Monthly Archives: January 2006

Choir

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Värmland’s songbook

I just returned from an introduction meeting at Värmlands, the student nation (=student association) I joined. It was supposed to start at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and lastet until 10 in the evening. In little groups we were shown around the nations building and had a quite formal dinner afterwards.

Due to the fact that our group worked very hard on the quiz we had to take, we won in the end. The prize was a Värmland’s songbook. A lot of speeches from supposedly important people were held, most of them in Swedish, which made “decoding” for me very difficult if not impossible. The whole scene reminded me a bit of the dinners in the Harry Potter movies. When they spoke in English, they used an academic sounding British accent.

Highlight of the evening was for sure the choir. Although I didn’t understand the text of the songs, it sounded really beautiful. Luckily, I had my digital camera with me that is capable of recording video. Since it was too dark, you can listen to a short audio sample only (play it loud for best performance :-) ).

Sunday Afternoon Walk

Due to the huge amount of positive feedback I got for my picture gallery, I decided to take a “Sonntagsspaziergang” (Sunday afternoon walk) and some pictures of Flogsta, the area where I am living. I first was thinking about posting the pictures in black and white only, which would make them look more shocking, but although the houses might not look as you would expect Swedish houses to look like, living here is really nice. More or less everybody has his or her room here, the supermarket is just around the corner and you meet a lot of people here.

Have a look at the Flogsta pictures.

Värmlands Premiär Party Pictures

I just returned from Värmlands Premiär Party, which was nice. Or should I better say, het was erg leuk? I went there with my neighbours and met other exchange students. Once again, I spoke more Dutch than I ever did in Maastricht on a party. That is kind of funny.

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Click to enter gallery

Have a look at the pictures I took here.

Sweden / Uppsala: State of Things

This entry is not yet spell-checked. Sorry for any mistakes!

To save some time not having to write hundreds of emails, here comes a current report of life in Uppsala. Yesterday was the first day where I finally got some time to relax – that’s why I was a bit tired most of the time, due to the reduction of the (positive) stress of the last days. Nevertheless, I still had to read a chapter for one of my courses.

Being Abroad

First of all, it does not really feel like being abroad. Due to my study in Maastricht I’m already used to different street signs or product descriptions in the super market. Also when you are approached in Swedish by people on the street you can get what they mean. Otherwise, like in Holland, asking questions is for free, so if you are in doubt about something (especially money matters), just ask.

There are, however, a few differences to the Netherlands. First of all, Sweden is just bigger. The city is not as packed as Maastricht is and it is not that crowded, either. One feels a bit more “free”. Secondly, Hollands has still a big advantage when it comes to going around by bike. In Sweden you have to (like in Germany) drive on the normal street. There are no dedicated, well-lit bike paths.

Weather

Cold. On Sunday we had minus 16 degrees centigrade. Everyone is walking around with several layers of clothers. On the other hand, it is not a big problem. You are dressed a bit “thick”, but I still prefer minus 10 degrees to plus 30. One can better protect against the cold.

The streets are in the meantime covered with snow and sometimes even with ice. You can still drive by bike or car on it because everywhere is this grit that give the snow a bit grip. Only on the edges of a sidewalk one has to be careful.

A few days ago, I drove around with two Canadian guys and a Dutch girl by bike. It seems that the Canadians cannot handle biking very well. One pulled over so rarely that he nearly crashed into me. Good that the cars are driving very slowly when they overtake a bike . The Dutch girl and I stopped after a while to see after the Canadians. On a distance of about 800 meters we were one minute ahead. One Canadian had reportedly fallen off his bike.

Sun sets around 16 o’clock, after that it’s dark. So far, this is not a really problem, every day you see that days become longer.

University

For the business people, the so-called “Ekonomikum” building is equipped in a similar fashion like in Maastricht. Very nice lecture halls, a good cafeteria and a lot computers. The library looks pretty good, I haven’t been there though. Wifi is there as well, unfortunately totally unencrypted. That is a bit annoying because I (as a security nerd) cannot check my emails via unencrypted channels. If only I had a VPN server. :-)

Shops / Prices

You can get all the products you are used from Holland or Germany here as well. For common stuff, prices are normal, the local IKEA is cheap. Food is another issue. It is very expensive and you can get a meal at the student nations for a cheaper price than buying the ingredients in the super market. Still, there are two discounters around, a Netto market in the city and – favoured by many Germans – a Lidl, not far away from Flogsta where I live.

The opening hours of the shops are perfect. Grocery stores open for long times. The “ICA Väst” near hear has opened every day (!) from 9 to 23 o’clock. That’s a service! There are no post offices in Sweden, everything was sourced out to the super market. That’s where one has to send letters or receive packages.

People

The people I met so far are really nice. Most of the time, I met only other exchange students. Everyone lives in an area called Flogsta. There are about 12 mulit-storey buildings that have the charme of “Plattenbauten” (tower blocks) from the former German Democratic Republic. You don’t really know in which building you are at a given time, since everything looks the same.

Many foreigners come from Germany, I also met many Canadians and Austrians. Many Dutchmen and – women are here as well. I haven’t met any Spanish or Italian people yet. Maybe it’s too cold for them here. A few days ago, I went out with a few Dutch people and could practice my Dutch language skills a bit. Dutch people are better prepared for a stay abroad, too. The Dutch Postbank does not charge fees when you draw money out of an ATM, also intereuropean transaction to a Swedish bank account are cheaper than they would be with my German bank.

I haven’t met that many Swedish people yet. The ones I met were very friendly and really nice and hearty. This friendlyness seems to be “real” and not simulated. Everyone is speaking English perfectly. On the other hand, there is not much room for generalizations. There are a few Swedes that are a bit reseverd, but there are also more offensive ones.

Parties / Alcohol

The Parties start really early. Normally at around 18 o’clock. At one o’clock in the night, everything is over. Lots of alcohol is consumed in any way. The student nations (student associations) are excempted from the alcohol tax and thus can offer the drinks cheapter than in the free market.

It seems that the “Systembolaget” is the “Coffeeshop” of the Swedes. It is a state-controlled super market that is allowed to sell strong alcohol. Prices are extremely high. Many people want to import alcohol. A few ferry lines have specialized in this business. Trips to Helsinki cost around 10 euros, the profit is made with the alcohol sold tax-free during the trips on international waters.

At around 21 o’clock, everyone is drunk. Smoking is not allowed on parties. That’s good since you do not stink when you come back home. If you only like a glass of water, it is for free and you don’t have to pay 1.80 euro like in Maastricht.

Misc

I hope to be able to take some more pictures soon. But with minus 15 degrees outside I don’t really feel like doing so because within seconds your fingers freeze.

Celui qui parle francais devait regrader une fois à la fiche de son voisin.

Sledge Riding in Uppsala

Some pictures from today’s sledge riding are online right now. There is really a lot going on here for exchange students. The last few days I was busy all day long and went to several meetings, parties and other activities.

The temperatures are currently extremely cold, even some Swedes complain. When you go out, you have to wear several layers of clothes. For tomorrow, -16° C are expected during daytime. If you go by bike, it will feel even colder due to the windchill.

Biking is possible though and a lot of students are making use of their bike. Sometimes it feels a bit like being on an expedition to Antarctica or something. So taking pictures is a challenge because any second your fingers start freezing.

By Bus to Uppsala

Since Yesterday, I am in Uppsala after I landed safe and sound on Stockholm’s international Airport Arlanda, runway 01 right (This one is not in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, though, there is only 01 left :-) ). I flew with Germanwings, which is everything but a low-cost carrier. It looks like a standard Lufthansa flight. Nice personnel, they even reduced the amount for excess luggage I had to pay. The plane itself (one of the Airbus A 320 Germanwings possesses, ) was very clean, the amount of space one had was very low though. The plane was not fully occupied, roughly 60 percent (!) of all seats were free. So I had one row for myself.

After touchdown, I switched to a normal bus that brought me to Uppsala. There I was welcomed by two nice Swedish girls who brought me to my room, again by yet another bus. My room is for Maastricht standards of very high quality, everything is clean, I have my own bathroom and a shared kitchen an living room. Everything is equipped with IKEA furniture, so it directly looks familiar. On my corridor live about 12 other people. The ones I have met so far are pretty nice.

Today I went to the city to do all the paperwork (like getting the internet codes, signing the contract for my room an so on) with other exchange students, mostly French people and some other Germans. (Finally, here are not that many Germans like in Maastricht, I even met some Dutch students :-) ). The various nations offer a lot of activies during the coming weeks and in contrast to Maastricht everything is on a voluntary basis. So if you sign up for a student nation you are obliged to do nothing. That’s really good.

About the weather: There is no snow, all the strees are covered with grit in the form of little stones. Temperatures are roughly the same like at home, maybe 2 degrees centigrade less. Some smaller streets have a thick ice cover. Some photos within the next fews day. I still have to buy mysself a bike…

Now I know, where I’ll live

I now got the information by the International Office of Uppsala University where I will live. It is an area called “Flogsta”, the one I opted for in the registration form.

The place even has its own Wikipedia entry. I drove by the area in summer already when I visited Uppsala. Every room is said to have its own bathroom and (more important) its own broadband connection. I hope that the latter one will work next week!

Buddies

I now also have contact with my “official” buddy, a Swedish girl, who is very nice. She is taking care of picking up the keys to my room and me afterwards at the bus station when I arrive. In her opinion, Flogsta is “the place to be”, you might know what this means; the ear-plugs are in my suitcase already :-) .

For an even longer time, I have been writing emails to my “inofficial” buddy. Without going into details, we have a relative in common, but I’m not directly related to her. She, too, is terribly nice and provided me with a lot of background information on Uppsala and the student life there.

Luggage

Another issue is my luggage. Germanwings allows a total of 20 kilograms, which is not that much for half a year. Although I’m just taking the most important things with me, I think I might exceed that limit. So one trick is to take a laptop bag as additional hand luggage. Most airlines transport laptop bags as hand luggage for free. In this bag I will place all these heavy battery chargers and the laptop, of course.

Uppsala: Just Wait And See

First blog entry in the new year and I’m busy with organizing my stay in Uppsala. The funny thing is that except for choosing the right clothes and packing my suitcase there is not much to organize.

All in all, I filled out two or three forms in November with my address, the courses that I want to take and the favored accomodation. A few weeks later I received the official “Letter of Admittance”. By mid December I got the welcome package of the university, which said that a buddy is going to contact me about 2 weeks before departure. So far, I didn’t receive any email or phone call from this buddy.

All other information (i.e. where my room actually is, whether I can take the courses I chose and so on) will be provided upon arrival, says the welcome package.

So in the meantime there is Google Earth, my personal reconnaissance tool. Unfortunately, Uppsala is not available in high-definition satellite images, but still all the street names are displayed. So a quick look at the Swedish Lidl website reveals where the local store is and Google Earth shows that it is approximately 2.5 kilometers away from my most-likely room location.

The people of Uppsala (how do you call them, Uppsalaners?) or better the students are said to go around by bike, like in Maastricht, even during Winter time. So either I take my bike with me (Germanwings wants to have 25 euro for that) or I buy a used (stolen?!?) one there. Let’s wait and see…

By the way: Stockholm started testing a congestion charge today.