Fika, anyone? The fact that chatting over coffee and cake is a central part of the Swedish day tells you a lot about the culture - here, taking a moment to sit back or catch up with friends is important, as is promoting a healthy work/life balance, mental well-being and physical health. Team that with an internationally-renowned education system, jaw-dropping nature and 24/7 sun in high summer, and it’s little surprise that so many students are choosing Sweden as their new home...
Internationally-renowned education system
Sweden has gained an strong international reputation for its approach to education – on the whole, it’s known for being more student-focused and less target-driven, and higher tax means more money is put into education resources.
The universities themselves are also renowned, with three – Karolinska Institute, Uppsala University and Stockholm University – featured in the world’s top 100.
Language shouldn’t be an issue
If your Swedish isn’t great (or non-existent), don’t worry – in 2018, Sweden came first out of 88 countries for skills in English as a second language, so you should definitely be able to get by without too much difficulty.
If you’re seriously considering a Swedish uni though, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to learn some of the language anyway – Swedish is spoken by nearly ten million people and, thanks to many similarities with English, it’s usually fairly easy for English speakers to grasp the basics.
Swedish way of life
‘Lagom’, the Swedish word for ‘good enough’ or ‘just right’, captures the Swedish approach to life perfectly, and you can see that philosophy in everything from their work/life balance to the minimalist design of their stylish interiors.
You’ll also notice a big emphasis on health, from regular exercise and nourishing food to mental wellbeing. Sweden’s healthcare is rated amongst the best in the world and Swedes get more exercise than anyone else in Europe, with some Swedish employers even making exercise compulsory!
Consensus and equality are also important concepts, with Sweden often leading the way in progressive politics. Homosexual relations have been legal since 1944, and same-sex couples have been able to adopt since 2003 and get married since 2009. Sweden was also the first country in the world with freedom of the press (1766) and is at the top of global press freedom rankings.
It’s little wonder that the Swedes get outdoors so often when they have such beautiful nature on their doorstep. The North is mostly wilderness, foaming rivers, high alpine peaks and plains, while the South is rolling countryside and never-ending beaches. In the east lies Stockholm with its wondrous archipelago, and the west is rocky coastline, islands and giant lakes.
One of the best times to enjoy this is during summer, when the sun doesn’t go down at all in the North and not until around midnight in the South. If you can, be there for Midsummer festival in June – an endless lunch that involves flowers in your hair, dancing around a pole, singing songs and eating a whole load of pickled herring.
Worth knowing: In winter, the days are short. Throughout January in Stockholm, for example, the sun rises at 8.47am and sets at 2.55pm. Some non-Scandinavians find this lack of light to be a problem, but most universities have services to help with this (Uppsala University, for example, has a light therapy room in the student health centre).
If you like coffee, cake and shooting the breeze with a friend, you’ll love Fika. Fika has become a social institution that pervades every Swede's personal and professional life, in which Swedes take a moment to enjoy some baked treats or sandwiches over a cup of coffee and socialize. It’s more than just a coffee break though - fika is about slowing down, taking a moment to sit and contemplate on your own, or to gather with friends. No student can go too long without falling in love with the tradition, as many group get-togethers, meetings, and even dates are organized around taking a fika.
Ready to get going?! Head over to The Swedish university system explained to find out when, where and what you can study.
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