The Lucia celebration, Christmas dishes and my first Christmas in a Swedish winter wonderland

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On Sunday 16th December, I awoke to the first snowy day in 2018 in Linkoping. The Christmas mood had engulfed the city since the beginning of the month when the Christmas lightning ceremonies were held at the city center with much pomp and glamour. But with the snow came the real Christmas spirit.  Winter was finally here. Literally arrived.

Lucia Performance
Photo Credit: Claudia Gründer

Within the past few days, I have observed with admiration several Christmas traditions in Sweden. Notable among them is the Lucia celebration. This famous tradition is celebrated every year on 13 December.

The Lucia tradition can be traced back  to AD 304 when St Lucia of Syracuse was martyred. She brought food and aid to Christians who went into hiding for fear of persecution.  She used a candle-lit wreath to light her way so that her hands remained free to carry as much food as possible.

The Lucia performance is made up of children clad in beautiful white gowns. The procession is led by a girl who plays Lucia with a crown of electric candles in a wreath on her head.  She is followed by her handmaidens, each carrying a candle. Also in the procession are star boys who carry stars on sticks.

This years Lucia celebration was observed by the LiU medical faculty outside of Delifresh at the Campus US. Students and lecturers converged at Rönnen after the Lucia performance to have lussekatter ( Lucia saffron bread), coffee and tea.

Lucia sweet saffron bread
Photo Credit: Elise Bauer

 

I will be sharing with you all the wonderful Christmas dishes I have had the opportunity to taste soon. So watch out for that.

 

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Parting words and reflections of 2018 Autumn semester exchange students

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It was a night of fun, games and farewells as Linkoping University organized a farewell mingle for departing exchange students at the Karhuset Kollektivet on Tuesday 11 December 2018. Highlights of the evening included the wonderful address notes given by some members of the team at the international office.

Oli and Jonas
Photo Credit: Aida Selimovic

Invited guests were treated to a typical Swedish Christmas dinner buffet. While guests were busy with the delicious Smörgåstårta (appetizing cake that is like a sandwich), some of the students summarized their experiences at LiU.

According to Thomas, LiU’s location in a nice small city makes it unique with a campus he rates higher than his home university.

Thomas gave LiU a thumbs up rating.
Photo Credit: Aida Selimovic

He will amongst other things miss all the new friends he has made and all the beautiful places he was opportune to visit in Linkoping.

Three students from Germany noted that organization at LiU is unique with a community feeling that is different from their home university. They enjoyed making new friends and will miss attending interesting parties in Linkoping.

Oli and Jonas thoroughly enjoyed the organization and practical work at LiU. Even with a bigger campus than their home university, the atmosphere according to them feels very personal.

 

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Things I wish I had known before arriving Sweden: Part 2

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Have some financial stability
While it’s possible to get a part time job if you put in reasonable effort. Especially if you understand and can speak Swedish. It is extremely difficult to combine a job with full time studies. You won’t be able to work and earn your school fees with a part time job. So, don’t even consider that. Many students who come to Sweden with a plan to earn their fees end up abandoning their studies because of the demands of such jobs. You don’t want to become another victim of poor planning. The LiU website has information about the financial demands associated with studies at Linköping University.

Learn to do it yourself.
Photo credit: www.finansies.solidariteit.co.za

The Swedish migration agency also has information on financial maintenance requirements for individuals or families who need a visa to study in Sweden.

 

 

Learn how to DIY (do it yourself)
Pick up skills because knowing how to do those little things will save you big bucks in the end. If you have a very fat wallet then this post is probably not for you.
In today’s egalitarian society, knowing how to thread a needle can come in handy. Sewing back on a loose button could be just as expensive as adjusting the size of that perfect dress you still intend to wear. Sometimes an unexpected change in the weather or a small accident could cause a minor damage to your bike or even your shoe. If you don’t know how to manage these little incidents yourself then get prepared to budget a substantial amount of money for such issues every month.

Effective communication is key to adapting to a new environment. Photo credit: www.deskmoz.com

Eating out all the time will not be feasible for someone on a shoe string budget. So, unless you plan to remain on a cereal and/ or noodles diet, learning to cook is an essential skill. You don’t need to be a master chef. At least not initially.

There are several recipes and video illustrations that would help newbies know their way around the kitchen. There are several healthy but tasty meals that can be made on a budget. Remember, if in doubt about how to do it yourself, the internet is your best friend.

 

 

Learn to speak Swedish
If you want to easily communicate with locals, then learning Swedish should be a priority. While many Swedes understand English, this is Sweden and Swedes speak Swedish language. Besides, many signs and important information are in Swedish. So, if you want to get around easily and settle in quickly then learning Swedish will be a good place to start.

 

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Things I wish I had known before arriving Sweden: Part 1

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The news of my admission to study at LiU was greeted with so much excitement.  I had finally gotten the opportunity to pursue a masters degree at the prestigious Linköping University. I made all the necessary accommodation and travel arrangements. Preparation and packing were in top gear. I even went as far as reading up about Linköping to get a feel of what to anticipate upon my arrival.

Then was the anticlimax of my travel date. I arrived Linköping prepared for the next two years of my life. I brought with me, two boxes completely stuffed with all sorts of items. I was allowed to carry that much only after doling out money grudgingly for excess luggage at the airline check-in counter. I had covered every angle of preparation possible, or so I thought. It’s been a few months now, since I arrived in August and there are a couple things I wish had known before moving to Sweden.

Welcome to Linköping City!                                                                                                  Photo Credit: www.dutyfreeinformation.com

Select intended contents of your luggage carefully

This particularly applies to people who are moving from far away. You won’t have the luxury of returning home often so make a list of the most important things you will need and pack them based on a scale of preference as well as cost of replacing. You don’t want to fill your luggage with stuff you can afford to easily buy when you get to Sweden and leave out things that will cost an arm and a leg to replace. Then again there are basic things you must have with you regardless of the price. For example, you must pack your personal grooming items and a some underwear.
Also, if you’re someone who has a unique past time which is peculiar to where you come from, be sure to pack items you’ll need. You may not find them outside your country. Before packing anything be sure to check with the airline if it’s permitted to travel with that item. That way your item won’t be confiscated at the airport and you won’t get into trouble.
Don’t fill your box with too many formal clothes. In Sweden, dress code to class is informal. A T-shirt and faded jeans trouser will make you blend in just fine. Same thing applies to dress code for work. You could pack one or two formal attires for the occasional fancy dinner or party. Filling up your box and paying for excess luggage like me doesn’t necessarily translate to being prepared. So, don’t make that mistake.

 

Come early to avoid queues

Several services are easier and faster to access during the summer break. Getting a Swedish ID is a vital step for anyone who wants to access any service in Sweden. Opening a bank account, easily accessing health care and virtually every service requires a Swedish Tax ID. Before you can apply for a Swedish Tax ID, you must register at the Swedish tax agency and be assigned a Personnummer (personal identity number). The processing times are dependent on the volume of applications. So, it’s best to apply before the surge at the beginning of the new semester. Arriving early will also help you avoid long queues for student registration and give you time to find accommodation before the rush starts.

Long queues could be frustrating.                                          Photocredit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

Try to find accommodation before your arrival

As soon as you get admitted to study in Sweden. You should register with companies that provide housing in Sweden. Trust me, you’ll need the points. Accommodation may sometimes be difficult to find and is usually dependent on queue points. So, the sooner you join the queues the more likely it is that you will be able to find accommodation directly on time. If you can afford and prefer to stay in expensive hotels, then this information is not for you. The international office at LiU usually reserves accommodation for interested first year fee paying masters students. It is best to accept if you are offered accommodation by the international office. It could be very difficult and expensive to find accommodation on your own at short notice.  For detailed information about accommodation for LiU students please use this link: https://liu.se/en/article/accommodation

That’s all for now. I’ll be sharing with you, more things to note before moving to Sweden very soon.

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Fika, Lagom and my first week in Sweden

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“Fika” “Largom” and my first week in Sweden

 

It was a cool Wednesday morning in August. I was sitting in room C1 at the valla campus listening to one of the welcome lectures whilst trying to catch my breath from running to avoid arriving late on my first day at the university. I woke up jet lagged that morning and checked the time with my sleepy eyes. I had arrived the previous evening after spending a whole day in transit from Nigeria; a story I’ll share with you some other time. It was a few minutes past 9am and the lecture was to begin at 10 o clock. That was just the stimulant I needed as I jumped out of bed. About 15 minutes later I was all dressed and hurriedly left for the university. Luckily room C1 wasn’t too difficult to find in the C building. It was just as described on the map.

Fika, a Swedish tradition that is taken seriously.

Description of events for the welcome program as well as a map had been given to me upon my arrival at the international office. The information day started as I expected with different speakers coming to give us information about life in Sweden and a list of things to do to help us settle in quickly and we all listened with rapt attention as we sat in the room which had a theatre sitting arrangement.
One speech that really struck me was the one about “Lagom”. Don’t bother checking an English dictionary because you won’t find it in there. It’s a Swedish word that means “just the right amount”. You see, we were told that Swedes like everything to be Lagom and that hit me. I was curious and eager to see to what extent that statement is true.

Next, we were told that Swedes like to “Fika”. Fika means to meet up for a drink, usually coffee and a pastry. But then like most non-Swedes would, I dismissed that as something that was found everywhere. It seemed to be a Swedish translation of popular culture. The meeting ended, and we were ushered to a room where drinks and snacks were provided. That was my second experience of Fika. I had enjoyed a Fika at the international office the previous day upon my arrival.

Fika with friends

I had arrived from the train station dragging my luggage with exhaustion written all over me. A few minutes later I was snacking away and the experience of a stressful journey to Sweden seemed to be a distant memory. At least at that moment.

The next day was the roll call in Papaver at the campus US. We were introduced to the master’s program and once again there was Fika. Later in the day we had a mini tour of the city Centre. By the time the tour was over, and we stopped to have Fika at a local restaurant, I was beginning to have second thoughts about my impression of Fika.

The days rolled by and I had made several friends and had several Fika. It was a Sunday afternoon. My first in Sweden. I had found a nearby Pentecostal church to attend as I’m a Christian. The service was about to end and as is the practice in most churches we said the grace. I was getting up to leave when I heard what had become an all too familiar announcement. one I had heard so many times in the past few days: “there is Fika available so please stay back and let’s Fika together”. At that moment, any lingering doubt about the peculiarity of Fika had been discarded. I had indeed accepted Fika as a unique Swedish tradition. A tradition I was beginning to pleasantly get accustomed to.

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