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Guide to Student Life in Uppsala

Uppsala is one of the best cities to be a student in Scandinavia and possibly in the entire world. With a really old university, founded in 1477, it has centuries of traditions and is centred around academia and student life. It is the fourth largest city in Sweden (after Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö) and has a population of around 150 000 (in 2015) of which more than 45 000 are students.

If you are reading this article, chances are you may be one of those 45 000 students, perhaps even one of the new ones, in which case the next part could be of use to you as I will try and give you tips that could come in handy:

Buy a bike! Might sound silly in the midst of winter. Right now, many rely on buses and just walking as the roads may be too icy or it may be simply too cold to ride a bicycle, but when spring comes everyone will have one and you do not want to be ‘one of those people’ who forces everyone to walk or who has to ride solo on a bus. There are many ways you can buy bikes second hand either via Facebook groups or dedicated shops.

Lock your bike, always! Not only lock it but make sure it is secured to something like a lamppost or a bicycle rack. Apart from people stealing bikes (which apparently is one of the most common crimes committed in Uppsala), many drunken students have the nasty habit of throwing bikes into the river so beware! A really big hotspot for this is in front of Norrlands nation.

Use your bike ‘the Swedish way’: make sure you have a working bell, a front and a back light (also led ones will do) and use the designated cycle lanes. If you do not follow these rules you could get fined 500 kronor each for every transgression on the spot! Also remember not to walk in cycle lanes, may sound stupid but you would be surprised about how many people tend to do this and get angry reactions from the cyclists.

Become a member of a Student Nation! There are 13 different ones and each one represents a different area in Sweden. You can join any nation you like (unless you are Swedish in which case if you do not have family ties to Södermaland or Nerikes regions, you cannot join Snerikes. But for all the other ones no problem). Joining one nation gives you access to all 13 of them, even when they sell alcohol (so during pub and club nights). Each one gives different perks specific to that nation. Most give free entry to their club for members (except Kalmar and Upplands who only give 50 percent off) while others also give you discount on food and hot drinks at their pubs and cafes. Most also give their members priority for buying gasque tickets with them. You can join as many nations as you like; I’m currently a member of 2 but debating if I should to join a third one too! The membership fee is paid once a semester. If you want to join you need to speak to the 1Q of that particular nation and bring ID and proof of studies (Swedish personal number or T-number should be enough).

Get involved in the Nations! If you just go to the nations for fika, the odd pub and weekly club I feel you may be missing out on a big part of  ‘Uppsala student life’. Working in the nations is super easy; you meet new people, get the chance to practice your Swedish, learn new skills, eat good food and so on. The best thing is that for most nation jobs no previous experience is required so you can try out making hamburgers in a busy pub kitchen, pouring beers and mixing drinks at a bar or even just checking ID and student cards (ideal if you want to read a book, study or watch a film). Most nations do not pay for the work you do (even if they do it’s peanuts as 35 kronor per hour is nothing compared to what a normal waiter gets which is a minimum of 90 kronor) as it is part of the spirit ‘students 4 students’ in which, by working for free, we allow people to have a really cheap meal. You do however still get rewarded for your work and the sort of reward varies from nation to nation. It could be anything from a card to skip the line and get free entry to the weekly club for one month, (like in Stockholms Nation) to a free staff dinner followed by an afterparty in Östgöta Nation (both of which you get if you work three shifts). Mainly one does it for the social life and to meet Swedish people who, for an international student, are not always the easiest people to socialise with in normal situations, at least in my experience.

Download these must have apps! There are some essential free apps that one can dowload to make life easier both in Uppsala and in the whole of Sweden.

Join one of the Student Unions. They fight for our rights and are there to support us if we have any sort of problems within our department or in our student life in general. They also offer a lot of services (from sexual health advice to a student wellbeing centre) and when you join Uppsala student union they give you a free tote bag and you get a ten percent discount off books and merchandise in Studentbokhandeln. To join just head over to their headquarters during office hours and while there help yourself to information leaflets on the city of Uppsala and student life in general, pick up some free goodies such as notebooks or condoms. Though Uppsala student union is the biggest and oldest student union in Uppsala, there are several other student unions you can join as well, depending on your field of study. You can find all of them listed here.

Flash your student card in shops and restaurants! Many of them offer student discounts, and even if they don’t – it never hurts to ask. You can find a list of all the discounts offered to you at mecenat.com (unfortunately the page doesn’t have any English translation, so you might have to ask your kind Swedish-speaking neighbour or Google translate to help you understand it).

Make the most of Student Deals on mobile phone rates! When I first arrived in Uppsala I got given the free sim card in the university welcome pack but after almost a year living here I realised that paying 49 Kr for 0.5 GB was extortionate even for ‘expensive Sweden’. After some research I found Vimla! which is a start-up based in Södermalm that instead of investing heavily on marketing campaigns rely on the mouth to mouth system. So if I refer someone I get 10 Kr off my monthly fee and so do those that I referred. The monthly fee is  90 Kr which gives you: 2 GB (3 GB if you are a student or over 55) | 60 min. for nationwide mobiles and landlines | 600 SMS | 20 GB extra data. Unused data, minutes and texts role onto the next month if you have not used them all! Plus the first 3 months you pay 40 Kr instead of 90 Kr and there is no binding time! To sign up and get 10 Kr off each month (paying 40 and eventually 90 Kr as opposed to 50 and 100 Kr) follow my referral link: https://vimla.se/?201705101301370838 Only problem is the website and the free app are only available in Swedish but if you use the translate function on Chrome you should be fine and if you are not just ask them for help via chat, they all speak English and are all very friendly and helpful.

Going home for a few days? Use the coach (yellow bus number 801) to go to Arlanda airport. It might take longer than the train (40 minutes as opposed to 20) but tickets are also half the price of trains. You can also buy tickets for the bus on the UL app mentioned previously if you want to save a few extra kronor. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Go to Uppsalingo! If you want to practice your Swedish and are willing to teach your mother tongue language in exchange this is the place for you! There are regular meetings held in a nation pub where people are divided according to their mother-tongue language and sit at tables.The first hour is dedicated to Swedes teaching Swedish and in the second hour you swap and you teach the Swedes your mother tongue language (so, for example, if you are Italian you will sit on the Italian table and teach Italian). This semester it is held in Gotland Nation’s pub every Wednesday from 18:00 to 21:00 and you need to bring ID and your student card as they sell alcohol.

Be in Uppsala over the Valborg period! Valborg is the best student party in Sweden and its heart is here in Uppsala. Students from all over Sweden and beyond congregate in Uppsala having massive parties in public parks and squares and flooding the student nations which will all be open and jam-packed with events and people. The period is between the 27th of April and the 1st of May. A more specific guide on this important festivity will be published here (in English) closer to the time.

Original article published in ‘Ergo’, Uppsala’s student magazine, on the 7th of March 2017.  Latest revision done today.

Gaudemus Igitur, the international traditional student’s anthem

This is the original latin text of ‘Gaudemus Igitur’ one of the most famous student songs sang throughout the student organisations: from Spain, to Sweden, Italy to Germany. Originally written by the Goliards, it is based on a Latin manuscript of 1287 but the music we associate with it was composed in 1880. It is still sang today as a popular university drinking song and as a graduation hymn.

Gaudeamus igitur,
Juvenes dum sumus;
Post icundum iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.
Let us therefore rejoice,
While we are young;
After our youth,
After a troublesome old age
The ground will hold us.
Vita nostra brevis est,
Brevi finietur;
Venit mors velociter,
Rapit nos atrociter;
Nemini parcetur.
Our life is brief,
It will shortly end;
Death comes quickly,
Cruelly snatches us;
No-one is spared.
Ubi sint qui ante nos
In mundo fuere?
Vadite ad superos,
Transite in inferos
Hos si vis videre.
Where are those who before us
Existed in the world?
You may go up to the gods,
You may cross into the underworld
If you wish to see them.
Vivat academia,
Vivant professores,
Vivat membrum quodlibet,
Vivat membra quaelibet;
Semper sint in flore!
Long live the university,
Long live the teachers,
Long live each male student,
Long live each female student;
May they always flourish!
Vivat et republica
Et qui illam regit.
Vivat nostra civitas,
Maecenatum caritas
Quae nos hic protegit.
Long live the state
And those who rule it.
Long live our city,
And the charity of benefactors
Which protects us here.
Vivant omnes virgines,
Faciles, formosae!
Vivant et mulieres,
Tenerae, amabiles,
Bonae, laboriosae.
Long live all young women,
Easy and beautiful!
Long live wives as well,
Tender, loveable,
Honest, hardworking.
Pereat tristitia,
Pereant osores.
Pereat diabolus,
Quivis antiburschius
Atque irrisores!
Perish sadness,
Perish haters.
Perish the devil,
Whoever is against the student fraternity,
As well those who mock us!
Quis confluxus hodie
Academicorum?
E longinquo convenerunt,
Protinusque successerunt
In commune forum.
Who has gathered now
Of the university?
They gather from long distances,
Immediately joining
Our common forum.
Vivat nostra societas,
Vivant studiosi!
Crescat una veritas,
Floreat fraternitas,
Patriae prosperitas.
Long live our fellowship,
Long live the studious!
May truth and honesty thrive,
Flourish with our fraternity,
And our homeland be prosperous.
Alma Mater floreat,
Quae nos educavit;
Caros et commilitones,
Dissitas in regiones
Sparsos, congregavit.
May our Alma Mater thrive,
That which educated us;
Dear ones and comrades,
Who we let scatter afar,
Let us assemble.

Student Organisations: Nations, Goliardia and Colleges

After my experience studying at Uppsala University I decided to write my History bachelor thesis on student societies from their medieval roots to modern day. The question I’m asking is whether there is a transnational connection between the different student societies and in what they are similar or differ.

Valborg in Uppsala

Valborg in Uppsala

The element of drinking and having a good time is definitely a common trait throughout history and space but I believe there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Many traditional organisations have actual rituals of initiation, some more symbolic than others, that aim to welcome the new student into the university world, leaving behind childhood in seek for knowledge and experience.

The ‘Nation’ is one of the oldest student organisations that dates back to Medieval times and was a group of students who helped each other settle-in to the university city and provided a social club for people from the same territory. This form of association was present in Italy, France, Scotland and other European countries but has now only survived in the universities of Uppsala and Lund in Sweden and some Finnish universities.

Colleges came at a later date and were formed to provide accommodation for students who lived outside the university city and were often connected to monastic orders or to pre-existent fraternities. These can be found in the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge and other UK universities.

Goliardia, the oldest of the three organisations mentioned, started in Italy in medieval times from a group of ‘clerici vagantes’, students who travelled following the lecturer to different universities that for social or financial reasons did not have the right to follow university courses.

Each student organisation has its symbols, coat of arms and traditions. One of the most common is that of wearing a student cap:

The Student Cap

In many student societies there is a traditional hat which distinguishes the members of the club and this varies from state to state. In Italy the ‘Goliardi’ wear a hat that resembles the shape of Robin Hood’s hat and each member would have small badges attached to it to symbolise different things. .The colour of the hat would vary according to the degree course studied. In Belgium the hat has a different shape but has similar badges to the Italian one and is called Calotte. The calotte originates from the skullcap worn by the Papal regiment around 1860. The calotte is cylindrical, made from velvet and astrakhan. In Scandinavia instead they wear a white cap which looks like a sailor’s hat, except for the Norwegian one which is in black velvet.

Scandinavian Student Hats. The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish (1945).

Scandinavian Student Hats. The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish (1945).

Where you part of a student organisation? Did you have any traditions in your association? If you do please get in touch! You would be of great help.

The Concept of ‘Student Nations’


Uppsala is world famous for its particularly awesome student life and what makes it so are ‘Student Nations’.

History:

The nations are student organisations that date back more then 400 years and originally when their function was for older student to support freshmen from their region to settle into life in the ‘university city’. They did this by providing help with accommodation, support and places to socialise (pubs and cafes). ln the past there were more then there are today and each organisation corresponded to a different region in Sweden.

Now 13 student nations still remain, some have merged together and although geographical regions are not that important anymore, you still choose to be member of one of them and someway you identify yourself with the organisation.

Historical photo

Stockholms’ Nation’s Main Hall

What does a nation have?

It depends on its size but generally they each have:

  • A Student Pub where you can find cheap drinks that are taxed less than in normal  laces (you can find beers for £3/€3.50, which in comparison to standard £5 is a bargain).
  • Norrland Nation's Pub
  • Student Club night once a week. Yes, that’s right, just for students so cheaper prices and unlike Saturday nights at ‘Tiger Tiger’ in Manchester, you will not encounter horny lasses celebrating their A-levels 40 years too late…
  • student club
  • Restaurant once a week. A la carte menu with really nice food where you can easily have a 3 course meal for £12 (and food in Sweden is generally more expensive).

Resturant

resturant 2

  • Student Cafe – study lounge:  where you can have hot drinks, milkshakes, sandwiches, salads and delicious pastries all of which is home-made.

cakes

 

  •  Formal dinners once a month (called gasques) where food is particularly  good, everyone dresses-up, there is entertainment during the meal (although most of it is in Swedish so I just nod and pretend to sing-along). Food + drinks + club/after-party  =  300kr (so approx. £30/€35).
Formal dinner

Västgöta Male quire performes as part of the entertainment provided during V.G.’s Gasque (formal dinner) in April 2013 .

  • Sport teams, societies, film-nights, culture nights and so on…
  • Student housing (cheap, good quality, bills included and you don’t have to deal with dick-headed agents who try to capitalise on your misfortune of having signed a contract with them).
  • Library and study area

 Stockholm's Nation's Library

How is all this even possible?

Thanks to the time dedicated by loads of student-volunteers that do not get paid and 4 one-year interns that work weekdays 9-6 in their offices and often even during weekends and get paid minimum wage. Everyone works for the benefit of other students in the ‘students for students’ spirit that should and wise administration of the funds and reinvestment of them in creating benefit for the students.

What do they get?

A great social experience. You meet so many people and interact with them in a different environment from the standard study or party one. Whether you are flipping burgers in the kitchen or pouring shots during the club you have an awesome time.

workers

Staff Dinner at ‘Östgöta Nation’. Once a month, after voluntarily spending a Sunday cleaning the entire venue, all who helped are invited to a 3 course meal with drinks and after-party included, all of which is paid by the nation.

You learn loads and no previous experience needed. From how to make cocktails, to baking pastries, recipes in the kitchen and if your colleague has good tunes on his iPod, you get to broaden your musical repertoire (before working in nations I thought Justin Bieber and Marco Carta were the best artists in the world #mindblowing).

I you have a position of responsibility you have staff discount on all food, drinks and formal dinners,  +1 club-night pass that allows you to skip the cue and get free-entry and earn ‘accommodation points’ that help you work-yourself up the waiting list to get student housing with the nation. You get a point for each semester you are member of the nation and if you take a position of responsibility you get, at least, one extra one per semester (I believe it varies on the level of responsibility and the number of hours you’re required to do every week).

Put stuff on your C.V. This works a treat especially if you hold a position of responsibility instead of being a casual worker.  This is a list of most of them (that I can think of):

–          Club master

–          Pub master

–          Official photographer

–          Magazine Editor

–          International Secretary

–          Bar Manager

–          Librarian

–          Kitchen master

–          Head waiter

–          Breakfast host

–          Lunch host

–          Café host

–          Weekend Brunch host

And I think there may be more..

Could you imagine something similar working in other parts of the world?

I tried to: Click here to read the idea I had to try and improve Manchester’s Student Union.

 

Useful Links (in English):

Student Nation Guide

Uppsala University

Facebook pages of some of the nations:

Stockholm’s

Västgöta’s

Varmland’s

Club Music in Uppsala’s Student Nations

Many international students complain that the music playlist is always the same in all student clubs here in Uppsala and to be honest I can’t blame them. It is undeniable that the following songs are going to be played in the main dance hall at some point during the night and in some ways, it’s almost comforting.

Everything changes yet everything stays the same.

The following are the YouTube videos of the most played songs in Student Nation Club nights in Uppsala:

Swedish House Mafia classics.

The key word when it comes to talking about Swedish House music is Mafia. Swedish House Mafia’s hits are the most played in clubs and you can see the excitement amongst Swedes when there music comes on.

Greyhound

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBRKSIj2tMc]

Don’t You Worry Child

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9BtTrZdft8]

Save the World

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ACyyl-2sOw]

Loreen

This song was Sweden’s chosen song for the 2012 Eurovision song contest, that here in Sweden is a massive thing. This year’s final will be in Malmö (south of Sweden) and apparently tickets  have sold out ages ago!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcnWysA9gxo]

Avicii

I Could Be The One

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bek1y2uiQGA]

Levels

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ovdm2yX4MA]

Alesso

The Spanish artist is quite popular in Sweden although people from other countries don’t know who he is, you can be sure to hear at least one of these two if you go out at any point in Uppsala’s student clubs.

Years ft. Matthew Koma

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIrB96V-UNI]

Ingrosso & Alesso – Calling (Lose My Mind) ft. Ryan Tedder

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G1I16gJBvU]

Nause 

Hungry Hearts 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfzumrMG0a4]

Made of

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZicItqfhtTo]

Others you may hear:

Ivan Gough & Feenixpawl ft. Georgi Kay

In My Mind (Axwell Mix)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4shwJBnYEM]

Otto Knows 

Million Voices 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8jhXmfdRFY]

Far East Movement

Turn Up The Love ft. Cover Drive

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqXVgAmqBOs]

The Aston Shuffle vs. Tommy Trash – Sunrise (Won’t Get Lost)

Sunrise (Won’t Get Lost)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WksyDX-1DCI]

Most annoying of all is when the DJ puts a slow sad melancholic song to end the night when many (both men and women) make one final drunken attempt to find someone to share a bed although the odds are against them. The following is by far the most popular for this annoying practice .

Adele – Someone Like You

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0]