Uppsala: A Journey of Discovery (posted by Indira in Sweden)

January 4, 2013

The time truly flies by. It’s already 2013. 2013… it feels really weird to write that number. Since it’s the New Year we all makes wishes and hopes as compared to the previous year(s). I was thinking really hard, but my 2012 was good on so many levels that I honestly didn’t want it to end. My semester abroad in Uppsala definitely plays a huge role in that.

Today when I checked my Facebook there was an entry saying: “Graduated from Uppsala University” and then it hit me – wow, that was really it. The best semester yet is over, but I learned so much about Sweden, as well as other countries, traveling, people, my major, and most importantly about myself. The last 5 months in Uppsala have truly been a journey of discovery. I started learning a new language, learned how to cook (I’m really proud of this one), figured out how to live on my own, mastered the art of constant cycling, made friends from all over the world, survived Swedish winter (which involved -7F temperatures and a major snowstorm), travelled a lot, attended a Nobel Lecture, took some amazing classes, gained the experience of living in Sweden, and so much more. It’s really hard to remember everything I went through over the past semester. Sometimes it feels like August was just yesterday, but then again when I think of everything that has happened since, August seems so far away.

The Swedish summer truly is amazing: You learn to appreciate every second of the sunshine, enjoy countless barbecues in parks and on the rooftops, and buy a bike. Uppsala looks absolutely breathtaking in summer – there is green everywhere, city parks and squares look stunning, and people are so happy.

A scene of summer in Uppsala

Summer in Uppsala

Fall is no less impressive: Uppsala puts on new clothes and amazes everyone with its colors. The whole city looks like it came from a fairytale scene. Golden and red leaves, somewhat pleasant cold, and warm sunshine, as well as rain create a perfect atmosphere to spend hours in cafes drinking some hot beverage, eating cake or a cookie, talking to friends, watching people, or simply studying. Fall In Uppsala has it charms for sure!

A beautiful scene of fall in Uppsala

Fall in Uppsala

Before you can notice, the rain is replaced by a snow layer and golden leaves are nowhere to be seen. That is a sign that another glorious season has arrived in Uppsala – Winter makes a grand entrance and it doesn’t cease to impress. It is not hard to enjoy Swedish Winter even with the cold and snow: Glögg, Julmust, fikas, sledding down the Flogsta or Uppsala caste hill, cycling in the snow adventures, and snowball fights can definitely make anyone enjoy Uppsala even during its most cruel months.

A scene of winter in Uppsala

Winter in Uppsala

Seeing Uppsala change through the seasons is like seeing yourself grow fonder and fonder of this place, but also seeing yourself grow as a person. There is something magical about it. I feel Uppsala is home. But that is not the only reason why someone would want to study abroad in Sweden; the list of things one can love about Uppsala is very long:

  • Uppsala University is an old and prestigious university
  • Diverse classes
  • Great professors: knowledgeable and chill (you can go for fika with them)
  • Mixed student body: a lot of internationals from all over the world and Swedes from every part of Sweden
  • You are very much in charge of your in class experience: some classes are not mandatory and you choose your seminar groups
  • One class at a time system: you take only one class and you focus on it for about a month, take the final exam and then move on to the next course
  • Campus makes up most of the city and the buildings are in different parts: great way to explore the city
  • Each building is unique in its own way and has a story to tell
  • Attend Nobel lectures: Need I say more?
  • Chance to make friends from all over the world
  • New culture, language, traditions
  • Everyone speaks English: In the beginning when I needed help with something I would always first ask if the person spoke English but then I would just go over and ask for help right away. Basically everyone is bilingual in this country
  • Flogsta: you get to live in the most amazing and fun accommodation area ever! Ever thought of a 500 person Halloween party in two corridors? Well, that is how wonderful Flogsta is. The party was even featured in the local newspaper!
  • Your corridor: you corridor-mates become your family and your corridor your new home. Corridor dinners and parties are definitely one of the best part of dorm life in Uppsala.
  • Cycling: you get to cycle everywhere, anytime. And you’re gonna love it. Seriously.
  • Ekonomikum: Most amazing place to study, chill, or simply get some snacks
  • Blåsenhus: probably my favorite building. One part of the building looks like a spaceship hovering over the entrance hall. Great place to study or get fika
  • Carolina Rediviva: the most beautiful library ever. Even if you don’t have to study, you simply go there to hang out since it’s so cozy
  • FIKA! Forget Starbucks or whatever you consider to be “the best coffee ever” because I’m sure nothing beats Swedish fika. Just imagine great coffee/tea with amazing pastries, cookies and cakes, cozy kaferummet atmosphere, and the warmth of the people around you while it is snowing outside. And you get to do this for hours every day. One of those “I don’t think life can get any better” moments!
  • Kanelbullar: Oh, sweet love o’ mine! Cinnamon buns/rolls that simply taste great. Oh, and there is a day dedicated solely to this delicious treat: Kanelbulledag.
  • Marabou: best chocolate ever! Don’t even try to argue it. I mean it.
  • Music: Do you love house? Electronic music? Well, then Sweden is a heaven for you. Everyone makes music (I don’t think it’s even possible to keep count of how many people who make music I’ve met) and Sweden’s home to Avicii, SHM, Adrian Lux, Alesso, Lykke Li and many others.
  • Student nations: It’s really hard to explain, but once you get here you’ll get it. BEST thing ever! Every university should have them.
  • Great night life!
  • Stockholms nation’s lunch: make sure you get there at 12 sharp otherwise you’ll spend some time waiting for the deliciousness prepared by the Stokcholms nation’s Kökmästare
  • Värmlands nation’s bread: I don’t think I ever had better bread. Definitely worth going for the lunch at Värmlands. Make sure you start queuing at noon.
  • Gasques: there is a gasque for everything (newbies gasque, Halloween gasque, Fall gasque, Christmas gasque, Lucia gasque, and even Doomsday gasque)
  • Uppsala: it’s a student city so literally everyone is organized in a way that serves the students.

I think those reasons are more than enough to make anyone want to study abroad in Uppsala. I couldn’t have asked for a better semester. Coming to Uppsala was one of the best decisions I ever made. I fell in love with the city, country, and the people – I plan to go back one day. Maybe even sooner than I think. I actually remember my first month in Sweden when I met so many international people who live/work in Uppsala and they kept telling me that one day I will be back to Uppsala (or at least Sweden) for whatever reason, and could quite possibly make this place my home. I sure hope they are right, but right now I should focus on Seoul.

In less than two months I will start a new adventure on the other side of the world; with new people, a new system, new language, new culture. It is frightening, but also exciting. Knowing that the new adventure awaits around the corner makes me miss Uppsala a little bit less. New year – new adventure. And I’m more than ready to embrace it in the fashion of the words of one of my German friends: “Vollgas!”. 🙂

Uppsala Celebrates: Nobel Prize Laureates and Sankta Lucia (posted by Indira in Sweden)

December 19, 2012

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!

Lecture at Uppsala University by Prof. Roth, Economics Nobel Prize Laureate, who talked about Game Theory

Lecture at Uppsala University by Prof. Roth, Economics Nobel Prize Laureate

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.

Lucia Procession, which I attended, with Lucia in the middle of the stage

Lucia Procession with Lucia in the middle of the stage

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. 🙂

Sleepless in Uppsala: Exams, Projects, and Concerts with a “Little” Pinch of Snowstorm (posted by Indira in Sweden)

December 15, 2012

Too much to do and not enough time! That is basically my life right now. Can’t a day last longer than 24 hours? Or can we at least get an extra day in a week?

Finals – we all know the stress and the amount of work that comes with them. Even when abroad. Last week I had my final exam and a project for the two classes I was taking in November. For one of the classes 100% of the grade is based on the final exam. Actually, that is one of the things I am not that happy about. I like it much more when there are different assignments that each carry a certain percentage of the final grade. For my Sustainable Development class, for example, we had to write three individual papers and a group case study, and make a group presentation. In this way I feel like the grade is much more structured. Having only one exam, however, does have its benefits. Classes and seminars are much more relaxed and as a result students feel less pressure. On a happy note – now I am done. Yesterday I had my group presentation and my November courses are finished. It was actually sad thinking that I might never again see the people I worked so hard with on our group case study.

Speaking of exams: they can be a challenge…but think about going to the exam hall (which is located on the opposite side of the city compared to the area where I live) in a raging snowstorm. Yea, you read well – snowstorm. It was snowing the entire day, but it got really bad about the time I finished my exam. I tried walking over to the bus stop to go back to Flogsta and it was so hard walking because the snow was getting in my face – it was kind of snowing horizontally. First the busses were late and then they were not running at all after 5pm. I was lucky enough to catch the very last bus to Flogsta and get back to my room. The trip back, however, took more than an hour (usually it shouldn’t take more than 15-20 mins cycling): I had to wait so long for the bus and the ride took much longer since there was so much fresh snow on the roads. I have to admit though: This was a rather interesting experience. I figured out that if I survived very low temperatures and a snowstorm, and yet I still love every bit of Sweden… well, then it must be that special study abroad bond. 🙂

View from my window: Snowy Uppsala, the remnants of an incredible snowstorm

View from my window: Snowy Uppsala

After the snowstorm, the skies cleared, the roads were cleaned and I hopped on a new adventure – an all Swedish concert. In the Stockholms Nation there was a gasque and at the after-party Alina Devecerski (she is pretty popular Swedish singer, especially among the youth) was to hold a concert, so I went there with a couple of my friends. The place was full! I don’t think that Stocken (Stockholms Nation’s club) was ever that full. And the concert was amazing: I enjoyed it so much, especially the front row! The only bad thing was that she sings in Swedish and that makes it kind of hard to sing along. We were also in a very Swedish crowd; there were only five exchange/international students there, which makes this event “all Swedish” as my friends call it.

Alina Devecerski concert (hosted by Stockholms Nation), which I attended after my last final exam!

Alina Devecerski concert (hosted by Stockholms Nation)

And then came Stockholm City as a great finish to a busy week, kind of a well deserved time off. I went to Stockholm with one of my friends simply because we felt like it (good thing Uppsala is only 40mins by train away from Stockholm and trains are running almost all the time so it’s easy to get to Stockholm and back anytime you want/need). We had a great afternoon of walking around the city, seeing the Christmas market, enjoying fika, and doing some shopping.

Stockholm City, where I visited after my final exams were complete

Stockholm City

One really has to use one’s time wisely – only one more week left and I’ll be leaving Sweden. I always try not to think about it, but it’s impossible. I feel like I’m on a time pressure now: I want to do as much as possible before I leave, but the time is simply slipping away. Still, I’m postponing the thought about leaving for some other time (Basically along the lines of “I can’t think about that right now.  I’ll think about that tomorrow”).

White, white Uppsala: Julgasque, Snowball Battle, and Fireworks (posted by Indira in Sweden)

December 7, 2012

I don’t think I have ever lived in a place that could get this much snow at once! Right now snow is knee-deep and it’s white everywhere. It is both beautiful and dreadful (it can get really cold – last week we had -7 degrees Fahrenheit!). I find it funny how no one really cares about how cold it gets; we all try to make the best out of the very few weeks we have left in Uppsala.

Since it’s all so snow covered what can we do – well, how about a snowball battle with 250 participants? Sure, we’ll organize it and take part in it! Definitely an epic 1 hour long fight with more and more people joining in every moment. Due to the excitement and adrenalin rush you don’t even care about the snow getting into your mouth or your eyes, and eventually you get used to the fact that you can no longer feel your fingers. It was worth it in every possible way.

Snowball Battle with 250 people!

Snowball Battle

Right after the snowball battle, we all rushed to get warm and ready for yet another gasque of the semester – Julgask (Christmas gasque). Värmlands nation was fully in Christmas spirit – Christmas tree, decorations, presents, and the smell of the pepparkakor (gingerbread) was everywhere in the Big House. During the gasque we had a huge choice of typical food you eat in Sweden during Christmas, and Christmas drinks, (here they have this thing called Julmust which is the most popular soft drink during the Christmas and Easter season; it has a very strong smell and taste, but it’s really good – I love it!). Entertainment did not lack either. Choir performances, Christmas songs, dancing, and a visit from the Göteborg nation made this gasque so amazing. Of course, if you are surrounded by the right people at your table the night is guaranteed to be a blast. Even though the seating arrangement is random and you don’t have any say in it, I have had great table-buddies during all of the gasques I have attended. One of the Julgask highlights was Santa. Since Värmlands nation got a new First Qurator (officer), he had to dress up as Santa and take pictures with the gasque attendees. After the dinner, we had the after party until 4am. I am definitely glad I was a part of this gasque since it was my last gasque in Uppsala and I had loads of fun with my friends, but I also made a lot of new friends.

My table buddies and I during the Julgask, a Christmas celebration!

My table buddies and I during the Julgask

Last week I also had a lot of school work. My biggest assignment was due – a 9000 word case study on sustainable urbanization in Stockholm. It felt so good clicking submit after spending hours and hours working on it. Countless group meetings, articles and books read, interviews, and hours spent putting it all together payed off. I was really happy with our case study and our group effort. Next week we have a presentation, but after that my Sustainable Development class will be over.

And what is a better way to finish off a week than watching the fireworks? Well, I can’t think of any. Luckily, Uppsala has a few tricks up its sleeves and rewarded us all with amazing fireworks on Sunday. The Uppsala Lights Festival ended and it was also the First Advent, so there was a huge closing ceremony that included the fireworks. Even though we had to wait for half an hour in the freezing cold, we all enjoyed the show. We also learned that the best way to stay warm is to just randomly dance to whatever music they are playing – lifesaver.

Fireworks, a perfect way to end the week


Now I’m anxious to see what my last three weeks in Uppsala will bring. 🙂

Thanksgiving in Uppsala (posted by Indira in Sweden)

November 30, 2012

Who said you can’t celebrate Thanksgiving unless you were in the US? Well, exchange and international students at Uppsala clearly showed the opposite! As the time for Thanksgiving approached American students at Uppsala University (and there are quite a lot of them, especially from California) decided to organize a dinner for about 50 people in order to show them what is so special about Thanksgiving.

I was amazed by the amount of food prepared by just a handful of hard-working people who made the commitment to organize such a big dinner. Everyone was taken by surprise, and the food was amazing (plus it’s nice when you get to eat great food with amazing people without having to cook yourself!). It was nice seeing how Thanksgiving is celebrated among an international community (last year I spent Thanksgiving with an American host family in Richmond so I got to see how it is celebrated among Americans), but it was also nice knowing the story behind it, as well as the traditions related to this holiday. I enjoyed sharing the knowledge I have gained during my two years in Richmond about Thanksgiving with other students who never actually thought they would be celebrating it. It’s funny how Uppsala keeps proving itself to be an international city where one can encounter the world.

Thanksgiving Dinner in Uppsala, Sweden

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thinking about it, it definitely is time to be grateful! Even though I keep pushing the thought of leaving away, it always hits me in random moments that I will be actually leaving the place I call home in about three weeks. Where did the time go? I can swear that it was just yesterday that I moved into my room in Flogsta, took my Swedish language course and met so many amazing people. It’s funny how I can still remember August warmth and barbecues on the rooftops, buying the bike and pushing myself into mastering the art of cycling. Those are just some of the things, moments and lessons I can be grateful for. There are so many more. I experienced so much in the last four months that it will take me years to remember and retell everything, as well as figure out how much this study abroad experience shaped me as a person, as a student, and most of all as a global citizen. It all lingers in my mind. The worst thing is that I am already nostalgic about this place and I haven’t even left yet. That is a sign that there will be a lot of tears shed and that leaving Uppsala will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. At least I have something else to look forward to: a semester at Yonsei University in South Korea.

Even though I do get lost in my thoughts about leaving Uppsala, I don’t actually have all too much time to think about it. First of all, I try to keep myself busy at all times by taking part in all kinds of activities offered in Uppsala through student nations or the student union because I know this is my last chance to do it all. Secondly, I still have classes to attend. And since the end of the month (and semester) is approaching, most of my exams, papers and projects are due in this and next week. I’ve been working like crazy in order to  balance everything. One of the biggest challenges, also one of the most interesting projects, I’ve worked on is the group paper on sustainable urbanization and urban resilience in Stockholm. After weeks and weeks of intensive literature reviews, interviews, weekly group meetings and extensive writing, we are wrapping up paper up. I am extremely proud of our piece of work since I learned so much on the subject, but also got a chance to work with a very international group of people learning a lot from them and about their countries (one girl in my group is actually from Seoul so she’s been giving me loads of information on life there in preparation for my next semester abroad!).

My class on feminism, role of women and international development is also ending this week and I will be taking an exam next week. That class was amazing – I learned so much; academically on the subject, and technically though ‘expert model’ seminars where absolutely everything was student led. Also, my new class – Armed Conflict and Development – starts next week as well, so it’s going be really tricky balancing all of that.

On a happy note – Uppsala looks amazing. Today it snowed. A lot!

Snow in Uppsala, where its very cold!

Snow in Uppsala

Everything is white and pretty (unfortunately it’s cold too) and the snow is sticking to the ground so it’s beautiful. There are already plans to organize snowball fights at some point soon. As much as I like snow and enjoy winter, going to class in 2 degrees Fahrenheit is not going to be fun. Today when I was cycling back from my class it started to snow and it was already a challenge. The worst part about it is getting all the snowflakes in your eyes. I am definitely not a fan of that. I will be using bus and other means of public transportation from now on, though. It is just much safer (it’s really easy to fall off the bike on slippery paths) and warmer.

And since it is a winter season, Christmas craziness has already began in Uppsala. There are Christmas decorations on streets, in stores, and even in our kitchen on my corridor. I will be also attending Julgask (Christmasgasque) on Saturday and rumor has it that Santa will be present. I am looking forward to that! 🙂

Christmas Decorations in a shop in Uppsala

Christmas Decorations

Uppsala goes fancy: Norrlands Nation’s Höstgasque and Gasque 101 (posted by Indira in Sweden)

November 23, 2012

As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, Uppsala is a meeting point for many contrary and contrasting things. Last week it was new and old. I was a part of a tradition so specific for Uppsala University students and so deeply embedded in the history of the student organizations here known as the nations, and yet so modern that still it occurs every semester.

The student life at Uppsala Uni is organized around 13 nations each representing a city or a region/county in Sweden. One can work in the nations, go for fika, study in nations’ libraries, meet friends, watch sport matches, go to the pub, attend concerts, participate in open mic and karaoke nights, go to the club there, take part in the gasque, as well as do many other things. But, let’s focus on the gasques (or gasks as they are called in Swedish). A gasque is basically  a formal dinner with an after-party. During the gasque you eat, drink, make toasts, and most importantly – sing. Yes, sing. Quite a lot, actually. Singing is basically the most important part of the gasque: You sing before making toasts, when drinking snaps (a celebratory tradition), when starting the dinner, when the dinner is almost finished, and for any other reason you could possibly propose to sing. And singing during the gasque is rather fun. Most of the songs are in Swedish, but you get a Songbook so you can follow and sing along. It’s also very easy to get the rhythm. Some songs even have their own little choreographies: My favorite song so far is one for which you stand up on your chair and sing and once the song is finished you should not sit in the chair since it means bad luck and you will fail all your exams. All in all, gasques are fun events where you get amazing food and meet new people, as well as familiarize yourself with Uppsala University and the nations’ traditions.

Höstgasque is the most formal of all the gasques during the Fall semester (höst means Fall in Swedish). The dress code is tail coat for the guys and ball gown for the girls. Ever since I heard of this gasque I made the decision to attend one, and I did so last week. A friend of mine plays in Norrlands nation’s orchestra so she attended the gasque and I joined her. All the members of the orchestra had dinner in a special room, but they followed all the gasque traditions.

The dinner table before the gasque started, a Swedish University tradition

The dinner table before the gasque started

There was a lot of singing, toasts, speeches, and chatting. I got to meet the members of the orchestra who were all Swedes. It was great practicing my Swedish and learning more about Sweden. Apart from that I enjoyed the food a lot – I ate moose for the first time ever. That was a whole new experience. We also played a game: All of us had a “top secret mission” that we had to fulfill during that evening. My task was to be obnoxiously loud after every toast and speech, applaud as loud as possible, and compliment the speech or toast. It was so much fun doing that! Other people had to propose toasts on every possible occasion, or start a conversation about music etc. It was a good way to bond with the people sitting near you at the table.

 Some of the members of the orchestra, which, played during the gasque, at the after-party

Some of the members of the orchestra

After dinner, the orchestra played and other gasque guests danced waltz and polonaise – that is how formal Höstgasque is! The formal dance continued during the after-party as well since more classical and jazz music was played. This is the typical after-party for these formal gasques in all nations.  Below is a video of the orchestra that played:

My friend and I decided to go for a full Höstgasque experience and went to the after-parties in two other nations  – Värmlands and Östgöta. The whole atmosphere made me feel like I travelled back in time. It was definitely an experience I am happy I was able to have. Attending the Höstgasque is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my semester abroad in Uppsala.

Small World in Uppsala: Reunions, Cruise to Riga, and Northern Lights (posted by Indira in Sweden)

November 19, 2012

It always surprises me how small-yet big- the City of Uppsala is. One can easily walk or ride a bike everywhere, but if you are looking for something – you will most certainly find it in Uppsala. It sometimes reminds me of a small, cozy, convenience store where you can find anything; you know where to find everything you’re looking for, but you are also oftentimes surprised by the new things you unexpectedly find. Metaphorically that would be a summary of my last week in Uppsala.  I met 4 people – 2 from my high school and 2 from the University of Richmond – who were visiting Uppsala. Yes, it’s a small world indeed!

On Tuesday morning I woke up to a message from my friend saying that he was in Uppsala and asking me where in Sweden I was studying since he might come and visit me. I sprung out of my bed and sprinted to the downtown to meet him. He was traveling with one more of my high school friends and they decided to visit Uppsala. I was so happy to see them since I haven’t seen them in years. We had so much to catch up on and we did so while I showed them the best of Uppsala. We spent the entire day walking around, touring the iconic pink castle of Uppsala, the Botanical Garden, museums, Carolina Rediviva, Domkyrkan and many other places in Uppsala. They had a great time and I enjoyed being around the people who brought back so much memories, but also made me think how far I have come since my high school days.

Next reunion surprise came even more unexpectedly on Thursday. Since Thursday evening has become a “Stockholms Nation evening” among my friends, we went there. Next thing I knew I saw CJ (Swedish student who was on exchange at UR last year) and he was telling me that he had 2 friends from Richmond visiting him. It was great meeting new people and talking about Richmond. Actually, it felt a bit odd to talk about D-Hall, B-School, Commons etc. and have the people know what I was talking about without me having to explain it to them. Both UR students I met were also studying abroad: one in Italy and the other one in the Netherlands. Even though it made me miss Richmond, it was great talking about it. It also made me feel kind of ‘home.’

But the fun of seeing new (and already familiar) faces didn’t stop there. My friends and I took a part in the International Students Cruise to Riga, Latvia. International students studying all over Sweden gathered in Stockholm harbor in order to go on a 3-day-cruise to the Latvian capital. It was really nice meeting other students studying in Stockholm, Lund, Gothenburg, and some other cities in Sweden and hearing about their abroad experiences. Seeing the city of Riga was also a great experience. I enjoyed the Old Town, as well as the more modern party of the city . And once again we were happy to have nice weather and no rain. It made our travel experience just so much better!

A street in the Old Town of Riga, Latvia, where I visited with my friends from Richmond

A street in the Old Town of Riga, Latvia

The City of Riga, the capital of Latvia

The City of Riga

And just when I thought the week could not go any better … well, it did! I was lucky enough to enjoy sighting the Northern Lights once again. Cold night and clear skies made it possible for the green lights to be seen above Uppsala in the direction of the North. It made me really happy and now I can say I have already seen Aurora Borealis twice this year! I am hoping to see the Lights again. It is always stunning to see Mother Nature and her beauty. 🙂

Aurora Borealis, part of the Northern Lights

Aurora Borealis

November in Uppsala: New Course, Uppsala Light Festival, and Endless Fikas (posted by Indira in Sweden)

November 12, 2012

As it is getting colder and colder (it gets as cold as 17 degrees Farenheit), I find myself drinking more tea and spending more time at fika enjoying the warm atmosphere of the Swedish kafferummet (cafes). The fika and coffee drinking traditions are a big deal in Sweden. I have a feeling that Swedes can manage without some things, but if you take away their fika time – well, that would not be tolerated. In between our lectures we get 15 minute fika breaks, and professors bring in fika (coffee/tea and cookies) to class so you can have fika during their seminar. If you want to meet with someone, you meet for fika. Everyone fika (yes, you can use the word ‘fika’ as both a noun and a verb)! The peak hour is at 3pm. It becomes really hard to find a kafferummet that is not full. Luckily, there are cafes all over Uppsala and all the student nations serve fika as well.

One could spend an eternity at fika – especially when you find that one cafe you really like – but we also have classes to attend. Last week my new course started: (En)Gendering International Development. So far we have had 3 lectures and a seminar, and the class seems really good. The professor is amazing! I also know most of the people who are in class with me since we already took one class together back in September. The class is organized in more or less the same way as my other courses. There are lectures which consist of a professor lecturing (I have a feeling that the lectures for this course are a bit more interactive than for the other course I took earlier, which I like), and there are seminars. In seminars we mainly discuss the course literature and prepare presentations. I will have to present on anti-colonial movements in India next week. And this is the first time there are Americans in my class. I kind of got used to being surrounded by mainly Swedes and other European students. Uppsala University is highly international and it is really easy to find yourself to be the only representative of your country in your class or group of friends. I actually quite like this since it gives me the opportunity to meet so many new people. Basically, everyday I meet someone new. I guess that is what makes study abroad so exciting and worthwhile – the experiences one gains are hard to gain in any other way.

And Uppsala is full of surprises. Taking a simple walk before the sunset can show the best of this place. If you’re blessed and it is not raining, the Fall in Sweden can be magical. There are so many places one can go wandering or hiking. The nature here is just breathtaking. Luckily (kind of), it is pretty cold now and it doesn’t rain, so we get clear skies and can enjoy the most amazing sunsets (here, the sun sets very early. By 4pm it is already super dark outside).

Sunset in Uppsala, near Flogsta, my housing area in Sweden

Sunset in Uppsala, near Flogsta, my housing area

The City of Uppsala has its own beauty display whether it rains or not. Namely, in the month of November there is the Uppsala Light Festival (Allt ljus på Uppsala) and some buildings (this year it is 15 buildings and even two University buildings are part of the Festival: Museum Gustavianum and the Munken block on Trädgårdsgatan) are selected to be part of the Festival so they are lit. It all looks really beautiful, especially the light installations on the river in the City Center. It is somewhat magical to take a walk through the city and follow the ‘light trail’ and enjoy the Festival.

 Light Installations in Stora Torget, the City Center for the Uppsala Light Festival

Light Installations in Stora Torget, the City Center

Light Installations at the Fyrisån River, part of the Uppsala Light Festival

Light Installations at the Fyrisån River


Even if it does get really cold, Uppsala has its way of keeping people warm. November in Uppsala can’t possibly be boring or eventless!

Halloween in Uppsala: Scary Costumes, Flogsta Scream, and Deadly Cold (posted by Indira in Sweden)

November 2, 2012

Whoever thought that Halloween is not that big of a deal in Europe, was absolutely wrong! Everywhere in Uppsala one can feel Halloween (if you open you eyes wide enough,though). Of course, there are no carved pumpkins everywhere, pumpkin spice is not added into everything, there are no children trick or treating, and finding a costume is a relatively hard quest. Ok, where is the Halloween spirit then, you might ask? Well, in every student nation, accommodation area, and in almost every conversation Uppsala University students are discussing costumes, parties, and Halloween themed fikas.

Last week my corridor decided to host a Halloween party (we sort of opened the Halloween season in Uppsala). We decorated our corridor, came up with some spooky snacks, put on our costumes and started welcoming our guests. It was a really fun night and everyone came dressed up and in the spirit of Halloween. Parties like this (about 30 people in total) are really good because you get to know people better and have nice conversations with them. I met a whole lot of Swedes, as well as other international students at our Corridor Halloween Party. Of course, it was an amazing opportunity to bond with my corridor-mates. I already know that I will miss every single one of them. It is hard to think about leaving this place in December – sometimes it feels like I just got here, but when I think back and go all the way to the end of July, I realize how much time I’ve spent in this place I now call home. It was funny that when we came back from our Tallinn trip, the moment I stepped out of our ship, I felt that I actually came back home; oh well, Sweden’s growing on me. That’s why I push thoughts of leaving Sweden out of my mind.

Some of my corridor-mates and I at our Halloween party, which we hosted

Some of my corridor-mates and I at our Halloween party

Back to the happy topic – there are more Halloween parties coming up this week and next week! 🙂 My nation, Värmlands Nation, hosted the Halloween themed pub night on 10/31 in honor of this amazing time of the year. Wermlandskäller’n- my Nation’s pub that dates back to the medieval times, was all decorated with spider webs and served food and snacks that celebrated Halloween. In moments like those nothing could make me feel like I wasn’t in the States (well, the Swedish language and a high number of blonde people kind of sets me back into reality, but still…).

Wermlandskäller'n - The pub at Värmlands Nation that hosted Halloween themed pub night which we attended

Wermlandskäller’n – The pub at Värmlands Nation that hosted Halloween themed pub night

Speaking of spooky and scary things, I have never mentioned this amazing tradition that exists in Flogsta (student accomodation area where I live). Every night at 10pm students go out onto the balconies, open their windows, or go up on the rooftops and scream as loud as they can. Usually this Flogsta scream turns into a competition between the buildings (in Flogsta there are multiple buildings, but students usually live in buildings 1-10): I, for example, live in building 8 and we usually have scream offs against the people living in buildings 7 and 9. It is really fun! And a great way to release stress. There is actually controversy over how this rather interesting tradition started. Some say it was simply a stress reliever, which started during exam times and then became a daily occurrence. The story goes that there was a student who had an important exam and he was studying quite a lot, which made him very stressed out so he opened his window and screamed at the top of his lungs. Others say it started in remembrance of a student who committed suicide in the 1970s. Either way, the tradition is there and it is respected.  Below is a video I took of the Flogsta scream one night in August.

A cruel winter seems to be another Swedish tradition. It is getting colder and colder every day. The worst thing is that the bike and pedestrian paths get really slippery (especially in the morning and after the sunset) because of the icy surface and walking and cycling become really hard. I have witnessed people fall in front of the supermarket, and I’ve heard stories of my friends who fell off their bikes. Luckily, during the real winter (it’s already cold enough, I don’t even want to know what a ‘real Swedish winter’ is like) the city makes it possible to walk/cycle, and there are busses, so getting to classes and to the city won’t be a problem.

Now, I’m off to figure out my Halloween costumes and enjoy the joys of the Halloween season (meaning Swedish chocolate and other godis (sweets and candies in Swedish)). 😀

Vintern kommer till Uppsala: First Snow, Tallinn, and a New Bike (posted by Indira in Sweden)

October 26, 2012

It has arrived! I have feared it for so long, and it has finally reached the region of Uppsala. Yeah, it’s winter and the cold that I’m talking about. Temperatures below 30 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course), morning frost, and the very first snow of the season caught me by surprise.

Morning frost in Uppsala, the first sign of winter

Morning frost in Uppsala

As I was leaving Blåsenhus, the place where I have my Sustainable Development class, I was hit by unexpected cold and small white particles flying in the air. It took me  a moment to realize that it was actually SNOWING! The weather forecast said that we might get some snow next week, but not now. It snowed for about half an hour or so and right after that one could see some snow sticking to the ground. Luckily it melted quickly. When choosing Sweden as my study abroad destination I decided to simply ignore the weather since I liked everything else so much. I am not  a fan of snow and winter, but I will have to deal with it here, I guess. With a warm pair of winter boots and a good winter jacket it shouldn’t be too hard (or at least I hope so)! 🙂

 First snow in Uppsala, though it melted quite quickly!

My German friend, Nadine, after the first snow in Uppsala!

Another thing I am concerned with is the fact that once we switch to daylight savings time (and this will happen in a week or so) by the time I have to go to my class, it’ll be completely dark outside (my class starts at 5pm). My next class will start on November 5th and it will be mainly during the afternoon so that will be fine. Speaking of classes, I have to say that it’s getting really busy now. For my Sustainable Development class we are working within our study groups on the case studies (which in my case is the Urban Resilience and Sustainable Urbanization in Stockholm), but we also have other things due at the same time. This is the only class where I don’t have a final exam that is 100% of the final grade: Here, we have to write 3 smaller papers, one big case study, and hold a presentation, which all count for the final grade (it is more similar to the system at UR). For my Government class, there is only one thing that decides the final grade – a final exam that lasts 4 hours. I really like having more papers and assignments contribute to the grade than only one exam. One exam only creates so much more pressure and requires students to do the entire course work load at once. But, it is doable! 🙂

Before it got really busy I managed to go on a trip to Tallinn, Estonia, with some of my friends. First we took a train to Stockholm (40 mins away from Uppsala) in the morning and spent the entire day there just sightseeing and enjoying the city (I am pretty sure that Stockholm is becoming my favorite city. I fell in love with it from the very first time I visited it. I really love the multiple islands and the sea that make Stockholm to “Venice of the North”). After that we boarded the ship and got ready for our cruise to Tallinn (Stockholm being a harbor, it is really easy to go on a cruise to Helsinki, Riga, Tallinn etc. from here). I enjoyed spending time in Tallinn. It was my first time ever in this Baltic country. Luckily we had a friend, Gretta, who is an Estonian on exchange at Uppsala University, to help us navigate the city. She was an excellent tour guide and made the best out of our stay in her city. Tallinn is beautiful. We were lucky it didn’t rain so we saw Estonian capital in its fall colors at their best! It was interesting to see the Soviet and more modern, EU if I can say so, influence fight and yet coexist in this city. Definitely worth a visit on so many levels!

Beautiful colors of changing leaves in Tallinn, Estonia

Beautiful colors of Fall in Tallin, Estonia

Another big news of the week is that I bought a new bike! I was using my friend’s bike for some time, but since it was too big for me, I decided to get a new one. I also made sure to get a safe lock to avoid my bike being stolen again. 🙂 Having a bike in Uppsala is truly a necessity. Even thought there are busses (public transportation in Uppsala is super effective and well developed), it is so much easier to have  a bike and ‘free will’ when deciding when to leave to go somewhere.

Now, I need to get ready for the Swedish winter by buying warmer clothes and bike lights (new bike = new lights)!

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