So last week was my 21st birthday and I spent it with everyone I love: my family, my friends, my boyfriend… and it was perfect. A day later I was heading to the airport with my mum to set of my year-long adventure, studying in Uppsala, Sweden.
Packing for this move was soooo stressful. Knowing what to take for all seasons running from August until the following June is not an easy task. I started with the essentials, so my laptop, pyjamas, my stationary (although sadly, I wasn’t able to bring ALL my stationary so I had to be selective), a few toiletries to get me started and my make up. Then I had to choose clothes from my wardrobe very carefully. When you tell people you’re moving to Sweden, the first reaction you get is, “Oh, it’s very cold there! Hope you’re taking snow boots!”. So yes, I have brought my snow boots, and a very thick coat. But the thing about Swedish weather is, it’s not -6 degrees allll the time, so I did need to pack a few summer things too! A HUGE tip I would give to anybody moving abroad, is buy yourself some vacuum bags. The ultimate must when trying to pack for a year and all seasons, and only having the space of 2 suitcases to do it. I’ll spare you the details of my long, stressful and tedious packing experience, but long-story-short, I repacked a million times, (admittedly I did give quite a few things to my boyfriend to bring over at a later date), shed about 100 tears, and finally had overweight suitcases. Not the perfect outcome, I know, but the small charge at the airport I was willing to pay because I literally could not think of a single thing I’d packed that I could unpack and not need this next year. (I do however think the main reason I packed so much is because Sweden is EXPENSIVE so I didn’t really want to have to buy things out here – however, I still needed to make a trip or 2 to IKEA).
Arriving in Uppsala was easy, it was only half an hours drive away from the airport (Stockholm Arlanda) and there are plenty of ways to arrive in the city. My mum and I took a taxi just for ease – we didn’t want to have to try and get 2 superheavy suitcases on and off trains or buses. Uppsala is a very beautiful city and everyone rides bikes – one thing I need to get a hold of URGENTLY because my accommodation is quite a way from the city and although the walk is super lovely, come the dark and rain I’m sure I’ll want to be home a bit quicker!
I spent my first 3 days in Uppsala with my mum, getting settled and buying the essentials for my flat. One thing that did shock me was how expensive food is here in Sweden, meat especially. I was expecting expensive but just walking round the supermarket, I didn’t want to buy anything because of how high the prices were! My mum and I bought the basics for the kitchen and we just explored the city. I did miss out on a lot of the orientation activities, such as city and university tours and events, due to my mum being with me but I was so glad that she came because I would’ve hated being on my own.
I am not going to sugarcoat my experience so you will get the raw details, this first week I have cried so much and I’ve been so miserable. Like I said, I missed out on a lot of the orientation events due to being with my mum so I didn’t feel like I had any friends at all and wasn’t going to fit in here. Once my mum left I was miserable which made it so difficult for me to go out and mingle with new people. I still had lots of things to sort out and everything that didn’t work was just making me more and more frustrated and upset.
When you move to any foreign country where the native language is not your own, it is so strange. I didn’t think much of the language barrier before I came out here. Knowing that Swedish people speak excellent English, I was convinced my life would be super easy… I was wrong. Although it is true that the Swedes’ English is amazing, I was kind of ignorant in expecting there to be English translations EVERYWHERE. One thing that did, and still does, stress me out is going to the supermarket to buy food. I spent 99% on my time walking round with google translate on trying to decipher what anything it. It is very hard and I’m pretty sure I’ve bought completely the wrong things but oh well… it’s all part of the experience.. ha… I have to say here, however, that Swedish people – especially bus drivers and shop assistants – are so friendly and will help you out as best they can. Swedish folk seem super nice, which is nice to know considering I will be spending the next 10 months living amongst them.
Uppsala is a beautiful place and if you like walking then the walks around the outskirts of the city are perfect. Super easy, flat and stunning. It feels like you’re worlds away! I went with a few people I’d met up with that had come to Uppsala from my university and we went to an old viking burial (basically a small hill) but it was so nice. I started to feel a little less alone having tagged along with these fellow English people but I really want to meet other international and Swedish students to fully embrace this year abroad. As far as my 12 flat mates are concerned, I’ve only actually spoken to about 5 of them and although they seem lovely, they’ll all slightly older masters students and keep themselves to themselves so walking up and down my corridor is kind of like being in a ghost town…
The last day before classes started, I walked into uni (too terrified to ride the bike I finally bought) and joined a nation. A nation at Uppsala University is the equivalent of a society back in UK universities (or kind of like a college if you’re from a collegiate uni). When signing up I started to feel a little less miserable because was told that this nation (Östgöta nation) is one where a lot of Swedish students join so I am bound to make Swedish friends which I’m super excited about! So the last day of my first 5 days in Uppsala was coming to an end and I finally had something to be excited about. It sounds pretty sad but… yeah… that’s how I felt. I’ve never felt so out of my comfort zone moving here, and I’ve travelled quite a bit so that’s saying something!
I know that once I have settled into this beautiful city it will start to feel like home. But for now, I have to pack my bag for my first day of Swedish university tomorrow!
Wish me luck!
This blog entry is also available to view on my university’s study abroad blog page: https://leedsuniabroad.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/moving-to-the-land-of-ikea/
P.S. If anyone reading this has any questions about moving abroad or just life in general, just get in touch 🙂