Where are you studying?
Third-year student of educational sciences.
Very long days, very short days
In August, Marleen kicked off her stay with a ‘Kräftskiva’ party: ‘It’s actually really gross, come to think of it. You have to suck the juices out of the lobster first, and then you crack it open to get to the meat. I don’t actually like shellfish or regular fish, but this was pretty good. It comes with hard liquor and costs about ten euros.’
Fika, coffee and cake, is also a Swedish staple: ‘That’s between four and six euros. Beer is a little more expensive: regular bars in Uppsala charge five to six euros. At the nations, it was ‘only’ three. I haven’t really enjoyed the Uppsala social life outside nations, really.’
I’m not very familiar with Uppsala. Why did you choose this city?
‘Mainly because I wanted to stay in Europe and go to a country with quality education. When it came to courses, my two best choices were Oslo and Uppsala, and the latter is a true student city. I came here on 1 August to take a course in Swedish and to experience some of the summer here, before the long days turned into very short ones.’
Was it easy to make friends?
‘I mainly made friends with people from my language course, because there was no one here in August. People didn’t come back until the end of the month, so that’s when I joined a ‘nation’. Uppsala has thirteen ‘nations’, clubs not unlike our student associations. You have to be a member in order to attend parties. The nation ‘Stockholm’ is not unlike Vindicat; they have a dress code and everything. Although they don’t haze their members. I joined ‘Snerikes’. They were the only club that had parties in the summer. I met some Swedish people there, but also international students.’
Are there any special traditions the club has?
‘I don’t know if this is typically Swedish, or just something they do in Uppsala, but nations throw ‘gasques’. That’s a fancy dinner followed by a party. During dinner, everyone is given a song book and they sing Swedish songs. There are also speeches, a choir, and an orchestra. I joined the Snerikes choir and made some Swedish friends there, but it’s difficult if you don’t speak the language.’
Was it easy to find a place to live?
‘At the start of the year, the university offers the students a place to live, which they can accept or refuse. They make no second offer. I immediately accepted mine, which was a room in a student flat for four hundred euros. Some friends were hard up and now pay six hundred euros a month. But I knew beforehand that this was an expensive country.’
What is the education like?
‘It’s really different. In the Netherlands we often have lectures in large halls and all we had to do was listen, but here the classrooms are small. And everything is in English, which was also new for me. Because there are fewer people in the classroom, they participate more. I really felt like I was learning more. I took this interesting course on Swedish education, for which I observed an elementary school class with children with a language deficiency for three weeks. I had no exams; we get graded on papers and presentations.’
Apart from the nations, what is there to do in Uppsala?
‘It has great architecture, including the oldest church in Scandinavia. It’s kind of like Groningen: I wouldn’t know what specifically to show to visitors, but it’s a great city to live in. I also travelled quite a bit: to Stockholm, a booze cruise to Tallinn for cheap alcohol, to Oslo. I also went to Lapland, which was amazing. It’s this enormous frozen landscape with trees. It was really cold, though. Minus twenty degrees Celsius, and that wasn’t even the average.’
Do you think you’ll ever go back to Sweden?
‘After the moths I spent there the Netherlands are really ugly to me. I miss the nature of Sweden. But if I wanted to move there I’d really have to learn the language. Plus, there is barely any light during winter. But a summer house in Sweden would be cool!’