Uppsala, being a very old city (it was founded in the 13th century), respects traditions in a way that integrates tradition with the modern-day setting the city has. Student life itself is a big part of the traditions that made Uppsala what it is today- a university city that each student cherishes. Over the last week two important traditions that are specific to both Uppsala and Sweden took place: Nobel Prize laureates opening lectures at Uppsala University and the Sankta Lucia celebration.
It is a tradition that some of the winners of the Nobel Prize hold open lectures at Uppsala University in connection to the festivities that take place in Stockholm. First there is a reception with the Vice Chancellor and lunch at Uppsala Castle, and then the much appreciated and well-attended open lectures by the guest laureates. This year I had tremendous luck to be in Sweden when Prof. Serge Haroche and Dr. David J. Wineland (Physics), Prof. Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John B. Gurdon (Medicine), Prof. Alvin E. Roth (Economics), and Prof. Robert J. Lefkowitz (Chemistry) paid a visit to Uppsala University. Unfortunately, all the lectures were at the same time so I was forced to choose only one to attend. In the end I decided to go and see the lecture by Professor Roth and learn more about Game Theory. First of all, the lecture started at 10.30am and we had to get there super early (a few of my friends and I got to Ekonomikum (the place where the lecture was to be held) at 9am, got breakfast at the cafeteria there and patiently waited for the lecture hall to open) in order to secure a seat. There were incredibly many people interested in all the lectures and getting a seat was truly a privilege. The lecture itself was amazing. Prof. Roth’s lecture on The Theory and Practice of Market Design was definitely one of the most fascinating lectures I have atteneded. I have to emphasize that I have very poor background in economics (I only took a Microeconomics class at UR last year), but I really enjoyed the way Prof. Roth explained the work he won the Nobel Prize for. I never thought I’d attend such an important lecture given by a person who shaped Economics so much and it’s all thanks to being an exchange student at Uppsala University this semester. This is definitely another highlight I would add to my study abroad experience in Sweden!
Another important tradition (and experience for me) was the celebration of St. Lucia that takes place on December, 13th. Ever since the late 18th century Sweden celebrates St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) around Christmas time. St. Lucia’s Day is nowadays celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Lucia walks at the head of a procession of women and men, the ‘maids’ and the ‘star boys.’ Being the Lucia is a very honorable role and as far as I understood, a girl who is to be chosen as a Lucia needs to be very beautiful and to sing well. Everyone in the procession is dressed in long white dresses and some of the procession members also wear white pointy hats (we were told about this back in August. When we first heard the part about the long white dresses and pointy hats Swedes would respond to our confused looks by saying: “Oh no, no – it’s not what you think we mean. That’s just a part of the Lucia tradition.” Also, everyone recommended we attend Lucia events since that really is a big deal in Sweden). The tradition also involves singing traditional Lucia songs (such as the song “Sankta Lucia” which is really nice) and eating sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) and gingerbread cookies best enjoyed with glögg.
There were so many events all over the Sweden for Lucia. In Uppsala, there were concerts in the Domkyrkan (Cathedral), Lucia processions in various Univeristy buildings (I was lucky to see the one in Ekonomikum). All the processions, no matter how big, involved Lucia, maids and star boys. There were multiple Luciagasques as well. I didn’t attend any, but I went to an after-party of the Luciagasque in Snerikes Nation and there were so many people wearing shiny decorations that are usually part of the Lucia costumes.
Another highlight of this semester is actually related to the celebration of Lucia. Every year there is a big Lucia Concert held in Friends Arena in Stockholm and International Committee at Uppsala University organized a trip for the students who were interested to see it. It was amazing! Friends Arena was full and the performances were really great.
There was an orchestra and choirs singing and playing. Multiple groups performed: Elementary and middle school children, high schoolers, and some university students. I really enjoyed the concert.
Now I’m kind of doing the final countdown. Just a few days left in the place I consider to be “a home away from home.” It is really sad to get so many invitations to the Farewell Parties since it means that I might never again see some of the people I spent so much time with this semester. I remember when I attended the orientation with the previous participants of the exchange program with Uppsala University back during the Spring semester at UR: I was told that I would be really sad to leave and that I’d probably want to stay a year in Sweden. At that point I thought that would be impossible, but now those words echo in my head. Leaving is really hard, but I will use the days I have left in the best way possible in order to wrap up my Sweden experience the right way. After all, next semester I will be in South Korea and that’s a great reason to put a smile on my face. 🙂