Study in Stockholm: A Polish exchange student views on what to expect
By: Kornelia Januszewska
Whether you’re thinking about going on a study exchange program to Stockholm, or maybe, you’ve already made up your mind and you’re taking this exciting, yet slightly terrifying step – moving to a new country is never easy. Believe me, I would know because I was in your shoes a few months ago.
To help you out a little, I came up with a list of five things you can expect as an exchange student in Stockholm. Hopefully, it’ll ease your nerves and convince you it’s a decision worth making!
1. You won’t end up super broke, I promise you
Stockholm is considered to be on the more expensive side to live in, at least that’s what I’ve heard before I moved here, and to be completely frank with you, it’s true. The city is quite pricy, but it also depends on what you choose to spend your money on, and where.
Price tags in the Swedish krona may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but after a while, you’ll get used to paying 20-something SEK for a loaf of bread and won’t feel guilty about it. Especially when you convert the price to your home currency and realize that it isn’t so bad after all.
For grocery shopping, I’d recommend going to Lidl or Willys. It’ll help you save a reasonable sum, even if the store is located farther than the nearest ICA (a Swedish supermarket chain). The extra effort will help you accumulate enough money for other expenses such as eating & going out, which also can become quite costly, but doable, as long as you aren’t cultivating it every weekend.
The only thing I’d say is really over-expensive is alcohol. Don’t worry, though! Ferry trips to Tallinn or Riga weren’t made without a reason, were they?
2. You will most likely be obsessed with fika
If you are anything like me, you’ve probably done your research about Stockholm (hence you’re here), and came across the fika culture. It’s a commonly celebrated coffee break with a delicious Swedish pastry such as kanelbullar (a cinnamon bun) or a semla. Swedes absolutely enjoy going out for a fika, and so will you.
Rooted so deeply in Swedish culture, sometimes there’re fika breaks during longer seminars and lectures. Chances are, as an exchange student, you’ll have little to no classes (Yay!), which gives you a perfect opportunity to explore the best coffee shops in the city and ask your new Swedish crush out on a fika date (which is not a date, but turns out it is). No true Swede will say no to a fika, so use that to your advantage!
3. You will study hard, but party even harder
Everybody knows you don’t go on a study exchange program to a foreign country to study. This rule applies to Stockholm as well. Of course, you have to study. It’s your main priority, but if you think it’s going to be the most important element of your exchange, you’re terribly wrong, my dear.
I don’t think of myself as a party animal, yet I saw myself going out every evening during my first week in Sweden. There’ll be plenty of organized get-to-know activities for the new coming exchange students in Stockholm. You shouldn’t avoid them, but at the same time, don’t fear missing out if you don’t go to every party. Yes, it’s a great way of meeting new people, however, they aren’t likely to become your greatest friends by the end of your exchange period.
Partying brings people close, but living together brings them even closer. As ridiculous as it sounds, a corridor kitchen is all you really need to socialize and get to know some of the best individuals, who, (because you’re sharing a commonly used space) you can be sure, will stick around for longer than a party.
4. You will get to observe a free catwalk show in the city
The very first thing you’ll notice arriving in Stockholm is how well-dressed everybody is. It does make you rethink your own fashion choices, for real.
Intimidating, as it is though, it’s also incredible in a way. Not only the Swedish style, together with the beautiful architecture in Stockholm, is a pleasant view, but the Swedes themselves are also a gorgeous nation to look at. I know it sounds funny, but be prepared to be swept off of your feet.
Luckily, H&M or Gina Tricot stores are easily found across the city, so feel free to get inspired and go cloths-hunting (there’re lots of vintage / secondhand shops in Stockholm as well that offer cheaper clothing options – whatever you prefer).
One thing is certain, your wardrobe will go through a major update.
5. Things you shouldn’t worry about…
As I like to be practical, here are some information I’d find useful when I was coming to Stockholm last January:
everybody speaks English, nevertheless, if you want to learn Swedish there’re free courses for international students at (I believe) every university
Stockholm is an easy and safe city to get around. With an SL card (which is quite expensive, but worth the purchase) you can go literally anywhere within the city limits – buses, metro, trolleys & ferries included!
The Weather ❄️
It’s going to be cold, I’m not gonna lie. It’s Sweden after all, but with the right amount of layers (dress like an onion), you should be just fine. Also, you won’t find more insanely stunning sunsets anywhere else.