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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.

Food & Drink you must try in Sardinia

The other day I met a chatty Swedish guy in a pub called Hannes, who told me he was flying to Sardinia for a family holiday and landing in Cagliari. What an odd coincidence! I’m not referring to the fact I met a Swedish guy in Sweden or to the unexpected coincidence that random chat with strangers occured in an alcohol serving premises but to the fact that his family chose to go on one of the few flights a year between Stockholm and Sardinia. As soon as he told me this I got him to give me his email address and promised I would give him a list of things to eat and drink which he must try when on the island.
Aperitivo

Start at the beginning with the ‘Aperitivo culture’ also known as Aperitif. It is comparable to the better known tapas culture in Spain, as it is the principle of going to a Bar/Cafe and having something to drink which is served with many little nibbles. The most popular of all is Aperol Spritz but also Campari Soda, Negroni, Negroni sbagliato, Garibaldi, Americano are all worth a try. Alternatively you can also have straight Prosecco or beer.
Beer

Surprisingly enough Sardinia has many local breweries which have popped up like mushrooms in recent years. I cannot say I’m an expert in handcrafted beers but Barley’s Friska is really good. For more info on the different craft produced beers in Sardinia there is Micro Birrifici – Sardinia which is a good link to check out. There is the most common Sardinian beer produced in the industrial area just outside Cagliari called ‘Ichnusa’. It is readily available all over Italy and in many countries across the world including Germany, UK and Sweden. In the last few months System Bolaget, the only chain of alcohol selling shops in Sweden, started selling it across the country in the ‘new beers’ section.

 

Wine

Red wine all the way, although there are also some really good white wines to try. House wine is cheap but most of the times really good, often better than more expensive bottled wine that can be bought in UK or Sweden. Cannonau is a typical variety of Sardinian red wine which is produced throughout the island and is quite strong in flavour. I’m no wine expert so will not go into further detail, but if you are looking for wine that you can also buy outside of the island the biggest producers are Argiolas (in the south) and Sella e Mosca (near Alghero, in the north).
Bread

Pane Carasau, Guttiau and Pistoccu are three different variaties of hard, crunchy bread one can only find in Sardinia. Similar breads can be found across the world such as Sweden’s rye crispbread ‘Knäckebröd’ but nothing beats Carasau served with local extra virgin olive oil and salt. There are also different varieties of normal bread in Sardinia that are worth looking out for, some of which are made in really artistic shapes and are characterised by a crunchy brown crust and a really soft doughy part.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

Plenty of brands, plenty of varieties as Sardinia is abundant with olive trees, some even several hundred years old. ‘Spremitura a freddo’ is the highest quality one can find as they only press the olives without any heat (a freddo) so as not to ruin the flavour and also to preserve the natural qualities and ‘goodness’ of the olives.

Pasta: A variety of sauces
Arselle e Bottarga or Bottariga. Normally long pasta such as linguini or spaghetti are served with clams and ‘Bottarga’ which some call ‘parmesan of the sea’ for the fact it is grated and adds salt and flavour to the pasta. Others call it ‘the caviar of the south’ as it is made by salting and drying fish eggs. Bottarga can also be eaten in slices as an appetizer, served with fennel or artichokes and a drizzle of olive oil .
Carlofortina pasta: from the island of San Pietro (south west of Sardinia) the village of Carloforte is a Genovese colony whose population brought over a series of traditions from their region and above all pesto. So Carlofortina pasta or pizza is made with green pesto, tuna (as they fish high quality tuna off the costs of that island) and fresh tomatoes.
Culurgiones: Sardinian ravioli filled with potatoes and cream cheese. These are served with a freshly-made tomato sauce (not ketchup) and a sprinkle of pecorino or parmesan cheese.
Fregola alla Pescatora: fregola is a typical Sardinian pasta which in many ways recalls couscous. Pescatora is a sauce made with a mixture of seafood and is very flavoursome. Different restaurants make it in different ways, some make it more dense,others a bit runny. Out of the two I personally prefer the dense one but it is a matter of taste.
Al Nero di Seppia: pasta cooked with squid ink. To some people this may look disgusting as you find yourself with a plate of spaghetti covered in a black sauce,but it is the most flavoursome spaghetti you will ever try! Obviously it tastes of fish to a certain extent, so if you hate seafood you might want to avoid this one.
Fish and Meat:
Polpo – octopus. Might sound disgusting but it is really nice, It is normally boiled and served in different ways either ‘alla diavola’ with a spicy tomato sauce or served cold with potatoes and balsamic vinegar as a sort of salad.
Bistecca di Cavallo – horse meat steak: now I can imagine the horrified faces of those who would believe that only barbarians would be cruel enough to eat a poor little horsy, but that is a very hypocritical thing to believe if the person thinking this eats veal or lamb which are the cutest of ‘baby animals’ that have not even had the chance of discovering the joys of life before being slaughtered or those who eat battery farmed chicken; how morally correct is that? Either way it is a very tasty steak which is comparable to beef in many aspects ,but more flavoursome. In some places they make fast food sandwiches for €5 with cavallo e patate (shredded horse meat and potatoes). Normally a classic ‘Fiorentina’ horse steak is served with fresh ruccola and shredded parmesan cheese.
Cheese: lots of cheese production takes place in Sardinia. Many of which are made from goat or sheep milk. Pecorino(sheep cheese) is a classic which you have in all different shapes and sizes, more or less matured, smoked, cream pecorino spread with chilli and so on. There are also other types of cheeses that are really nice made from sheep milk of which my absolute favourite is ‘casaxedu’ (read casascggedu as the x in the Sardinian language is read something like scgg) but it is not readily available in bigger supermarkets, being easier to find in inland villages. Out of the cow milk cheeses ‘Dolce Sardo’ made by Arborea (the Sardinian equivalent to Arla) is really nice as it is of a soft consistency similar to Brie and also quite sweet in flavour.
Dessert

Sebadas is a classic ,but its very filling as it is a deep-fried, sweet, large, ravioli filled with soft cheese, served with honey. If your meal was relatively small have this to fill you up at the end.
Dolcetti Sardi: small typically Sardinian cakes that one would have to accompany a coffee at the end of a meal.
Espresso Coffee

Sardinia has three major coffee brands: La Tazza d’Oro, Karalis (both produced near Cagliari) and Moka Domus (produced in Ogliastra,in the centre of the island). It is just as nice, if not nicer, than the big Italian brands with the added bonus that it’s locally produced.
Digestivi also known as Ammazza Caffe’ (coffee killers) or Amari

These are commonly drunk to finish a meal, after the espresso coffee (that locals have even after dinner) , a strong liquor that will make you tipsy enough to start dancing as one would do at a wedding, first communion or traditional village festivities. Locally produced Limoncello is nice but the must try which is unique to Sardinia is Mirto. This can be bought in bottles but is often home-made and is fairly strong (30 – 40 – 50 per cent), has an intense flavour and dense texture. Some people compare it to Jagermeister ,but I disagree as the taste is quite different. It is made from the myrtle berry that grows wild and abundantly in the countryside all over the island. If you want something really strong Fil’e Ferru might be for you: it is also known as Sardinian aquavit as it is really strong and most of the times homemade. The name translated from Sardinian means metal wire as when it was illegal to produce your own alcohol people in the countryside used to bottle it and bury the bottles in the ground and only a metal wire stuck out to indicate where the drink was hidden.
The good and the bad thing about Sardinian food and drinks is that they are quite unique and hard to find outside of the island. The bad part is you cannot find these products in other countries, the good part is that, like with every drug, you will have to come back to have some more. And as it is a good drug, Sardinian people will be glad to see you back on their island!

Washing Dishes

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Everyday you learn something new..

The other day I went to my friend’s flat and noticed that when he was doing the washing-up instead of squirting the liquid onto the plates or sponge he sprayed his dishes with a  washing up liquid diluted in water.

I bought a similar one for my flat and tried it out; it really works well! It uses less product and it applies it in a more efficient way as you use a small spray on the exact spot you need to clean instead of doing what I normally did (put a load of liquid on the sponge) that partly got wasted going straight down the sink.

Try it at home!

These little things help the environment whilst saving you money…

 

More posts about Sweden.