Tuesday, 30 July 2013

First Time in Uppsala (Part 2) (the much anticipated sequel)

Okay, as I said before, I'll be going over classes, winter, administration and food this time :) So first of all...
  • Classes: The wonderful thing about this university and this Master's programme, is the freedom you have to choose whatever it is you want to study. You are generally required to choose a specialisation from the onset, be it Nuclear & Particle Physics (as I did), or Geophysics, Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics. And they then recommend classes within these specialisations. And you can follow it, not follow it, or mix it! Whatever makes you happy :) For your first semester, it's definitely recommended to take Group Theory and Advanced Quantum Mechanics if you haven't studied them before because they cover a lot of things you will need to understand for further courses. One thing that may be a bit of shock to some students (it was for me, anyway!), are the 08:00 lectures (which meant I had to get up at 06:00 during Sweden's famous winter... not fun...!). Also, all lectures are "2 hours" long. I put this in quotes because of the interesting "Academic Quarter" they have in Sweden. Anything academic will typically state a time on the hour, such as 11:00, or 14:00, but this actually means that the lecture will start 11:15 or 14:15. For your typical classes, this means that your "2 hour" class is in reality, 1:30 hr, and goes from 08:15 -> 09:00, fika time!, and 09:15 -> 10:00, which is a little nicer :)  
  • Winter: Brace yourself!! ... Okay, maybe that's too dramatic, even from an un-acclimatised Irishman, but they can be pretty damn harsh at times. I actually do like winter quite a lot, but it's really the fact it drags on for so long that makes it so tough. Last year, snow began to fall around the 5th of December and that continued for non-stop for well over a week. The temperature dropped from a cool 8 degrees Celsius to -10 pretty quickly. If you're not familiar with cold winters, then buy a decent winter jacket (approximately 1000 sek), decent winter boots (I bought a pair of Echo winter boots for around 1200 sek but they're awesome-ly warm and comfortable and will certainly last many years), reasonably decent gloves (I bought a basic winter pair for around 200 sek and they were perfect), and a hat (a warm one... whichever makes you happy). After that, just wear layers. If it's particularly cold (one weekend it dropped to -25... I chose not to leave the house that weekend), then just wear a hoodie underneath your jacket. It's really not too bad if you have a pretty good winter jacket and boots. Those are definitely the main ones, though gloves and hat will make a pretty big difference as well. Oh, and it's dark a lot. From 16:00 to 08:00 or 09:00. So prepared to sleep a lot :) The last of the snow disappeared around the first week or two of April and it gradually got warmer and warmer :) 
  • Administration: I know some people have had some issues with it but in my experience, it's been fantastic. The only frustrating thing with it is is that so many administrative offices are closed so much of the time! For example, the Migration Board (migrationverket) opens 3 days a week (Monday-Wednesday), for 3 hours a day (12:00-15:00)! But on the up-side, they're usually extremely helpful and competent. Besides the initial things you must to do when first moving here, there aren't that many other reasons to see them, which is maybe why they don't stay open as much... 
  • Food: is expensive in Sweden. Probably a good deal more expensive than where you come from. It is of good quality though, though in Uppsala, I found that vegetables and fruit tend to be a little bland. The best way to save money is to avoid the large Swedish Ica stores that are within Uppsala centre (centrum). Those are much dearer than the ones a bit further from the centre (particularly avoid Ica Nära - Ica "Near"). Ica does tend to have nicer brands and their stores are laid out better. They also often have their own butcher so you can buy really good quality, though stupidly expensive, meat. Your best bet is to avoid Ica within town and go to Willys instead. Much of the sameness but much cheaper. Coop is maybe a little cheaper than Ica but usually about the same. City Gross is a huge supermarket out in Boländerna that will have pretty much everything you could want, and is also the cheapest, though the most inconvenient. And there's also Lidl, out in Gottsunda, and ÖoB in Boländerna (it's a cheap everything-store. For home products like kitchenware and body products). What's nice is that there's often a market in Vaksala Torg during the summer, with pretty cheap and tasty fruit and vegetables! Beware though: hg means hectogram, or 100 gram. I saw this and by the scrawled handwriting, figured it to be kg, not hg, leading me to buy a lot of expensive cherries (800 sek worth)... Whoops :)
Anyway, that's it for now :) I promise the next update won't be such a long gap from the previous :)

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