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Studying In The Kingdom of A Thousand Islands

Anna, a Moscow campus student, talks about her studies and visiting Sweden.

Studying In The Kingdom of A Thousand Islands

One more story of participating in the University exchange programme. Today we travel to Sweden with Anna.

Anna
Anna
Hello! My name is Liubov and I represent HSE Illuminated magazine, which observes student academic and non-academic life. I know, that you’ve left Russia in order to study abroad. Tell me about yourself and how you’ve come up with the idea of going abroad for studies.

Hi! My name is Anna. I am a bachelor student at Higher School of Economics. I study Adverting and Public Relations in Moscow. And I am in my third year.

Currently, I am in Sweden, in Uppsala as an Erasmus exchange student at Uppsala University. The idea of going abroad for studies came to me when I was applying for my bachelor’s degree. I knew that Higher School of Economics had an enormous number of mobility programs worldwide. Therefore, it was partly a decisive factor while choosing university I’d like to study at.

I have always been convinced that the mobility program is an excellent and at the same time a unique opportunity that I should not miss, and it really is. I also believe that it can improve the knowledge of English for sure, give you new friends from all over the world and train to stand on your own. What is more important, after having such an experience you will feel more comfortable in ‘foreign’ environments and it will give you a cultural experience. And just a funny and fascinating time.

Knowing that you’re going to stay in Sweden, which expectations of your staying there did you have?

I didn’t have any particular expectations here, I just wanted to enjoy the moment, get the most out of my studies, meet lots of interesting people, capture the moments in my Instagram blog, travel around Sweden, cycle, have fun and just relax.

I’m incredibly happy that during such a difficult pandemic time for the whole world I have the opportunity to be abroad, to live a full life and receive international experience.

What were the main reasons for choosing Sweden as your study destination?

I’ve always loved the Scandinavian culture and people’s lifestyle there and wanted to visit the Nordic countries. Consequently, I thought it would be a really good thing to combine my dream and studying.

Moreover, among the Scandinavian countries, I didn’t have much choice for my mobility, because I needed to find certain courses according to my courses at my educational program. I was thinking between Sweden and Norway, but in the end, I put Sweden as my priority because I think Norway is more boring country. But it’s only my opinion and perception.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about student life in Uppsala, because I would have chosen only Uppsala without any doubts. Uppsala is a great city for students because there are lots of people who come there for studies. Even many Swedish students from different parts of Sweden come to study at Uppsala University.

The most interesting thing here for me is nations. There are 13 nations. A nation is a sort of very old student association that has a house, a pub, activities and lots of fun. The nations are also a great place to meet new people, enjoy student life, travel around Sweden and so on. To become a member of one of the nations you should pay a small fee. But all the prices in the nation are lower than in other cafes, bars, clubs. And nations only for students: not a student cannot become a member of it. So, there are always many events, concerts, games, sports classes in nations. For instance, if you like running you can run together with other members of your nation or do yoga. Whatever you want! So, you can easily find friends here. This evidently distinguishes non-academic life in Sweden and campuses of Higher School of Economics where we also have student organizations.

Could you, please, say why Uppsala is so special.

Uppsala is the fourth largest city in Sweden. It’s about 70 km from Stockholm, about 40 min by train. It is a historically rich city with lovely narrow streets, a water canal and old architecture. It’s a beautiful city with amazing nature as in all Sweden.

Uppsala is the number one student city in Sweden and here you can experience a student life better than anywhere else. So that was the reason why I got here.

Uppsala is a really bicycle city. Everybody has their one bike here. There is all the necessary infrastructure for comfortable and safe riding across the city. And I also have bought one and at the end of my semester I am planning to sell it. And this kind of transport is eco-friendly and nice because of the absence of fees.

Tell me about your studies at Uppsala University. What do you study, which courses do you have? Are there any differences between Russian and Swedish programs?

Here I have only free-standing courses, so I am not a part of any faculty program. During my half-year, I will have only 3 courses which I had to choose according to my Russian courses at “Advertising and Public Relations” program in Moscow. The educational system in Sweden is different from the system in Higher School of Economics. At Uppsala University I have courses one after another, so I don’t study all these courses at the same time, whilst at HSE we have to study all courses concurrently.

Here I study Cultural Heritage & Sustainable Development, Journalism, Global Media & Society and Research Methods for Studies of Education. At the end of October, I will finish my first course here. And what is interesting is that my current course is for master students, but anyway I am allowed to study it.

Going abroad is a stressful moment in people’s lives. How do you feel about staying in an unfamiliar place? What is or was the main challenge for you while adapting to a new culture?

At first, I was very scared and uncomfortable because I felt like I didn’t have adequate knowledge of English to feel confident while communicating with foreigners. But later all my fears went away, I started getting to know foreigners, going to different events, going to tinder dates and everything was fine.

As for the other aspects of life here, everything is great. In Sweden, you feel safe and you feel that you and your well-being are being taken care of here. At any moment people and the university are ready to provide support and help. Everyone speaks English here, so it is always easy to explain and be understood what you want.

As little time have passed since I’m in Sweden, I can’t say that I’ve found any significant differences between Russian and Swedish cultures, but I think the Swedes are more private and cold people. Again, it’s only my opinion and perception. But there are too many foreign students, so you can always meet a person from almost any country.

What are you willing to try during your stay in Sweden? Maybe you want to travel around the country or visit some places of interest?

Definitely, I want to explore Sweden in more detail and visit as many places as I can. For sure, I have in plans to go to Lund (a charming and one of the oldest cities in Sweden), Gothenborg (Sweden’s second biggest city which combines vibrant urbanity and seaside charm), Gotland (the biggest island in the whole Scandinavia which is cultural heritage), North of Sweden (the best place to see The Northern Lights).

If there wasn’t the COVID situation, I’d still love to go to Norway, but the boundaries are closed to those who arrive from Sweden. But despite that I’ve already been to many places: Stockholm twice, Malmö (the nearest city to Denmark), Östhammar (seaside of the Baltic sea), Tyresta National park (the largest primeval forest area). And what is more, the last weekend I was in Copenhagen, Denmark, with my friends.

3 Must-Do in Uppsala by Anna

Flogsta scream

Flogsta is the biggest student apartment area in Uppsala. And it has an old and weird tradition – scream at 10 pm every evening. Exactly at 10 pm students living in Flogsta stop what they were doing and come out to the windows and start screaming as much as they want (https://travelerdreams.com).

No one really knows when and how this tradition started. But many people suppose that it just started because of the need to release the stress of studying. And in my opinion, it’s a really funny and weird thing.

Have Fika at a cozy café

Fika is an important part of Swedish culture. Basically, it just means to have a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat. But it’s more about ritual. Usually, Swedes eat tasty Swedish cinnamon buns as the most popular fika accompaniment.

Cycle

Not to ride in one of Sweden’s most bicycle towns is a sin.

3 Must-See in Uppsala by Anna

Gamla Uppsala

Four kilometers north of Uppsala lies Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala). Spread across the landscape are more than 300 burial mounds, the last resting place of Viking Kings, Queens, and heroes of old (https://www.planetware.com

Basically, it’s just a place where you can climb a hill and just relax and lie down.

Uppsala Botanical Garden (Botaniska trädgården)

The Botanical Garden is a living museum with plants from all over the world. Here 8,000 species are cultivated for teaching, research and the reservation of biological diversity. There is ample space for beauty, artistry and creativity.

Carolina Rediviva (Uppsala universitetsbibliotek)

Carolina Rediviva is Sweden's oldest and largest university library. It’s a place where there are hundreds of thousands of books where you can come to read and learn.

Go abroad and don’t be scared of facing new experience because it’s an unforgettable and unique possibility to see the world and get to know new cultures.

Text by
Liubov Zaytseva