'I knew three things about Sweden; everyone was blonde, it was cold and ABBA'
Tonight, they are all gathered in the kitchen cooking together, the Indian boys making exotic curries from scratch, the Greek creating amazing things with olive oil and feta cheese.
Food is my Lebanese friend’s passion in life. It’s like living with Jamie Oliver. He makes way more than he can ever eat because it’s very important to him to share. They spend hours asking each other questions about the food and peering over shoulders into frying pans. Then, they all sit down and share their meals together and have a rare old time.
For months they wouldn’t try anything I made, claiming they’d die of a heart-attack.
I spend my morning in psychology lectures. My current module is easily the best course I’ve ever taken. With only about 20 of us in the class, our weekly assignments demand us to display an understanding of what went on in the lecture, by applying the information ourselves and coming up with new theories on the subject.
A lot of the modules I take at home don’t even require you to turn up but rather learn-off a book of information before a two-hour exam at the end of the semester.
For the first time, I am being asked to get up in front of a class, present a theory and hold my own when the lecturer and my classmates poke holes in it. Creating a logical argument and defending it under pressure is not a skill that’s expected of Irish students. For the first time, I feel like I am attending a school of thought rather than a school of information, and I love it.
Tonight, I’m heading out to a “nation” with my gang of English-speaking friends. The idea of the “nations” is almost as old as the university itself (the oldest in Scandinavia). They’re like American fraternities or Harry Potter houses. Each nation has head-quarters, some of them hundreds of years old. These headquarters house the nation’s café, pub, library, student accommodation and sometimes nightclub, all entirely student-run. It is without a doubt the best part about being a student in Uppsala. I feel like I am part of the most successful and powerful student body in the world.
I would love to say I spend my time socialising with a big group of Swedes, nattering away in Swedish, but I’m afraid it’s a work in progress. When getting to know Swedes, you have to tread carefully, like approaching a grazing deer with a shotgun. You can’t be too loud or invasive. But once you make the effort to get to know them, they are usually the loveliest, most down-to-earth people you’ll find. I am still determined to find myself a nice Swedish boy before the year is out. They say it takes patience. Swedish boys are not fast movers. Unfortunately, my time here is of the essence so my nice Johan or Jonas had better show himself, sharpish.
The Erasmus Programme celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and 32,000 students from Ireland have travelled with Erasmus to study or work since 1987. Close to 3,000 students will travel this year, the highest number ever.