Student Experience | Living Abroad | Sweden | Programs | Prospective Students | International Programs | CSU
International Programs
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As of 08/09/2010
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Sweden: Student Experience


Congratulations on your acceptance to the IP Sweden program. As current participants in the Sweden program, we are sending you some information and small hints to help make your planning and departure a little easier. We strongly urge you to start planning now, because before you know it, you will be here in Uppsala, wishing that you had planned better for the year.

As an addition to all the factual information you have received so far from OIP, we wanted you to hear directly from us as four month veterans of the program. We hope this may be helpful to you as you prepare your mind and your suitcase for your year in Sweden. Not only will you be meeting the challenges of being students, but also you will experience a shift in the cultural and social context of your daily life. You will experience life anew and will see life at home from a new perspective.

It is wonderful spending a year living in another country. Uppsala will provide you the opportunity to learn about Sweden, yourself, life and the world. After four months here, even in the winter, we still think it's great and are certain that you will love it.

Hej då

Make the best of it!

Uppsala (Top)

Uppsala is located approximately 45 miles north of Stockholm. Although not in the northernmost section of Sweden, it is still located in the high northern latitudes.

Seasons are very different from one another and contrast sharply with California's moderate seasonal differences. Fall brings color changes, colder weather and darkness. Winter brings snow, dark afternoons and mornings, and lasts from November to April with temperatures that drop below 0°F. Because Sweden is so far north, the winter sun does not get very high in the sky-expect as little as six hours of actual daylight (not sunlight) in December. The natives say that spring brings color and warmth back to the landscape, and everyone livens up.

Uppsala is a "university town," dating from the middle ages and has a population of 140,000 people. It is the fourth largest city in Sweden and is located in the province of Uppland. Uppland's landscape and all of Sweden's, for that matter, was shaped by the glaciers of the Ice Age. Thus, it is characterized by pine and birch forests, many lakes, and gentle rolling hills. It is great walking and bike riding in a city surrounded by fields and forests. The dominating landmarks in Uppsala are the huge cathedral (Domkyrkan) and the castle, both of which are located in the center of town. The University itself does not have a fixed geographic location or campus; rather it is spread throughout the town with clusters of department (institute) buildings here and there. Uppsala is a center for immigrants and political refugees from all over the world. Many of us found this to be one of the most interesting facets of life in Uppsala.

The Orientation Program (Top)

There was not one single orientation meeting, but instead the orientation program lasted for about a week. The orientation program occurred throughout the first week before classes began. It was recommended that we arrive a week before classes officially started so that we could settle in. When I arrived, I had to find my way around to the appropriate places to get packets of information. It was quite a daunting experience because this all happened one day after I arrived and I wasn't sure where to go. The best thing to do is buddy up with someone and do these things together. That's what I did and it made the whole experience of finding my way around and getting settled in much easier.

The first week consisted of going to social events such as fika (the best equivalent being the British “tea”), dinners, pubs, and "nations". Going to these events enabled me to meet many other international students like myself and since everyone is eager to meet others in the same boat as them, it was not hard finding and making new friends. About a week after arriving, there were meetings held by the Director of the International Office and the Vice Chancellor of Uppsala University to welcome the students. The purpose of these meetings was to introduce us to the university and to speak about what we will experience here in Uppsala.

Uppsala University & How to Register for Classes (Top)

Uppsala University in Sweden was founded in 1477 and is the oldest university in Scandinavia. There is approximately 1 exchange student for every 6 Swedish students, so there are hundreds if not thousands of international students at Uppsala! For this reason, Uppsala is known as an international mecca. Many people from all over the world come here to study. I spoke to a French student who told me that many students from throughout all parts of Europe attend Uppsala to improve their English skills because Sweden is one of the most "Americanized" European countries and it is cheaper and closer to go to Sweden than to America. If you are from America, it is not that difficult to communicate with others because almost every Swede and every international student speaks English. Unlike most colleges in America where the buildings are located on a campus, Uppsala's campus is spread throughout the city. This can cause a bit of distress in the beginning, but it is not difficult to find your way around town to the different buildings after a little while.

The registration process may differ depending on which department you will be studying in. I am studying International Mass Media and Communications. I registered for classes after receiving notices by e-mail informing me what to do. It was not difficult at all. You just have to print out the required documents and mail and/or fax them to the right places.

Anthropology students register via email and/or visiting the “studirektor”.  Attendance at the first class is a must or you’ll be dropped.

For political science, you will have to visit the international coordinator of the government department in person and sign up.  He is very nice and the process is quick and simple.  In the history department, you can just e-mail the history’s international coordinator and he will register you for your courses.


Please read carefully the Academic Program Description found in the International Program Bulletin. NOTE: YOU MUST TAKE AT LEAST 15 SEMESTER UNITS PER TERM!!!! (30 Swedish/ECTS points)

University of Uppsala Institute Courses (Top)

This program is designed for serious students of biochemistry. Students had a choice of studying at various institutes including Biology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics, and Nutrition. The institutes demand full-time participation, meaning 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

As most of your time is spent in the lab, it is highly suggested that the aspiring student not only enjoy this type of work but also have a good understanding of it. Because there exist many opportunities to assist in ongoing research for the interested student as well as the fact that Sweden's universities emphasize practical knowledge compared to theoretical, the year here for the serious student of biochemistry is definitely worth the effort.

Talk to your advisor as soon as possible and be prepared for changes. They've been talking about modifying things a bit for the upcoming year. Hopefully, all your classes will be in English and you will have sufficient background in Chemistry as well as Calculus. The expectation is that you will be participating in a 20 pt. research project for spring semester. If you want to enroll in classes instead, talk to your biology or biochemistry advisor before November 1st.

Fresh-Water Ecology (Limnology)
The Limnology coursework consists of a single block of instruction for the first ten weeks. This includes laboratory work, field studies, group assignments, readings in chemistry, biology, and also various species tests. Most instruction is in English. Be prepared for lots of lab time! One single final written examination, covering the course content of the entire ten weeks, is given at the end of the course. Ten days are spent at Norr Malma Research Station collecting data, as well as conducting research projects; this field course section ends with a big report. Thereafter there is opportunity for an elective course, which will cover the second ten weeks of the first semester. We had to search for a department that would offer a course in English - the structure of academic life here is much different than that of the CSU system; try to keep an open mind and go with it. Things will work out in the end. Most people here have been very helpful and a lot of fun. In spring the limnology course continues for 20 weeks. The coursework includes small group limnological investigations of lakes, interpretation of results obtained, compiling and oral presentation of reports, case studies, and attending seminars. The spring semester is also ended by a cumulative final written examination. This program requires a lot of time and effort. However, it is a fantastic opportunity - lots of learning - by doing and exposure to working in the field as well as the laboratory. It's a lot of work, but definitely worth it. With all the time spent in class it is an excellent opportunity to become good friends with Swedish and other international students.

International Communication Studies
Combining communication theory, sociology, and a small amount of practical experience, the International Media Communication Studies (IMCS) program gives the student a different perspective on information techniques. The first semester consists of four courses at approximately four-week intervals. Only final examinations are given, so be sure to clarify exactly how the procedure works.

The pace of the second semester is fast and a constant challenge. Don't let yourself fall behind. Reading is taken seriously and much more is assigned than what the California student may be accustomed to (800 pages per course is common). You may be studying with other Swedes and other foreigners which makes for true international discussions.

Study trips to radio and TV stations, newspapers, and communication schools are additional educational experiences. These include day trips to Stockholm, and week-long trips to Berlin and London, which are the highlight of the whole program. Make sure you understand what trips you have paid for before arrival. It will help you budget. You will be buying books every month, usually at least four per class. We spent a lot of spare time in front of copy machines to ease the cost. You will not be able to sell books back.

Political Science
The first semester of the political science program (we don't know about the second yet) integrates Swedish politics and international politics. It uses a lot of method and theory and lots of independent study. Swedes on the whole are very interested in politics, so you will have some great conversations here. We spent only 6-8 hours a week in class, but the reading load is very heavy, with 250 pages a week being normal. Exams are essay-type, and final papers are also required in several classes. All the classes are in English. Pack one or two reference books on U.S. politics, they'll come in handy when people expect you to be an expert on all aspects of American politics. During class discussions, you will be assumed as the American ambassador/expert on everything American, so be prepared. Budget for books, approximately U.S. $200-300 per semester depending on how many you buy and how many you photocopy at the library.  A lot of the books are also available on reserve at the library.

Be prepared to work--it is a lot of work. Sort out your classes for the whole year when you meet with Sohel Zibara in the fall. Otherwise you will be going to class hoping that the teacher is going to speak English. Courses are much shorter (2 months) and cover much more material. Also, the exam is 5 hours long and that is your whole grade. You can bring food to the exam which helps.

Academic postscript: We felt it important to give just a few more hints as far as the academic part of your decision is concerned. If you look at the Agreement, there is a part saying "things may change," and they just might. If this happens, you just have to adjust. We did, and you will as well. There will be additional options for the classes later in the year. Don't feel confined to the ones listed in the pamphlet. There are many other classes taught in English. Ask about them.

Housing Arrangements (Top)

You will probably be housed in Flogsta, Kantorsgatan, Ekebyvägen or Rackarbergsgatan. Before getting to Uppsala University, you should receive notice via e-mail as to which student housing you will be placed in.

One of the main student housing areas is a relatively modern coed student housing complex consisting of 16 eight-story buildings in an area about three km. outside of town. You'll live in a corridor with 12 other students. The student rooms are large by California dorm standards, with a small entry room and bathroom with plenty of closet and storage space. The rooms are furnished with a bed, a large desk, two lamps, bookshelves, two chairs, a small table, and a night stand with drawers, and they have a nice big window. All furniture is new in all housing--looks like Ikea. The kitchen and living room is shared. There is more than enough kitchen space including refrigerators and shelves for everyone to store their food. There are pots, pans, dishes, and utensils that everyone in the corridor shares with one another, but you can purchase your own personal ones if you like. It is not necessary though. However, it is everyone's responsibility to maintain cleanliness throughout the kitchen and living room each day. Kitchen chores, such as putting away dishes and taking out recyclables and trash, may be divided amongst each other once a week. For example, one week it may be your responsibility to maintain the overall neatness of the kitchen by taking out the trash and recyclables, putting away dishes, and wiping down counters. Next week, you'll switch and it will be another person's responsibility. Each corridor will most likely have their own system of doing things.

Although it is a bit further from the center of town than a couple of other student residences, this is where most of the university students, both Swedish and exchange students throughout Europe and the rest of the world, are housed. In fact, a lot of international students eventually move to Flogsta in the second semester because it’s where everyone lives (also where all the parties are). So, you have an opportunity to meet many different people from many different backgrounds. It takes about ten minutes to bike into the center of town, half an hour if you walk. It is even shorter by bus, being no longer than five minutes. There is a grocery store called ICA minutes away from Flogsta (about a two minute walk). There are also laundry rooms located in certain buildings throughout Flogsta. You go to specific buildings to do your laundry depending on which building you live in. Best of all, it is completely free to do your laundry. The only downside is that sometimes you have to wait for other people to finish their laundry before you can start on yours because of the scarcity of machines.

The majority of the residents at Flogsta come from Europe. Be prepared to be accepting of other cultures and of their differences. Remember, you are a foreigner. Some of the best friendships made here have been with our fellow foreigners.

You share a shower and a kitchen with your four other corridor mates. It is about the same distance from town as Flogsta, but does not have the steep hills which are a pain when biking. There is only one exchange student per corridor, so it is the perfect opportunity to get to know some Swedes. It also has a pizza place and is close to a grocery store (ICA), post office (important for paying rent) and free laundry.

Five occupants in each corridor share a bathroom and kitchen. There are free laundry facilities. It's worth not having your own bathroom because it is very close and convenient to school and town.

There is one pay phone in each building. You must have a phone card, which may be purchased at any small convenience store, to use the phone. A card costs about 50 kronor (U.S.$5) and will cover a one to two minute call to the U.S. You can make a direct call to the U.S. by dialing 001, then area code and number. You can also reach a U.S. operator by dialing 020-795611 AT&T or SPRINT 020-799011 or by collect or credit card. A few of us had phone cards that allow calls to the U.S. to be billed to your U.S. phone. This is cheaper and more convenient. We highly recommend them. People in the States can reach you by dialing 011-46-18 and your phone number. Some phone companies have a special deal where your family can call a certain foreign country very cheaply. Check into it.

It is not recommended to get a phone in your room, it is best getting a cell phone with a pay as you go card. It is cheaper and no deposit.

Basic Hotel
You can also live in Basic Hotel. It is in the very center of town. There are two corridors or floors of student rooms. Each room is complete with kitchen, bathroom, shower, bed, desk, and all furnishings. It is the same price as Flogsta. The community aspect of Basic Hotel is really good. People eat dinner together often and they hang out all the time.

Culture & Entertainment (Top)

When Uppsala was the only university here, students coming from the various regions in Sweden formed clubs to have social activities and to have connections with those having similar traditions. They called these clubs "Nations." You will find that Uppsala's formal social life is primarily centered around these nations of which there are 13 scattered throughout Uppsala, each with its own building. Membership in a nation is mandatory if you are a student at the University, and all students are able to choose any nation. At the beginning of each term, you will be required to register with the nation of your choice-which involves paying the necessary fees (about SEK 450 per term). This will probably be your best spent money of the year. You must bring your student ID (provided by your nation) to the nation events and some form of picture ID. Most of us used our CA driver license.

If you want to participate in the social life of your nation, you are most welcome to do so but there is no pressure or feeling that one must participate. Which nation you decide on is not that important as long as you do register with one of them. With your nation card you can be admitted into any one of them. Each nation has its own traditions and there will be a variety of festivals, dances, and dinners (gasques) associated with these traditions. You should be aware in advance that an active social life at your nation can be expensive-dances, drinks, meals, etc., are not free to nation members but much cheaper than going out in town. Take note that non-Christian holidays are generally not celebrated in Sweden. But the activities are well worth the cost. Much more to do here than in most U.S. college towns. No matter what day of the week, there is always something to do.

Uppsala offers a variety of cultural activities and entertainment. This includes movies, plays, many classical concerts, and exhibits, plus many activities put on by the various interest groups in Uppsala. Tickets to theatres in Uppsala and Stockholm can be purchased at reduced prices on the day of the performance. Outdoor life of all kinds (cycling, hiking, jogging, skiing, skating) are all very big here. Movies are relatively current (about six months old) and cost about SEK 100 . Nightlife can be found at the student nations. Ask around about those things which interest you; you will undoubtedly find them here. Pubs other than nations have beer costing U.S., SEK 20-30. You must try Swedish cider. Pear is the best!

There are several radio stations. They play pop all the time. Just as back home, some stations will play the same song over and over again. TV stations show a variety of programs and some corridors have cable. Many American shows are shown here in English with Swedish subtitles-Seinfeld, Friends, Boston Public, ER, Sex in the City, Baywatch, Ally McBeal, Simpsons. Cable is not a free service but most Swedes will admit that they don’t pay for it.

Food and eating is a bit different. When facing the grocery store challenge for the first time, keep an open mind and consider this an adventure. Try new things without fear - you may just love them - many of us did! Try yogurt and müsli. Be careful when buying things in cartons. Milk is spelled mjölk. Bring your own bags because the stores will charge you for them!

Swedish People (Top)

By nature, they are highly reserved. Swedish people will seldom answer questions posed by a teacher. This stems from lack of confidence in their English which is usually excellent and due to their fierce academic competition between each other and you as well. Don't let this stop you, participate whenever possible. A lot of the time, it is the teacher that is responsible when things don't seem to be right. Perhaps a way to get the Swedes to participate more is by allowing them to ask their questions in Swedish, as long as the teacher translates.

In general, all Swedes, especially your age, can speak English fluently. They begin learning when they are in 4th grade or so. For the first few weeks, feel free to speak English in order to get to know your corridor mates. They actually enjoy practicing their English. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of allowing speaking English to continue too long. You will also learn Swedish in classes as well. In order to learn, you must speak. Swedes will appreciate your attempts but be prepared to repeat yourself frequently.  Pronunciation can be difficult and many Swedes will not understand until you’ve said something three of four times. The Americans who learned Swedish the fastest were the ones who used it as much as possible. If you’re serious about acquiring a new language, learn Swedish before coming.

You may be working at a small disadvantage as far as friendships go. They may have a prejudiced view of you. Common representations of Americans include: money-hungry, loud, obnoxious, overbearing, swear all the time (they see movies!), inconsiderate, etc. But then again, some think the opposite. Thankfully, most Swedes are fairly open in their views and will not automatically classify you. Be a good, kind person, and they will treat you as such. Go out of your way to get to know your Swedish neighbors. They are shy at first, but open up more after they have spent some time with you. A good way is to go grocery shopping together or asking them for help with Swedish homework.

Culture Shock (Top)

Culture shock is real. Don't wait for it to happen, but when it does, remember you are not the only one. We found talking to each other to be the best therapy. Also, a lot of Swedes have traveled abroad and understand what you're going through.


Uppsala is a bicycle town. A bicycle is a must so buy one the day you get there if possible.  If you wait until the other students arrive there will be none left.  Also, buy a used one since they cost at most 1000 SEK and come with locks and baskets while new ones start around 2000 SEK! There are many bike paths in Uppsala and, if you are adventurous enough, you can ride during the winter months; beware of the ice though as many of us have taken spills on slippery concrete and asphalt. Search out the likely bike mechanics in your group early and be very nice to them. You can also try the open flea market by the Uppsala Concert Hall on Saturday mornings, but go early (before 8 AM)! Also, the market will only have used bikes for the first couple of weeks.  Lock your bike at all times!!! Especially by the river. People like to see if bikes float. By the way, have fun biking on ice. Bring a helmet, they are expensive here! Helmets are not legally required here, but bike lights (as in battery operated lights) are. Police sometimes hide out in the bushes to catch unsuspecting culprits in the middle of the night and hand out hefty tickets.

Bus service in Uppsala is very good, but it usually stops around midnight (3:00 a.m. on weekends), and it isn't exactly cheap. A single ride costs 20 SEK if you buy the ticket via text message, 30 SEK if purchased on the bus which includes unlimited use for an hour and a half, and a monthly pass can be purchased for U.S. $50.00. You can buy 50 rides to be used in 30 days for $40 U.S.

Banking (Top)

The best and easiest way most of us found was to leave our money in our U.S. accounts and use your ATM card to withdraw money. VISA and MasterCard were also a help. Just give your parents your bank information before you leave so they can help you out if there are problems.

If you can, bring most of your money for the year with you and open a bank account. Note that you must declare large sums at customs regardless of the form they’re in.  Large amounts should be in the form of an International Money Order or bank cashiers check. Several students were saddened when they deposited all of their money and then the exchange rate jumped. You may want to think about holding onto part of your money. Do not deposit all of your checks if you plan to travel during the year. You won't have a checking account, but savings accounts are convenient and offer comparable interest rates. There are sufficient automatic teller machines where you will be able to make withdrawals easily. Local banks are Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Svenska Handelsbanken, Uppsala Förebubgs-Sparbank, and Upplands Banken. S.E. Banken is most convenient, less crowded, and is used to dealing with foreign students. Swedbank is also popular among international students. Nordea offers free accounts to only Swedish students, so as an international student you will have to pay extra for Internet banking and an ATM card. You may also want to take into consideration, that when you deposit a check, you will not be able to use the money for a week. A check takes one week to be cleared by the bank, so budget your money well.

During the year, money can be sent to you from home in the form of International Money Orders, cashier's checks, or bank drafts. This makes it very convenient to receive money through the mail (registered mail is recommended). There is also the option of having money wired directly to your bank account; however, this can be very expensive. Before you first open a bank account here, you should check to see which banks have California affiliates through which money can be wired.

Remember to call your home bank’s headquarters to inform them that you’ll be living in Europe for a year in order to avoid credit cards being declined.

Telephones (Top)

Buy a cell phone. There are plenty of stores in town. If you go with a group they might give you a discount. Then you buy credit for your phone instead of being on a monthly plan. If you have a cell phone that accepts a SIM card - bring it.

Most people use text messaging on their cell phones, because it is cheaper than calling.

If you plan on calling home, there are phone cards that you can buy to make calling on your cell phone relatively cheap. ICA sells these cards.

The university will give you a SIM card in your welcome packet.  If you have an unlocked phone wait to get this as it’s free.  If you’re phone is not unlocked, get a phone from Tele2.  This company provides the SIM cards to the university and most of the students will use this service.  Tele2 offers free texting between its customers and cheap calls.  A phone and SIM combo can be purchased for somewhere around 200 SEK.

Computer/Internet (Top)

If you have a laptop, bring it. The College buildings all have computers for your use, once you have a password/user name.

The first week, when you don't have a password, you can use computers/internet at Carolina Rediva Library, Stadsbiblioteket, or Ekonomikom. You must apply for a password and to speed up the process you can pick up your password at the Math Building. All rooms come with Broadband Internet connection. You already pay for it, so use it if you have a laptop to bring.  If you live in Flogsta, don’t forget to bring an Ethernet cable, preferably a long one so you can move it around in your room.

Sports (Top)

There are many opportunities for students to take part in sports and other recreational activities. In Uppsala there are a number of gyms which charge a fee of about U.S. $20.00-$200.00 for one term or a daily use fee of U.S. $2.50. For weight lifters we recommend GAP gym which has extensive fitness equipment, aerobics, and karate. A less expensive gym, Svettis, is very popular and offers many classes in addition to their full-day schedule of 45 minute aerobics classes as well as a very small weight room. One problem will be in obtaining court space for tennis, badminton, or other court games. Courts have to be reserved in advance and cost an average of U.S. $7.00 per hour. Bring your own racquet (they don't play racquetball here). A good way to get involved in sports is through the nations and/or some specialized sport clubs around Uppsala, as they always reserve playing time and court space for their team activities.

Sweden is noted for winter sports. Around Uppsala, the most common outdoor winter sport is cross-country skiing (there aren't many mountains around here) and in January you will be able to get good prices on equipment. Ski facilities are available within a few hours of Uppsala, and the Sunnersta recreation area, located about 10 minutes from Uppsala, has slalom skiing and a rope tow, plus a large number of marked cross-country ski trails. Ski trips throughout Europe are available for reasonable prices and are convenient. Prices for skiing in certain parts of the Alps are generally very reasonable by California standards. It's worth looking into! Ice skating rinks are open free to students when the weather permits. Indoor swimming pools are open all year, and you can get a full day of swimming and a sauna bath afterward for U.S. $9.00. For those with other interests, there are organized leagues in just about every sport, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field.

Budgeting (Top)

The very minimum budget for single students in Sweden has averaged around U.S. $1000 per month, depending on your spending habits. At the beginning of the year and especially during your first month here, you should definitely have some extra money for dishes (most corridors share pots, pans, and silverware), a bicycle, room decorations, entertainment, books, nation fees (450 SEK/semester), aimless shopping, and, later on, some warm clothing. The beginning of the second term again requires extra funds for nation fees, books, etc. Budget for postage and shipping.

Count on spending more money than you would like to on school supplies as well as general reading materials. Shop and compare prices at the student discount bookstores, Lundquistska Bokhandeln (Lund-q) and Studentbokhandeln. Since most of us took one class at a time, money spent on books was much cheaper. About $100 for a 10 week course.

The major U.S. news magazines are available here and often you can run into good discounts on subscription offers, a good way to keep up with important issues. The only U.S. newspapers available here are the International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today and they are expensive. But all of these are also available for your reading pleasure at some of the libraries in town.

Here are a few reminders about those habits many of us share:

  • Cigarette prices in Sweden: 50 SEK/pack for all brands.
  • Vacationing was always much more expensive than anticipated (sometimes twice as expensive).
  • Beer and wine prices are higher here than in California (the cheapest bottle of wine is about U.S. $5.00), and anything stronger than wine will sometimes cost from two to four times as much as what you would pay in the States (a one liter bottle of hard liquor costs about 400 SEK). A cheap beer in a nation will cost you 25 SEK for a 16 oz. glass. A beer in a pub costs about $4.20. The drinking age in Sweden is 18 in the Pub, 20 at Systembolaget (where as a non-EU citizen you need your passport for purchases).
  • If you smoke or drink (especially hard liquor) BRING IN YOUR LIMIT. In general, food prices are about the same, it depends on what you eat. Some items such as meat and vegetables can be two to three times the U.S. price.
  • Alcohol and tobacco can be had for substantially less on ferry trips from Stockholm to Eastern European countries during the duty-free period.  Trips cost between 100-150 SEK and you get to do a little traveling.  Find the Tallink office on Kungsgatan just across from Centralstationen.

There is an ICA grocery store about a two minute walk from Flogsta and another the same distance from Kantorsgatan. It is smaller than a U.S. supermarket, and has less selection, but it is generally adequate. Prices are high (but comparable to other stores). For wider selection and household goods you can try COOP or the other COOD! (on the other side of town). These are large discount stores with almost everything. Beer, wine, and liquor must be purchased at the state-run stores (Systembolaget) and are very expensive.  Willy’s is better priced and some items are available in “Swedish bulk” (normal U.S. size) and Lidl is very inexpensive but has a very limited selection.

Be financially prepared to make it through the year without working. Work at nations for food, little pay, but lots of fun. As of this year you can work at any of them, Norrlands, Upplands and V. Dala pay the most.  You must register at the tax office to get a real p-number as the one issued by the university is for their internal auditing system.  There is no fee but it takes approximately two weeks to arrive.  Some nations will refuse to pay you without the number.  The office is down the river past the central station.

Problems: Odds are that sometime, somewhere you are going to have a problem that is a little over your head. When you don't know what to do, go to Brittmari Ekholm! If she can't answer your question, she will either get you in touch with someone who can, or at least give you some good advice. Remember to utilize the people you know. It makes your life much easier. The International Office is very helpful.

Traveling (Top)

Opportunities to travel outside Scandinavia come very often during school semesters. Generally, we all had around four weeks during Christmas (two for biochemistry students), but other free periods varied with the institutes. For most there were a few 3 and 4 day weekends a term.

There is time, however, to get to know Scandinavia if you take advantage of weekends. One of the best deals we found was the standby air rates for those under 26. For SEK 200 round trip, you can fly anywhere in Sweden which gives easy access to Denmark or Norway. There are also weekend ship excursions to Helsinki for about U.S. $50, and to Tallinn for about 120 SEK, which many students found to be terrific getaways. Book early. Travel within Sweden can also be very fulfilling.

Travel within Sweden and most of Europe can be very cheap. Students get 50% off fare on rail tickets within Sweden and, if one decided to travel for a one month period, Inter-Rail passes are available here for approximately U.S. $300. It gives free rail transportation in more countries than Eurail does (including Great Britain, Ireland, Hungary, Morocco, and Finland), except in the country where it is purchased (where it gives a 50% discount). Inter-Rail must be purchased in the European country in which you have residence, in this case, Sweden. You must be under 26 years of age and have Swedish residency for six months in order to get an Inter-Rail. It is possible to buy a two, three, or four week Eurail Pass in a central train station in Stockholm. Eurail is more flexible. Ryan Air Jet Web have really cheap flights to Europe, however the airports are typically an hour outside of town.

Married Students or Students with Dependents (Top)

Married students and single parents with children encounter many more problems and complications living abroad for a year than those who are single. Before deciding to undertake this program, married students and single parents with children should discuss their particular situation with OIP, and consider their advice and information with care.

Things to Bring (Top)

We found writing a checklist of "what you should bring" rather difficult. First, everyone is different. We cannot put numbers on how many things you should bring with you. In figuring out how many of one item to bring, look at yourself now and what you use. Feel comfortable with your luggage and when you pack, PACK LIGHT, Let us repeat that, PACK LIGHT!! Be prepared to carry everything YOURSELF. This means through many airports and onto buses. There were, however, some who brought large amounts of luggage and survived.

Tips on Packing

  1. Backpack. This is highly recommended since it allows you to carry many things comfortably and it frees your hands to carry other things. But a pack does have its drawbacks. Sometimes airlines will have a tendency to bend an outer aluminum frame. You might solve this by checking into an internal frame pack. An internal frame has the advantage of flexibility and it is generally easier to carry and to store. However, some people swear by their external frames. So if you already have one, the money could probably better be spent on something else. You can almost be sure that you will use your pack during one of your vacations. You can also put you're backpack within a large duffel bag to avoid damage while in transit.
  2. Sleeping bag. Most youth hostels do not allow sleeping bags, but there are many opportunities to camp while you are here. If you decide to attach a sleeping bag to your backpack, make sure it is securely attached, with your name and address on it. Sleeping bags are cheaper here. So if you plan on buying, wait. Bring sheets. Most Youth Hostels provide a duvet but make you rent sheets if you don't have any of your own.
  3. Suitcase. We recommend a sturdy one with a good handle and zipper closures. A suitcase with wheels or a luggage carrier is very helpful. If you do not take a backpack, take two sizes of suitcases, one for short trips.
  4. NO TRUNKS. They are definitely NOT a way to make friends.
  5. From our knowledge there are two ways to ship your things:
    1. Air freight. Check with an airline on their air freight shipping regulations. However, you might have problems with this method since Arlanda (the nearest International airport) is about a 30-minute bus ride from the center of Uppsala. You would have to think about carrying it home on a bus.
    2. Surface mail. The most practical and the cheapest way. The U.S. Post Office does have size limits, so check with them before you send anything. Make sure you have written "Used Personal Effects" on the side of the box (to get it through customs). If you have anything new, the price tag should be removed. This year our boxes took anywhere from one to three months to arrive, so plan ahead! Don't worry if your boxes arrive before you do-the Swedish post will hold any package up to 30 days. Check the last page for the address. Pack your stuff in plastic bags inside boxes. The boxes will not look like boxes when you get them here. Rain and travel affects them. Don't send anything big or heavy, because it will cost a fortune.

      Our advice is: Do Not Ship. Bring less or take an extra suitcase.

Suggestions for Winter (Top)

Plan for a cold and dark winter. If you have never lived in the snow before, you might be in for a big surprise. As a general rule, the buildings are well heated, but you will be spending some of your time outdoors. BE PREPARED! If you are not familiar with cold weather gear, ask somebody who is to know what to get. It gets real cold real fast. You may want to buy some of your layer clothing at home. However, we would not recommend rushing out and buying tons of clothes. If you do plan to buy your clothing here, make sure you budget for it; clothing in Sweden is very expensive: a thick winter coat will cost upwards of 1000 SEK. When sending boxes, you might consider including some larger-sized pants. These will accommodate the long johns and the few extra pounds you will put on to keep warm during the winter.

Suggestions for all Other Items (Top)

The best way to plan what to bring is to take a look at yourself and your life-style now. You will be here for one year so bring those things that you use a lot now. Do yourself a favor and bring what will make you most comfortable. Remember, however, that whatever you bring, you will have to either ship back or give away, so be selective. If your first instinct is, "I won't use it," then you probably won't. You can always have it sent to you later if you were wrong.

  1. Rain gear. Rain is a common occurrence during all seasons. Make sure to have a drawstring hood.
  2. Jeans. Bring some, but you can buy more at H & M or Jeans and Clothes.
  3. Comfortable shoes. Running shoes/sneakers are NOT enough. Be prepared for cobblestones, ice and rain. A nice-looking, durable pair of leather shoes with gripping tread would make a good investment and will last most of the year (buy them in Sweden). Perhaps a good comfortable pair of hiking boots from home (cheaper). Buy your shoes in Sweden! They have nice styles for a relatively cheap price.
  4. California students tend to dress more casually than most Swedish students. Swedish students have fewer clothes, but they choose their clothing with style and comfort in mind. Bring clothes that you can wear in layers. Swedish students dress up frequently and there are many opportunities to attend events, including dances held by the nations for which dress up clothes are the norm. We suggest that the men bring one or two jacket/dress pants outfits including dress shoes. A formal dark suit is not necessary, but nice if you already have one. The women should bring two or three nice outfits (possibly a formal dress), since there are numerous occasions at the nations to wear formal dress. Swedes dress very Abercrombie and Fitch like. They have style!
  5. Linens (sheets, blankets, pillows). It is best to buy your linens here and not take up luggage space. Down comforters are much less expensive here, if you've ever wanted one. Ikea has everything you need.

Here is a list of the things that people in our program wished they had or are glad they brought with them:

  • Copies of all information received from OIP, including the Bulletin, programs and other materials.
  • Academic information from the home campus. Catalogs are available, but your personal study records are helpful during academic advisement.
  • All forms you might have to fill out from home, i.e. "petition to graduate" or whatever.
  • International Student ID Card
  • Youth Hostel Card can be purchased here, but it is cheaper and easier to get them in the U.S.
  • Credit Cards: VISA and MasterCard are readily accepted worldwide. An American Express card allows you to cash personal checks.
  • Prescriptions (carry all medication with you in your luggage and bring a full year's supply). Bring birth control pills for the year if you use them. Do not send medicine.
  • Over-the-counter medicine including cold medicine, Tylenol and other commonly used remedies. (NOTE: You CANNOT have it sent through the mail.)
  • MUSIC. Music from home is very important. Helps with the occasional loneliness and adds fun to corridor parties. Many of us brought portable CD players and mini speakers, they worked great. Buy a stereo here.
  • Good bike lock (easier to buy here, but way more expensive)
  • Calculator
  • Leisure time books - Plenty of bookstores here.
  • Camera
  • Tent (if you enjoy backpacking and camping). Rent in Uppsala.
  • Photos of friends and family
  • Day pack/book bag
  • Earmuffs--if you like to use them but not necessary
  • Alarm clock. Buy here, it will be on proper voltage, electrical plug and 24 hour time. You can also use your phone, or online websites.
  • Hand-held mirror
  • Tax free liquor on airplane
  • Metric Conversion Table
  • Bedding and towels. Buy here at Ikea. (You won’t have them when you arrive so be friendly to a corridor mate or arrive early enough to take bus #14 to IKEA from Stadshuset around the corner from the central station)
  • Hair dryer (definitely buy one here, they are inexpensive, those needing a converter usually don't work)
  • English/Swedish dictionary
  • Swimming suits and gym clothes/sweats
  • Extra pair of glasses or contacts (and prescription)
  • Cosmetics (very expensive-about twice the price)
  • Cookbook/favorite recipes (especially for potatoes and other affordable student foods)
  • American measuring cups and spoons
  • Maps of Europe, California, and the world
  • Hostel books/Let's Go Europe or other travel books
  • Wool socks, long johns and other winter gear
  • At least two electrical plug adapters (at the Swedish version of radioshack they cost 150 SEK each)
  • Girls - nice clothes (like to go to dancing clubs); nice tank tops to dance in.
  • Bring summer clothes. It is 80° when you arrive.
  • Bring nice clothes for clubs and discos.

Recommended books to bring:

  1. Berlitz European Phrase Book
  2. 201 Swedish Verbs

If you get a Swedish Dictionary (hard to find in U.S.), make sure it contains the articles for the nouns, namely en & ett, as well as a pronunciation key. It makes for a rather difficult time without that. Online dictionaries are also helpful and free!

Comments From Past Program Participants (Top)

"One of the most important ingredients for a successful year in Sweden is money. I stress this for two reasons: First, you do not want to get over here and have to worry about money and second, you do not want to exclude yourself from any possible travel or activities due to lack of money. Some good friends had to leave early due to lack of money. If anything, over estimate your costs. Please!! Overestimate, money is key.

Some will be living in the Flogsta dorm during the year. You will find that corridor life can be a fun experience. You may get depressed during winter. Bring reminders of home, posters, etc. Don't panic, you will live through it; just take one day at a time and try to stay busy. Classes here are difficult, but this is all relative, as you will find that you will put as much into your studies here as you did in the States. The major difference is in the educational system, in that it demands much more reading and independent self-paced study.

Please learn Swedish before you come! (Top)

Learning the language is important, but do not worry yourself to the point that it is no longer fun. The degree to which you learn the language will be the degree to which you will be able to talk to Swedish people and understand Swedish lectures. This will be one of the best cultural, educational, and personal experiences you will ever have. Make every day the best and have a great year." Learn about the world, follow the news, read a history book, learn about Canada also. It will make conversation easier and you won't feel ignorant.

"Learn about the States before you come here. Some of us found that, besides being ignorant of the rest of the world, we were also unaware of our own country." Avoid discussions of politics and economics at pubs. Only discuss these with friends who will be open-minded.

Be prepared for stereotypes of "Americans" and be willing to look past it, as we have our own too. So let them go....

"Remember to be accepting and have an open mind. It's fine to compare cultures, but it's important not to judge a country or its people by what you're used to. Be ready for differences, both big and small. There is so much to learn about people and about yourself in a year away from everything familiar. So have an open mind and enjoy it." Instead of thinking of some things as weird or strange, think of them as interesting.

"Your year in Sweden will be challenging. For those willing to make a serious commitment, it is well worth the effort. It is a lot of work and a lot of fun. There is a great student life in Uppsala." Life is not as constant as you're used to in the States. There are ups and downs. For the downs, you can look to your American and Swedish friends for support. We have had some pretty fantastic times here.

One of the most rewarding experiences you will have are the people that you meet. Uppsala is a mecca for international students, and you will have the opportunity to become friends with people from all over the world. We had friends from almost every country in Europe, Australia, Canada, and some south American countries.

Final Comment (Top)

It has been difficult to sum up our first four months of experience into these few pages of advice. Although we had many different experiences, one thing we shared in common was our desire to receive mail after we arrived. GIVE YOUR ADDRESS TO EVERYONE BEFORE YOU LEAVE.

For now use the program address to receive letters from family and friends. Send your packages/boxes there as well:

c/o International Affairs
Uppsala University
Box 256
S-751 05 Uppsala

Note: You will receive a permanent address before arriving.

Extracurricular activities we got involved in: Nation activities, Svettis and GAP gym, dance classes, weaving, ceramics, swimming, basketball, American football, soccer, biking, running, cross-country skiing, volleyball, cooking classes, and ice skating and the 10 o'clock Flogsta yell. Each student can join Families for International Friendship (FIF), and be assigned a Swedish family to spend spare time with. But sign up early, as there are fewer families than there are students.

What we brought that we wished we had not: Appliances on US current, American bicycle pump, clothes we were not sure we would use, bicycles, lots of makeup, too many high heel shoes, a lot of travelers checks, three-hole punched binder paper, cheap adapters (you'll also have to get an extension cord in Sweden because converters do not fit in the electrical outlets.

What we did that we wished we had not: Set our vacation plans in concrete, agreed to meet family or friends in certain places at specific times, not planned ahead, packed too much in our luggage, not sent boxes two months in advance of arrival dates; worried.

Highlights of our year have been: Nations, Swedish people, parties, learning Swedish, receiving letters, vacation traveling, being a foreigner, sledding on a shower curtain, riding bikes on ice, saunas. Watching American movies and TV with Swedish subtitles, meeting some of our best friends, going on spontaneous trips with little planning, gasks and snaps, finding out about other cultures.

Low lights of our year: Spending Swedish kronor (crowns) like monopoly money (especially with the decline of the US dollar), getting to school by 8:30 a.m. in the darkness, being a foreigner, liquor and meat prices, the vegetable selection, rain, bike repairs, the sun setting at 2, a month of no skiing.

We have tried to give you as complete and informative a picture as possible. Hope it was helpful to you.

Looking back at this information sheet, there is a lot here we took no notice of. Read this through again and get all you can from it. Remember, you have chosen to go to a foreign country for various reasons. The feelings and experiences you have in Uppsala will be felt by the others. Draw strength from each other.

Good luck in the exciting times ahead of you!

Last updated: 3/6/09 DAP