'I knew three things about Sweden; everyone was blonde, it was cold and ABBA'
My Education Week: Louise Farrell,Erasmus student , Uppsala, Sweden
I nip into university on my bike. I have called her Jasmine and we cannot be separated. In Uppsala, bikes are all the rage. En route, I enjoy my daily 20 minutes of sun. By three o’clock, it will be dark.
Before the Erasmus programme offered me a place in Uppsala, I knew three things about Sweden; everyone was blonde, it was cold and ABBA. I figured that this was half the charm of Erasmus – having no clue what you’re getting into.
My subjects at home are psychology and Gaeilge, so today I’ll be sitting a module on Gaelic literature, translated back into English and taught by a Dutch guy. Absolutely bizarre and absolutely enjoyable.
After lectures finish, I find a red ticket hanging from my handlebar, informing me politely that I cannot park in this area. A parking ticket, for my bike. This is just so fantastically Swedish.
The Swedes love rules and they are a very honest people. I told my twin brother this when he came to visit. Being your typical messer of an Irish student, he couldn’t resist testing the theory. The Swedes love to put little blankets in the smoking areas of clubs to keep people warm.When we were leaving, he still had a blanket wrapped around him. The bouncer stopped him very calmly (the Swedes don’t do aggression) and explained that he couldn’t leave with it. Without missing a beat, my brother told him that one of the bar tenders in the club had sold it to him. Total fiction. The bouncer apologised profusely, without question, and we went on our way, wrapped in the little blanket.Sometimes I really do feel bad for them. . .
I have the morning free so I “fika” with a friend. Fika is a fantastic thing. It is a verb meaning “to sit on one’s arse”.
Put more eloquently, fika is the Swedish tradition of having a coffee with cake. All Swedish cafés offer you free refills on your coffee because fika is more of a state of being.
Later, I have Swedish class. You would think learning Swedish in Sweden would be pretty straight-forward. Wrong. They were recently given the title of the best non-native English-speakers in the English Proficiency Index 2012. I got chatting to a guy the other night and asked him which state in the US he was from. He looked at me, totally confused, and told me he was Swedish.
I try to practice my Swedish all the time. Sometimes, they bear with me. Other times they swap to English straight away. I think I might start telling them I only speak Irish and Swedish and see how that goes.
This morning, I meet with my Swedish language partner. She is a total hippy and I love her. We speak an hour of English, which is an absolute breeze for her, and an hour of Swedish, which fries my brain.
I arrive home in the evening to a very busy and aromatic kitchen. I live in a student corridor, with 12 rooms and one kitchen so it gets pretty exciting around six o’clock. Only when I moved in to this international environment did I realise the disgrace of the Irish student diet. My oven chips, drowned with salt and ketchup, get looks of absolute disgust. The three boys – Spanish, Greek and Lebanese – regularly ask if I’d like some butter, salt or ketchup with my beer. They find this joke hilarious every single time.