Thursday, 2 June 2016

Holidays and Travelling

Last time I promised a post about how to apply to university in Sweden, but since the deadline for starting in September has passed and the deadline for starting next year is ages away, I thought I'd write about something more seasonal. So this post will be about holidays and travelling.

Timetabling in Uppsala university is a mysterious process which seems to follow no logical structure. Firstly, it's not the same from week to week. You might have three classes for one course one week then none at all the next week, and they can be on any day at any time. There's even a horrific possibility that classes can start at 8am, however luckily I have largely avoided this. They usually give you the timetable each half-semester at a time, a week or two before classes start, so long term planning is quite difficult.

Despite this, the number of hours of class a week is a lot less than I've had before. However, my friends doing theoretical physics courses seem to have it a lot more intense (moral of the story, astronomy and space physics is best). It also depends a lot on how many credits you're taking. You need 120 for the masters in total which works out at 15 per half-semester (usually one 10 credit and one 5 credit course), but sometimes you might have more in one period and less in another. You can take more courses than required then you can choose which ones to put on your final transcript, but obviously doing this will give you a lot less free time and a lot more stress. NOTE: If you are from outside the EU/EEA and therefore a fee-paying student you will have to pay more if you take more courses than required. More information about this is available on the university website.

A typical week of my timetable (Physics of Galaxies = 10c, AToPT = 5c)

The strange timetable means that sometimes you might find yourself without any classes for a whole week. This is, in my opinion, the perfect opportunity to go travelling, and see more of Sweden or other nearby countries. Uppsala is pretty convenient for this too.

Also, despite the university website saying there are no specific holidays for Christmas and Easter, you will get at least 2 weeks without class over Christmas and a week or two at Easter.


You can get a train from Uppsala to Stockholm in about 40 minutes, and from there you can reach anywhere in Sweden, and even take a train to Norway or Denmark too. It can be a bit pricey but if you book far enough in advance you can get a good deal. A popular trip is the 17 hour journey from Stockholm to Narvik at the very top of Norway, where you can see the Northern lights or the midnight sun in summer.


Uppsala is really close to Arlanda airport, which has flights to almost anywhere you can think of. However, the cheapest airlines use different airports instead. Västerås airport has cheap flights to London and you can get a bus there from Uppsala. Skavsta airport is south of Stockholm and a bit more difficult to get to, but you can get really cheap flights across Europe.

Istanbul is only 4 hours away from Stockholm.


Probably the cheapest and most fun way to see other countries from Uppsala. You can take an overnight ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland) or Riga (Latvia). The cheapest option is the day trip cruise where you spend the night on the boat on the way out and on the way back, and have around 8 hours or so in the city to have a look round. If you go with a group of 4 sharing a cabin you can get this return trip for less than 10 euros each, which is amazingly cheap. You can also use the opportunity to stock up on things which are expensive in Sweden (eg alcohol) but really cheap in Latvia etc. The ferry trips are something I'd recommend to anyone in Uppsala.

You can get to Tallinn for less than 10 euros return.

I would encourage anyone coming to study in Uppsala, especially those from outside Europe to take advantage of all these travel options and visit some of the Sweden's nicest places and its beautiful neighbours too. If you're from outside the EU your student visa for Sweden allows you to visit most countries in Europe (not the UK though).

Things that happen in Sweden - Part 2

At the end of May, the student nations (which I will discuss in detail in a future post) host their May Ball, the fanciest occasion of the year. This is your chance to dress up in your finest clothes and pretend to be Cinderella or Prince Charming. One unusual tradition of the May Ball is that choir groups will go round student housing areas serenading residents in the hope that somebody will agree to be their date to the ball. I experienced this at 2am one night and was very confused. I am told in future that the thing to do is bring them sandwiches and drinks and they will leave. Sometimes Sweden can be a very strange place.

Is there a satanic ritual happening outside my house? No, it's just a May ball choir.