Swedish Culture, Student Associations and a bit of studying

Swedish Culture, Student Associations and a bit of studying

And so my first month as an international exchange student in Stockholm is coming to an end. If I may be honest, and I will, living here has already started to feel familiar and normal. Even though what I do here is so different from what I do back home, because everything is so different, it is easy to adapt to a new routine. I have university four days a week, with every day starting at 13:00. The course is really interesting and just today I have turned in my first essay. Twice a week I have a Swedish language lesson including with a fantastic singing Swedish teacher and a class of 300 students from all over the world.  It really is something, sitting there and practising how to say different countries in Swedish, and to realize that half the world is sitting right here in your classroom.

Jag kan prata lite Svenska nu, det är jätteroligt!

More than just studying

But I have of course been doing much more than going to school and getting used to ignoring the red traffic lights as a pedestrian on my way there. I have joined both the Student Union and the Erasmus Student Network, two student associations who both organize a lot of different events and activities that you can join as a member. For example, we did speedfriending with the SU: Speed dating, but only to make friends. That was a fun afternoon first talking to a lot of people in a short time – true speed dating style – and then going to a pub together. There was also an ESN music quiz, in which we tested our knowledge of Swedish music, which went surprisingly well. It is also lucky that we have had almost only sun and nice weather, which makes it easier to do fun things.

Stockholm water and sun

The weather is astonishingly nice for Sweden in this time of year.

The ESN also organized a city tour. By that point I already had seen most of the common areas of Stockholm. I went through there to get to the university, I did my shopping there, or grabbed some fika (a Swedish tradition which is basically getting coffee with a pastry) with friends. But the city tour was a tour of Gamla Stan, which is the old town of Stockholm. Here, the buildings were much more colourful and the streets far narrower. We visited the palace of the Swedish king and queen, the parliament and several other statues and interesting buildings. A nice fact is that the Swedish king has passed a law of primogeniture in 1980, the first in its kind, which basically says that it does not matter if the heir for the throne is male or female. Swedes are very gender equal as I have experienced them. I see just as much, or even more, fathers with baby’s here as mothers. And just today I hear that there is a recent law passed that encourages couples to divide the amount of maternity leave they get 50/50.

ESN Stockholm city tour

ESN Stockholm city tour

ESN city tour friends

From the city tour.

The day after the city tour the ESN set out again, this time for a hike in the Tyresta National Park. We were very lucky with the weather that day! We were with a very large group, almost 80 people if I had to guess, and we walked for a long, long time. All in all I think we hiked 2,5 hours, took a break for a late lunch, and then hiked the same track again 2,5 hours to get back to the bus – because finishing  the track would have taken over 4 hours!

And when I say hiking, I really mean hiking. It was not just a walk with sometimes a hill. We were climbing over fallen trees, walking over slippery rocks, climbing up and down rocks, and balancing on some wooden planks that were laid down on parts of the trail where it would otherwise be impossible to hike. While taking the lunch break a few people even went swimming – and they surprisingly did not freeze. It was a very enjoyable day full of amazing sights and interesting conversation. I am sure I want to go there again.

Tyresta National park Stockholm

Stockholm Tyresta National Park by a lake.

Lake view Tyresta National park Stockholm

Lake view Tyresta National park Stockholm

Stockholm Tyresta National Park Hill View

Stockholm Tyresta National Park Hill View

Stockholm Woods

These are few of my many, many pictures of the national park.

Students making student life better

But the ESN and SU aren’t the only people organizing cool things. The students themselves also from clubs, which are informal and meet regularly. I have joined two of these clubs. One of those clubs I discovered after a very interesting seminar. In this seminar I had a nice discussion with some of my classmates. One of them told me afterwards that she was going to the debate club meeting that evening, and if I would like to come. Well, yes! I was lucky and the meeting that evening was the first meeting of the year, which meant I was not the only newbie. That evening was filled with small workshops on the basics of debating, with the real debating left to next week. I have wanted to debate as a hobby for a long time now, but it was not possible at my high school and it slipped my mind back home at my university. So I am very happy I can finally start debating here.

The other club I joined I stumbled upon by surprise. When I was getting my ESN membership card, the booth next to theirs belonged to the Improvisation Theatre club. I had never really thought of doing this before, but honestly it seemed fun and I signed up thinking: why not?

So far I have really enjoyed this club, more than I expected. It’s a very casual club, but this makes it even more fun. It also helps you practise quickly adapting to new situations – as scenes can change quite fast – and to just keep speaking and improvise as you go. This actually suits my debate club pretty well, where you also need to practise speaking up and improvising. Plus, the people here are really nice as well and loads of fun.

A bit more Swedish culture

Another thing I did not see myself doing when I was planning to go to Sweden was attending a crayfish diner. Why? Because I don’t really like seafood. Alas, when the SU organized a traditional crayfish dinner – because that is apparently a Swedish thing – I once again asked myself: why not?

And thus I ended up in a charming hat and bib with a few friends eating crayfish. I had never tasted them before. My opinion is that they taste kind of mwah, that it’s really weird to eat food that still really looks like an animal, and that cracking open the crayfish is far too much effort for a little meat. This does not mean that I did not enjoy the dinner or the experience. I’m very glad I attended it. It was a lot of fun and we also sung a few Swedish drinking songs.

The most important drinking song is called Helan Går, which translates as chug it down. Apparently, during a championship match of the Swedish hockey team, they did not know the lyrics to their national anthem so they sung this instead! The most important line from this song is “Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej” which translates to “sing hup fol-de-rol la la la la” after which you take a shot (or in our case, a sip).

Crayfish dinner Stockholm

Crayfish dinner with Kathi to the left

Crayfish plate in Stockholm

The charmingly decorated crayfish dinner.

I also went to the Museum of Modern art with my roommate, Kathi, who is also pictured above when we went to the crayfish dinner together. This museum had a regular area, with a lot of different art movements depicted, and also a special temporary exhibit. This was the exhibit of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a woman obsessed with polka dots and creating all kinds of art with it. The exhibit was called Infinity, named after the several infinity rooms that were part of her collection. These infinity rooms were rooms with mirrors on all sides, and some polka dot themed art in the middle. Standing in one of these rooms was pretty amazing.

Museum of Modern Art Stockholm

A doll of Kusama in one of her art pieces made for Louis Vuitton.

Infinity room, Kusama, Stockholm

One of the infinity rooms.

And since I decided I did obviously not have enough to do, I also applied to become a Student Ambassador for the Student Union. An ambassador is part of a team that organizes several events like the ones I mentioned above to contribute to making student life amazing. Hopefully, I will be accepted and will be able to do something in return for everyone that has helped making student life active here. And hopefully, I will also manage to make myself more active – As of this week, I am planning to go to the gym at least twice a week. Hopefully, that will work out just as well as life in Stockholm has worked out for me so far.

See you next time,