This past week I felt incredible nostalgic. It marked the three year anniversary of the beginning of my Erasmus exchange semester. On the 17th of January 2014, I boarded a plane to Umeå, Sweden.
I can still recall my arrival and my first days there as if it were yesterday. Somehow, these 5 months changed me.
My first days in Umea in 2014! So much snow!
I really can’t remember what gave me the idea to move exactly to NORTHERN SWEDEN, but I’m eternally grateful. Without the amazing experiences there, I would have never thought of moving to Sweden for my Master’s studies.
But here I am, 3 years later it is just so weird to look back at 20-year-old-me, completely lost in the snow. Somehow I feel that I changed so much, but I really can’t put my finger on what changed exactly. And then when I moved to Uppsala in August I didn’t feel that much different.
Anyways, another reason I kept on thinking about my Erasmus experience was because a fresh batch of exchange students just arrived an I realized: I’m not a newbie here anymore! What??? When did that happen?
It’s crazy, but seeing them wander through the corridors at uni and eyeing the reckless bikers no matter the weather made me realize that compared to them I actually know a thing or two about this city.
Getting lost can actually lead you discover really nice areas in the town!
Navigating the city
The first days in Uppsala I got continuously lost. There is something about this city that makes it difficult to orientate at the beginning. Maybe it is because as soon as you leave the city centre itself, bike and walk ways don’t necessarily follow the ordinary streets. Maybe my sense of orientation was just useless. However, after some time you really get a hang of it and then it is actually super easy. All you need to remember are the names of the main city areas, such as Flogsta (the student “ghetto” where I live) and you will be fine following the signs. It is pretty unnecessary to remember any street names. It goes so far that I had to think twice when I was asked for my postal address by a friend during Christmas break.
Bikes, bikes and even more bikes
You will bike everywhere anyway. Yes, even in the snow. Or the rain.
I recall seeing all the crazy students who biked the entire winter in Umeå. My only thought was that they must be completely suicidal. Flash-forward three years and here I am biking in the winter. Admittedly, it does feel quite suicidal at times. For instance when there is 10 cm of fresh powder snow or a solid ice cover of at least one centimetre. Nontheless, biking is simply the best, easiest, quickest and still most comfortable way around town.
Just before Christmas, the city showed off all its wintery beauty
Talking about weather, however, I need to clarify some things.
Yes, it is winter in Sweden. Yes, it is cold. But no, I am not freezing in extreme temperatures.
Personally, the winter I experience here is just how I always picture winter are supposed to be in central Europe anyway. Temperatures hardly went below -10 so far and at least we got a lot of snow. It doesn’t feel that much different to winter in Austria. Plus, in Sweden people are at least used to snow and ice. So far I haven’t experienced any snow chaos yet (though in Stockholm they really did). Unfortunatly, one thin is true: it is DARK. I was actually surprised how hard it hit me. But getting up in the dark, biking to uni at sunrise and returning home after sunset, just doesn’t leave much time to catch your required Vitamin D dosis. On the other, when the sun is out you do appreciate it a lot more!!!
Sunset colours just after two pm? Not so uncommon in Sweden.
Uppsala is a university city through and through. So there are a lot of ways to distract you from any winter blues that you might experience (or your study materials). The most important places for any student to turn to are the student nations. These 13 student clubs run the entire social life for the students and offer anything from breakfast to clubs, drama clubs to outdoor sports. They are so important that I guess I will have to write an entire blog about them one day. For today remember: If you are a student go to the nations, you won’t regret it.