I have tried many times to explain the institution that is a nation to many of my friends or family at home; however, I never seem to truly describe the full essence that incorporates nation life.
A nation is like a cafe, you can go for coffee and fika; it’s like a restaurant, you can eat food on the cheap (maybe not the same quality, but you can’t argue with cheap food); it’s like a pub, there are cheap drinks, pub food, live bands; its like a club, they have dance floors, DJs, and fancy drinks; it’s student housing, every nation has rooms available to rent (although you have to be a member for 3 semesters on average, unless your very lucky); it’s like a student club, with intramural sports, choirs, photography groups etc…; and lastly it’s a possible job opportunity (although it probably should not be considered a job because while you may work all night, the pay will probably only buy you a few drinks at the end of your shift).
According to the Uppsala University, most of the nations that exist today have been around since the 17th century, each representing a region of Sweden. In the past, each student attending the university would join a nation according to which region they came from.
While it used to be mandatory to join a nation, today it is up to you to choose if you want to join and which nation fits you best.
Maybe one of the best characteristics is that you must be a student to join. And of course, if you have friends visiting from other universities, they can get a guest card and experience nation life first hand
One of the more traditional customs of nations are the different gasques put on every semester by all nations. A gasque is a formal event including a pre-dinner cocktail, 3 course meal, snaps, wine, an after party and of course many many traditional songs and speeches through the night. They usually have different themes ranging from international students gasque, guys or girls gasque, lucia gasque, lamb’s head gasque etc…
While not every Swedish university has student nations to the same extent as Uppsala and Lund, most universities have sittnings or club nights that are similar.
Every student should join a nation if nothing else then to experience such a historical student culture like nowhere else in world.
For some further information on Uppsala’s Student Nations check out these websites,
Nations Guide – links to all nations and a calendar of events
Uppsala Student’s Union – Going to a gasque
Uppsala University – Student Unions and Student Nations