Kay Petersen at Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

I was in Umea, the capital of Northern Sweden, for one term. And it was really great. Therefore I just want to write about my personal experiences of the University, the city, the region and the country.

After a long time of thinking about all the different opportunies to study abroad the decision was fix: Umea in Sweden.

Travelling to Umea is easy and not expensive. From Cologne to Stockholm is German Wings the cheapest airline ( ~ 80,- € one way) and from Stockholm it is Fly Nordic (www.flynordic.com ~ 45,- € one way). And please always check the weight of your luggage before your journey. German Wings allows 20 kilos and Fly Nordic 30 kilos. The duration is 2 + 1 hour. From the airport to the university it is possible to take the airport bus ( ~8,- €).

The housing situation in Umea is easy. There are four student quarters (Nydala, Alidhem, Mariehem and Carlshem) with housing opportunities for students. All the rooms are organised by the International Housing Office of the university. You have to be in contact before your stay and after paying a deposit they send you a password to book your room online. All the houses are nearly equal. 6 – 10 single rooms with bath room on each corridor and a common kitchen and living room. The only differences are that Nydala is just renovated and the common area is bigger than in the other quarters. But the rooms are a little bit more expensive ( ~ 290,- € per month).

In every case the membership in the mentor-program is very helpful. It is organised by the university and you can sign in yourself by e-mail. In this program all the members (most of the internationals) are divided in groups of 10 – 15 with 5 swedish mentors and organise and take part in different activities together. It is a really good way to get in contact with others. And the forum ( www.student.umu.se) is the most important communication basement for everything.

With all other questions about university and everything else the International Office and Helena Gradin are the first contact. They try to help everybody with everything and they are successfull nearly everytime.

The Campus in Umea is very big and large and the center for all the students during the week and sometimes also on the weekend. Next to the campus is the IKSU, the biggest sport center all over europe with special prices for students. The courses are all in English. It is possible to follow all the lectures, but you need some time to “get it”. All the professors are very helpful. They want you to ask and they also want you to visit them during the office hours if something is not clear. But they also expect a lot. Nearly every third day you have to hand in a comment about a scientific article, an answer about a tricky question or a summary of a guest lecture. So full time studies in Sweden means full time studies! It is much more workload than in Germany!!!

Before my travel I was a little bit excited about my English skills. Is it enough? Do I understand everybody? Do they understand me? THEY DO! The Dean of the business school said in his welcome-words, that English is not the most spoken language in the world. It is broken English!!! The most important thing is to communicate with everybody. Nobody will laugh about you, your language skills or your pronounciation. But everybody might have a negative opinion about you when you say nothing.

But my personal result is study abroad, especially in Umea, is great. The University is just one aspect of your stay. Umea is a really nice city with about 100.000 inhabitants (30.000 students). The nature is everywhere in the city and the big river (Umealv) and the lake are really nice and very different to Germany. There are a lot of International Pubs organised by the International Office, student pubs on the campus and night clubs. Everybody uses the bike, the bus or is just walking. And due to the many students and possible activities it is never boring...

Umea is also a good starting point for travelling activities. You can rent a car from Friday morning to Monday morning with free kilometers for about 60,- €. You can travel to the Botnian Sea, Norway, Finland, Laponia, all the nature parks around Umea and to many other atractions (p.e. Älgens Hus). To visit Stockholm it is easier, but more expensive to use the plane and also the International Office organises some nice journeys (Talinn, St.Petersburg, Helsinki etc.).

I learned a lot about the cultural differences (due to all the Internationals), bettered my language skills in English and Swedish, explored the region, country and north/east europe, had very much fun and met some really good friends, hopefully for the rest of my life.

Now, in the end of this report, I will just give some advices and experiences about everything I made abroad in single sentences, because I am not able to put them in a text:

  • Swedes are a little bit “shy”. They have to know you some time before the relationship is really trusty.
  • Never keep your shoes on when you enter a Swedish house/room etc.
  • Smoking inside is nowhere allowed.
  • Every Swede speaks English – everywhere!
  • Prices for everything are higher than in Germany (~ 50 % more).
  • Alcohol is really expensive, it is sold in special liquor shops (systembolaget) and you must be 20 years old to buy it (in some clubs 21).
  • Sportsbars are very popular in Sweden and you can watch all international football matches, all icehockey matches and much more. (In Umea: O'Learys )
  • They have no word for “Herr” or “Sie”, so everybody just uses the first name include the professors (for Germans it is really strange for the first two weeks).
  • The sentences for traffic failures are very high, better respect the rules.
  • The weather and the light situation is very different during the year. Think about you and your ability to live in “darkness” before your stay.
  • You can pay everything and everywhere with credit card and all the Swedes do that.
  • Swedish is not very hard to learn for Germans. After two language courses you are able to follow a dialogue between Swedes and to read almost all textes.
  • All the pubs close at 2 pm in Umea.
  • In Krogen-Krogen at Alidhem is big buffet every evening during the week for just 7,50 €. 

It was a really great experience for me to stay in Umea for one term and I will never forget! And I am sure it will be the same for you...

Kay Petersen, Logistics and E-Business