Swedish Summer and Onwards

7 February 2019

George finishes his year abroad and reflects on a year in Sweden.

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Since my last blog post, I have travelled all over the place and done so many things, so I will try to summarise. 

It was still fairly cold in Sweden when I last wrote, but the weather improved on a daily basis and we started to get longer daylight hours each week. Towards the end of May and by the beginning of June, when I departed, it was delightfully sunny and warm. This may surprise some people as many people I have spoken to seem to believe that Sweden is some polar land with nothing but reindeer and ice, but it was so warm that one was able to swim in the lakes and even catch a bit of a tan! Since then, I travelled to a few countries: Romania, Poland and then to a summer school in the Faroe Islands, but now I’ve landed on home soil again. 

It’s been a while since I left, and admittedly, I am glad to be back in Blighty finally, but there are many things I miss and will continue to miss about my year spent in Sweden. I won’t talk again about the academic issues I had mentioned in previous posts, but rather, I will reflect on the positive experiences. 

George in the countryside

Firstly, the nature of Sweden is outstanding. The country is absolutely blanketed by dark green forest and numerous lakes. One can truly find peace roaming the landscape and there are many small towns and sleepy villages dotted around. A lot of my free time was spent hiking and exploring and in Uppsala there is even a rather large forest in the city itself, which was very close to where I lived. The flora and fauna is interesting and somewhat different to England – tame deer that let you walk right up to them on occasion, wild blueberries and mushrooms that one can pick and eat (if one knows the secret places – the Swedes won’t always depart this knowledge freely!), and I even saw a wild snake at the edge of a forest path when I was out walking. If one gets lucky, then one may see some wild boar or even a moose, like my friend managed to do once when driving on the motorway. 

Secondly, the culture/history is very interesting and enjoyable to take part in. I didn’t necessarily get on with the modern, social culture of the country and I had some issues with it, as a Catholic in a largely secular place, but that may also be down to the fact I was in such a university-dominated city. Nevertheless, the university experience is certainly different than in England.

The academy is extremely musical – choirs are everywhere and the arts seem to be very central to the Swedish students and how they express themselves, but what interested me is that they actually do this in quite a traditional way. The songs they sing often come from up to a few hundred years ago and they often have processions and events surrounded by the flags of the university, city and student societies that have existed for quite some time. The events are very formal and seem to be highly popular. 

All in all, the year abroad was a positive experience. Would I recommend going to Sweden? Yes, but if you do go, just try not to go with any expectations and enjoy the time as much as you can. Try to travel around and maybe even do some part time work. The university experience was not what made it for me – it was mostly the people I met and the places I saw, and I am very grateful to have made some lifelong friends and to have been able to explore a part of the North that I hold dear.

George Ferguson

By George Ferguson.