My Erasmus Experience At Umea University: Part I
THE CITY OF UMEå
Umeå is the biggest city in Northern Sweden with a subarctic climate. Winters here are very cold and usually there’s snow in Umeå from November until June.
During Umeå University orientation week, the Head of Division at International Office said to us, “Here, in Umeå we’re not dressing up to look nice. We’re dressing up in order to survive.” All the international students (including me) laughed but later we understood he wasn’t joking.
The Autumn term at Umeå University starts on August 28th and ends on January 14th , so during the semester there you’re able to experience Swedish summer, autumn and winter. Despite the mix of seasons, I would advise you take more warm clothes anyway since winter starts in the beginning of November.
Also, before coming here, you should keep in mind that while Umeå is actually the biggest city in this part of Sweden, in Northern Sweden the cities are usually small. So, Umeå is just the biggest among small ones, but it doesn’t mean that the city is not amazing. Despite the size, you’ll always find interesting activities to do there and will be able to enjoy the beautiful Swedish nature every single day. Oh yeah – did I forget to mention- that in Umeå you’ll see one of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets in your life, and also the northern lights?!
University and study system
Umeå University is the fifth oldest university in Sweden. It caters around 31,500 homes students and more than 750 exchange students from over 30 countries each year. The first thing I noticed when I came to Umeå University is the fact the territory of campus is huge. Like, REALLY huge…
Besides the normal rooms for classes, Umeå University also boasts: Aurora room (which the students’ light and quiet room for rest and recovery), church and room for praying, a lot of cafes and restaurants, kitchens where you can heat up the food you’ve packed from home, an information center, little shops, a hairdresser, pubs, a concert hall and a lot of rooms for group studying.
People in Sweden really like to study in groups! And on campus, you can find a large number of places which were created for this. On each of your courses you’ll definitely have at least one group task to undertake.
Also, the education system at Umeå University looks different. Here, you’ll not have large number of subjects like in the majority of European Universities. For your schedule, you can pick up four subjects, or sometimes just one or two during the semester.
Everything depends on ECTS. The standard “cost” of the subject here is 7.5 ECTS, so that’s why you’ll probably have four subjects. Some subjects cost 15 or 30 ECTS.
The good news is that there is no standard exam session here. You’re not studying all the subjects at the same time, but rather one after another. So, for example in September you might have Marketing and this class will last for four weeks. After that, you’ll write the exam and then, begin new class. I think other European universities have a lot to learn from Swedish ones!
Since you will not have too many classes and most of your time you’ll be forced to study on your own (not in class with the teacher), the library will become probably your second home. But don’t be sad. The university library looks so good that you’ll love studying there. Numerous rooms for individual and group studying, a room for reading the latest magazines, book collections and the technological equipment really makes an impression.
If you’re going to stay long in the library, you can also take some snacks and coffee with you. It’s not forbidden there!
The thing which I also liked very much was lunch break. That’s because the lunch break at Umeå University is not just a break for consuming food, but something more. Usually, there are no classes during the lunch break and all the students and staff are sitting in cafes, restaurants or near the little lake on the campus territory. But it’s not all!
Also during this break, you can attend movie shows which are organized on campus or visit cultural events organized within the project “Culture on Campus”. During my Erasmus stay, I was lucky enough to see the performance of famous in Sweden comedian Al Pitcher under this project.
The cultural environment is very international here. Most of Umeå’s inhabitants were not born here and together they speak approximately 52 languages! So it’s not hard to live there if you don’t know the Swedish language.
When I first came to Umeå, I was shocked how many different nationalities live there. I even met some people from Australia. Crazy!
Another advantage of living there (and in Sweden in general) is that people are very tolerant, friendly and helpful; a lot more than in Poland or Belarus.
Now, when I think about this my Erasmus experience in Umeå, I can say that it’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m sure, if you’ll go there, it will be the best experience of your life as well!