Tag archives for Spring

These little things I love about you

I was sitting on the waterfront of Strandvägen and couldn’t believe that it was 20°C and that it was in Stockholm and that spring has finally (finally!) arrived. I had a book with me but I couldn’t concentrate on it and was just discreetly observing people walking in the streets, sitting near the water, laughing, talking, eating sandwiches.

On the other side of the water was the Radisson and further on the left Djurgården and you could see the beautiful building of Nordiska museum. So I was sitting there and when I was closing my eyes all I could see was the red color of my eyelids.  And all I could think of was: “I love Stockholm, I don’t want to leave!”. It’s almost the end of my Erasmus year and all my international friends are leaving in a couple of weeks.

A woman was standing on my right side, several meters away from me and was looking at the water. Suddenly a little boat arrived navigated by a smiling man with a big brown dog on the bow of it barking. The boat moored in front of the woman, she jumped on it and they went away.

People on the waterfront didn’t even glance at them and I thought that I have had never seen anything so special turned to be such a casual thing and that Stockholm is special because of these small things. So here what I’m going to miss about you, Stockholm.

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Winter: the comeback

Incredibly enough, it’s snowing again. Can’t believe only two weeks ago it was 10 degrees and the sun was shining! Well, it’s the joys of Swedish weather I guess. Unpredictability.

But as Swedes say:

“Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder”

“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”

Eat my (proverbial) shorts!

Sun = fun = HUH??

A Linnaeus University tradition, Allkår can be more of a circus than, well, the circus. Photo: Ben Mack

The formula sounds simple enough, but just like those physicists who spend 15 minutes coming up with a theory and the next 15 years figuring out if it’s true, you have a hard time believing the Swedish sun is real. But really, just like the mythical decade known as the nineties, it really does exist.

And with the sun comes perhaps the strangest tradition in the history of Swedish higher education: the Allkårsfestivalen (Allkår Festival for the linguistically challenged).

Can I get a collective “What?!”

I’d love to tell you what it’s all about. I really would. But from what I gleaned through attending the thing eight hours a day for three whole days, all I figured out was this:

  • - Random activities take place with no real set schedule, from baseball to football to water balloon fights. Spontaneity at its finest.
  • - Swedish comedians attempt to retell their jokes in English. While it’s true that every Swede speaks better English than, ahem, the English, something is lost in translation when telling Swedish jokes. Either that, or American humor isn’t as “sophisticated” as the Swedish kind.

    Quick access to free concerts tends to be one of the benefits of living on campus. Photo: Ben Mack

  • - More indie bands perform than you’ll ever see at SXSW. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I was in Austin. And the fact that everyone looks as tragically hip as indie rockers doesn’t help.
  • - Alcohol is consumed in copious amounts. And for what reason? Beats me. Do you need a reason to partake of adult beverages? All I can say is that Merriam-Webster calls the lack of a reason “alcoholism.”

O.K. so I admit I did find a partial explanation as to what Allkår exactly is. According to the official Allkår 2011 Magazine, it’s been a tradition at Linnaeus University for over 20 years, and is organized by Nations Kollegiet (or NK),  a consortium of the various student nations on campus.

Summation: Allkår = giant party organized by a bunch of frats.

But be careful: this isn’t your father’s celebration. It’s like Spring Fling on steroids.

One of the "quieter" moments at Allkår. Photo: Ben Mack

Is this a problem? Not really. It’s part of campus life – in this case, the only campus in Sweden. Sure, other universities might have random boat races, burn giant effigies to celebrate the ancient Mesoazoical Chinese Mughalindu Zoroastrian festival of new beginnings, but they don’t have the likes of Streets of Mars or Dial M for Murder! playing free concerts, outdoor dance parties featuring some of the most famous DJs in Sweden, or – my personal favorite – sausage baseball (you must eat a sausage every time you reach a base, and if you throw up, you’re out).

And the best part of all this? No planning on your part required. Wanna show up in your pajamas? Go for it – your room is only three minutes away anyway.

And besides, at some events you have to wear pajamas. It’s an eight-year-old’s dream. Or as John Belushi might say, welcome to college. It’s the best seven years of your life.

Got a problem with this? Eat my shorts – proverbially, of course. I’ll need them later for beach volleyball.

After a long day (and night) of partying, it's good to know your flat is only a couple of minutes away. Photo: Ben Mack

Survivng a Late Night Study Session

So you had a 10 page research paper due on Wednesday, group work for a project due next week, meetings with your professors, studying for Swedish and now you have an exam tomorrow. At the end of a semester being a student can be a little stressful!

Photo: scui3asteveo/Flickr

The time has come when students have to put all of their time and effort into studying, writing, and reading. The end of the spring semester is the hardest when we must ignore temptations such as beautiful weather, cold beverages and the long-lost sunshine.

Although it may feel like the semester is almost over, there is still a month to go. Getting through it is going to be nothing short of a struggle. It will take will-power, motivation and endurance, but eventually there will come an end.

As deadlines start to near closer and closer and time becomes shorter and shorter there is only one solution that every student has to endure at some point in his/her university education. The all-night study session is inevitable at some point in your life.

It may be a struggle, but if you want to meet that deadline then there is no other choice!

Here are a few personal tips that help get me through those late night study sessions:

 

  1. You need good lighting: it has to be as bright as possible to be able to keep your eyes open in those early hours of the night.
  2. Take study breaks: taking breaks often will help in keeping your concentration high while you study. Run around your room if that’s what it takes.
  3. Make sure to eat: remember that dinner was many hours ago so you need food. Starchy choices are best, so eat that huge bowl of pasta!
  4. Avoid distractions: get off your computer if possible and stay away from sites like Facebook.
  5. Don’t get too comfortable: if you are lying in your bed chances are you will fall asleep. Sit at a desk or somewhere that forces you to be upright.
  6. Stay hydrated: coffee seems like the best choice for a late night study session, but dehydration makes you tired! Drink lots of water.
  7. Get some sleep: sleep before a big exam is crucial for your brain to actually function properly the next day.

 

Photo: filmvanalledag/Flickr

Try not to get too stressed out. And remember we are in Sweden, there are always retakes and extra chances if you struggle the first time.

 

Spring is the Season

Upon the sun’s return to Sweden, many people have begun to flock outside. Any open green area is covered with people trying to soak up all of the sun they can while it lasts.

Everyone enjoying the sun at Slottsparken in Uppsala. Photo: aten/Flickr

But not only do people just sit outside and enjoy the sun, they also go biking, hiking and climbing to take advantage of the good weather.

In the spring and summer months I believe that a lot of Swedes spend their free-time more outdoors than anywhere else. This could be because they are simply afraid of how long the good weather will last or they just enjoy being in nature.

Coming to Sweden, one thing I really noticed was the relationships most Swedes have with nature. Growing up as a kid we always played outside in the trees or the parks, but the difference is Swedes know so much more about their environmental surroundings.

Our first class outing of the year was to the forest. We were supposed to just enjoy the environment and try to understand more about the ecosystem. It became clear after 10 minutes in the forest that the few Swedes in the class were nothing short of experts. Most of them could differentiate between the numerous varieties of mushrooms, distinguish between the edible and non-edible plants, and show which berries were which. They also further explained which plants were most prominent because of the season, which ones had just finished flowering and which ones were about to.

I was nothing short of astonished with their wealth of environmental knowledge. Swedes often ask me if we have a certain species of trees in Canada and beyond the obvious maple and birch I usually cannot answer.

The focus on early environmental education for children both at school and at home really has a positive effect on the relationship between Swedes and nature.

So as the sun begins to appear more often and the snow is finally gone, most of the Swedes flock to any green spaces, forests and lakes to take advantage and learn about the environment surrounding them. And this spring I will be close to follow, hoping to learn more as I go!

Hiking through the forest. Photo: VisitSweden/Flickr