4 months in Uppsala

It has been almost 4 months since I arrived in Uppsala to start my master’s here. I have not been able to properly sit down and update this blog as I have been very busy. I have experienced many different things in my new hometown!

I have finished the first half of the semester of my master’s. My courses are interesting and I have a lot of assignments. I don’t have many lectures, but I’m expected to read a lot in my ‘free’ time.

The student nations make university life in Uppsala much more fun. There are 13 nations you can choose from to become a member of. Each nation has their own activities (such as sports, theatre, and choirs) or club nights. Clubbing in Uppsala is a bit different from what I am used to. The clubs open quite early (most of the time around 18.00) and close early as well (around 01:00 usually). For special occasions, the clubs might stay open until 02:00 or 04:00.

The nations organize formal Swedish dinners every once in a while, called gasques. During these gasques you will get familiar with many of the traditions that have existed in the nations for centuries. There is singing, lots of toasting, alcohol, speeches, sketches, and orchestras.

The nations also organize events such as beer pong, unlimited waffle lunches, or pub quizes. The nations have pub nights during the week, alcohol is much cheaper there compared to ‘regular’ pubs downtown.

As a student at Uppsala University, you can get free tickets to see the local football team, IK Sirius, play live. They play in a small stadium, IP Studenternas, which is located in the downtown area. When the football season is over, you can see Sirius’ innebandy team play live. Innebandy is Swedish ice hockey. Both are fascinating to watch, the supporters really get into the game!

My friends and I decided to try out orienteering in the dark. Orienteering is a Swedish activity, you will receive a paper map, a compass, and headlamps, you’ll have to find your way through a foresty area without google maps. My friends turned out to be very good navigators and we quickly found our way through the Swedish nature.

Uppsala has a lot of nature which can easily be explored by hiking or biking. I have hiked through forests such as stadskogen and Håga. It is also worth it to take a look at Gamla Uppsala, an interesting historical site.

Uppsala has a yearly event, called kulturnatten (culture night), during which you can try different foods, look at all sorts of acts and visit the museums for free.
Interestingly, if you want to work out for free, you can easily go to an outdoor gym. Uppsala also has a lot of nice places to go for a run.
You can also take a train to explore towns close by. For instance, if you want to see the ocean, you can go to Furuvik.




Learning Swedish for free

If you’re going to study at Uppsala University I recommend you taking the Intensive Basic Swedish courses. If you’re a student at UU, these will be free. This course starts at the beginning of the August. Aside from these courses, there are other ways to learn some Swedish, for free!

  • First of all, download an app called Duolingo it’s a great way to practice and increase your vocabulary. This will also help you develop a feel for the Swedish language.
  • Sign up at learningswedish.se and practice with the alphabet, numbers, and phrases. This website has some great exercises to help you understand spoken Swedish.
  • If you like YouTube, go subscribe to Swedish vloggers! In vlogs people tend to use every day spoken language. You will come across phrases that are used in daily conversations and might not covered in a text book. Examples of Swedish Youtubers: Keyyo, Therese Lindgren, Sabina Decireé, Amir Akrouti, Josefine Olsson, Helen Torsgården, IJustWantToBeCool. (Nackagubben does not speak Swedish in his videos but does explain interesting Swedish words)
  • You can also listen to Swedish Podcasts.
  • 8Sidor is a real Swedish news site that uses very easy words.
  • On svtplay.se you can watch Swedish tv shows, however, you can only watch this if you’re actually in Sweden. As far as I know, you can’t watch any content outside of Sweden.





Swedish summer courses at Uppsala University

One of my reasons for coming to Uppsala early was for the summer courses offered by the University. They have officially started and are loads of fun! I’m in a class with about twenty other international students. It’s been interesting to hear where everyone’s from and what they’ll be studying in Uppsala.

The course is quite fast-paced, which I like. As a Dutch person, the pronunciations are quite difficult. But reading is easier, as I can sometimes guess words due to the similarities. Our teacher is really helpful and kind! It’s a very relaxed environment.

We have classes in the morning, so I have all the afternoons off. Which is nice, since I’ll still have a bit of vacation. Even though we do get some homework.

I have also moved into my own room. I have my own room with bathroom. I share the kitchen with other people living in the corridor. I’m still desperately looking for a cheap second-hand bike, but still without any luck! I’m too far away from the city center to walk, unfortunately. So I have been taking the bus. The buses are always on time, so it’s very reliable. However, taking the bus every day can get quite expensive. One trip costs 22kr.

Exploring Uppsala part 5

Today I decided to walk in a different direction than I did the previous days. This time I walked alongside the Fyris again, but towards Svartbacken. On my way, I passed through a neighborhood with two (!) basketball courts. I also spotted a lot of bridges. You’re able to cross the Fyris at many different points, apparently. After checking out all the bridges I felt like I saw enough of them so I wanted to go back to the downtown area. All I had to do was navigate towards the Domkyrka. It’s not allowed to build anything higher than the cathedral, so it’s visible from a lot of places in Uppsala.

Lastly, before crossing the St Olofsgatan bron (bridge) back to the city center I had to take another picture of the Domkyrka. It’s safe to say that I am now a proud owner of a folder on my laptop with pictures of the Domkyrka from several angles. I’m sure I’ll take many more pictures of Uppsala’s greatest treasure during my time here.

Exploring Uppsala part 4

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so by the time I left my room it was already lunch time. It wasn’t very busy at MoeJoe’s so I stopped there for a quick lunch. I decided to walk around a bit without checking where I was going. I ended up in a ‘foresty’ area with some steep hills. Note to self: do not go here when it’s snowing. I had issues walking down the hills without snow or ice, so yeah.

On the way, I met a lot of hikers and joggers. After about 300 meters of walking, I found myself at the Uppsala castle again. It’s almost as if every road in Uppsala leads to that exact point. At the castle, it was a lot busier than the previous days. I saw a lot of tourists strolling around, taking pictures.

I finally got to take a decent picture of the cathedral! I walked around the castle again to see the view. From the castle, you can see quite a bit of Uppsala. I walked back to the foresty area, but ended up straying away from the city. Suddenly I was in the Stadsparken again. Unlike yesterday, the weather was quite nice today. I saw a lot of people sunbathing and sitting down in the grass. I was getting tired and dizzy so I walked back to my room along the Fyris. I saw a lot of ducks on my way back. Before going home I picked up a kanelbulle for my late fika.

Exploring Uppsala part 3

Unfortunately, it has been raining all day, so I decided to keep my expedition short. My priority was the Skatteverket. I had to get some paperwork done regarding my insurance. I completely forgot that government places often close for an hour at noon so that the workers can take a lunch break. When I got there, I saw people waiting outside in the rain. Luckily, I only had to wait 5 minutes for them to open again. I was outside after 5 minutes, they couldn’t help me. I needed to have a personnummer first.  I had already applied for one, but one of the staff members told me it can take up to two months before it’s processed.

It was still raining so I decided to go for a walk. I wanted to see the Stadsparken again and walked around a part I didn’t see yesterday. Afterward, I walked along the Fyris river. I saw some ducks swimming around. Back in the city, I bought some prinsesstårta at a supermarket. The cake was a bit disappointing. It would probably taste better bought from an actual bakery. If you like whipped cream in your pastries, you will probably love it. But I’m not particularly fond of it. I will stick to kanelbulle next time!

Exploring Uppsala part 2

I met up with two cool international girls and explored more parts of Uppsala. We first marveled at the Domkyrka. The inside was still as beautiful as yesterday.
At the Carolina Rediviva we decided to look inside. It is an old library that belongs to Uppsala University. The inside smelled like books.

Our next stop was the Uppsala Castle, we decided to look inside. There was some kind of exhibition on being yourself. Outside of the Uppsala Castle, we took in the beautiful view that can be seen when standing next to the GunillaklockanWe then walked through the Botanical Garden to the Linnéträdgården. There were a lot of pretty flowers and weeds. Each plant had a separate name tag. I came to the conclusion that I know like three plants.

We then felt like it was time for some fika. After our mandatory fika, we walked along the Fyris river to the Stadsparken. At the end of the park, I got a glimpse of the Studenternas IP, the stadium where IK Sirius plays its home matches. IK Sirius is Uppsala’s football team and plays in Sweden’s ‘premier league’ (Allsvenskan).


Moving abroad… with anxiety

You shouldn’t let your anxiety stop you from moving abroad. Because the first few days, weeks or months might be uncomfortable, but after awhile you will get more used to your surroundings. I experience anxiety in places and situations that are uncertain to me. I’m constantly over-analyzing the situations and wondering whether I’m adhering to all the social rules and not offending anyone. I am also not particularly fond of asking strangers for help.

  • First of all: get familiar with your surroundings. You will feel less anxious if you know how to navigate yourself through the city. Practice using public transportation, find out how you can easily get to your school or work in your new country. Don’t stay inside too much. If you don’t expose yourself to your new surroundings, your anxiety will only get worse. Exposure will help you realize that… it isn’t actually that scary.
  • Interact with people. If you’re unsure about something, it’s okay to ask the people in the store for more information. Here in Sweden, people are more than happy to help you out. They speak English very well! And if people are unfriendly, it doesn’t have to be anything personal. They might have had a rude customer before you or have a lot on their own minds. Don’t worry about it.
  • It’s a lot to take in, so take babysteps. Walk around for a bit, go back home and recharge.
  • Try to learn the language of your new country. Understanding some of the words written and spoken around you will probably make you more confident! You can even put some of that into action by using easy words on people, for instance, say tack så mycket (thank you very much) when you’re done checking out at the supermarket. Or approach people with a friendly hej!
  • To take away some of your anxiety you can also look up information before doing anything, such as going to city hall. Check out the surroundings on Google maps. Maybe find out what the procedures are. But don’t frantically search everything online. In the end, you want to be able to approach uncertainties as well.

A little anecdote…
Because my Swedish is at a level of a 2-year-old (or maybe lower, haha!) I don’t understand everything I read, and when I’m in a hurry it’s even harder to process the words. So I accidentally bought sparkling water, which I don’t like. Later I went to the supermarket again, I was craving sugary drinks. So I took home a bottle, of what looked like lemonade. When I got home I took a big gulp. It wasn’t lemonade. It was flavored syrup. So now I added the syrup to the sparkled water and it’s delicious!

Exploring Uppsala part 1

The new academic year hasn’t even officially started yet, but I’m already in Uppsala. I want to get here early to get everything done before the semester starts and because I will be participating in a basic Swedish course at Uppsala University. I currently have lots of (alone) time so I can decide whatever I want to do. As an anxious introvert, this is a win-lose situation. I don’t have to spend too much time socializing. But… I have to deal with all the uncertainties alone. Here you can read about moving abroad when you suffer from anxiety.

Now I still have the time (and money) to wander around. I started out by walking around downtown, this area is quite easy to remember. You probably won’t get lost here. I read online that there is an art museum (konstmuseum) in the Uppsala castle (slott). So I walked from the city centre to the museum. Along the way, I passed the University’s Library (Carolina Rediviva), a very impressive building. The art museum is interesting, I especially liked the (temporary) exhibitions on the top floor. In particular the art pieces by Idun Baltzersens and Peter Tillberg.

I then decided to proceed my journey to the Botanical Garden (trädgården), which is right in front of the Uppsala Castle. The garden is incredibly beautiful and leads you to the Linneanum. I continued my journey to the Linnéträdgården and saw signs that read ‘Evolutionsmuseet‘ so I followed those to get to my next museum. I had to pay 50 kronor. The museum can be summed up as: place with a lot of skeletons. Which is very exciting if you like dinosaurs!

I walked back to the botanical garden and hung around the fountain for a bit. I saw a lot of people standing still there and continuously tapping their phones, I think it has something to do with PokemonGo, haha!
I decided I want to go to Uppsala’s cathedral (Domkyrka) so that’s where I went next. I sat on the benches inside for a bit to observe the tourists and the rest of the cathedral of course.

Lastly, I decided to get a shake and a sandwich at Joe & the Juice.


Getting a sim card & registering at Skatteverket

After arriving at Arlanda Airport I took the pendeltåg to Uppsala Centralstationen. I put my suitcase in a locker (förvaringsbox) at the train station. These can be found next to the bathrooms on the ground floor, close to the pharmacy.

Getting a Sim card
My next stop was Presbyrån, also located at the central station. I bought a prepaid sim card for my phone. They keep these behind the counter, so you’ll have to ask the store clerk about them. He was very friendly and explained to me how to top up your balance, the old fashion way. You can top up your balance at Presbyrån. You can buy a bundle there and you’ll get a receipt, on which there is a code you will need to ‘call’. Afterward, you’ll receive a message, in Swedish, that it has been successfully topped up.

If you want an actual plan (abonnemang) instead of prepaid, you will need a personnummer. But it will take awhile before you get your personnummer. With prepaid, you also can’t top up your balance online, unless you have a Swedish bank account. And again, to get a Swedish bank account, you’ll need a personnummer.

Getting a personnummer
A personnummer is like a social security number. The number consists out of your birthday (YYMMDD) plus four extra numbers.
After getting my phone number, I walked to Skatteverket, where I had to register myself because my study is longer than 8 months.

As an EU student, I needed to bring my passport, a self-assigned assurance that you’re able to support yourself financially, a certificate of registration, proof that you’re admitted, and my EHIC card. For the assurance, I wrote a letter stating I would be able to support myself, I specified where I would get my funds from, and put my signature on it. The certificate of registration you’ll get after officially registering at Uppsala University. For the proof that you’ve been admitted, you can download and print the admission results from universityadmissions.se. Lastly, you have to be insured before coming to Sweden, to prove this you can bring your EHIC card.

When I arrived at the Skatteverket, there was a long line. I think I waited in line for about 45 minutes. When you’re first in line, you will get approached by one of the staff members. I explained my situation to him and he handed me a form which I had to fill in. He also gave me ‘a number’. It was time to wait once more. There was a digital board on the wall which displayed the ‘number’ being helped at which desk.  Every few minutes you’ll hear a ‘ding’ sound and a new number is displayed on the board. It took more than an hour before my number was displayed on the digital board. During that time I filled in my form, on which they asked for standard details (name, date of birth, address, etc). They also wanted a phone number. So I thought it was the perfect time to pop the new sim card into my phone. It worked!

After my number was called, I went over to one of the desks. The staff member copied all my papers I brought with me, my passport and EHIC card. She also took the form. She explained that it will take about two weeks before everything is processed and I will get my personnummer. I have a Dutch driver’s license, but I will eligible for a Swedish one after I get my personnummer.

Moral of the story, get a personnummer as soon as you can. It’s a key to getting many things done in Sweden. If you’re not staying for a long time, but still need a personnummer (for instance, you need a Swedish bank account), contact Uppsala University. They might be able to help you!