It is funny how time passes: Sometimes it is just too slow, and other times way too fast. I’ve been in Uppsala for a bit over a week now and I don’t even know where to start explaining how I spent these few days in the north of Europe.
A short summary: I met many different people from all over the world, I got a bike and cycled over 80 km (about 50 miles) so far, I can hold a basic conversation in Swedish, I can go many places without checking the map every few blocks, and most importantly – I didn’t starve.
Uppsala is a neat medium-sized city (fourth by size in Sweden) that offers the best of both worlds: European architecture and system with a mixture of the US-like features. The very center of the city is the Cathedral (Domkyrkan) and all streets lead there. One can easily walk, bike or use public transportation to get anywhere. Shopping areas (mainly ICA and Ikea type of stores) are located outside the city, which reminds me of the US in a great manner. Uppsala really depicts what Swedes and my exchange program are like: relaxed and laid back.
The group of the exchange students who are here for the one month language course are all great and each of them adds a special little something to the mix. It is very hard to find oneself in a group that has more than two people from the same country and the internationalism is on a rather high level. Funny thing is that even though we are all so different, we all get along extremely well. No matter if we are biking downtown, going on a city tour, to the lake, spontaneously decide to have a BBQ on the rooftop of our residence houses or just going grocery shopping, everyone keeps close and it’s all done in a socialist way (I guess we are learning fast). Even our Swedish language lessons are a group effort since we all help each other with the pronunciation, translation or homework. The use of the simple small Swedish words such as tack (thanks) or hej (hi) is also becoming a part of what is starting to define our semester- or year-long stay in Sweden.
For me this experience abroad is a challenge in so many ways. First of all, I left my comfort zone one more time and I surely don’t regret it. Also the biking is a big part of the challenge. This was something I had to get used to on a daily basis, but after falling of the bike, hitting few people, and learning how to safely stop on the traffic light and mastering the turning on the street, I am proud to say that I am no longer a danger to the Uppsala biking society. Since there is no D-Hall, I have to cook on my own and it is a true success that a person with such poor cooking skills like me survives a week without actually being hungry. Little things like this will stay forever with me and remind me of a rather fun and a bit painful start of my Swedish adventure.
Sweden as a country is a great place to visit! Last Saturday I was on a tour of Uppland where we visited the Hammerby estate – summer residence of Carl von Linné, Skokloster and the small town of Sigtuna. This was a chance for bonding with other exchange students, as well as an opportunity to see places that one otherwise would never visit.
Even though everyone here is so relaxed, every day is well planned and thoroughly used mainly because of the rain. Sun and no rain are synonyms for the lake picnic or barbecue. We were very lucky this past weekend that we had a great weather, so it was a very active weekend that included a lot of biking and going places.
It’s been only one week since I got to Uppsala but I already love it and always keep my mind open for the new experiences!