Author: Nina Munro
Going abroad is an amazing experience, and something you may never get to experience in your life again. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and not one to be missed if you are thinking of applying. Those who do not apply regret it and those who do go abroad come back with friends for life, and a whole new range of skills and assets. Please do not think twice about going, it really will be incredible! I am a student at Stockholm University in Sweden, where the buildings are beautiful, but the weather is freezing. It’s completely different to the walls of the Stair building and the busy streets of Glasgow, but I absolutely love it. I hope this piece helps if you are thinking of applying to Stockholm or going abroad as a whole.
Stockholm University ran an Orientation week, with opportunities to meet other Erasmus international students. These included a treasure hunt race around the university, a trip to a Swedish IKEA and speed-friending. These were great opportunities to make friends and chat to other students, and I actually met some of my best friends at IKEA and during the race. However, where Stockholm is different is that it is hard to meet Swedish students, as the exchange programmes and ordinary programmes are kept quite separate (partly due to differing language requirements). This means I unfortunately have not found many Swedes to meet and talk to, mainly just Erasmus and international students.
The Moving Process
At first, I found the moving process very difficult. I was emotional most days and found myself feeling very homesick, even though I was busy and with friends the whole time. I was having fun, but for some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to be back in Glasgow, walking down University Avenue on the way to a lecture in the Boyd Orr (a desire I never expected to have!). However, this feeling quickly passed and once university started and I felt I had more purpose, I suddenly felt totally at home in Stockholm. I bought a bike, and now cycle to university most days, which is a great way to see the place and also get some exercise – however don’t know how much I’ll be cycling in the Winter when the temperature gets as low as -15 degrees!
Extra-Curricular Activities and Trips
In terms of cultural activities, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organises various trips throughout the year. These are a trip (no visa required) to St Petersberg, Lapland and the Norwegian Fjords. The trips are encouraged by Stockholm University and the ESN and are a great way to travel for a fraction of the cost you would pay normally. However – they sell out very fast, so it is very difficult to get tickets. ESN Stockholm also run trips with other Erasmus students from other cities to Helsinki, Tallin and Riga – all overnight cruises where you spend just a day in the city, and two nights on a boat meeting students and partying. I will be going on one of these trips come December and I’m so excited, it’s very inexpensive and a great way to meet people while also getting a completely new experience on the cruise and seeing a city you may not have visited otherwise! As well as this, I have also taken various trips with my friends. I made friends with an American and an Australian, which has boded well for travelling as they are very keen to see Europe on the cheap while they can. This means that we have been on a lot of group trips. So far, I have visited Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Vienna. These were such beautiful cities and all places I had never been before, so overall my Erasmus experience with travelling has been incredible.
In terms of logistics – things were relatively simple. Sweden as a country is very organised, and therefore it was easy to get things sorted for the move. On the way, I brought two checked bags (a hassle to carry), but it meant that I could bring plenty of clothes and items from home. When I got to my accommodation, the person before me had left almost everything I needed from kitchen utensils to a duvet and pillows. The student trip to IKEA was run the day after we arrived too, so I was able to get all the other things I needed pretty quickly. While Sweden is expensive, there are plenty budget shops to get things like furniture and kitchen items, so this worked well for my tight student purse strings. In terms of bank account, I set up a Revolut account. The way Revolut works is that you put money into your account, then exchange it to the currency you need. This works perfectly as Sweden runs a cashless society – having cash is more of a nuisance than it would be in Scotland. This is also brilliant for travelling, as you can exchange money into whatever currency you need at the time. I have kept my British bank account and have just been transferring money in increments to my Revolut when necessary. A bank account and money could not have been easier to set up! My phone contract also allows me to use all my allowances within the EU, so this was also very easy. However – watch out because some phone companies only allow you to do this for a certain amount of time, so make sure to speak to your provider before you jet off!
The only part of my experience in Stockholm that I struggled with was the way the university worked in terms of registering for courses and setting up university accounts. There is not much advice given in terms of how you do this, and it can be confusing for new students at the beginning who are already dealing with a lot of change. However, with some help from other international students you will get there eventually, and until the university becomes more involved, Google will be your best friend.
Advice to Incoming Students
In terms of advice, the best I can give you is taking every day as it comes. The experience is daunting, terrifying and nerve-wracking, but worth every minute. When I first arrived, as I have said, I was a complete mess. However, one week in and I felt miles better. When studying abroad, the lows will be tough, when you just want a good cup of tea and a Tunnocks tea cake, Scottish accents and a rainy walk through Kelvingrove Park. However, the highs are amazing: meeting friends for life from countries you would never have dreamed of visiting before, learning your subject in a brand-new environment and travelling a beautiful country while visiting others too. Also, make sure to throw yourself in – it may seem scary to go to events on your own, but it is the best thing you can do in order to meet new friends. When you meet someone, ask for their contact details so you can stay in touch. Don’t be shy, otherwise your experience will be nothing compared to what it could be. Going abroad is already the best decision I have ever made, and we’re only two months in.
Before you apply though, I would recommend speaking to as many past students from the universities you are choosing. When I did this, I completely changed my mind about where I wanted to go, and Stockholm University moved from not even being on my list to my first choice upon hearing how good the experience had been from returning students. They gave me a lot of advice; on everything from which subjects they found the most interesting, to which wine was the cheapest to buy in supermarkets. I cannot thank them enough for the glowing review and tips they gave me when it came to my moving day to Stockholm.
If you do head to Stockholm, make sure to hit up the ABBA museum, where I spent 4 amazing hours dancing and singing to the best tunes! Also, fika is a must – an hour (or two, or three) taken out of every Swedes’ day to eat kanelbulle (cinnamon buns) and drink coffee. The cinnamon buns alone are enough to persuade you to stay in Sweden for sure!
The most important thing really is to enjoy it, choose your location carefully and immerse yourself in the experience. Good luck!