How I’m surviving northern Sweden’s sub-Arctic winter

This week, Elizabeth Muriu from Kenya, who is studying a Masters in International Business at Luleå University of Technology, talks about how she is adapting to life in northernmost Sweden.

How I'm surviving northern Sweden's sub-Arctic winter
Photo: Private

Luleå is a beautiful coastal city in Swedish Lapland. Apart from its spectacular nature, it’s perhaps best known for the Gammelstad Church Town, a cluster of well-preserved traditional red wooden houses, and the beautiful Nederluleå Church from the 1400s. In the city center, the Norrbottens Museum showcases local history, art, and culture.

The spectacular nature of the north

I arrived in Luleå in autumn and being an outdoor person, this was a golden opportunity to explore the surrounding area by hiking through the stunning nature trails. During my excursions, I have visited Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids, as well as picked lingonberries, blueberries, and mushrooms around the forest. I think it’s great that, in Sweden, everyone is entitled to Allemansrätten, the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise. So far, I have experiences two seasons in Sweden, autumn and now the snow, cold temperatures and frozen sea of winter. I enjoy how contrasting the seasons are. In September, I was lucky enough to spot the fabled northern lights, Aurora Borealis, which was quite spectacular.

Surviving the subarctic winter

The winter lasts longer here, October through May, and I am still adapting and getting used to the darkness and the cold. At first, it was scary and quite a phenomenal experience. For me, in this harsh subarctic climate, the key has been to dress using layering. I use a base layer which includes a long sleeve top and long-johns along with a pair of thermal socks to control warmth and moisture. Then I have a mid-layer for insulation, and a fleece jacket to keep the heat in. The outer layer is then water and windproof, to protect me from the elements. I also have a pair of thick mittens for and a warm winter hat is very important, and have invested in a good pair of waterproof and well-insulated winter boots.

I have decided to adopt a more arctic way of life until the sun returns. I will keep exploring and immerse myself in the lifestyle here through winter sports such as ice-skating, skiing, and dog sledding. Actively engaging in physical exercise, as well as socializing, has really helped me cope with the winter. I would really recommend Luleå and northern Sweden to any SI scholar who wishes to experience the Swedish winter fully. There are cozy overnight trains from Stockholm that take you straight to Luleå, but it’s also possible to take the plane from Stockholm Arlanda Airport.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.