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Adapting to New Traditions and Feeling at Home

Guest Blogger: Cristina Valdez, Program Assistant at the Study Abroad Office 

The semester I spent studying abroad at Uppsala University in Sweden gave me the opportunity to experience the Swedish culture and many of its long lasting student traditions. Uppsala University is world renowned for its strong academics, bustling student-life and other unique characteristics which arguably make it the premier student town in all of Sweden.

DSC02861 One of the most important and cherished parts of the student culture at Uppsala are the “nations.” Now, let me explain. Think of a nation as a mix between a co-ed fraternity and a student union. The nations at Uppsala are named after the thirteen different regional parts of Sweden, or what us Americans would refer to as “counties.” It is entrusted upon the nations to plan a significant portion of the social activities that happen on campus. Each nation has many features, such as a pub, restaurant, a library with study rooms, a cafe with a daily discounted lunches and snacks for students, recreational clubs such as choirs, bands, sports, ski clubs, and a “dance club” night; in which usually the library of the nation building is transformed into a disco. DSC08700 Once you become a member of a nation, you receive a student ID card which gets you into all of the perks your nation has to offer. You might think “hm… that could be exclusive, because what if your friends are in nations different than yours?” But the great thing is, that though you might be a member of a specific nation, you are still allowed to attend any other nation’s club, pub, brunch, or other events. Membership is not mandatory for students, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t join one of these great organizations!

I joined Södermanlands-Nerikes nation (SNerikes, for short), which is the oldest of the thirteen nations and medium in size, hosting around 2,000 members. My nation was quite popular amongst international students, and offered exciting perks such as a cozy pub, a photo club and a dance club on Tuesday nights. Unlike other nations, SNerikes is the only nation at Uppsala University in which the member, if of Swedish descent or nationality, must have a direct bloodline from that region to join! SNerikes was often referred to as “The Pink Castle” — because it truly looked like a pink castle.

During my time in Sweden, SNerikes provided me with many opportunities to get involved. I was even able to work as a waitress in their restaurant, which allowed me to become acquainted with more Swedish students and helped me strengthen intercultural skills when serving patrons. Joining this nation also let me experience a wide range of Swedish traditions and let me make some long lasting friendships. Essentially, being at SNerikes, made me feel at home. No matter what study abroad program you choose, rest assured that there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with the local traditions, culture, and people of the host country. The important thing is to take advantage of those opportunities and deeply immerse yourself. I hope that discovering these qualities during your study abroad experience will also help make you feel at home.

As Students Head Home for Break, Study Abroad Applications Expected to Rise

Once finals are over December 21st, students will be packing up and returning home not just to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, but three weeks worth of homework-free relaxing. It is during this time that the Study Abroad Office typically sees a jump in applications for the Fall, Summer, and Academic Year programs because it is during this time that students discuss final decisions with family members/guardians before applying by quickly approaching deadlines. And students aren’t without options:

  1. Spring/Summer Faculty-Led Programs abroad consist of an on-campus 8-week course at the end of the spring semester before students fly off to a host country for an in-depth look at the theme of the course. As the programs are led by U of I faculty, themes vary.
  2. Summer Faculty-Led Programs go during the summer, with no on-campus course during the spring semester. Themes also vary depending on the faculty leader.
  3. Summer Programs are not Faculty-led and lend for a more independent experience and can be offered with other U.S students studying language and culture, or directly at a university abroad.
  4. Fall 2013/Academic Year 2013-2014 programs, while longer term options, are perfect not only to receive 12-18 credit hours (the same as if you stayed on campus!) but it is also an opportunity to really immerse yourself and explore another culture’s day-to-day lifestyle. Live with host families or apartments, take classes in your major/minor or a database of over 300 Gen Eds, explore the region, and still graduate on time!

If you are unsure how long to go for, or of which program is right for you, stop by the Study Abroad Office and talk to a Peer Advisor. Their schedules can be found here: Peer Advisor Schedule.

Approaching Application Deadlines!

Summer ’13/Fall ’13/AY ’13-14:

Priority Deadline: January 15th

Regular Deadline: February 15th*

Spring/Summer Courses Abroad: February 10th*

*These are the regular deadlines that apply for most programs–however, there are programs that have their own application deadlines.  Be sure to check the deadline of the program in which you’re interested on the program brochure page to confirm.