Sweden, Lund – Andrew Toy – 2007-2008

Getting There

Getting to Lund is neither problematic nor expensive with today’s extensive budget airline operators. I normally flew with Easyjet from London Stansted to Copenhagen (wait for it…), although I did once fly with Ryanair from London Stansted to Malmo. This operation was suspended whilst I was there, although rumours have been flying around that it was operating once again. Neither is particularly less expensive nor well run than the other (lets face it, they’re both budget airlines), although for some reason I would favour the Easyjet experience. Once you arrive into Copenhagen (a very nice airport), signposts will direct you towards the train links to Sweden and Malmo. The train to Lund goes through Malmo, and Copenhagen to Lund takes around 45 minutes. This will be your first experience of the efficiently run Swedish public transport system. Get used to it, as the buses and trains are of a standard I have yet experienced elsewhere; always on time, clean, and with a very helpful on board destination scroll, it proves a welcome novelty when first used. If you are planning on using the buses around Lund for any period of time, I would recommend buying a bus pass (Skanetraffiken) from the main train station. Even if you are not planning on using the public system intensively, it is worth buying a student discount card, as this makes domestic travel (to Stockholm, for instance) far cheaper.

Arrival

Upon arrival you will have to make your way to the AF building to register (a lengthy but necessary procedure) and to collect your accommodation keys. The easiest way to do this is to grab hold of a ‘welcome team’ member (during my year they were parading in bright red polo shirts with ‘welcome team’ printed on the back, so fairly easy to spot), or to simply follow everyone else with large suitcases and wearing a slightly nervous gait. If you get lost, then at least it would have been all of you together and you will have a talking point with strangers and something to laugh at when you are old and grey. The registration process is a good way to practice your socialising skills, as it involves a lot of waiting in line, often a complicated seating system, and plenty of nervous chat. You will be expected to answer the same question over to different individuals (name, where are you from, what are you studying etc), though remember they have probably had to answer these before too and small talk in a second language is never easy, so be patient.

Accommodation

Accommodation is normally found through the university IHO (International Housing Office), though please, please be warned. During my time there was a scandal over the IHO charging international students too much (more than the Swedish students in the same accommodation block who also get the summer months included whereas international students do not); it may be worth making friends with a Swede early on and try to subtly drop into the conversation rents and find out whether the resolution has been settled. As well as this, you will find the IHO is only open a few hours every day, so if you have issues with them you will have to check opening times. Once (if) you do manage to see them though, they are very helpful and nice.

In the first semester I lived in ‘Greenhouse’ (don’t), and in the second semester Vildanden (do). Greenhouse, as lovely as the setting was, was in the middle of nowhere (or as close as you can come in city limits), and can put a bit of a downer on the first week or so as town (for lectures, shopping etc) is a trek and the nearest supermarket is a 10 minute jaunt away. Everything is not lost, however, as after the first week you will find that as you are all in the same situation you shall become cohesive, and the experience of living out at Greenhouse shall come into its own. You will become fairly close to the others who live in Greenhouse (about 40 in total), and find the atmosphere one scarcely replicated in other accommodation. For the second semester I moved to Vildanden, much closer to town and the luxury of a supermarket across the road (with a second, slightly better quality within walking distance). The accommodation here was pleasant, with en suite but a fairly ropey kitchen (though I understand most of Vildanden is having new kitchens fitted over the summer period).

Lectures

Lectures in Lund are impressive; most have relatively small class sizes (the largest course, numbers wise, I was involved in must have had around 50 students). The year is split into two Semesters, with each semester split into two ‘demi-semesters’; courses will last either a demi- or full semester, and tend to be fairly intensive. Most courses will have around 8-10 hours of lectures a week with additional reading, although they have the advantage of being over in 6 (or 12) weeks. Exams are normally taken at the end of each course (after a short period off for revision) and are a refreshingly relaxed affair. A minor picnic is standard, and some bring full baskets of fruit and drink to scoff and quaff.

Scandinavian Area Studies (SAS courses) are courses designed specifically for international students; all lectures are in English (as are the other courses you will be taking, of which there is a wide choice), and there seems to be a relaxed feel as there is less emphasis on exams and more on gaining a ‘general subject knowledge’. Some courses I found especially interesting (Swedish Social Policy if you have just taken, or are planning to take, ESP is well worth a look), with others’ educational credibility questionable, though no less worthy. It will be up to you if and how many of these courses you wish to take, perhaps proportional to have much work you are prepared to do. Courses in the Economics department are very well run, and you will find the lecturers very approachable if there are any problems.

Life

Lund nightlife will not set the world alight. The equation for a night out is fairly staple, in that you will tend to have a few drinks pre-, then head to a student ‘nation’ (one of which you will have to join on arrival, though it doesn’t matter which one as once you are a member of one you have access to all) where the drinks are fairly cheap by Exeter standards, or phenomenally cheap by Swedish standards. Nations vary in quality and size, but are never that much larger than, say, Riva, and offer a variety of music to suit all tastes. However, as with all evening activities, it is not where you go but whom you are with; as this is likely to be a mixture of European nationalities roughly the same age and with the same interests as you, you will all bring something to the table and will find are bound for a few crackers. One experienced not to be missed is a Swedish ‘sittning’; this involves a three-course meal interspersed by schnapps and singing, followed by dancing and probably some more singing. The evening will end with singing.

A great way not only to meet Swedes but to get a free sittning is to work in one of the nation kitchens (again, this does not have to be ‘your’ nation but may be any of them), as each Friday a ‘thank you sittning’ is provided for all those who have worked at the nation during the previous week. A less formal affair, but paralleled singing.

General

First up, get hold of a bike. You don’t have to do this straight away, as many bikes’ prices are hiked during the two-week period where international students have arrived but Swedish students have not (the Swedes are canny operators). It may be worth waiting for a few weeks and getting to know the famed bus network a little. Once you have found one you like at a reasonable price (I would say around 1000-2000 SEK condition dependant), get a lock. As everyone has a bike in Lund, if yours breaks then individuals are on the lookout to replace it, and non-locked bikes are generally considered ‘fair game’, as I found to my expense.

Secondly, if you want to travel around Sweden, booking early makes everything a lot cheaper. Although you have to be fairly specific fairly early (one ticket will get you a seat on one train; if you miss this one, you won’t be able to be use it on a later train), if you can plan that far ahead it is, economically, definitely worth it.

Finally, the year will be what you make it. It is easy to sit back and simply ‘participate’ for the year, as Lund is a quiet place with apparently not much happening, and before you know it the year will be over. But if you dig around and get involved in as many activities as possible, the year will be one you will not forget in a hurry.

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