Life is full of surprises, and it's often the most exciting and eventful moments that happen in a flash. Just like that, I’m already in my 5th year of studies nearing the end of my undergraduate career. Going abroad was one of those life-changing decisions and perhaps one of the most useful experiences for my education.
There were many reasons why I chose Sweden as my exchange destination, but my girlfriend being Swedish was also a pretty important factor believe it or not. Aside from that, Sweden is a very nice, safe, and friendly place to live in, one of the happiest and safest in the world in fact. At the same time, it is also one of the most expensive destinations, but it still is nowhere near as expensive as Vancouver accommodation and housing.
I’m studying at Uppsala University which is located in Uppsala around a two-hour car ride north of Stockholm. Uppsala is a very student-friendly city with it having 13 different student nations (organizations/associations) each hosting and running its own restaurants, bars, events, and clubs! I’m just as shocked as you are when I first arrived, it was crazy and unlike anything in Canada or even the world as I was told. These student nations are non-profit organizations fully operated by students for other students. They have been in operation for hundreds of years and they also provide student housing and scholarships as they own half of all student accommodation in the city. The largest student nation has over 6,000 paying student members, and the smallest having just a few hundred.
Looking further than just the qualities or associations with Sweden, Scandinavia is also one of those places that everyone knows is a great place to live but has never gone. The Nordics is just one of those places that are always seemingly out of the way, and often forgotten. So whenever people go traveling they always visit popular destinations like Spain or France in mainland Europe. Because of that I really wanted to live and study in a familiar yet unfamiliar place like Sweden, where everyone knows about it but will probably never visit it.
The university terms here run from January until June so I’m around halfway through the semester so far. Although at first, I hated the thought of a dreadfully long six-month semester, it’s actually not that bad as it gives me plenty of time to travel and explore the very diverse and different Swedish seasons. As I’m writing this, the Swedish spring is finally in sight, but not without a bizarre snowstorm happening first like it did last week.
In the last three months since I’ve been here, I’ve actually done quite a bit and most of it usually being very unplanned and spontaneous, compared to the common misconception of traveling while studying abroad being a very meticulously planned and calculated event down to the minute. Recently this month, I had a quick weekend vacation trip with my girlfriend to Poland. Unlike in Canada, there are many low-cost airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe which offer very cheap prices compared to the typical pricey fare costs of bigger airlines. With everything being relatively so close in Europe, flying to Poland from Sweden only took a little over an hour! To put that into perspective, that’s around the same time it takes me to commute up to the Burnaby SFU campus (especially with snow).
Maybe you’re thinking about applying to study abroad or perhaps you’re still debating as to where you should go to. You should choose where you want to go based on who you are and what you want to get out of your exchange experience. Don’t go somewhere just because your friends are going there or because is a popular destination. And if you’re worried about the costs, make sure to apply early in advance for the financial aid and support that is available for you. Receiving financial support from the EDI IMA Global Skills Opportunity has been tremendously important in helping to make my travel dreams become reality.