I just read this great comment on an older post and I think these answers could help many of you out there... I must say, as usual, that Uppsala is a great city. Yes, it is not so big and it might seem calm from time to time but the student life is great here! There are so many events and things to do here. It is always nice to meet your friends for fika, meeting them at the nations for a couple of drinks, food, concerts, parties... You can find students associations or groups for almost everything here: practicing a language, dancing, acting, reading... The hard part is finding time to actually go to class!
I must say that, at least for me, the cultural shock was not so big. I believe it is important to know a few things about Sweden and Swedes in order to be prepare and reduce the shock as much as possible:
- Swedes are EXTREMELY punctual! Their definition of meeting at 13:00 is meeting at 13:00 and arriving at 13:05 will be consider late. You can actually see teachers looking at their watch (or the room's clock) before the class so they can start exactly on time. Be prepare for any teacher to tell you that if you arrived 5 minutes late you'll have to reschedule the meeting.
- Swedes are very helpful, nice and friendly. Still, it's not common for them to start talking to you on the streets or a line for no reason. Maybe they'll talk to you to practice your language (many of them speak another language besides English and Swedish) but they consider saying "hi" for no reason as an intrusion. Still, if you say "hi" to them it's fine because they think that's part of YOUR culture and they think it's nice. So... you'll be OK being yourself, but don't expect them to act as someone from your country. They'll be themselves...
- It's OK to call teachers by their given name. Actually everyone uses just given names and that's OK.
- They all have lunch at 12:00 and you won't be able to explain that's also possible to eat at 11:30 or 13:00.
- They are really really friendly and eager to help.
In my opinion if you're planing to come here as an exchange student, a year would be better than only one semester. I think there are many things to do and there are great things whole year round. Drinking champagne and making boats for Valborg in Spring is great. Skating from Uppsala to Stockholm and playing with the snow during the winter is also great. So, it's really hard to pick. There are many international students here and we all enjoy Uppsala the whole year!
How's the weather here? Well, that's hard to say... 2 years ago was one of the coldest winters in Uppsala, and last winter was the coldest on record! So... From my experience, winter is COOOOOLD!!!!!!!!! Usually around -10 C with lots and lots of snow. Swedes say that usually there was not that much snow and that it hardly was colder than 0 C... I guess I'll have to see this winter to let you know more.
If any of you finally decides to come to Uppsala, let me know! :-)