There I am at the campus’ library. Trying to figure out all the experiences and feelings I have had in the first week during my stay up here north. So, here are a few of my first impressions.
The campus is huge
Umea’s university is located on a campus a few kilometres from the city centre next to a few locations occupied mostly by students. There are like 10 buildings for different faculties centred around the library and the lake. There are tons of places to sit down and study or do some work. At almost every corner you have several tables with aplace to sit down and a lot of students are actually using these spots. The general atmosphere is very encouraging, it makes you work and study just like everyone else. Yes, the campus is amazing, and I love it.
The campus looks like a huge co-workingspace with all these open-spaces, cafés, library, lecture halls, seminar halls and small cubicles for focused work, where you can book your session on the uni’s website. Really professional, like the student’s heaven.
Sweden is not THAT expensive
There I was. Being laughed at from my friends, that I’ll go bankrupt immediately in Sweden. Hi, Carlos! Eating out, buying beers at bars and spending money on anything else than ketchup spaghetti would turn me homeless. Not really. I have been going out the first week, eating at places recommended from other students or friends and I haven’t gone bankrupt nor homeless yet. Sorry.
The cost of a meal in a restaurant or a buffet is like 90 SEK. Kebab would be like 60 SEK. And beer at a student pub is 20-30 SEK. Hey, not bad considering I am in Sweden. And yes, you get a free salad and tap water at the restaurant just because. (1 EUR ≈ 10,7 SEK)
Swedish or imported beers are not that bad
Hey, I am from Czechia, the beer country. Don’t judge me, but I expected Swedish beers to be really bad. But there we go to Systembolaget, I get a few beers and they taste like… Beers? Yeah, canned beers. That is probably the most you can get from… Cans? Yep. This was a positive surprise. Haven’t tested draft beer in the city centre yet, but that gets expensive. Let’s say 70 SEK. The cans are mostly 15 SEK.
For the brands, they import a lot of German beers like Heineken or Carlsberg. Frommy country,they have like Budweiser, Krušovice, Staropramen, Holba, Šerák. Not really what I drink at home and probably nothing I will drink in here. But at least I can try some local beers, and actually, the Swedish beers they have there are probably better than the imported stuff. Come on Swedish beers. Show me your power!
Swedish parties are different
They have their own style. Usually a theme party. Like a costume, colour, toga or something funny. You always go to a pre-party to somebody’s place and play some games such as beer pong or card games and have a few beers or drinks. Then you leave extremely early like 20 o’clock so that you are first in the queue in from of the bar, but you still spend approximately an hour in that queue and get a bit soberer since you can’t drink anything there. Then you get in, being told that the place is at full capacity, but even the dance floor isn’t overcrowded, and other places are totally abandoned. People are dancing with their drinks or beers. Nobody is too drunk to splash you with a drink or push you at the dance floor. There are no conflicts all over, everybody is well-behaved (even in the queue) and people still prefer talking at some quieter places from time to time. And even the drunkest person there can start a really sophisticated discussion with their own opinions. Yeah, I’d say the parties are fancy. That’s the word. Fancy.
Literally everyone speaks English
It is true. Everyone speaks English here (extremely well) and the worst English speakers in the city are exchange students coming to study in Sweden. Like literally. I have never had a problem with Swede speaking in English and the only occasions someone had issues with the language was a foreigner.
Even though locals approach you in Swedish, they turn immediately to English when they recognize you are not a Swede. When there is a bunch of Swedes and one foreigner, they also fluently switch to English naturally. I really love this, since they can communicate equally well in both languages. This may be a little bit biased since I was mostly with university students. They should have much better English skills, than the general population.
It is worth it to get to know Swedish
Even though everyone speaks Swedish, it is really good to know some, or preferably communication-like local language, to be able to participate even in the Svenska jokes. Yeah, that way you get to know the locals much better than through the English sunglasses they are forced to wear when speaking the secondary language. And yes, they still speak Swedish to each other sometimes…
But the language is very similar to German and knowing both German and English at a pretty solid communication level helps a lot when learning Swedish. As does Duolingo – perfect app, love it. I also took Swedish classes for International students – after which I should be able to speak A2 level. Combining Swedish classes, Duolingo, trying to grasp some Swedish from my Insparken group and joining an Innebandy team should help me reach communication level of Swedish by year-end, where I would like to get to let’s say B2 level. That would be an amazing start to my Master’s studies.
Swedes are partying more than you think so
In the pre-semester week, I applied to Insparken. Basically, an introduction week for new year students in International Business Programme. We had a similar thing back home, E-Go, where we would go to a place with chalets in the countryside, play some games, do fun activities, party in the evenings and wake up after four days knowing some of your future classmates. Insparken was similar, only it was mostly on campus and the city. There was a programme every day from Wednesday to Saturday and the activities were really good throughout the day. For example, one was an Amazing race with over 90 activities to complete: such as running naked through Alidhem’s centrum, trying the fire slide at the fire station or singing the McDonald’s song in MAX (the Swedish burger store – it is really great). That was fun and during all four nights, therewas a theme party, such as Toga party (unfortunately have no photos), pink party or Game Night in Vegas. I got to know abunch of really great people and that is awesome.
Swedes enter Uni much later having gap years
The thing is I met a few of local Swedes at my Insparken group and a lot of them had several gap years before university to figure out what they want to do, work and earn some money and take a break from school. In my opinion, this really helps them start Uni focused and dedicated since they have much more motivation knowing what they are trying to achieve with tertiary education. It also helps them be more mature when entering uni and that helps the system place more responsibility on the students and keeps them more professional. I really like the approach they have towards students as respected partners during the studies.
People don’t really know Innebandy
I expected a lot of people would be really into Innebandy here since Sweden are the best floorball players out there. But as I have been talking to a bunch of people here, it is not uncommon to not know Innebandy at all. If somebody knows Innebandy, here is very likely to play it himself or have some connection to the sport. The sport is not general knowledge. I would say floorball is close to general knowledge back in Czechia since it is the second biggest sport and almost every school sports teacher somehow incorporates it in schools.
Referees in Sweden are taken very seriously
I have been to watch Scandic Cup with a friend to see some good quality floorball and greet some Czech referees, that came to guide some elite matches up here north. It was great to watch and afterwards talked for a bit to my Czech colleagues and learned, that up here in Sweden, the referees are taken more seriously by the teams, players and the association.
I have already learned from online sources, that the pay/compensation is much higher here in Sweden for refereeing. Even considering the different price levels in both countries. I am really looking forward to experiencing refereeing first-hand up here.
I am really grateful that you made it to the end of my first blog post about my Erasmus exchange year. I appreciate all the friends that reached out to me and I should let you know I am writing this blog for you. Drop me a message of how you liked this format or what are you interested in. Very high chance you could influence my further writing.