The Exchange I. Second Time a Fresher.

Sam Harrison
5 min readJan 28, 2019


I’ve been in Sweden for a little over a week now and I find myself settling into my digs quite nicely. There is absolutely no way that I could write a blow-by-blow account of life at Uppsala. Rather this series is an attempt to provide a taster, especially for anyone on the fence about doing an exchange.

Ten points about my first week at Uppsala

  1. Book your trip to the Migration Agency to get a permit card in advance.
  2. Don’t feel rushed to join a nation (Edit: But don’t leave it too long).
  3. Everyone is in the same boat, be friendly and you’ll meet a heap of new people.
  4. Buy a bike.
  5. Try get in touch with someone who was at Uppsala the previous semester.
  6. Get the bus app and save 14 sek a trip (~$2.50 NZD).
  7. Go to Ikea (but don’t go crazy).
  8. Try find a Swedish speaking tour guide for the supermarket.
  9. Sign up for everything you can.
  10. Pack warm clothes.

1. Migration agency.

As I discovered, the longer you leave booking the appointment to get your permit card, the longer it will take, I’m talking months, so just book it before you arrive. (Edit: if you don’t get around to it, just keep checking the website and if you get lucky you can find a new slot earlier, changing the appointment is easy).

2. Nations.

Nations are a weird mix between halls and clubs in New Zealand. They organize a lot of different activities, run nightclubs/pubs and are at the heart of the student culture at Uppsala. You might feel pressured to join one as soon as possible, but there is plenty of time. Each nation has pros and cons and ultimately it is better to taste a bit of each nation (literally, they all have some sort of meal/fika during the week). That being said, you’ll have a great time no matter what nation you join. If you’re stuck, try this chart that I was sent by a friend. (Edit: Don’t think about it too much, if you leave it too late you may miss out on the early events).

3. New people.

You will meet a ton of new people in your first week. Everyone is looking for people to hang out with, so it pays to just put yourself out there and be friendly. If you are staying in Flogsta don’t worry if your corridor is a bit quiet, there are plenty of people in the other corridors and buildings who are keen to do things.

Ice skating is the best cure for a hangover.

4. Bikes.

Uppsala is a very bike friendly city. If you can, try and buy a bike as early as you can to take advantage of all the sales from people leaving. There are a number of Facebook groups set up for buying/selling things. From experience a bike costs somewhere between 400–1200 sek. (Edit: Don’t panic if you don’t find one early, there are plenty of people leaving Uppsala selling bikes if you wait, just make sure it’s not a lemon. Try bartering down the price too, you’ll save yourself some money. Also avoid the bike shops, they’re a bit pricey. (Edit: Your bike may turn out to be a lemon, that’s life)).

5. Get in touch with students from last semester.

If you can find someone it will help you out a lot. Some of the rooms in Flogsta have pretty spartan furnishings and you’ll need to get bedding etc. The easiest and cheapest way to get this sorted is to talk to someone from your home uni. It will save you a ton of hassle!

6. Bus app (UL).

Pretty self-explanatory! Essential if you live at Flogsta, which is 3km away from the city proper. (Edit: or even better, get a bike!).

7. Ikea.

Not only is Ikea a cultural experience, it is also a great place to pick up bits and bobs to furnish your room. It isn’t the cheapest place but is easy to get to by bus and they do have cheap meatballs, so it is definitely worth a visit in your first week!

8. Swedish supermarkets.

Your first trip to the supermarket will be a struggle (mine was). It is a lot harder to find the things that you are used to at home, as the whole place is arranged differently (the one near Flogsta is anyway). The best way to deal with this is to take a Swede with you to help you out. Failing this, all of the staff that I’ve asked for help speak English! The prices are a bit more expensive than New Zealand and the quality of the fruit and vege is not quite the same. You also cannot buy alcohol above 3.5% in the supermarket. Welcome to Sweden! (Edit: Yes that beer you bought on the first day in the supermarket was alcohol free (Edit: ICA Flogsta closes at 11:30pm, the bin is around the back, maybe I’ll blog about that)).

9. Activities in the first week.

There are a ton of activities in the first week, mostly put on by the nations. It is a great way to meet new people and get a feel for the city! Don’t let a hangover get in the way of having an awesome first week! (Edit: The International Gasque is a bit of a ripoff, but a great place to meet new people. Get there early as not to miss out on your champagne and maybe have a glass before you go!).

The walking tour of Uppsala.

10. Warm clothes.

It is cold in Uppsala in Winter. Sometimes REALLY cold. So make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes, especially a warm jacket that is easy to get on and off. A pair of waterproof boots will also serve you really well! (Edit: There are a few secondhand stores around town if you’re missing anything. Also a sewing kit really comes in handy if you rip a hole in your only pair of jeans!).



Sam Harrison

Tramper with something to say about tramps (of the walking variety).