Monthly archives: December 2013

Friday 13th – Lussinatta

Belatedly, allow me to gush slightly on the topic of Lussinatta, the celebration of St Lucia on December 13th. One of the few saint days to be celebrated in Sweden, not particularly surprising given the nation’s secularity, it is nonetheless a stirring occasion on which tradition (and the excuse to stop working for a few minutes while consuming more seasonal treats) takes precedence.


Lucia, maids and stjärngossar singing at UMA.

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Nobel Nightcap

The Nobel Nightcap event happened on the 10th and what a night it was! I have been so busy with college work I have not had time to blog until now. As some of you may or may not know the official Nobel Prize ceremony is held in Stockholm. Every year on the 10th of December- the anniversary of Alfred Nobels death, the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature have been awarded in Stockholm since 1901. After the Nobel banquet the official Nobel after-party, the ‘Nobel Nightcap’, will took place in the Karolinska Institutet. The students at KI got the opportunity to participate in the event on a voluntary basis. Naturally I felt obliged and so excited to apply and I was so unbelievably lucky to get the role of ‘Nobel Laureate Guide’.

Firstly I will detail some of the happenings which led up to the event. Every volunteer (hundreds) was registered and had to do 6 shifts of 4 hours in order to transform the Aula and Medicinska Föreningen building into a decadent, theatrical and enchanting venue. ALOT of work and especially for group leaders who spent almost every day on site was involved. I really admire the focus and drive of the students and I just wish I could have helped more. A huge job well done to the students and my own group and especially my group leader did such a great job and worked so enthusiastically having many sleepless nights! The overall experience from construction to the night was fantastic. I have made such good friends within my construction group, the other volunteers and my nobel guide group.

Nobel guides- image courtesy of NNC website

There was an overall theme of holidays with each room having a specific holiday destination and the aula becoming an ‘airport’ everyone was dressed according to the theme of the room they were in. One of my favorite ‘rooms’ was actually outside and it was themed as the Dalarna region in Sweden, with traditional swedish market outside.. this meant swedish licorice, chocolates and cracker-bread, did I mention all drinks and food was free? Another was ‘Italy’ coffee, ice cream, tiramisu with little italian patio style seating and also ‘Cuba’ dance floor which was glow in the dark and just completely mental! A great area was ‘Tokyo’ which was the first room guests saw in MF, sake and sushi and other japanese foods, then you moved into the ‘atlantic ocean’ themed of course under the sea with a submarine as a bar and jellyfish hanging from the ceiling, this was a very inspired room! Naturally sea food was served here and the Nobel VIP area overlooked this. Another room was ‘the amazon’, covered in wallpaper of trees and fake trees everywhere, this room had a huge chocolate fountain and lovely cocktails. This led to the ‘ice room’ with a polar bear carved from ice! Pretty cool and I did, admittedly gorge myself on chocolate, mulled wine, champagne and god only knows how many macaroons but as they say you only live once right?!

However prior to all of this  I was waiting for my Nobel Laureate to turn up. It was great  because as I was waiting a few of the other laureates began to arrive. As we were waiting in the VIP ‘checkin’ area there was no one else there but us guides and I was able to meet and greet the Laureates and their families. They could not have been nicer and were in such good spirits. I was especially delighted to get the chance to meet Francois Englert, a man whose work I am very interested in. However I resisted the urge to talk quantum physics… for some unexplainable reason :D

I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my laureate but come 1:00am I was informed he wasn’t coming..  typical me! Luckily another laureate (M. Levitt!) arrived with quite the entourage and I joined his group. He was a really interesting and fun character as were the rest of his family. They were all so happy to be here in Sweden and I hope everyone had a good time. I, along with all of the other volunteers stayed until 7:30am to help clean up and clean the chaos. The event was a lot of work but so worth it.  It turned out to be one of the most amazing nights and all of us guides got on so well it was definitely a night which will stay with me in years to come.

Hej då!

Learning Swedish


As promised this post is all about learning the Swedish language,

When I arrived the Karolinska Institutet provided a 3-day intensive Swedish language course for all new master students free of charge. It consisted of Swedish classes the week before classes began and continued once a week from 6-9pm for 4 weeks. We were split into groups and assigned to different teachers. This was a great introduction and I was very lucky to get a great teacher who had a lot of passion and energy. However, now this course has ended, I have already enrolled in SFI (Swedish for immigrants) a free language course with a good friend from my class.
In order to enroll you need a personal number. This is attained from the tax office. However you need to be staying/studying in Stockholm for more than 1 year to be eligible. I have already started my classes which I attend every Tuesday and Thursday. In addition to swedish classes I have in the Karolinska on Wednesday nights, a very fun student initiative with swedish students as our teachers. The very first time I went to SFI it was was quite the experience, every new student arrives 1 hour before class begins. Every new student is tested on their level of swedish, this is achieved by having a chat på svenska in front of everyone :/ Thankfully I was placed in the intermediate class along with my friend. This is exactly my level of Swedish I feel. What I liked about this class was that it is taught primarily through Swedish and very little english is spoken. While it was tiring having to concentrate so much so that I understood it was very reassuring and satisfying that I found myself.. actually understanding.

I will now give some small tips which have worked for me and which may work for you in your home country or when you arrive here. I have found very kind friends (native swedes) who are willing to converse with me if I ask, who also correct me and answer any questions I may have. However be careful.. previously I was speaking with a swedish friend and asked her ‘du är sjuk?’ which I intended to mean ‘you are sick/feeling unwell?’ I had mispronounced ‘sjuk’ and said ‘tjock’ which meant I had just said ‘you are fat’, never a more awkward moment or a better way to learn :/ It is ingrained in mind now and I will never make that mistake again… thus you learn from your mistakes! (förlåt Malin!)


många nya ord :)

I also have a beautiful notebook which a very close friend gave to me, I write every new word or phrase in there and carry it with me at all times, this way I can look over each new word while on the metro or walking to and from classes if I am alone.

Another way is to speak swedish whenever you can, I always speak swedish when in a shop or ordering a coffee or food. It is important to try, before i came here I was told and had read that swedes will immediately switch to english when they sense you are not a native swede. In my experience this has happened only once. I think they see I am at least making the effort and so respond in kind.

However one of the most helpful is finding friends who also want to learn, in my class I have 2 good friends who I always speak swedish with. Every morning myself and classmate read the ‘metro’ a newspaper here in Sweden which you can find at every metro, we pick five words we don’t know  and use them in conversation. It is a very good way to use new vocabulary and really learn through using the word or phrase in context.

Additionally, we send each other weekly emails in swedish, for example he will correct my email of any grammatical/spelling mistakes and send it back to me, and vice versa. In this way he learns and so do I. A great idea which was not my own (tack Paul!)

In regards to learning from abroad, watching swedish tv on my computer has also really helped, sites such as SVT or swefilm are great. Klartext is another great site for listening to swedish radio in easier swedish with clearer pronunciation and much less ‘slang’. A movie in your native language but subtitled in Swedish is another good way to learn.

Well that is all I can think of right now. I will leave with one word which you should always follow, perhaps not just in learning Swedish but also in life,


Thank you for reading,

Hej då


Fall Feasting

I was going to try to come up with some well-argued rationale for centering this entire entry on food, but then I realized that ethnic food, from the perspective of a non-Swede, is in itself intrinsically interesting. This makes a trite or forced analogy unnecessary. So with that, I’ll get straight into it.

Over the past year plus that I have spent here in Gothenburg I have sought out some tasty, yet inexpensive places to grab a quick bite to eat; I’m on a student schedule and budget after all. Apart from the reliable and surprisingly affordable dining options in the Chalmers Student Union building, I have found a couple of delicious and uniquely Swedish places. Yeah, you could always take the easy way and pick up a generic pizza or kebab – as I have done quite a few times myself – but the places I list below are worth the extra effort in my opinion.

First up is the only food truck in Gothenburg – or at least the only food truck that I’m aware of in the downtown area. Strömmingsluckan has a simple concept: fried herring, potatoes and lingonberries. This is about as Swedish as you can get, and it tastes great when you add some mustard and horseradish to the herring, which oh by the way is full of tiny but edible bones (I ate the bones at least).

Fried herring with Dijon, horseradish, lingonberries, and potatoes. Photo by B. Seward.

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Hej, jag heter Andrew!

Hello everyone. My name is Andrew. I am from Ireland and studying the master degree in Bioentrepreneurship at the  Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.  I am very excited to be a new blogger on :)

I have decided to briefly detail my experience of coming to Stockholm and a little on my feelings and experiences in my very first month.  I have been in Sweden and Stockholm since the end of August, however for my first post and for many people reading I feel my first month here would be critical in understanding Swedish life from a new student perspective.

When I arrived here it was not just my first time in Stockholm but also Sweden. I arrived in the end of August and my amazing mum and dad made the journey over with me (not just because I had way too many bags to carry myself- thanks mum and dad!!:)).

Coming to KI and Stockholm was not a huge decision in my mind because I knew this was the right decision even before I arrived. I had always known that I wanted to study in Sweden and also that I wanted to branch out from lab work which my bachelor (BSc Environmental Science) had tied me to. The reputation of the Karolinska Institutet and the possibility of learning another language were enough for me to be nothing but excited about the next 2 years here.

This feeling was almost cemented when even on the flight my parents and myself were having a conversation with the flight attendant (a native Swede) about my studies here. She had nothing but great things to say of KI and Stockholm. When we were about to land another flight attendant came over to wish me luck as she heard from her colleague about my studies, which was so nice.

Once at central station I was met by the Karolinska pick-up service rep and she could not have been nicer. It certainly put me at ease meeting my very first Swede in Stockholm. She had kindly collected my key for my accommodation and brought me to the building. It was great to not have to worry about where to go once I arrived to the city.  I arrived a few days before the intro weeks started and so my parents and I went on a tour of Stockholm. Djurgården, Skansen and Gamla Stan being the highlights. The great little coffee shops and random stunning areas of greenery you can find here are inspiring. We also happened upon this great spa/coffeeshop/bar in the middle of the city yet surrounded by vegetation and water features.


View of Gamla Stan from the ferry going to Djurgården

However I then said Goodbye to my parents, with reassurances they were coming back as soon as possible as they are in a word obsessed with Stockholm :)

The intro week began. It was all a bit daunting but honestly everyone here was in the same boat as me and no one knew anyone, so everyone you meet is a potential friend. Although a month ago now, the one thing that stands out in my mind is unfortunately not the very informative ‘welcome to Sweden and KI’ lectures but the fika! We were supplied with a never-ending supply of coffee and food and it was fantastic. I am now a caffeine addict!


Introduction day

Since then I have had the beginning of my classes and meeting all of my 25 classmates. Quite small compared to other programmes but for me this is perfect. Our class is small enough that everyone knows everyone and we all get along perfectly. We have already gone on some trips together such as our trip to the outlying archipelagos of Stockholm and have had plenty of fika. It has been a good way to bond and listen to each others life story so far.

I think one my next blogs will be about a topic I myself am excited for- the Swedish language and my experience learning so far.  I will try and base each blog on my own experience of being a perspective student and looking at these blogs myself, before I started here and of course anything that inspires me along the way.

Hope you enjoyed this first post.

Hej då!