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[EN] Välkomen till Sverige – Part 2/3 : life in Sweden

August 12th, 2014: time to go! Bags, stress, and excitement. Once at the airport about to leave for the Erasmus, we usually ask ourselves: “why the hell am I doing that?”. That’s completely normal. And nothing will ever be like you imagined it, that’s for sure!

August 12th, 2014: time to go!  Bags, stress, and excitement. Once at the airport about to leave for the Erasmus, we usually ask ourselves: “why the hell am I doing that?”. That’s completely normal. And nothing will ever be like you imagined it, that’s for sure!

Welcome to Sweden: first steps in Scandinavia

I first arrive in Stockholm. A wonderful city, certainly the most beautiful Northern city, with its archipelagos and the architecture of it colorful buildings. The weather is nice and the temperature is quite enjoyable. I stay there two days before going to Linköping. Then my Erasmus starts, and everything goes very fast: meeting students from all over the world, BBQs, bike tours, planning my trips, and of course, the start of the classes.

Something that is quite likeable when you go on an Erasmus is that you are really taken care of upon arrival.
A small meeting at the university to get to know the other international students – which they call “Fika” and which could be translated by the afternoon teatime snack but which is, over there, a real institution – a practical guide to local life and even a Swedish SIM-card as a gift!


Then, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) – a student organization in charge of welcoming, integrating international students and making sure they have an excellent time in the town they’re staying at – organizes all sorts of events! All along your stay.

The Swedish culture: yes please!

At the beginning, it’s a bit disturbing. We all have the image of quite cold and distant Swedish people. This is what struck me when I arrived. My very first contacts with Swedish people were… cold and distant. My friends and I were disturbed when, for example, we were in the kitchen with our Swedish flatmates and that except a “Hej”, we couldn’t really get anything in terms of a conversation with them or also that they would shake our hands when they would meet you for the first time.

But… Swedish people, in addition to having perfect bodies, also have a perfect lifestyle philosophy!
For them, the notion of personal space is very important. They physically stay a bit away from other people to respect their own space, and they sometimes talk to you very little because they assume that you have better things to do than talk to them. Yes, they’re a bit annoying, but I got used to it and I even integrated a good share of that culture in the end!

It’s also a society based on trust and respecting the rules. When the light is red for pedestrians, even if there are absolutely no cars, Swedish people will wait until it turns green. Whereas us French people…

The travels: magical and unforgettable moments

Another aspect of the Erasmus which is absolutely fantastic is of course the travels. Because you do not only choose to do an Erasmus in a country, but in a region! Even only for the landscapes and travels I wouldn’t have chosen another destination under any circumstances.

First of all, we visited the beautiful city of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital located 4hs away from Linköping by train. Small cute town where everything is manageable by foot, the city is beautiful and the atmosphere very enjoyable. I won’t say anything more, not to spoil surprise! This was my first trip outside of Sweden and with people I had known for only about a month – which have now become my closest friends.

The next trip was decided on one week before the departure and I didn’t think I would set foot on that country during my Erasmus: Russia!! And it was a huge journey to go to Saint Petersburg. We left Stockholm by boat with other Erasmus students from Sweden. We spent the night on the boat and arrived in Helsinki the next day, the capita of Finland which we visited during that day (very charming, you should visit it as well). Then, in the evening we took the boat again and spent the night on the boat until we arrived in Saint Petersburg the next day. We spent three days there (maximal duration of a visit without a visa) following our guides across the wonderful, gigantic city full of history! Here too, I won’t say anything more, only that you will be dazzled by the charm of St Petersburg (personally, it was a little girl’s dream because of the Anastasia movie!).


We came back to Linköping for only four days and left (again) on a boat, this time heading to Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn. The event was organized by the ESN to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus program, and was an “ESN Sea Battle”. A million Erasmus students in Scandinavia heating to Tallin… Try to imagine…

And then, the very last trip, and certainly the most magical: Lapland! Located beyond the Arctic circle, it goes from Norway to Russia. More than 20 hours by bus to reach it, a trip of a total of 40 hours… But when you’re lucky enough to do that with your friends and that you see those wonderful, snowy Swedish landscapes in the middle of December, you forget the long journey. Sled dogs, snow motorcycle, sauna, swimming in an icy lake, and of course… the Northern lights we were so lucky to see! The far end of the world, the beauty and serenity. There are things not to miss on this planet. Lapland is, with no doubt, part of it.

So, what are you still waiting for to go on an Erasmus in Scandinavia?!

Still need more information? You’re in luck, there will still be a last article in my series, about the post-Erasmus which we talk so little about. Those who have experienced it will understand it, those on the verge of going on an Erasmus will be warned. I will also tell you about the non-negligible advantages of the Erasmus for the entrance in professional life.

See you soon!

Zohra Mokadem

Graduate from the Master 2 Diplomacy and strategic negotiations (Université Paris-Saclay)

Currently officer at the Ministry of Armed Forces



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