Taking an exchange semester in Sweden as a US student: 7 key things to keep in mind

Taking an exchange semester in Sweden as a US student: 7 key things to keep in mind
A lecture hall at Stockholm University. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se
Applying to an exchange programme can be truly stressful, considering each application and country has its own set of unique requirements. For those coming to Sweden from a US university, here are the key things to bear in mind when wading through the administrative parts of the application.

Apply to the programme through your university

Most exchange programmes in Sweden are arranged by either your home university or another university within the United States that allows others to take part in their exchange. 

Each university has their own requirements – whether it be writing an essay or a GPA minimum – so it is essential that you make a list of required documents and make sure you're eligible.

And each university also has its own specific turnaround date, but should at least give you your decision with enough time to apply for a residence permit. Apply as soon as possible to save yourself from added stress later on, and to allow yourself plenty of time to deal with the next steps on this list.

READ ALSO: Why international students are flooding to Stockholm

Select your classes

Depending on the university, you may have the ability to choose classes at your leisure, but in other cases, you need to inform the university months in advance about the classes you wish to take. You will likely be asked to provide a first and second preference for around four to six classes. These can fill up quickly, and it may not be as easy to add and drop classes as it is back home, so choose carefully.

It is also important to know that Swedish universities use the ECTS, or European Credit Transfer System, in which a standard class is equivalent to 7.5 points. Bachelor's and master's programs in Sweden are referred to by the number of points it takes to fulfill them, so you may hear Swedish students referring to their program by “180 hp.” or 180 points.

Seek out housing

While most universities in Sweden offer housing for students, they may not offer enough to meet demand, and there is a major housing shortage in many large cities.

Even if your home university has a formal agreement with one in Sweden, housing might not necessarily be guaranteed. For those who were denied university housing, a solution may lie in a university Facebook group or using other websites such as bostad.se, where you can look at apartments for rent.

READ MORE: Don't panic! How to apply for student housing in Sweden

Apply for a residence permit

Tackle the residency requirements. In order to be able to study in Sweden for any period up to a year, you must have been admitted to full-time study at a university and you must apply for a residence permit through the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket).

The application requires you to attach several documents, including a copy of your bank statement proving that you have the means to reside in Sweden and the letter of admission from the Swedish university. It is essential that you apply for this as soon as you can, because you need to have a decision from the Migration Agency prior to arriving in Sweden.

When you get to Sweden, you will have 90 days to visit your local Migrationsverket to get your biometrics taken. It is a good idea to arrange this appointment as soon as you can, because wait times can vary from days to weeks.

Apply for financial aid or a scholarship

Studying in Sweden can be expensive.

Some American universities offer specific study-abroad scholarships to students, while others offer to provide financial aid for those going abroad. Even if you have the means to study abroad, any sort of financial help will offset costs, especially unexpected ones that may arise during the duration of your semester, so it's well worth doing some research to see what you're eligible for.

READ ALSO: Six money-saving hacks for students in Sweden

Arrange health insurance

Accidents happen. If you reside in Sweden for less than a year, you will be unable to automatically access Swedish health insurance. Some universities in Sweden do offer health insurance, but it is important to find out the specific details about what services are and are not covered for international students. You should also check with your American health insurance provider, because some do offer to cover services outside of the United States.

Regardless of your health insurance status, everyone has access to 1177, a free 24/7 hotline which provides medical advice (also in English) but also can help arrange an appointment at your local doctors' surgery or hospital. There is a small fee for medical appointments even if you have health insurance, but this is significantly more expensive without any coverage.

Start learning the language

It's possible to get by in most Swedish university towns using English alone. However, in order to best understand your surroundings and appreciate the culture, it is highly recommended that you start to learn at least some basic phrases in the language.

Sure, Swedes are some of the best English speakers in the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean people go around speaking English all the time; their native language is Swedish, after all. And for the many exchange students who find themselves compelled to extend their stay in Sweden, knowing Swedish will go a long way in expanding your job opportunities and friendship circle.

FOR MEMBERS: Vocabulary guide: the words and phrases you need to know as a student in Sweden

Vocabulary guide: the words and phrases you need to know as a student in Sweden

Member comments

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.