Advice for future students who have applied/coming to Sweden for exchange

Good day! Before you read on about what you can expect on a Swedish Exchange, I hope to first inform you to bring or do a few seldom mentioned things unique to the programme.

1. Residence Permit.
2. Money in a credit/debit card you intend to bring abroad. (Sweden is almost a cash-less society. You will find yourself travelling with great efficiency if you have a card.)
3. Stationeries and pen refills. (if you’re picky about what pens you use)
4. Writing pads. (stationeries and paper is expensive)
5. Join the KTH Student Exchange facebook group where student union activities are discussed. (register for your activities here or find yourself missing out on a hell of a summer experience)
6. Register for an IKEA Family card. (it is a global membership and very worth it if you have the intention of visitng IKEA)

In the following months, Rebecca, Delin, Brandon and myself (Russ) will be sharing about our time in Sweden as we hope to enlighten everyone about the daily happenings here. The first week is probably going to be the longest and detailed post to offer insight into what you could expect from this exchange. I hope you enjoy our posts as much as we enjoy our adventure.

Day 1 (1st August Tuesday)
As we embarked on our 6 month journey abroad, many friends and family came to see us off. None of us have been to Sweden and I personally have never been to Europe. I was filled with both anxiety and excitement in equal measure for the days we have ahead of us. I left for Sweden with Rebecca and Delin while Brandon took an earlier flight before us.

Our journey included a 12 hour flight to London’s Heathrow airport where we transited to another 2 hour flight to Sweden. Do note that British airport security is very strict (even on transits) and will demand that you declare/empty all your liquids (even the ones under 100 ml) including hand sanitizer and toothpaste.

We finally arrived at the Swedish airports where we collected our luggages and were directed to Terminal 5 and linked up with Brandon and the KTH student union.

Here, we were offered a bus ride to the KTH main campus at Tekniska Högskolan, and collected a list of things including:

  1. Duvet
  2. Pillow
  3. Travel Card filled with 200 SEK (Single Journey regardless of distance in Sweden’s Tunnelbara, Buses and Ferries cost 35 SEK)
  4. SIM card that lasts for 1 month (includes 1 GB free, 50 min talk time and 500 SMS/MMS)
  5. Keys for our accommodation

Hungry after flying for so long, we decided to head to a nearby restaurant to fill our bellies. A typical meal cost us 70 SEK which we gladly forked over given that it came with both free flow bread and drinking water. The portion was nothing to scoff at either as both Rebecca and Delin struggled to finish their meals.

Video representation here : https://youtu.be/zBjMGazXSYQ

We briefly attended a Barbecue Party thereafter (for like 10 minutes) given that we were all so “excited” to settle into our new residences and visit the local supermarkets. The typical Singaporean kiasu (paranoid individual) if you may.

Picture taken from Day 2

Inside the train station, I linked up with an exchange student from Texas (Noah) who stayed at the same address and had a recognizable English accent (many exchange students come from France). Do not be afraid to talk to strangers and mingle because you’re possibly going to want friends to go shopping with/hang out/go to school together. We helped each other tremendously in settling into our new single room apartments at Björksätravägen, Skärholmen.

We entered our rooms and took stock of what we had for about 10 minutes before heading out to the nearest and coincidentally first IKEA built in Sweden. The journey was about 30 minutes and involved both train and bus trips which was less draining for us than our travel cards.

Bus Trip to IKEA : https://youtu.be/5ldsMGxxWvg

The store was closing in 30 minutes by the time we arrived so we bought the basic things that we wanted. We bought a coffee press, kettle (the sort that you heat over a stove), duvet covers, and kanelbullar to settle our breakfast on the following day. We headed back and shared a pizza before calling it a day.

Day 2 (2nd August Wednesday)

I woke up at 7 am excited to attend my Swedish classes. Unfortunately for me, I had forgotten to purchase an oven mitt so my plans to prepare breakfast had to halt for now. I linked up with Noah before taking an hour long transport to the main campus. It was here that we managed to settle breakfast for about 30 SEK. We then headed our separate ways as we were sorted into different Swedish classes comprising of about 25 students each.

I remember feeling super disorientated during my first Swedish class and having a hard time pronouncing the words. It helps to try adopting an accent and pronouncing English words a certain way, but more importantly to know how to trill your “R”s. We were taught a song about the “Seven Days of the Week” in Swedish and repeated it often during our classes in the following days. We were also given homework on our first day (for me it was to write a description of myself in Swedish) that was due the following day. The intensive course in Swedish sure has its demands.

As was scheduled for most exchange students, I had to make a trip down to my respective hosting school (e.g. I went to the School of Technology and Health while my other 3 Singaporean friends headed to the School of Industrial Engineering and Management). The trip lasted for about an hour and a half where I found the coolest campus yet.

Interior of the School of Technology and Health : https://youtu.be/fh1-PV6u_AQ

Outside, I met my international coordinator Zofia who directed me in and gave me time to explore the surroundings while waiting for 3 other students to arrive. She also kindly told us more about the programme and the various services offered. We were also given cards which granted us 24 hour access to the campus if we needed it for computers or study spaces. In my case, there were only 7 students who were here to take biomedical related courses, and a total of 23 students who would join after mid-August (possibly one of the smallest intakes). We were also informed that the courses were not moderated to encourage collaborative learning so competitive exchange students need not worry so much.

Following the talk and familiarization process, I took public transport back to school and joined in a campus tour arranged for us. Many buildings were shown and locations such as the library and the gym were highlighted to us as well as short descriptions of each site.

What Campus Tour is like : https://youtu.be/1Foc3MvIBKY

What Campus Tour is like (Part 2) : https://youtu.be/C437AI6EAGQ

Ceilings of KTH : https://youtu.be/BA4UlxwmIwg

Having spent a long day, I purchased pastry at the nearest Pressbyrån (a convenience store franchise like 7-11)  and had it for dinner. For exchange students intending to save money, try to buy your pastries/bread/groceries at ICA or Hemköp instead. These are like the Giant and NTUC that sell things at more affordable prices.

Pressbyrån Store Logo
ICA Store Logo
Hemköp Store Logo

Day 3 (3rd August Thursday)

I repeated the same morning routine as Day 2 and participated in the museum tour that I registered for after my Swedish lessons. The museum is called Livrustkammaren, which was free to enter and showed armory, weaponry, chariots and other historical artifacts of Swedish royalty. It was arranged in a linear fashion and was actually rather small.

Modern Museum : https://youtu.be/bhpa7HfDDFw

After my museum tour, I attended a “buddy meeting” which commenced barely 2 hours after. Here I played some party games and got to know some more exchange students. We learnt more about the students chapters and its various facilities by entering one such chapter. Similar to SUTD, their product design chapter also comes equipped with 3D printing and laser cutter facilities (though I did not bother to inquire about the specifics). We exchanged facebook contacts before heading our separate ways.

I subsequently made my way home with two French students from the buddy meeting (Clément and Quentin) who also happened to be living at the same address. We went grocery shopping together where I came across some of the largest watermelons.

Heading home, I was finally able to prepare a somewhat balanced meal before calling it a night.

Day 4 (4th August Friday)

After my morning commute and Swedish classes, I participated in a city tour arranged by the Student Union. Unfortunately, it rained that day which made the weather really cold. Thankfully, I was given an umbrella by Noah who happened to find two left in her apartment by the previous tenant.

The Student Union also held a competition for the picture that best captured the “Stockholm Feeling” on Instagram. I did not participate though I did take quite a number of pictures that day.

I then made a trip with Noah to IKEA to settle the other house hold items we needed like oven mitts, dish drying racks and so on. On the train, we heard teenagers trying to rhyme sentences to a beat. We eventually got off with them at Skärholmen only to be greeted by a public rap concert. We both enjoyed the music and decided to take footage of said event.

Swedish Rap Concert : https://youtu.be/6u4FXjVJ5OM

We spent roughly 3 minutes here before heading off the catch the bus that brought us to IKEA.

We celebrated the end of the week and the commencement of the weekend and its associated activities with a good meal at IKEA. This cost 69 SEK and was the second proper meal (with meat) I had for a while.

Day 5 (5th August Saturday)

I enjoyed my fair share of sleep this morning and Skyped my family to ease their concerns. On this day, I registered for a party called Osqvik which lasts from 5pm to 7am the following morning. The party location was far away from town, making it impossible to return back to my accommodation in the middle of the night. I was helpfully informed however that the last bus of the night departs at 10.15 pm.

Like many others, I was pumped to visit the “party house” of the KTH student union. We took a train and two bus rides before arriving at our destination a good hour and a half later.

At Osqvik, we were immediately greeted by farm animals and vast open spaces that one expects to find in a large country. The view was stunning and the air was fresh.

Taking a look around, I found that the “party house” was prepared and the DJ booth was ready. But before the sun set, we started off our activities here by playing party games such as “Story of my Pony” linked below.

Story of my Pony :  https://youtu.be/Bsad9ApqN4c

Following the games, the Student Union organisers were kind enough to let us into the “party house” for dinner. This provided a great opportunities for us to mingle and meet new friends from other countries.

Dinner at Osqvik : https://youtu.be/8_v8D09eSbo

One other thing you should know is that most participants at Osqvik do indulge in alcoholic drinks. As a teetotaler, I admittedly was not keen on staying through the night and had made plans with some friends to leave by 10 am. Fortunately (yes fortunately), we would miss the last bus as were standing on the wrong side of the road. The bus stop on the opposite side of the road was not visible because it was so dark. Also it was just a sign post. My friends and I returned to spend the remainder of our time in Osqvik until the following day. This would prove to be one of our best decisions yet.

Day 6 (6th August Sunday) 

It wasn’t before we returned that the party went into full swing. The DJ was playing music, a bonfire was set up and were invited to the Sauna as well as the open lake for a swim (do remember to pack your swimsuit and towel).

DJ at Osqvik :  https://youtu.be/vNzAFXvjsZ8

Inside the Sauna : https://youtu.be/_X573-1dmEQ

It was highly recommend that we try swimming in the lake after the sauna by the way. That was good advice.

I later made friends with a couple of French master students who had the intention of leaving the party on a morning trek for breakfast and to get some good rest. We ventured together and had a number of interesting conversations.

It was a beautiful trek though my camera did not do it justice. We eventually made it back to the bus stop by 6 am.

I returned back to my apartment by 7 am and managed to get an hour’s worth of rest before taking part in Skansen, another event that I registered for at 9 am on Sunday.

Skansen is basically “The world’s largest open-air museum”, which also has zoo exhibits.

Outside of seeing beautiful flora and fauna, we also got to learn more about Swedish society centuries before and how they lived their lives through reconstructed exhibits.

After the trip to Skansen, I learnt that ferries were available from the venue which made travel to Slussen (a train station) extremely quick.

Dead tired from having spent 36 hours without proper rest, I went to bed  early and slept until the following morning.

Day 7 (7th August Monday)

Following my morning Swedish classes, Rebecca, Delin, Brandon and I decided to create a bank account in Sweden. Things work a little differently here because banks don’t actually pay you interest on your deposit. In fact, you pay the bank a monthly administration fee for the convenience of being able to draw your money from ATMs. We dropped by the nearest SEB (a bank company) but were not successful in getting an account without a residency permit.

More information on banks here : https://www.kth.se/blogs/abhineet/2017/08/banking-sthlm/

Subsequently, we had our own little city tour as we sought to find the best meatballs that were recommended by our seniors before us. As we also made plans to celebrate the upcoming National Day, I returned early to check out some food choices that might suffice.

This concludes the end of my first week in Stockholm!
I hope you enjoyed reading the blog as much as I loved living in Sweden.

Stay tuned for Rebecca’s blog post on Sweden sometime next week!

Hej Då!

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