Sweden, Lund – Daniel Hayward – 2006-2007
So you’re thinking about going to Sweden? Let the first thing I tell you in this report be, do it! During my time in Sweden I found it to be not only a beautiful country in terms of cities and landscape but also in terms of the people you’ll meet there. Sweden is stacked in a rich history to rival that of England or any other European country. At the same time Sweden is a modern liberal thinking country which will surprise you everyday with it’s innovative approach to problems which even here in the UK we fail to tackle. I can think of no better place to advance your studies particularly if you, like me, study economics for which Sweden is an amazing living example of social democratic government intervention in action. However I will let you discover this for yourselves, in this report I will try to stick to the useful. Below you will find a few short paragraphs which will hopefully give you some idea of what to expect if you choose to study in Sweden. I will also try to give you some hints and tips which I personally found useful during my stay in Lund. I hope you find this report helpful and may I also say good luck if you do decide to go!
Getting There / First Day
In the age of budget airlines European travel is no longer expensive nor epic. During my year I used the Ryanair to Malmo Sturup route to commute between home and Lund. These flights depart from London Stansted and arrive in Malmo Sturup and can be bought for well under £30 each way inc taxes. Malmo Sturup airport is located on the outskirts of Malmo*. It is small and handles very few international flights, however it is efficient and offers and excellent route into Lund. On arrival you will need to find a bus to take you to Lund. Simply stroll out the front doors and turn right. You will be presented with an easy choice of buses: Malmo or Lund. That’s right, you’ve got it, the Lund bus is the one for you. This bus will take you into the heart of Lund. You’ll be able to enjoy a brief tour of the city and university whilst on your journey before eventually disembarking outside Lund central railway station. This should be apparent by a loud “Central” cry over the speaker system, if not, don’t panic, most commuters will get off here so just follow the crowd.
On arrival you will have been told to register at the AF building. The AF building is mainly used as an administration centre for the university. The easiest way to find it is to follow an experienced student or simply walk away from the station, through the main shopping district and towards the cathedral. This walk should only take about 3 minutes although if you have heavy cases as I did it may take a lot longer. The AF building is a brown castle like structure located beside the cathedral and opposite the impressive white ‘main university building’ (Sandgaten ‘road’).
Once there you will need to wait inline, register, wait in line, receive your room keys, wait in line, collect your Swedish language text books and then you can go! This process took about 3 hours when I was there so use it as an opportunity to make some friends. Once back outside, Lund student mentors will provide you with lifts to your respective accommodation. This is most helpful especially if like me you are assigned to the isolated depths of Greenhouse…
* I’ve been told recently that this route may not operate by the time you begin you Erasmus placement. If this is true you will need to fly via Gatwick to Copenhagen with Sterling airlines. Once at Copenhagen you can easily take a train, over the bridge to Lund via Malmo central station. Check other reports for clearer instructions.
Accommodation / First Fortnight
Most students will be able to successfully find accommodation with the International Housing Office (IHO). If this is the case you will pick up your keys on the first day and even be offered a lift to your new pad. Student halls like in Exeter vary in their price and comfort. Most are up to a high standard so do not worry. Unlike Exeter the halls are spread throughout the city so you may find yourself a long way from where you lectures are held. Again don’t panic, this is what buses and bikes were invented for.
I was slightly unlucky in my accommodation allocation. I was placed in Greenhouse*. Greenhouse was a beautifully maintained building with soft beds, good internet access, Ikea furnishings and a extensive kitchen and living area. Unfortunately it is placed on the outskirts of town which meant a bike was a necessity and friends rarely had the strength to visit. Parties are also rare in Greenhouse as so few students are even aware of its existence. Most accommodation including Greenhouse is separated into Swedish and International so don’t be surprised to find not a single Swedish student in your building. If you are placed here I suggest you make good use of the buses which leave from outside the Linero ICA supermarket, these will take you everywhere you need to go including the town centre and university. However you will also require a bike. Bikes are like mobile phones in Sweden, everyone has one whether you use it a little or a lot.
When buying your bike be careful, many students including myself panic and buy the first piece of crap they find (usually from the sale outside the AF building in the first few weeks). Relax…wait till you find a bike which will survive a Swedish winter. You’ll want something comfy, with wide tyres for the winter snow. You’ll also need lights so see if you can get these included in the price. I was fleeced for my first bike which eventually died one cold night, I suggest looking here www.blocket.se , This site hosts adverts for local sellers selling everything from bikes to laptops. A good second hand bike from here should cost no more than £100. Money well worth spending if you live a long way away from the action.
Other accommodation may not require a bike so urgently, in the second semester I moved to Spoletorp which is placed in the centre of town and only a 10 minute stroll to lectures. Prices for accommodation will vary. Students will pay for proximity not just facilities, however you will have little choice in where you stay to begin with, simply expect to pay less then you currently do in Exeter (£2000-£2500PA).
Your first fortnight will be spent making friends and getting to know your surroundings. You will almost certainly be attending the crash Swedish language course on offer. These lectures run everyday and are a great way of meeting fellow Erasmus students. At the end of this course you should have a basic understanding of Swedish and a host of friends to make you time in Lund more enjoyable. Also in your first week you will be offered the chance to attend the Erasmus welcome party, if you do, give the DJ a slap from me but also make sure you enjoy a pre-drink first to avoid early bankruptcy. Many students will be assigned mentors, this sounds a little needy but in fact the mentors are a great source of local knowledge and again a great way of meeting fellow students, I suggest you use this scheme, at least in the early stages.
* Many international students are only in Lund for 6 months. This means many will leave and not be replaced after your Christmas break. I was angry to find that all but 3 people had moved out of Greenhouse over the holidays leaving me to come back to an empty corridor and an email asking when I would be moving myself. If you are in Greenhouse be prepared to move before the Christmas break to avoid this lonely period and to have first choice of vacant accommodation in other buildings. I didn’t hear of this being a problem in any other building.
The university of Lund is well organised and you will have few problems selecting courses or tracking down timetables. Most business and economics lectures are held in the economics building on Tunavagen. Modules generally last between 6 and 8 weeks with an examination at the end. Not all modules will have a written examination, many will assess you on essays alone. These short time frames make the modules considerably easier to pass than in Exeter, mainly due to the sheer reduction in revision required to adequately answer exam questions. You may choose any module you like (providing it is taught in English), this gives Erasmus students a large selection to choose from. If you are grade conscious I recommend the Swedish Area Study courses (SAS…), these courses are designed as introductions to Swedish study and require no prerequisites. These courses are generally quite easy and rarely have written examinations attached to them. Equally do not be afraid to take on advanced courses (D). I found advanced development economics extremely interesting and received one of my best grades from this course without any previous development knowledge.
Exams are listed as lasting five hours for most subjects, don’t panic this is only the maximum time limit. Most students finish exams after 3 hours or less. This gives a much more relaxed feel to exams as running out of time is not an issue. You are also allowed to take food and drink into exams. I was amused on many occasions to see experienced Swedish students stopping for a mini picnic halfway through a tough exam.
If you are interested in continuing your Swedish language course, I suggest you sign up at the earliest opportunity. Demand for this course is high and many are often disappointed. I did not personally take the course but am assured that it was fun and extremely passable.
Nightlife / Activities
Nightlife in Lund is certainly not what the town will be remembered for. Lund is an academic town all the way through and resembles Cambridge in such respects. Therefore don’t expect large nightclubs and international DJs to be making appearances. Nightlife in Sweden is simple, you spend a lot of money in a bar or you go to a student nation. Student nations were designed to give Swedish students a sense of comradeship among students from similar areas in the country. They are hence named Lund nation, Malmo nation, Vastgota nation etc etc. Nowadays students are free to join whichever nation they wish, international students are invited to do the same. The nations act as cafés, social clubs, meeting venues, ball rooms and of course night clubs. You’ll need to join a nation when you arrive in order to receive your nation card. Afterwards you’ll be able to attend any nation in town for a small cover charge (there are 14 nations in Lund). The nations are not open every night so you’ll need to shop around to see what’s open on which week nights. Vastgotas on Wednesday night was always a huge night for all visiting Erasmus students to let there hair down.
The nations vary greatly so take your time finding the ones that you like, some are small and have a pub atmosphere whilst others are large and feel more like Mambo on a Friday night. Beers are considerably cheaper than other venues costing around £1.50 a bottle, making the nations the first stop when going out in Lund. Guest passes are also available if friends come to visit you.
Cities such as Malmo and Copenhagen offer more varied clubs and gigs however transport and door charges often make these trips expensive to do regularly. Make sure you get down to the free Malmo music festival in your first few weeks in Lund.
Lund university doesn’t offer the same sort of student activities as you can expect here in Exeter. There are few societies which I discovered, with most events being organised by the nations. The nations will organise sports teams particularly in Football and Volleyball however these sessions may well be taken in Swedish so its worth checking. During my year I joined the Lugi rugby team. Lugi is the name of the Lund university athletic union. They offer a wide range of sports many of which are no longer even associated with the university itself (such as rugby). Head to this site to see what’s on offer http://www.lugi.se/. If you decide to join the rugby club you will be joining an international team, coached in English (well Scottish) with one of the best team atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. I can’t recommend this team enough, it was simply the best part of my year in Sweden by a long way. If you’re looking for a more individual approach to leisure then Lund also offers a great swimming pool, two cinemas, a pool hall (Bredgaten) and a small bowling alley. If you need more simply hop on a train to Malmo which has all the facilities associated with any large city.
Let’s face it, if you’re thinking about going to Sweden then you can’t be expecting too much in terms of weather. However you will be surprised, Sweden has two seasons: Summer and Winter. Unfortunately winter lasts a lot longer than summer. I was told that my year in Sweden was particularly mild however I’ll try and prepare you the best I can. When you arrive take shorts and t-shirts, you will need them! The Swedish summer is wonderful and can get quite hot when it wants too. Soon though, around October winter will set in and not budge for 6-7months. Temperatures will drop to below zero in the depths of winter and a good coat and gloves will be essential. As if to over compensate, all Swedish buildings are super heated so once rapped up tight and warm you’ll only need to stroll into a shop before you’re on your back gasping for air. Snow will be a factor however in the south where you’ll be rain is much more frequent. I bought myself some cheap waterproof trousers and a coat from England to save money. There is nothing worse than riding to lectures in the cold and wet then being forced to sit in wet trousers for two hours, be prepared! You’ll also be much further north than here in England, this means that it will get darker sooner. If like me you enjoy a mid-day lie in then you may not see much daylight. In the middle of winter it will get dark at 3pm. Don’t let it put you off though! The Swedes are like us Brits, they love complaining about the weather. An endless source of conversation is arguing over who’s is worse!
When summer arrives be prepared for some partying. Like a hibernating hedgehog, the population emerges into the parks and cafés to begin drinking and celebrating. Smiles cover the faces of locals and Lund looks stunning. It’s such a shame that your time there will almost be up. Make sure you use you last few weeks to hit the beaches in the south and generally be outside.
Hints / Tips
- Willies is the cheapest supermarket, it in the north near Delphi Halls. Next cheapest is ICA followed by COOP.
- Buy spirits in UK duty free on your way over to save cash at early parties.
- Use Blocket.se and the flea market on Sondravagen (Sat mornings) if you need second-hand goods e.g. Bikes, clothes, abba lps.
- If you want to travel, do so in groups. It’s a lot cheaper. Renting a car is a great way to see the country.
- Ask local students about the DC++ Lund network for all your film and music needs.
- Buy a Swedish simcard to make calls home, again it’s cheaper or get a Skype account.
- If you use the buses and trains frequently buy a travel card from Skanetrafiken (at the railway station)
- Don’t spend all your Erasmus grant on ol!