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.
For an updated version of student life in Uppsala, check out the interview on the travel blog Average Lives.
Original article published in ‘Ergo’, Uppsala’s student magazine, on the 7th of March 2017. Latest revision done today.