Friday, September 14, 2012

Uppsala's Classrooms and Nations

School started last week. I was getting sick of the structureless lifestyle of exploring the area of Uppsala and meeting new people.  I am glad that this is the main problem that I have had in Sweden. The classes in Uppsala are scheduled differently then back in America. Rather than taking four or five course congruently the courses in Uppsala are taken one at a time, with each course lasting about five weeks. My first course is Swedish History which meets twice a week and is only graded on two assignments. The class is very basic and each lecture covers an era of Swedish history. My assignment is to write a thirteen page paper comparing and contrasting an element from my home countries history with an element from Swedish history. So basically this limits me to the last three lectures. I can’t really compare the Christianization of the Vikings with anything from American history, unless I want to get really “creative”.

Okay so that gave me four hours of lectures I had to attend last week. Not exactly the most structured class schedule but that’s okay. I spent a few days figuring out the library and finding my book for the course. I really took for granted how much I relied on the ability to read to figure things out. Even though most everyone here speaks English everything is still in Swedish. This makes things like trying to find a book or figuring out directions somewhat challenging. Unlike Korea where everything was in a completely different script and in a language that bore no resemblance to English I can figure out what some words are in Swedish. For example history is “historia” and library is “bibliotek”. But it can be very frustrating when everything is in Swedish. It makes doing the mundane much more of a chore. The worst is laundry. The laundry machines are in Swedish from this I have learned that “torrt” means dry, but it confuses me why my clothes have not come out dry even when I chose “extra torrt”. Seriously someone should make a website which sole purpose is to translate washing machine instructions into a variety of language. But I am rambling mostly because I have to do my laundry after this.

To combat my lack of things to do I decided to join a nation. I didn’t really decide actually it is pretty much expected that students join a nation as they are the center of all social activities. A nation is essentially a student social society that is run by and for students. There are thirteen of them at Uppsala each being named after a region of Sweden. Traditionally students join the nations of their home regions but seeing as they do not have an East Bay nation I am free to choose whichever nation I like. When I first read about the nations I figured that they would be like Hogwarts houses with one being obviously evil and the others being obviously good. Also I thought we would dual with magic. But I also thought I would be riding a reindeer to class while receiving free healthcare by beautiful blonde people so my expectations of Uppsala were marred in obvious fantasy. In actuality the nations are all very similar and if you are a member of one nation you can go to most of the events put on by other nations. So even if you are a member of Göteborgs Nation which has about 500 members and rarely puts on events, you can still go to the club night at Norrlands Nation which has about 7,500 members.  Of course if you join Norrlands you will get a discount on the club night that you wouldn’t get if you were a member of Göteborgs.

I decided to join Kalmar Nation for a variety of reasons. Primarily because I could pronounce the name. Seriously try to pronounce Gästrike-Hälsinge. I actually chose Kalmar because of its size and the general vibe of friendliness I got from the times I went there. There are only about 1,400 members of Kalmar making it one of the smallest four nations. I like this size though because it is big enough to have a diverse group of students and activities but not too large and overwhelming. I am excited to get more involved in the groups that Kalmar has to offer. I also hope to start working there semi-frequently. The pub is completely student run with only a few full time employees. The pay is awful. Like slave wages awful.  You get about 150 SEK (23 USD) for 10 hours of work.  But you also get free food and get to meet new people. From what I have heard it is really a blast. It is hard work but it pays off. Just not monetarily.

More updates to come.