Transitioning to Sweden


It’s only been two weeks but a lot has happened! First of all, coming to Sweden was sort of a spontaneous decision. Originally, I planned to exchange in Japan for one whole academic year but because of class/scheduling reasons my advisor suggested that I go to Uppsala University in Sweden. Since they have an excellent biology department, it was a great alternative for me.

Although Europe is a beautiful continent, it wasn’t on my college “To-do” list. I barely knew anything about European culture and I did just a little bit of research before landing in Sweden. Fortunately, I had an informal “Orientation to Europe” guide by my mom’s close friend, who lives in Amsterdam, for two weeks so I was able to make a smooth transition. During my time there I felt like a child released into an amusement park without any adult supervision, all the freedom in the world was in my hand! For those who are familiar with the terms, that was my “Honeymoon” phase of studying abroad. But after the fun weeks with friends and family, it was time for me to move onto Sweden…all by myself. I remember on the plane ride I’ve bawled my eyes out for an hour straight, on the plane. Looking back on it now, I feel pretty bad for the two passengers sitting next to me… must’ve been awkward for them (lol).

Now here’s where I want to make an important note: cry when you are sad, don’t hold it in! Many exchange students are often first-time travelers or first-time traveling by themselves. The idea of studying abroad may sound like it’s a happy road from start to end but it’s not always so — there will be grief. Ok, maybe grief is too strong of a word but you (future exchange students who’re reading this) will feel sad! …probably. And when you do, just let it out! Holding in will only make the transition harder and probably more miserable. Just let go and move on. If you want to be extra dramatic, I recommend crying next to window seat, it adds a tv-drama flare to it.

Once I landed, the days flew by very quickly because there’s always something to do each day. After successfully lugging three suitcases into my dorm room, my days were spent cleaning and organizing the room. After two weeks, I’ve compiled a brief list of the basic and essential things exchange/transfer students need:

  1. (A) friend(s) — Get them. It’s not difficult, everyone there is basically on the same boat as you are. They’re your immediate and great support when you’re trying to find other essential things for life down this list.
  2. Cell Phone data — It’s the Information Age, I don’t think anyone can survive without internet connection anymore. Once data is secured, everything else should be a piece of cake.
  3. Router — The dorms here do not provide wireless connection so a router is a must. But don’t rush on this, be on lookout for student moving out because they usually sell these at reasonable price. For now, learn to survive on cellular data.
  4. Google Maps — If cell data cannot be obtained yet, find a place with Wi-Fi and download the map of the region you’re staying in. Now the map will work offline! If cell data is available, then that’s even better. Find yourself the nearest supermarket so you’ll at least survive the first night.
  5. Pillows and blankets — Dorms usually do not provide pillows or blankets, but the good news is that the university sells them for a reasonable price (250 SEK or about 31 USD). I personally recommend bringing your own sheets, blankets, and pillows though. That way you’ll be able to feel at home at least when you sleep.

And that’s about it for the first couple nights. I arrived on August 1st and the weather wasn’t cold yet so a blanket and pillow will suffice. The weather was in fact surprisingly hot and humid. It was a rough first week especially because I only brought winter clothes and a couple summer t-shirts. I was expecting cold wind and shivering bodies straight off the bat, sadly though, I was greeted with the opposite climate. Temperature is starting to drop now so there are less sweaty episodes but it gets pretty warm in the afternoon. That’s also one important thing I’ve learned, know the weather to know what to wear. And that’s how the weather app became my new best friend.

I can’t possibly write about every single thing that happened this past couple weeks because there are a lot that went on. So I shall pause here for the first entry and continue to anticipate what challenges the next week will bring.

A messy study desk in my dorm, it was clean before I moved in…
A cluttered but made bed ready for a tired body to plop down on it.
Outside view of the dorm provided for Uppsala University Students (Flogsta complex).