In 2010, I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden for ten months at Uppsala University. When I think about this chapter of my life, I realize that study abroad was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I took risks and became independent, I made lifelong friends (two of which are my bridesmaids), and I discovered my true passion for international travel. But why should you study abroad in Uppsala, Sweden?
I believe that Uppsala is one of the most underrated study abroad locations and more college students should head to Scandinavia. After living in Uppsala for almost a year, I decided to share my 14 reasons why Uppsala, Sweden is the best place to study abroad!
Swedes would often ask me why I left Los Angeles, California to come to Uppsala, Sweden. Some asked because of the several celebrity sightings they assumed I encountered daily and, “Why on Earth would you want to leave that?” Most wanted to know why I would leave a place that doesn’t get colder than 50 degrees.
To be honest, I was ready to try something new.
While I have seen snow a handful of times, nothing compared to the blankets of white that covered the town of Uppsala. The suburbs of Uppsala often looked like Santa’s workshop and while winter is the primary season of Scandinavia, Fall and Spring were equally stunning. From the rich Autumn leaves to the joyful jubilation during Spring, experiencing every season to its fullest was an overwhelming spectacle.
2. Swedes Love America
For all of you American students out there, this is a greater benefit than you might think! When I would travel to other European countries during my stay abroad, it wasn’t uncommon to get a few jabs about my culture or outright rudeness because I’m an American. Even international students in Uppsala would give me a hard time regarding politics,
Costco over-consumption, and Snooki. But not Swedes. I’m not sure why Swedish people are so open to American culture. Perhaps when learning English at the ripe old age of 7, they used American movies and television shows to help enhance the process. Or maybe it’s because…
3. Swedes are Just SUPER Nice
Whenever I was at a party, school event, or nation (see below), I would meet plenty of Swedish people. Each time I was greeted with a very enthusiastic, “Hello! How are you?” or “Where are you from?” or “Why did you come to Sweden?” I never received a strange glance, a backhanded comment or awkwardness. In fact, I befriended many a Swede in the line to the bathroom. And most of my friends that were studying with me would agree that Swedish people are very warm and inviting.
4. Everyone is Gorgeous
The rumor is true. Chic, mod, elegant… the average Swedish convenient store employee makes some of the models in Hollywood look like Borat. Seriously. Look at Greta Garbo or Alexander Skarsgård. And while you might find yourself comparing to these model-esque creatures, they’ll tell you how beautiful you are and mean it because SWEDES ARE JUST NICE LIKE THAT.
As the snow starts to melt and the flowers start to bloom, Swedes bask in the sunlight and celebrate the season of Spring with the old tradition of Valborg. Let me tell you, this was the craziest party I attended in Europe. Some people in Sweden have a bonfire, while the entire town of Uppsala takes this event to the next level.
Tens of thousands of students party in the streets of Uppsala starting with a river race down the Fyris river, followed by partying in the park, a group Champagne spray-party at Södermanlands-Nerikes Champagnegalopp, and ending with parties at every single nation (see below). People get crazy during Valborg. I myself started celebrating Thursday night and well into the wee hours of Monday morning. Thank God for photos. And naps.
6. Beautiful Landscape
Take a walk outside and you’ll find one of two things: an old, picturesque building, be it home or landmark, or nature in all of its glory. Many of the buildings in Uppsala are hundreds of years old while the homes look quaint and inviting. Meanwhile, my walks to and from school would be something I looked forward to and this is coming from an Angeleno who drives everywhere! Unlike many other study abroad destinations, you will find yourself wandering the streets of Uppsala and feel like you have just touched down in your own fairy tale off the beaten path.
From the famous Swedish meatballs, to crayfish, to elk, there is some prime delectables for you carnivores. And you don’t have to go to France or Belgium to get your hands on decent pastries and cakes. There are all kinds of delicious treats, but their most prized dessert? Green princess cake! It’s very rich, but so delicious with some of the best hot chocolate you will ever have.
What is a nation, you ask? Nations are known as the oldest student societies in Sweden (385 years to be exact). There are 13 nations all named after their respective Swedish province. Think of it as a high class, co-ed sorority/fraternity.
As a Swedish student, you typically enroll in the nation where you are from.For us international kids, we chose a nation for the semester based on very specific criteria: best club nights, best gasques, best location, and best pubs.
Once you choose, it’s not that you can’t go to any other nations (since each nation has their own designated club night, and you only avoid going out if you’re broke), it’s more of an allegiance to the nation’s events as well as certain discounts.
I went from Värmlands to Södermanlands-Nerikes, but every international kid knows all of the hot Swedes belong to Stockens nation. Nations are basically an excuse to meet people from around the world while getting drunk in the process.
As briefly mentioned above, gasques are an important factor when picking your nation for the semester. Gasques are formal student dinners followed by an afterparty. It’s the night when everyone dresses up in their best and participates in old Scandinavian traditions. Sing a song, cheers to your right, cheers to your left, cheers to the center, back around again, and “Skål!” Since most of the traditions were in Swedish, you could find me stumbling over the lyrics in the program and skåling the wrong person. When you arrive at your assigned seat, you will find 1 beer, 1 glass of wine, 2 shots of schnapps, 1 glass of whiskey, and vodka. Before the party.
After said partying, there were plenty of nights where cycling wasn’t an option and my financial resources were depleted, making a cab no longer available . A typical walk home from a nation to my student housing was a 30 minute walk through a cemetery followed by a long lonely path in the woods. Normally, this would be a scene in a horror movie. Yet never once was I afraid to walk home at 12 noon or even 3 am. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this on a nightly basis, however as a young (and often drunk) female, I don’t think I’ve ever felt that safe in my life.
There is always a ton of things to do in Sweden. From going to Stockholm and exploring museums, to dog sledding in Lapland, to crayfishing in the Swedish fishing villages, you are always surrounded by authentic Swedish traditions.
My Swedish friends called this the ghetto of Uppsala… and they were pretty much right. However, this is the hub of international students. Flogsta is a 12 building community where students at Uppsala Universitet (and some locals) live. This is where all the parties are thrown, where all of the Flogsta screams come from, and where all of the best memories are made. And when a standard beer costs 66 SEK ($9), it pays off to the cheapest place in town.
If I haven’t expressed now how much partying there was abroad, let me reiterate. SO. MUCH. ALCOHOL. There was nothing like going to the Systembolaget for a liter of alcohol, pregaming at your pad, and continuing to drink at any nation, every night! And when there was a themed party, the costumes were epic. However I must warn you: once summer comes and the sun never sets, beware! The absence of darkness will trick you into thinking it is constantly pregaming hour. My friends can attest to that on my behalf. What happens in the Flogsta forest roundabout-thing stays in the Flogsta forest roundabout-thing.
I figured I would throw that in for good measure.