Category Archives: Student life

Midsommar!


My friends wearing their self-braided flower bands. Photo by me.

My first summer in Sweden meant automatically also my first celebrations of Midsummer. A Swedish friend of mine had invited a small group of friends to join her to her family’s cabin in the beautiful country side of Värmland. It was the perfect place to get to know this Swedish tradition, since midsummer is mainly an event from the country side. Packed with mosquito sprays, swimwear and lots of food and beverages we drove half a day to arrive at our destination. A beautiful red country house, located next to a lake between some fields and forests – how Swedish!

On the day of Midsummer (always a Friday evening between the 19th and 25th of June), we braided flowers bands and went to the centre of a nearby village to take part in the celebrations. It was very busy considering the size of the village and the atmosphere was vibrant and cosy. After the midsummer pole was put in place, the festivities began. A small group of musicians started to play and so the dancing could start. Midsummer is famous for it’s dances, and I think the most recognisable one is where you have to jump like a frog. Not kidding! Of course we international students wanted to try all of it and joined the families – mainly small children – in the circle. It was so much fun!


The midsummer pole being put in place. Photo Hernán Capador.

The Midsummer dinner seems to be as much of a tradition as the pole, flowers and dancing and was at least as wonderful. Between singing traditional songs and drinking schnaps we ate delicious Swedish potatoes and my friend had prepared a variety of fish and (vegetarian) meat balls. After dancing the night away it was time for the last tradition. In complete silence one must go out in the night and pick seven different flowers, carefully put them under your pillow and sleep on them. The person you dream about is the person you will marry!

Have you experienced a Swedish Midsummer yet? Or want to know more? Feel free to tell me in a reply below.

Rosan


 

Life without Darkness

Even though I’ve lived in Sweden now for almost two years, somehow I’ve always missed out on summer. My roommates were quite upset when I left last year early June, to come back end of August. “You survived all winter, but now you’re going to miss the best time of the year!”, Oskar would tell me with great concern. However, this year I am going to spend most of summer in Uppsala and I can tell you it’s been quite great so far. Honestly, today is the second time I even got sunburned. Not something to be proud of, I know… but I am just amazed by the strength of the sun!


Night sky at 3 am. It’s perhaps a tiny bit darker around 1-2 am, but not much really…

It seems like the sun is trying very hard to make up to us for her winter absence. Was she in winter only around for a few hours, now she just never wants to leave. Giving the night a nice glow, never allowing darkness to fall completely. These long summer nights create such a warm and vibrant atmosphere. Uppsala has gotten more empty now most students have left for summer break, yet those still around are enjoying themselves with barbecues, gardening, drinking on terraces, playing outdoor games and cocktail party’s. The grass area between the student housings here in the Flogsta area, has the nickname of ‘Flogsta beach’: People are laying around in their swimwear reading books, while others are playing beach-volley nearby.

Are you considering studying at SLU but worried about the weather? Well, I can not take away your fear for winter, but at least summer is a real thing, even here in Scandinavia 😉

Rosan

An Unfortunate Event

You might have noticed it’s been a bit quiet around here. I wish I could say I just had been so busy with my degree project, that there was absolutely no time left for writing the blog. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. About a month ago,  while on my way home from Lövsta, I fell from my bike. Or to be more precise, I got lanced off my bike as some cable broke and blocked the wheel. I don’t want to go into much detail, but I ended up in hospital and had to spend weeks in my bed afterwards. It’s really upsetting this accident occurred, but on the other hand I am lucky it did not end far worse.

So far the bad news… now the good news! I will continue blogging for about one more month, while finishing up the data collection for my research. I’ve got some nice interviews planned so definitely something to look forward to. If there’s any topic you’d like to see discussed here, speak up now, before the blog takes a summer holiday 😉

Rosan

 

“Jävlabambi”

Like many animal science students, I am a horse girl. Obviously not everybody is into horses in our programme, but there is a large share of the girls that spend their free time at the stables. And I am one of them. Since the start of my masters programme here in Sweden I have been very lucky to be a ‘medryttare’, which kind of translates into ‘co-rider’, meaning to say I am riding and helping out with someone else’s horse. Lots of fun and a great way to see more of this country’s beautiful nature. Talking about nature, I am a little bit obsessed with spotting wildlife while in Sweden. I mean, there are a lot of animals out here in the woods that you would never encounter in the Netherlands. Imagine spotting a wolf or a moose! Unfortunately I still haven’t seen either one of those in the wild, but I have been lucky enough to see a wild boar, a badger, three different types of deer, crane birds and squirrels.

“I halted my horse and held my breath, as right in front of us, stood a beautiful roe deer.”

Yesterday I went out for a horse ride in the beautiful area of Hågadalen. It was late afternoon, the sun was low on the horizon and there were not that many people around any more. We were with a small group of three horses and riders and we were not far from home when I saw something moving not far ahead from us. As I was the first rider I turned around in the saddle and hushed my friends. I halted my horse and held my breath, as right in front of us, stood a beautiful roe deer. It was simply standing there, on the middle of the track, staring at us. I could not have been more excited.

Photo by Lotta Selberg

The other riders, two Swedish women, were clearly not impressed. Well, they were a bit astonished I think, by my excitement, but did not seem to pleased about the deer. Not pleased at all! “That, that is what we call a ‘jävlabambi’,” my friend Lotta sighed, “and you really don’t want to run into them.”. For your information: Jävla is one of the most commonly used Swedish curse words. And well, who doesn’t know Bambi? The problem is that the – silly – horses, get spooked by the deer. It doesn’t help that deer are not as frightened by horses as they are by humans, thanks to the horse smell. However, the deer are still shy in a way, so they will run, hide in bushes, and reappear. Wonderful ingredients for a horse to activate their natural flight instinct, one you try to avoid as a rider.

Indeed our horses tensed as we approached closer, but remained calm enough to keep walking. But for me it was an amazing experience, the three dear only on a few meters distance as we passed. I still have ‘seeing a moose in the wild’ on my bucket list, but I think I might add a note ‘not from horseback!’ to it 😉

Rosan

Kosläpp: Dance of the Dairy Cows

The well-being of Swedish farm animals is regulated through strict rules in the Swedish animal welfare law Djurskyddslagen. For example in Sweden the crating of lactating sows, or beak trimming of laying hens is not permitted, which are common practices in the rest of the European Union. Another notable rule is the obligatory access to pasture for cows during summer time. Depending on country region, legislation requires cows to have access to grazing during summer for at least two to four months. Though not everybody is in favour of the current legislation, most Swedes seem proud of this tradition in its agriculture. Many Swedish people go and watch the yearly kosläpp which are organised all through the country.

“These days are so popular that you have to reserve your tickets in advance through dairy cooperative Arla.”

‘Excuse me, what kind of slap?’, I can hear you think. It was my first reaction as well, however, I don’t think this beautiful Swedish word is very translatable. Literally it would kind of mean the ‘release of the cows’. In practise it has become a festive event on the first day when farmers let their cows go out on the pasture. Besides watching the cows jump around in their excitement, some farms host some extra activities. These days are so popular that you have to reserve your tickets in advance through dairy cooperative Arla. If you’re in Sweden, go and have a look at their website to see when a farm in your area hosts their kosläpp! Our SLU research dairy farm at Lövsta will host a släpp as well, including lectures about ongoing research and possibilities to have a peek into the stables and at the machinery.

I really love this initiative as I think it is a good way to reduce the gap between consumer and farmer. It makes the dairy industry transparent and is a fun way for children to learn about farm animals. And as an (international) student it is a nice opportunity to get a feeling for Swedish animal farming, so what are you waiting for? 😉 No time to go out and watch? No worries, this year you can even have a look at the cow’s dance through livestream.

Do dairy farms open their doors to consumers on the first day of the pasture season as well in your country? Feel free to comment or ask questions below.

Rosan

Glad Påsk!

Growing up in the Netherlands, I imagined Easter to be pretty much the same all over Europe. Though Swedish Easter definitely has many aspects in common with the Dutch celebration, I was surprised by some very old traditions that I had never heard of before. When my room mates explained to me that children dress up like witches and come to the doors for candy, I was convinced they were confusing the topic with Halloween. But I was wrong! My Swedish room mate told me proudly that the Swedish Easter traditions existed long time before the American version of Halloween gained popularity in Sweden.

“Folklore alleges that witches would fly on broomsticks to a legendary meadow named Blåkulla, where they would dance with the devil.”

The tradition we are talking about is called Påskkärring (“Easter witch”), and is assumed to originate from around 1600. Folklore alleges that witches would fly on broomsticks to a legendary meadow named Blåkulla, where they would dance with the devil. A bit more exciting than Easter bunnies and eggs, don’t you agree? Based on this old story, children dress up as sweet looking witches and will make cards with drawings or rhymes which they will hand out at the doors hoping to receive Easter candy.


Amanda beautifully dressed in traditional ‘Easter-witch-clothing’
with scarf and face paint. Photo by Jeanette Axelsson.

Because of course they also eat lots of chocolate and paint chicken eggs in Sweden during Easter. The funny thing is that the chocolate eggs are different from the ones I knew: In the Netherlands we have mainly small solid chocolate eggs, individually wrapped in coloured tin foil. However, the Swedish Easter candy is presented in a beautifully decorated, very large plastic egg, which contains a lot of different chocolates and other candy inside. And while our countries share the idea of eating asparagus around Easter time, Swedes celebrates Easter with lots of fish as well.

Did you notice any other particular Swedish events this Easter? Feel free to tell all about it in the comment section below. Enjoy your Easter holidays!

Rosan

Bike Life

“The many bike lanes that run through the whole city make biking a safe and efficient option.”

As a student it’s probably the first thing you should buy once you’ve moved into Uppsala: A bike. Uppsala is known in Sweden as ‘The bike town’, and this nickname did not come out of the blue. The many bike lanes that run through the whole city make biking a safe and efficient option. To me, coming from the Netherlands, the possibilities of biking everywhere and the town including a proper biking infrastructure did not seem very special at first. But the more I talk with both Swedish and international students, the more I realise how uncommon such a situation is. And very, very well appreciated.

Some things were new to me though. For example, the mountains. All my non-Dutch friends tell me they are ‘just hills’, but these steep bastards are definitely mountains to me. Though Uppsala is rather flat you still feel whether you are biking uphill or downhill and there are for sure streets almost every city cyclist tends to avoid because they are quite steep. Another new aspect are the relatively large distances. I must admit, not everybody is as determined to bike as me and many of my friends buy monthly bus tickets, especially in wintertime. However there is a large share of students that bikes from town to university on a daily basis.


Most bike lanes are shared with pedestrians. And in some areas
paths are even shared with horses! The split on the sign marks
where exactly one is supposed to make use of the track.

From my house to campus is a bit more than 7 km long and takes about half an hour. However, the popular student area of Flogsta is also located about 3 km from the city centre, which takes up to 15 minutes, depending on where in town you have to be. This means that on an average day on which you go to SLU during the day and meet up with friends at one of the nation pubs in the night, you will bike one and a half hour. That does not yet include any additional biking for doing groceries or going to the gym. However, my cycling life reached a new level now I have to visit Lövsta on a regular basis because of my degree project. From my house to Lövsta is over 16 km, one way. Which takes a bit more than an hour, meaning after coming home from my research chicks, I’ve already spend two to two and a half hours on bike. Luckily the route is quite beautiful and I am sure it keeps me fit. Or at least, I’d like to believe that!

Are you coming to Uppsala for (part of) your studies? The best advice I can give you is to start saving up some money for a nice, proper bike. You can thank me later 😉

Rosan

 

Vår i Uppsala

Do you know this feeling, when the sunlight touches your face and you realize how much you missed her? Sunshine, it’s like liquid happiness. Especially after these long, dark Scandinavian winters. Last week started with days of snowfall, yet soon it was replaced with bright, sunny days. The ice melted away, the gravel is being brushed off from the pathways. My bike is not wearing his winter tires any longer. The amount of people running outdoors is tremendous. You can feel the tension for the Valborg festival starting to build up. And to top it all of, this weekend we will get the best present you can imagine: Another hour of daylight, hurra!


Beautiful Uppsala, I took the photo last week. In the middle you see the famous Domkyrkan.

Rosan

How Sweden made me a feminist.

Feminism. What was your first association to this word? To me for a long time when thinking about feminism those images of angry women popped up in my head. Those women with big bushes of hair under their armpits who’d put out bras on the streets to protest. I had seen pictures of them, in my history books. What would you need feminism these days for, I wondered? Correct or not, growing up in The Netherlands I was never under the impression of unequal opportunities for men or women. We could all go to school, choose career paths we found interesting and would be allowed to vote one day, right?

“”You fucking WOMEN, you are so slow!”, he would rage at me and – by the way – at his wife.”

In the years that followed I started noting some ‘small things‘ that seemed a little odd, but I never paid too much attention to. No, the real eye opener came, when I went on a working holiday in New Zealand. When I got accepted for an amazing horse job I was absolutely delighted. Though soon enough I realized that the guy I worked for treated women without any respect. I had been shouted at before, but never because of my gender. “You fucking WOMEN, you are so slow!”, he would rage at me and – by the way – at his wife. I did not stay long. Nor did I in the next two horse stables, where a similar situation simply seemed to reoccur. However something had awakened in me, and it never went back to sleep.

“Is it normal that men I respect and know well, do not want their girlfriends to be seen in a public sauna?”

Back in the Netherlands I started looking at things in a different perspective. Was it really that more equal, I wondered? Thoughts I had not given much attention to before, kept popping into my head. About teachers who would never take me serious in class, so I’d ask my male classmates to ask the question for me. Or why had it automatically been assumed I would become a cashier and not a shelf stacker, when I applied for my first job at the local supermarket? How about all these sexist jokes my friends from uni seemed to consider very funny, were they really that innocent? Is it normal that men I respect and know well, do not want their girlfriends to be seen in a public sauna?

Toilet signs at SLU are gender neutral

I didn’t stay for a long time at home, as my master studies in Sweden followed shortly after my gap year. I am not saying Sweden is perfect in terms of gender equality, but it comes pretty damn close. Construction workers apologizing for the inconvenience, instead off making sexist jokes while a woman passes by. Fathers having the same, very long, paternity leave as mothers when their babies are born. Boys working as cashiers, while girls are stocking shelves. I’ll never forget the first guy that introduced himself to me as a feminist – I almost spilled my drink back then, but I got used to it now. Did you know that they even introduced a new word to their language, to express themselves without indicating someone’s gender?

“An equality that – they are aware of very well – has not been reached yet.”

Most importantly, people find it simply normal to talk about how to overcome the gender pay gap, the lack of women leaders or the stereotype that sensitive men are seen as weak. Here, feminists are not put in a corner as attention-seeking man haters, feminists are those people (let’s put no gender discrimination of the subject here 😉 ) that speak up for gender equality. An equality that – they are aware of very well – has not been reached yet. An inequality that I learned not to overlook any longer and am now willing to fight for.  Tack så mycket, Sweden, for changing me into a feminist.

Rest me to say: Happy International Women’s Day 😀

Rosan

Skiing trip

I’m really excited to tell you that I went on a skiing trip last weekend! Maybe it’s because I am from the Netherlands where mountains are practically non-existent and snow is a rarity, but I to me few things are more magical than the idea of winter-sports. Sadly I had missed the trip organized by Ultuna’s UFFE (they organize great outdoors activities, go have a look on their facebook page) two weeks ago. But fortunately I heard about a friend going this weekend with the buddy program of Upppsala University’s international students. The weather forecast was absolutely fabulous and I was lucky to get hold on one of the last spots in the bus.


Sun! Snow! Mountains! What else can you wish for?

If you think of Sweden you might not immediately think of skiing and snowboarding. However, there are plenty of opportunities for these amazing sports here and further up North. Many Swedes go on skiing holidays or have grown up skiing. Cross-country skiing, where you move over flat areas, is very popular even around Uppsala (for example at Håga and Fjällnora). But if you want to do slope skiing you’ll have to look for some higher places to go. I got extremely excited when I found out the nearest alpine centre is only two hours and fifteen minutes away. For example the one I went to – Romme Alpine – offers a bus service straight from Uppsala to the ski resort. As everything in Sweden, this is highly organized and by ordering your rental equipment online beforehand, you save time upon arrival.


The so-called ‘Pistkarta’ of Romme Alpine (Click to enlarge)

The skiing area was larger than I expected. There are two main peaks from which tracks of ‘all colours’ can be taken to go down. Green for ultimate beginners, blue for beginners, red is medium and black advanced. And if you’ve never been on skis or snowboard before, there is a try out area close to the rental and even a ski school. To me the green tracks were great fun and the blue ones some harder work. But I think it’s amazing there were this many possibilities. Me and my friends would take the same ski-lift up, and then chose different tracks to the same end point to meet again.

The ski-lift: I am afraid we have a love-hate relationship

As the weather was absolutely amazing and it was some sort of sports holidays for school children this weekend, it was very, very crowded. This resulted in spending more time in the queues than on the slopes, which was a bit frustrating. Though as the slopes were really spacious it still felt really peaceful and quiet from time to time. The only downside? I found out I am terrified of the ski-lifts, which is really silly – I know. I guess you’ll grow over it once you try more often! The good news is that kind people from the resort are looking out for clumsy tourists – like me – who fail to enter and exit these seats properly…

All together it was a wonderful day with fun company! How amazing is it to study in a country with it’s own winter sports possibilities? 🙂

Rosan