Sweden is something of a pariah among the international community when it comes to Covid-19 responses. It only recently prohibited social gatherings of fifty or more and schools, shops, club and pubs remain open for business.
Nevertheless, the gaping hole left by fleeing students is irreparable. The remaining months for those remaining will be uncertain and possibly lonely. And I ,writing from a UK under lockdown, cannot help but reminisce back to brighter times.
Through the rose-tinted glasses I see through when looking back on my time abroad, one memory which stands out is my time in Lapland in late February, when coronavirus was but a dot on the horizon.
I arranged to go with three other Brits (Ben, Kirsten and Emily) through a tourist company called TimeTravels who produce an attractive itinerary of activities quintessential to Lapland. Though each of our experiences in their own way deserves a separate post, I will attempt to condense my experiences to the what I think is essential, whilst paying lip-service to the truth.
The trip began at the end of a hum-drum day in Uppsala. We met our group with whom we’d be spending the next week alongside and waited to be collected by coach to embark on the 19-hour bus journey to the Arctic Circle.
Our journey was punctuated by occasional outbursts from the group leader, Nico, an exuberant employee of TimeTravels who’s passion for adventure and lust for knowledge shone out of him like sunbeams.
He and the satisfaction of seeing the coach thermometre inch incrementally lower from 5°c to -20°c throughout the night made the time pass a little easier.
In the afternoon, the next day, we arrived at our accommodation, a ski-resort which, judging from the bustle activity that greeted us, was yet to be opened. Snow ploughs and staff shovelled snow frantically to clear paths from an astronomical amount of snow that had fallen during closed season. One employee told us that the region had experienced 3m of snow since January.
The next four days flew by. In fear of sounding repetitive, I’ll provide some photos with captions rather than exhausting descritptions.
Of all of the experiences making up this trip, only one deserves a proper description. That is our sighting of the Northern Lights. Thanks to an app, we could track the movement and visibility of the lights throughout the trip. And on one fateful night, the clouds parted.
Faint at first, from a snowy perch outside our bedrooms, we saw them stretching across the sky. They moved constantly due to solar winds which blew the charged particles and created a rippling effect.
Yet, to call it a visual experience fails to convey the experience authentically. The tendrils of an illuminous lime-light unfurling before us in the sky transcended beauty and produced simultaneous feelings of awe and cosmic insignificance. It was what Kant, Hulme and Burke would compare to the sublime. And what the Sámi People would describe as the dancing souls of ancestors.
Both interpretations touch on a feeling that we were invited to witness something ineffable, that cannot be put into language, and that inability to describe represents our impotence in nature. It is the same feeling one gets from being stranded in the middle of the ocean with mountainous waves crashing against the side of a ship. A demonstration of the power and beauty of nature and reminder of how small we are.
What will we see when the coronavirus cloud parts?
Not too long ago, I heard a rumour about an Ethiopian restaurant run from a bedroom somewhere amongst the brutalist blocks in Flogsta. Though I was told so little about it that it seemed mythical and even absurd. How could someone possibly do that? Where would they sleep? Is it profitable?
Not too long ago, I heard a rumour about an Ethiopian restaurant run from a bedroom somewhere amongst the brutalist blocks in Flogsta, Uppsala, where I’m living this semester. Though I was told so little, the prospect seemed mythical and even absurd. How could someone possibly do that? I thought. Where would they sleep? Is it profitable?
My mind raced and I struggled to believe it. Perhaps it was an urban myth made up to taunt international students with the promise of a cuisine that had more to offer than picked herrings and meatballs. Nonetheless, when I caught wind of the rumour I was struck by insatiable curiosity and felt compelled to find out the truth.
Over the next few days, after asking the same questions many times, I found out that there was indeed a restaurant run from the comfort of a bedroom. However, the discovery of this fact was only half the battle if I were to eat there.
Making a reservation was a tricky business but eventually, through a friend of a friend, I managed to obtain the name and phone number of the restaurant. Perhaps this was due to the dubious legality of the set-up, the restaurant is not well advertised except for an obscure Facebook page which provides only a mobile number. Nevertheless, I called it to make a reservation for my flatmate Marie and me with the hope about finding out more about the identity of our host.
A man’s voice answered, he spoke quickly and abruptly as if he had been interrupted from doing something more important and curtly told me than now wasn’t a good time. Over a subsequent SMS exchange, he asked two questions; what time we’d would like to book and how spicy we’d like our food. Though the only nugget of information I gleamed from this interaction was that the food would have some level of spiciness, I was glad that my fantasy was fast becoming a reality.
With a ravenous curiosity and even deeper appetite, we approached the restaurant. As we neared, my apprehension for what we would find grew. A torrent of questions bombarded me. What sort of man would do this? Is he mentally okay? Why would I willingly go to a restaurant so ostensibly lacking food and hygiene regulations?!
It now dawned on me that my appetite for adventure had dampened my much more rational fear of the unknown. Such questions stewed in the back of my mind as we walked down a corridor that was so familiar to my own flat yet distorted unrecognisably by the potential danger that awaited us.
Even being a Hotelier at the Hotel for the Unexpected would not have prepared anyone for what awaited us behind his door. Could you imagine? What if someone had done this in Owens Park tower?
The restaurant, geometrically identical to mine and every other in Flogsta yet different in every other imaginable way, was dimly lit by single lamp nestled in the corner. Its light illuminated everything, from bookcases brimming with beer bottles to shelves stacked with CDs, vinyl’s and vintage magazines. In this archive of antiquities, lit up by a ghostly white light, stood our host, a man on the right side of 70 dressed entirely in khaki beachwear with a crop of greyish pink hair in a bun.
He was everything you’d expect and everything I deserved. He was old, Swedish and vivacious. After a short round of pleasantries, in which he refused to shake our hands and we admired his vast collection of collectibles, he spoke a little about himself. Though he never mentioned his name.
It turns out that he belonged to a group of residents who privately rented before the University bought out several blocks for student lettings. So, since 1989, he has lived here. Whilst Flogsta is little more than a half-way-house on the way to a career, mortgage and a family for most students for him it is, and has always been, a home.
It had also been, for a shorter time, an Ethiopian restaurant. Evidently, his room served as both the front-of-house and the kitchen. Amongst his collection of nostalgic knick-knacks were hotplates, saucepans and four hurriedly arranged chairs where Marie and I made ourselves comfortable.
When asked what drew him to Ethiopian food, rather than a cuisine a little closer to home, he was unapologetic about his distaste for European food. What he disliked particularly about it was the absence of spice, a crucial ingredient which he used in spades in his restaurant.
He described his introduction to spice as a sort of religious awakening. Whilst hitch-hiking in the Scottish Highlands around the time Kraftwerk’s first album came out, he stumbled upon an Indian restaurant which served him a simple vindaloo which converted him to a new cuisine. I know a lot of people re-evaluate life after eating this dish. But who knew a vindaloo could transform a worldview?
It transpired that his love for Ethiopian food came from a flatmate from 25 years ago who had taught him the recipe for injeras, a kind of sourdough-risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture, traditionally made out of teff flour. It was her recipe he’d been perfecting all these years, testing on the new batches of students who heard about him, through friends of friends. A legacy which Marie and I were to become a part of.
Alongside the national dish of Ethiopia he served spiced spinach and an ambiguous-looking meat sauce. Everything was laden with a smorgasbord of spices which overwhelmed every other flavour the dish had to offer. It is only now looking back that I question if he deliberately disguised the flavours…
But reflecting on my experience, I realise that what we ate is irrelevant. He wasn’t selling dishes, but rather himself. I had gone there to satiate a curiosity about a rumour, to find out about the man behind the myth. Not to be wined and dined in a Michelin star establishment. And to that end, my appetite for adventure was gone.
Reflecting on my time in Sweden after half a year back in the UK, I can notice a few differences between the two. Some are obvious, and some are far more subtle.
The first thing that I found strange when going about my day to day back in the UK was the language difference. This may seem obvious, but I had got used to either zoning out among a background chatter of Swedish, or tuning in to try and passively learn a few words. The difference on public transport or in a busy space is quite clear when you are forced to listen to everyone’s conversation!
The more welcome changes included the usual home comforts, firstly, of course, a very welcome decrease in the price of a beer! However although I loved to moan about the fierce cold in Sweden, I find myself missing those dry, crisp freezing mornings when cycling into uni through soggy, grey Manchester. It is always nice to reacquaint with old friends, however I do miss the vibrant diversity of my multinational friendship group in Sweden, and try to stay in touch as much as I can.
A notable change in workload has welcomed me back to final year university life, making me very glad I was able to enjoy a much less challenging year before stepping into the fire. One of the best things to come out of this was the time to reflect and formulate ideas for my dissertation. I am writing this on an urban development in Copenhagen, and living in close proximity for a whole year gave me the chance to visit and learn more about it, making final year a lot less stressful. I also get to tell myself that through visiting Copenhagen vicariously every day, I never really left!
The Holmene urban island development – the focus of my dissertation. ( I wish I was on this island in Copenhagen rather than in the library! )
To summarise and finalise this blog, the year abroad experience was not only a great thing during my stay in Sweden, it also continues to offer more to my life as I reflect on my academic and personal life back in the UK. I would urge anyone reading this, or considering the Erasmus programme to go for it! Before it’s too late!
In my first week here, a pair of Swedish students gave the University of Uppsala a glowing endorsement. They told me that Uppsala, with 40,000 strong student population, was a University ‘run by students, for students’
In my first week here, a pair of Swedish students gave the University of Uppsala a glowing endorsement. They told me that Uppsala, with 40,000 strong student population, was a University ‘run by students, for students’.
After an agonising process of scrutinising this claim, I must say, begrudgingly, it would be misleading to characterise the Univerity of Uppsala as anything other than a sort of student-utopia with the phrase ‘run by students, for students’ it’s unofficial motto.
In this University town, that is close enough to Stockholm to visit at the drop of a hat, it is clear to me that the student always comes first. In the two subsections that follow I will show how when it comes to student-wellbeing Sweden has got it right.
The postulations of the snus-taking Swedes have particular resonance when it comes to Uppsala’s social life.
In place of having societies, Uppsala University has student-run nations instead which, in exchange for a small fee, offer an eclectic range of sporting, musical and artistic pursuits. The nations are different sizes, from the towering and impersonal Stockholms nation and Västmanlands-Dala nation to the smaller yet friendlier Kalmar nation of which I’m a member. Although students stopped being required by law to join a nation in 2010, joining a nation offers myriad benefits. Not least, day-to-day entrance to nation bars, cafes and restaurants which are heavily discounted and weekly club nights. Being a member of a nation grants access to any nation-run activity across campus and allows international students to participate in the fabled Gasques which are traditional dinner parties culminating in Swedish hymns and dances.
Though the nations were created as homes-away-from-home for students coming from different parts of Sweden historically, their exclusivity has broken down with age. Now they have become a quintessential part of Swedish university culture which attracts thousands of international students each year. Indeed, students breathe the life and soul into the nation’s by working as part of the administrative or catering team where they can accrue points which can be used to apply for free residence at the nations. Though work at the nations is usually on a volunteer basis, consistent contritution to the nation opens the door for student to friendships and housing opportunities in their final year.
Naturally, the larger nations offer a greater range of events job opportunities and scholarship prospects as the recipients of most funding, nonetheless for the home-sick mancunian, the smaller ‘alternative’ nations have the most to offer in the way of concerts, jazz-nights and music sharing meet-ups.
As you’d expect the club nights in a small Swedish city are a far-cry from the broad palate offered in Manchester, most of the nation’s club nights feature the same dance-floor filling tracks you’d expect to hear on Capital FM. Nonethless, there is a indefinable charm to the way students flock to the clubs, in freezing cold or blistering wind, on any day of the week when they’d probably have a much more enjoyable time listening to the radio at home. Perhaps, it is the student-run ethos of the club nights which inspires students to come out in droves?
More likely still is the fact that club nights end by 2am and pre-drinking is an inconvenient and costly business in Sweden. Indeed, any alcohol over 3.5% can only be bought from Systembolaget, a government-owned chain of liquor stores which close at 8pm weekdays and have limited hours over the weekend. But, ultimately, this is a minor inconvenience and can be overcome by simple foresight.
Student accomodation in Uppsala adds another dimension to the social life at the finger tips of students. By far the largest and most popular student area is Flogsta, a suburb that is the same distance from campus as Fallowfield is from the SU. The complex itself is a thriving community of students who live in twelve person flats in seven storey blocks. Though aesthetically they are strikingly similar to Owens Park Tower, these flats are all self-catered, come equipped with an ensuite and cost a little over 4300 SEK (£327) a month with heating included. The fact that these flats are not owned outright by the University means that the building-complex also plays host to families who rent privately from the landlord.
The international presence in Flogsta is overwhelming and each flat is a petri-dish of cultures and nationalities. In my own, there are undergrads and postgrads from Mozambique, Germany and Japan to name a few. The heterogeneity of the accomodation offers the opportunity to educate yourself about the different cultures, try different cuisines and make contacts all over the globe.
The mix of cultures, absence of any security presence and size of the student population creates wild possibilities which I hope to go into greater detail about in later posts. But, perhaps the most apt example of the solidarity and freedom of expression found in Uppsala is the Flogsta scream, everyday at 10pm students in the Flogsta flats join in arms to scream from their windows and balconies to allieviate the pressure of academic life, which, conveniently, I will discuss now.
Freedom is as much of a factor in the academic arena as it is in the social arena of Uppsala University. Each department is devolved and has complete control over its syllabus. The autonomy of departments extends to the architectural design of the university, with each department having its own building with cafes, libraries and study spaces for students. Last year, 29% of the University’s profits of $75 million USD were reinvested into the improvement of undergrad and postgrad courses taught in each department. Clearly, the upkeep of the academic environment is high up on the university’s list of priorities.
For Humanities, Arts and Languages, the course structure is vastly different from Manchester. As oppose to studying three modules per semester, students undertake generally a module each month or two comprising 7.5 or 15 credits. And attend one to three 2-hour lectures a week plus the occasional non-compusory seminar. Though this system is not without its qualms, it nonetheless allows for very independent learning which affords students the time adjust to Sweden and time to join in at the Nations.
Student well-being is also at the heart of the University examination system since students can retake exams if they fail or miss the first exam they can retake without penalty. Though this system trades off the competitive edge UK University students attain by having one proper shot at a good grade, it mitigates the liklihood a student is having an ‘off’ day when exam season rolls around. Perhaps this is only possible due to the simplistic grading system used in Uppsala consisting of Pass/Fail and Pass with Distinction. Swedish exams are traditionally an hour or two longer than UK exams too, which gives students room to breath in a claustrophobic exam hall
The academic life of any student in Uppsala would not be complete without a second-hand bike. Uppsala certainly does not break the mold of the Netherlands and Scandanavian cycling culture. The ubiquity of cycling lanes and bike racks throughout the city makes buying a bike seem like a prequisite for fully embracing the student life. Bikes are easy and affordable to buy from one of the many second-hand bike shops in Uppsala or the Flogsta facebook page between 600-1000 SEK. And even easier to maintain as most cycling shops offer free repairs and servicing.
In light of these points, it is clear that the centrality of student well-being to Uppsala University is as clear as the Swedish sky.
It seems during my time in Manchester I had been too lucky as I have not needed to go to the GP nor dentist over my 2 years there. However, within 2 months of living in Sweden I needed to do both within a week of each other. So, I thought I should give an overview of my experience with both.
Overall, my experience of both Swedish dental care and health care were positive. I needed to go to the dentist because I fell off my bike and chipped my tooth. This was my own doing and although I was fine in myself and did not experience as much pain as perhaps would be expected, I did need to do something about my lacking tooth. I had to wait until the next day as I did it in the evening. I rang various dentists within Lund, however these were all booked up for the day. I was going away the next few days so wanted it done that day if I could. So, I started ringing dentists in Malmo where one said I could come in within the hour and have it fixed. This dentist was called T and City dentist Malmo. There was no issue me speaking in English to the dentist and receptionist and they were all very helpful with the situation.
I then went on my way to Malmo where I was seen immediately and had my tooth fixed. It was a very good job too and you now cannot tell where the fake bit is. The cost was about £155. This was decent considering it was the same day and I had insurance to cover it. Therefore, make sure you keep receipts of such things if it happens to you to ensure you can too.
The health care experience I had was not quite so swift. As background, if you are unsure what you need to do if you become ill in Sweden there is a helpline at 1177 and a website. I believe the phoneline is available 24/7 also. Additionally, you can ring the Lund University nurse who can give you advice on how to go about your situation.
To get an appointment with a doctor, the procedure is similar to home where you need to ring up. I rang Vårdcentralen Måsen as it was closest to me. Initially, there is an automated message in Swedish but if you wait until the end, it will tell you what to do in English. The line opened at 8am, I rang by 8:02 and was 22nd in the queue. It then took a bit over an hour to talk to someone, you can leave your number and they will ring you back or wait on the line. By my time to speak to the receptionist, all spaces had been taken up to see the doctor at this practice. The receptionist recommended I go to the out-of-hours service or wait until the next day and go through the process again. I went to the out-of-hours. This is within the hospital grounds, near the University, at Entrégatan 3. It opened at 6pm and I arrived at 5:45 and was 11th in the queue this time. However, there are people having general appointments in addition to out-of-hours, so I was later than 11th to be seen. When I arrived, I had to take a number and speak to the receptionist where you give an overview of what is wrong, and they ask for your ‘person number’. Every Swede has a person number and it can occasionally be a pain not having one as they are used so frequently in many situations, but it is not worth getting one if you are just staying in the country for a year as generally you can get around it. As a result, I would say just make sure you bring ID and proof of being a student at Lund University. As a note, a person number is your date birth as (YYYY-MM-DD), followed by a set of four numbers.
After speaking to the receptionist, I had to wait about an hour and a half. When I got called through, I spoke to a nurse initially who asked for me to explain what was wrong and then asked me some more questions. She then said I was going to need to speak to a doctor to prescribe me some medication and gave me an appointment for about an hour later within the same facility. So, I went back into the waiting room and sat. It took less than an hour for me to be seen by the doctor, probably about 20 minutes. The doctor then checked everything I had said to the nurse was correct and said I needed antibiotics. As it was late by this point, she was able to give me some for that night and the following morning but told me to go to a pharmacist to pick up the full prescription the next day. Again, through all of this there was no issue with me speaking English to the doctor, nurses and receptionists.
To have an appointment with an EHIC card, the cost is 250 SEK (~£21), the price that all Swedish people pay. My experience at the doctor was made more difficult as I had lost my card at the time. This meant I had to pay the full price of the appointment which was about 1400 SEK (~£130). You are also able to claim this back afterwards but have to fill out a form online. I believe you can ring an EHIC helpline if you cannot find/have lost your card before you go to the appointment too and they can send you a certificate or something as a replacement to the EHIC. Although I am not sure how accurate this will be following Brexit.
Reflecting on my time in Sweden, I began thinking about how my expectations before I arrived compared to the realities that I experienced. The main reasons I chose to study in Sweden include: great natural beauty, the idea that it was a world leader in terms of sustainability, a great studying and learning environment, and a feeling of the “unknown”.
To start with, I was attracted to Sweden because of the possibility to spend a lot of time outdoors, exploring its natural beauty. On this front, I have definitely not been disappointed. A friend summed it up best when he described Sweden as one of the most “quietly beautiful” countries he has ever visited. I think this is a good way of looking at it, Sweden is often overlooked, even in terms of its Scandinavian neighbours. Norway has dramatic fjords and glaciers, and Denmark has the lively city of Copenhagen, whereas Sweden’s beauty is more understated. The area surrounding Lund, and the region of Skane, are a perfect example of this. Rapeseed flowers, the unofficial national flower of Sweden, dominate the landscape at the turn of spring and paint the patchwork of fields bright yellow. Lund’s location makes day trips into the countryside very easy, as the sea is only half an hour away, and the area is dotted with national parks.
Ystad, Skane – Where the TV series “Wallander” was set and filmed.
Another key factor that brought me to Sweden was it’s reputation as a world leader for environmental policy and sustainability. It was interesting to see how this manifests in everyday life. Firstly Sweden has an extremely efficient recycling system, and even imports trash from other nations to process. I saw this through the ordered recycling bins at almost all locations in Lund, including student halls and libraries. Secondly, cities like Lund and Copenhagen have been planned and designed to accommodate bikes and public transport as the primary modes of travel. This leads to reduced emissions and consolidated their status as climate friendly nations.
Sustainable and innovative architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Overall, Sweden met my expectations as a beautiful and environmentally forward-thinking country. I was also presently surprised by the “unknown” factor of Swedish culture and society – which I experienced through getting involved with student “nations” and organizations. Check my other blogs for more information about this unique Swedish student life!
For me, finding accommodation for my time at Lund University, initially, seemed like a never-ending endeavour. I would say this is the only negative experience I have had so far with my time in Lund. However, I do also feel that potentially my year was particularly bad. Therefore, I have tried to accumulate all the information I feel is useful and relevant when looking for housing and accommodation for your time in Lund.
As some background on my experience of housing: when I flew out to Lund, I did not have anywhere to live and was staying in a hotel for the first two weeks. So, my first piece of advice is to book somewhere to stay for the first few days/weeks whilst you are getting settled. This could be a hostel (Winstrup Hostel is popular), Airbnb, Bopoolen, Blocket or a hotel. I would recommend doing this early as lots of places get booked up. Also, if you do find somewhere to stay after booking a place to stay, you can always cancel it. However, it is still useful to have somewhere to stay when you arrive in late August as most tenancies do not begin until September, so you would need somewhere to stay for that time anyway. I did not do this as I expected to find somewhere and then paid a higher price for a hotel. Additionally, within the hostels there are often many exchange students staying there so can find friends through this too.
About a week into being out in Lund I found a place in Åkarp, outside of Lund. It is about 5 minutes on the train or 20 minutes by bus. I found it on a site called Boopolen. I did not like this very much as Lund is a very concentrated place, so I felt once you were out of Lund you were out of it. The trains and buses were not very frequent (trains twice an hour and buses 2-3 times an hour). Also, both the trains and buses stopped running to Åkarp at 1am ish, which also meant I had to catch ~£30 taxi home on my own after nights out as a result of missing the last one. Following 2 months here, I found a place on AF Bostader in Lund where I am happy and going to stay for the rest of my time.
Lund University’s Accommodation
Lund University (LU) provides some accommodation for its students. This is distributed through a lottery system and is very competitive to the point I hardly know anyone who stays in these halls. This is aside from a place called Ideon. This used to be a hotel until the summer and this year is just international students who were given it on arrival day. Other than this, I am not sure what the LU halls are like. LU has a guarantee agreement with some universities so their students are prioritised. They are all within Lund so are convenient and I believe are all pretty nice, as most student halls in Sweden are. I know some students from previous years were offered a place within some LU accommodation following some people dropping out throughout the course of the year also.
2) AF Bostader
AF Bostader is also a housing lottery. You can only get a place in their lottery as a student of Lund and being a member of StudentLund (which is how you also become a member of the student nations). No one I have met this far truly understands how this system works; however, I will explain as much as I think is correct. During a week in July, when you sign up for AF, you will be given a time (e.g. mine was about 22:17) through a lottery system and this time is your place in the housing queue. So, the earlier your time is, the higher chance you have of being given accommodation during the novisch period (the so-called fresher period, when AF have set aside so many rooms for ‘novisch’ students). Through AF, you can get a ‘corridor room’ (like a normal halls) or a flat for one or several people. The flats are more competitive.
Once you are in the housing queue, you can sign up for 3 rooms each day, or until the rooms have expired and been given to someone. If you are first in the queue at midnight on the day that the room expires, the room is yours and will receive an email regarding it the next morning. These, like LU accommodation, are very competitive. There is a general rule of being on the waiting list for 6 months before being able to obtain a room. Mine was only 3 months, however. If you are active whilst in the queue, changing rooms when you have a higher place in a different queue, you will take less time. I think this is why mine took less time. Also, I was kind of desperate so wasn’t picky about where I was living, as long as it was in Lund.
One of the reasons these halls are so competitive is all Lund University students can live there. For example, in my corridor there are students who are close to finishing their degrees as well as students who have just started. As students can live in the same room for their whole university careers, rooms will not necessarily be furnished, so this is something to bear in mind when looking for accommodation. This is the case not only with AF but anywhere you look. If it is furnished, generally, it will mean there is a bed, desk, wardrobe as well as cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils. It is, therefore, quite good to go for a furnished room, not only because then you do not have to buy a bed but also because you do not need to get plates and stuff, which makes it cheaper and less hassle at the end of the year when moving out.
The picture below is what the queue looks like.
Something to note is the ‘party’ halls are Delphi, Parentesen and Sparta. Vildanden is known to be quieter and further out, but that only means it takes 15 minutes to get places rather than 5 minutes, like the rest of Lund. This is because, like I said previously, everything is very concentrated in Lund so as long as you are in Lund, you are not actually that far away from things so I wouldn’t let this particularly tempt you towards one or the other, as it is good to just get one!
These pictures are from my room in Vildanden. It is en-suite, has ethernet connection (as most AF rooms are) and about 4545 SEK per month (around £365).
LU has 13 nations associated with it. These are good places to meet people as they do brunches, lunches and general activities as well as being where the majority of Lund’s clubs are. They also have some accommodation but you can only try for accommodation in the nation that you are a member of, and you can only be a member of one nation. There is generally 6 months waiting list for these also. However, some do put some rooms aside for new students, like Kristianstads nation.
There is also Smålands nation which is not directly linked to the university which you can be a member of, in addition to another one. Smålands seems to have pretty regular rooms available that are also a reasonable price and in a good location.
Bopoolen is a website, specifically for students, to find accommodation. This is where I found my first place to live in Åkarp. These tend to be apartments sharing with other students or living with the flat owner. It is not unusual for students to live with just normal people in their spare rooms, in their converted basements or something similar. My previous place was a large house, where three other students and I lived. We lived upstairs in the house, which had been converted to a flat, with its own kitchen and bathroom and the homeowner, our landlord, lived downstairs. This was a better set up, in my opinion, than some others I had seen whilst looking for somewhere to live, such as being in the room next door to the landlord. However, I also have friends who have done this and really get on with their ‘landlords’ and it has worked out well for them. It all depends on what you want and are expecting. To find these places, there are adverts on the site and you have to email or ring the landlord. These, again, are very competitive and one advert can have 10+ people coming to look at the housing. They also depend on what the landlord wants from their tennants (long or short stay), whether they took a warming to you etc. Therefore, I would recommend emailing everyone or as many as you would feel happy with. As a result of the high demand for places, it is not uncommon for people to not respond to you also as a forewarning. Also, you are able to email Bopoolen themselves to ask for accommodation if you are feeling time is getting on, but I think this is only really done once in Lund.
These adverts are often outside of Lund, like mine was, and can be in nearby Malmo. I think if you are in the situation of living outside of Lund, I would say it is better to live in Malmo as it is a city and there are frequent trains as well as trains throughout the night to and from Lund. Also, there is also an university in Malmo so there are students there too. Alternatively, someone from Manchester this year is living outside of Lund and not in Malmo and he is loving that. It all depends on you and who you live with.
Bopoolen’s website is useful to look at generally as it has a list of housing sites which are legitimate as well as ways to avoid fraudulent sites/people. Being defrauded can occur as people know that students are in need of places to live. I would not say it is very common and should not happen if you use common sense.
Blocket is a similar case in regard to the type of accommodation that is available on it. It is a website for selling things generally. So, there are people selling second hand bikes, sofas and apartments as well as renting them. These are not necessarily specifically for students, so that is something to be aware of too. The same emailing process takes place with this website too.
Greenhouse is an eco-friendly accommodation about 15 miles outside of Lund. It is supposed to be quite social as everyone is there together as well as quite cheap.
On arrival day this year, 20th August for reference, there was a housing lottery. This is for international students who did not have accommodation and took place between 9am-10am. Everyone who was there was given a number and then numbers were chosen like a lottery after the hour and these people were given accommodation. So, it also may be useful flying out to Lund prior to the actual arrival day. The accommodations distributed included LU and Greenhouse. We were not informed about this until about 2 weeks before leaving so I had booked my flights and was not able to participate.
There are lots of people there who are there to help you, whatever your situation is, so just talk to anyone and they will try to help or point you towards someone who can. Also, on arrival day you can book some activities for the first few weeks to get to know people, like dinners or sports days.
There are lots of groups on facebook which advertise housing in Lund also. Some of these are specifically for students and some are general. Again, there is the precaution to be aware of scammers on these as there is not the safety that comes with the other websites. To name a few there are:
Lund Student Housing
Lund Sweden Accommodation
Lund Apartments for Rent
There are also long-term Airbnbs you may be able to find to stay in for a few months.
Some things I think are important to note:
Your flatmates are not necessarily your friendship group, as is often the case in the UK. This is to do with people of all years living in the same corridor so there is not the same want to get to know each other. I would not take this as a wholly negative thing however, particularly as, an international student as there are so many ways to get to know and meet people. A lot of this takes place in the first few weeks (the novisch period). I would recommend signing up for as many mentor groups and novisch events as you can because it gets you meeting people. There are also the nations novisch week and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) which does lots of trips and activities.
It is good to try and obtain any accommodation until Christmas or for a month/s as the initial craze to get housing will have dropped by then, making it more likely for you to find somewhere later. It also means you have your own space for your stuff, which is important for yourself when you are settling in.
Lots of exchnage students leave after one semester, at Christmas, so more rooms will become available around this time.
When you come out to Lund it is not unusual to have nowhere to live, if this is you, you will not be alone!
Don’t let where you live stop you from socialising and going out.
If you don’t have anywhere to live, it can be hard to try getting to know people and socialising but the housing will work itself out, make sure you make the most of your time!
One of the most unique things about studying in Lund is it’s organized student life. Many universities have student unions, however none are quite like Lunds. The first “Nations” were founded in 1668, based on geographic regions in Sweden, and historically students who came from that area would join the according nation. For example students from Halland province would join Hallands Nation, and students from the East would join Ostgota. In the modern day all 13 nations are open to anyone who wishes to join, and offer a wide range of activities to be involved in. This includes putting on cheap student meals and lunches, cinema nights, pubs and clubs, as well as organising day trips such as hikes and other outdoor activities. Whilst every nation will offer the basic activities, each has it’s own speciality, for example Kalmar nation focuses on outdoor activities, whereas Sydskanska nation aims to be the go to place for electronic music. This makes the small town of Lund, with a student population of around 40,000, seem a lot bigger as there is an activity on most days of the week.
Sydskanska Nation (AKA SSK), where I became a Foreman.
What makes the nations even more successful is that they are all entirely student run, and rely on volunteers to make their activities happen. This is quite unique and as a British student I found it hard to believe that people would volunteer their time so freely. However after getting involved with a couple of activities, I discovered what makes them so special. I first volunteered as part of a pub team, and the Foreman (the person in charge of the activity) made the atmosphere very social and welcoming for the workers. I ended up becoming very good friends with him, and after taking part in a few more activities, I decided to sign up to become a Foreman myself. In true Swedish tradition, the nation meeting where new Foremen are voted in took around 3 hours, and was conducted entirely in Swedish. Whilst this wasn’t the most exciting start, it was followed by some free food and drinks. I signed up for the Kafe Matine post, a film evening on Sundays, where my responsibilities included cooking a vegan meal for around 40 people, and choosing one of my favourite films to show. This was quite hard work to organise at first, however being a Foreman also brings quite a few perks.
The first of these was a weekend trip, where all the Foremen at the nation were taken to a large cottage 1.5 hours from Lund, in a lovely remote location by a lake. We were cooked a meal, and given a “small” supply of free drinks. An aspect of Swedish social life that is very different from what I had experienced before was the focus on “organized fun”, and an evening with the nation often involves a lot of games and challenges. The cottage also had a sauna by the lake, making the weekend very relaxing and fun. Overall becoming involved and volunteering with the nation was one of the highlights of my time in Sweden, and I would recommend it highly for anyone considering studying in Lund!
Lund University and the University of Manchester have quite differing teaching and assessment regimes. I am now able to see advantages and disadvantages to both and why it is a great experience, if there is the opportunity, to try different styles outside those you are comfortable with and used to. Lund University offers a wide range of module choices which cover a lot of topics and agendas. As a human geographer and international student, I have to take at least 15 ECTS per semester from the Social Sciences School. If I wanted to take modules from outside this School, this would be allowed but I would not be a priority. However, there is still such a diverse range from Social Sciences where you can learn about subjects that you have not previously studied or potentially go into more depth about ones you have.
The way that the
academic year runs is different from Manchester for a start. Each semester has
two study periods within it, each of which runs for about half the semester.
So, for example in the first semester, the first study period runs from the
start of September until the end of October (ish) and the second period starts
at the beginning of November and finishes just before Christmas. The semester
as a whole also runs for a longer period of time. For 2019, the Autumn semester
ran from the 2nd September until the 19th December for me
and you have no real breaks during this time, i.e. there are no reading weeks.
This can make the semester feel really quite long in some ways, especially at
the beginning when Christmas seems very far off. However, the first study block
has just finished for me and I cannot believe how quickly it has actually gone!
The second semester this academic year is running from the 20th
January until the 5th June. However, the precise dates depend on the
specific modules taken.
Across the two semesters, you are required to attain 60 ECTS, the equivalent of 120 credits at home. This means 30 ECTS are taken per semester and generally 15 per study period. At Lund University, this is undertaken largely through 2 x 7.5 ECTS or 1 x 15 ECTS. This mean of learning enables you to have a strong focus on your module choices and keep up with the high amount of reading which comes with studying a social science. The amount of reading is balanced by the few lectures there are each week. I have on average 2 or 3 lectures per week. Additionally, the volume of reading is needed for the essays (for my module choices, there is one due about every fortnight) and is then reinforced by the seminars. Seminars are mandatory and, if they are missed, a ‘make-up’ assignment must be completed instead. The seminars normally take place prior to the assessment hand-in date to help with the writing of the assessment. This study pattern means that the assessments immediately follow the associated teaching and reading.
Something to note on the readings given also is that not all of them are online. Having said that, most pieces will be either online or in a university library, but nevertheless some classes may expect you to buy some books. However, I would say to always check UoM’s library search before spending your money as they have had most I have looked for so far!
are a few options of studying one 30 ECTS for the whole semester. I do not
think that I would recommend this as you would be doing only one module for the
entire semester with no other work to do, so it may seem repetitive even if you
enjoy it. Additionally, if you discover you do not enjoy the module, you are
then studying that one single module for the whole 16-week semester. As well,
Lund does not have a ‘pick-up/drop period’, where you can trial different modules,
so you have to do what you chose. I believe there are some cases where you can
change but it is not the ‘done’ thing. Of course, this is subject to how you
learn best and what you think will work best for your learning. The way in
which assessments are graded varies too. All assessments I have had have either
been marked on a sliding scale of A-fail (A being the highest and E the lowest
passing grade) or pass/fail (G/U in Swedish).
A Lund University tradition is
the ‘academic quarter’. I believe this is not unique to Lund but essentially it
means that, when classes say they begin on the hour, they actually begin at a
quarter past. So, if a class starts at 10:00, it will actually begin at 10:15.
Supposedly this tradition is from when students knew the time from the
cathedral in the middle of the city. When the cathedral’s bells rang at
o’clock, the students knew they needed to get to class for quarter past. As a
result of the academic quarter and a break in the middle of the classes, the
time passes very quickly. This is a particular perk if lectures are at 8.00 am
or 5.00 pm, the times classes can run from. Something to note is that classes
run all day on Wednesdays; there’s no half-day. Also, as far as I am aware
currently, there is no real break for Easter.
Although I can see many advantages to the shorter and more intense study periods, I would also say that there is something of a feeling of temporariness that follows it. In itself, the temporariness can have advantages and disadvantages if you do not enjoy your course for example (or a lecturer!).