• Sweden edition
 
SPONSORED ARTICLE
Swedish university traditions make foreigners feel at home

Swedish university traditions make foreigners feel at home

Published: 16 Mar 2012 14:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Mar 2012 14:10 GMT+01:00

Traditional student societies are at the heart of the social lives of Sweden’s oldest universities. And these time-honoured institutions are the perfect places for overseas students to find their feet.

Ask any student from Lund or Uppsala about their days at university, and the chances are good that they will mention the word ”nation” in the first two sentences. The concept of these student societies is perhaps as deeply ingrained at the country’s oldest two universities, as any of the courses, with a history stretching back to the 17th Century.

As the name suggests, each nation is named after the provinces from which they traditionally recruited their members. Those in Lund take their names from provinces and areas around southern Sweden, while in Uppsala, they come from all over the country.

At Uppsala, the largest nation is Norrland, with some 6700 members, while the smallest is Gotland, comprising around 600, most of whom are from the islands of Gotland and Åland.

Although this system of dividing students according to origin can be traced back to the nations at the medieval University of Paris amongst others, it is generally accepted that in the case of Uppsala, the inspiration came from the ”Landsmannschaften” at several German universities during the 1600s.

 

Still closely following those early traditions, the nations play a key role in the everyday life of the students. The nation is the hub of all kinds of social activities, such as bars, clubs, theatre companies, orchestras, sports societies, as well as formal occasions.

Although there are differences, it is a system that would be broadly recognisable to students in North America.

”The closest would be fraternities and sororities (also known as "Greek Life"), which was fairly popular at my university (University of British Columbia in Vancouver), but generally not as common in Canada as they are in the United States,” Says  25-year-old Kate Lottridge  from Canada, who is studying for a Master of Science degree in the 'International Marketing and Brand Management' programme at Lund.

”The difference is that joining frats and sororities can be costly and time consuming, and can also involve an initiation process, which has the reputation of being unpleasant, ” she continues.

Sweden’s universities do not have such initiation rites, and membership, which used to be compulsory is now voluntary. For those who do choose to join, the fee varies between 50 kronor and 350 kronor, for which members receive a card entitling them to a wide range of benefits and discounts, updated information on activities on and off campus and the chance to take part in social activities.

The nation tradition is strongest at Lund and Uppsala, but these days some other universities, such as Umeå University and Linneaus University (in Växjö and Kalmar) have also established nations.

For foreign students, who can choose whichever nation they feel suits them best, the nation represents an ideal way to sample Swedish traditions, as well as make contacts, meet new people and learn more about the Swedish language and culture.

”It is a good way to make new friends and participate in social events on campus and, more specifically, for international students, it's a good way to experience Swedish cultural activities, such as crayfish parties, formal dinners or even a ball,” says Teeghan Durity-Wingson, a former 25-year old student at Lund, who was a member of the Malmö Nation.

 

”It is also a good way for international students to interact and meet Swedes and perhaps even practice your Swedish,” he adds.

 

Kate Lottridge agrees. ”The environment is friendly, casual, and welcoming. On a popular nation night you can show up and expect to know a large number of people there, so it's a good way to spend time with friends without even planning to see them.”

  

More than just a social hub though, the nations also provide welfare advice and accommodation information, as well as job opportunities such as bar tending at social events, or joining one of the many organising committees.

 

In terms of administration, each nation is managed by curators who are responsible for planning activities and keeping the finances in order. At every nation, there are also two international secretaries, who help out with any problems specific to students from abroad, and provide information about the activities at the nation.

 

This extra support along with the social benefits, is especially appreciated by the international students.

 

”I am a member of Lund's nation, the largest at the university. For me, the good thing about the nation is that you can make friends, especially with Swedish students. There is always a friendly atmosphere, so it's really good to relax with a cup of coffee in the nation after lectures. As I have no otehr university exepreicne form home I cannot say if there is something simailr in China though,” says 18-year-old Zhao Siqi from Beijing, studying a Bachelor of Science in Development Studies at Lund.

 

This inclusiveness explains the enduring appeal of the nations. It is perhaps ironic that so many of Sweden’s most progressive thinkers and politicians have their background in a system that essentially hasn’t changed much at all over several centuries.

Maybe the university nations prove that sometimes the old ideas still are the best ones after all.

Article sponsored by Study in Sweden.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

NEWS_NOT_YET_IMPORTED
Today's headlines
Police seeking missing Swede in London
Sofie Marie Jansson, who is currently missing in London. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

771
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com