Hej hej folks!
Apologies for the delay in posting, I’ve been documenting my days by taking an excessive number of photos over the past few weeks, but have only today found the time to sit down and write. Too much has happened for me to produce anything comprehensive that’s even vaguely succinct, so I thought I’d focus on addressing the issue of accommodation, which is a pretty vital starting point for any exchange student.
I can’t say that the Erasmus application process was particularly smooth for me, but beyond a doubt the most stressful aspect was the month or so I spent in search of private accommodation online this summer. The standard procedure for exchange students at Uppsala is an accommodation guarantee for the duration of your studies, but for one reason or another this had fallen through for me, so I was informed I’d need to find somewhere to live on my own. Okay, okay, so I know this probably sounds a bit melodramatic, considering the stress a lot of my friends living abroad have been under, actually moving to a new country with nothing more than a few nights in an Airbnb secured. The difference is, however, that said friends were moving to cities where the housing market is relatively navigable. I’m not entirely sure what the issue is in Uppsala, or indeed in Sweden as a whole, but finding property to rent at short (or even long) notice is pretty much a no-go.
Articles such as this https://www.thelocal.se/20100928/29292, filled with their horror stories of students sleeping rough in the cathedral, lingered at the back of my mind through exams, and firmly made their way to the forefront as I divided my time between celebrating the end of second year and scouring the internet for available rooms. I paid to join a housing queue in which I never achieved a place below 100, sent numerous messages in response to ads (and learnt never to expect a reply) and eventually started to consider the possibility of abandoning the whole endeavour and begging the history department to find space for me this October.
As you’ve probably guessed – apologies for spoilers – this story has a happy ending. The scare-mongering emails I’d received from the housing office never came to fruitation, and I was able to secure a room through the university in a later application in June. It’s worth noting, however, the challenges you might have to face if you can’t get an accommodation guarantee. It’s by no means impossible to find somewhere, but determination and a little creativity (a friend of mine is currently living in a vicar’s house some miles out of Uppsala…) may need to be called upon.
So, as to where I finally ended up living! The point of that rather excessive context was, I think, to emphasise my belief that, so long as you’ve a roof over your head in Uppsala, you’re good. I’ve been rather envious of friends here who’ve the luxury of beautiful self-contained flats in the city centre, but at the end of the day, I’m here, and that very nearly didn’t happen. For exchange students applying for accommodation through the university, you’ve the option of selecting your top three choices. I won’t list them here, but the various options can be viewed at http://housingoffice.se, and I’m more than happy to chat to any potential applicants about the housing available.
I mentioned Flogsta in passing in my first blog post, but, as an institution in its own right, it deserves returning to. I’ve been reliably informed that Flogsta emerged as the product of a rather endearing, if entirely naïve, belief that consigning hundreds of students to a purpose-built complex, in woodland 3 km outside of the city, would result in an environment conducive to peaceful study. The environs are indeed beautiful, with bike paths from the city leading through densely forested, bilberry studded grounds, but its charm ends there. Despite the presence of families, Flogsta is very much a microcosm of student life, and somewhat deserved of its affectionate (?) nickname the ‘Swedish Ghetto’. Flogsta consists of both ‘low’ and ‘high’ houses, the latter of which there are 10, each with 7 floors of two flats of 12 inhabitants…you do the math. As a result of such a large student populace, and a questionable housing company, the standards of hygiene leave a lot to be desired, and my initial excitement at realising I had a balcony was quickly shattered when I saw the state the previous inhabitants had left it in.
Flogsta found fame online a few years ago when a video of one of Uppsala’s strangest student traditions went viral. If you’re ever on site at 10 pm, beware, as the peace of the surrounding countryside is brutally shattered by the ‘Flogsta Scream’, a nightly exercise in stress relief which sees students leaning out of their windows and yelling with gusto for a good few minutes. Having participated on my first night in Uppsala, after a long and stressful day of travel, I can confirm its therapeutic properties, but I’m since finding it more useful as a timepiece – the punctuality never ceases to amaze.
Flogsta is also renowned for its parties, which test the limits of student ingenuity with brilliant results. I’d only been in Uppsala for a few weeks before word got around about a rooftop party on the building next to mine. The bizarre appearance of the high houses, which is best described as a fusion between brutalism and sci-fi, is partly a product of the colourful corrugated structures which sit atop of each building. These roofs actually house saunas, which were once accessible to all students, but after a series of escalating incidents – culminating in a flaming sofa being tipped from a rooftop – have officially been closed. The construction of metal bars on the steps up to the roofs has, however, failed to entirely deter students. Which is how I found myself climbing through a narrow gap in the bars to join a host of others enjoying the sunset nine stories up.
The housing company has apparently since got word of this unintentional access point, and clamped down further, but I was so glad to get a chance to see the view whilst I still could. Looking east across to the lights of the city and westwards out over vast expanses of beautiful Swedish countryside, the quirks of Flogsta could be forgotten. Until of course, the clock struck ten…