Lucy: Budgeting in Stockholm

Everyone who knows me well will know that this post is pretty ironic since I am the worst person at budgeting, or saving at all for that matter. However, after picking one of the most expensive locations for my exchange, I’ve had to learn a thing or two and, despite my best efforts, this post is a mixture of advice and learning from my mistakes.

One of the most cost effective ways to save money on groceries is to share the workload. From almost as soon as I moved into my accommodation, I have been doing shared dinners with others in my residence. This began with just three of us, and has since grown to six people who each take turns cooking dinner around one night a week. I’ve found this is a great way to not only save money, but the time and effort you save from not buying groceries and cooking every night of the week is a game changer. You eat better food as there is more energy put into each dinner, as well as broadening your palate. With three kiwis, a Canadian, a Dutchman and a Serbian, we were certainly eating a variety of food – and saving money!

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The original dinner squad with my first culinary masterpiece

This may seem like the most obvious tip in the world but you’d be surprised – convert your currency!!! I find that it is so easy to mindlessly pay for things when you aren’t paying in a currency you’re used to. More often than not I’ll mindlessly pay $40SEK for a cuppa ($6.50NZD) and feel like kicking myself afterwards when I do the conversion. This mainly applies to unnecessary treats like drinks out (shout out $25 vodka sodas), eating at cafes and midnight snacks from my local supermarket. Like I said, learn from my mistakes…

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Liv and I drinking free hostel tea after paying $8 (!!!) in Bergen, Norway the day before

Another lesson I wish I could tell my past self is that not all travel is smart travel. Most of my savings on this exchange are going towards travel in some shape or form, but I’ve become much more strategic recently. Getting perspective is super important when planning your movements, and I realised after a while that some travel is going to be more beneficial to me when I have more money and time to enjoy it. I situated myself in Europe to make it easier for me to travel, but I’ve decided to save certain destinations (hello Iceland!) for a time when it won’t result in me eating pot noodles for a month.

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Sitting smug after accidentally booking a trip to Amsterdam during the most expensive weekend of the year.

Finally, my last tip (which I haven’t used) is budget from the beginning. When I arrived, I was travelling for a month before I landed in Stockholm and spent a disproportionate (and unnecessary) amount of my savings. Smarter people than I have been recording all their expenses from the get go. Basically, just remember that anything you have has to last you until then end. With all this being said, I still am a (broke) hypocrite. At the end of the day, your exchange is about making the most of every experience and I personally believe it’s worth every cent.

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Sometimes memes say it all, and in all fairness this is relatable even when I’m not on exchange

I’m spending the final week of my time on exchange in Eastern Europe where I’m hoping for a cheaper lifestyle than here in Stockholm. Will keep you updated in my next post!

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Lucy: Accommodation and Classes in Stockholm

I arrived into Stockholm at the end of August with anticipation and 30kgs of luggage. I was lucky enough that my parents were over in Europe to get me settled, so after a few teary goodbyes I moved out of my hostel and into my halls of residence – Lappis.

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Shamelessly touristing with mum at the ABBA museum
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My halls of residence, with the cute puppy I dogsit, Nelson!

Lappis is the largest student housing complex in Stockholm, with a variety of students from many universities across the city. Lappis mainly holds international and masters students, meaning there is plenty of cultural diversity and nightlife.

My room is a corridor room which means I have my own bedroom with an en suite, and share a kitchen with my 11 other floor mates.

The complex holds over 2000 students and has everything you need to live including a supermarket and free laundry services. Most of my friends I’ve made have been my neighbours so I’m never short of company, which has been such a blessing to curb any homesickness. One of the nicest parts of my accommodation is that we are surrounded by nature, with a number of bush walks right at our doorstep. My favourites have to be a lookout point situated behind our halls looking out towards the archipelago, and Lappis beach where isn’t uncommon to spot the northern lights on a cold winter’s night!

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Beautiful view out of the back of Lappis, with my fellow Kiwi exchange students
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A picture of the Northern Lights as seen from Lappis beach, which I stole from a stranger with a better camera than mine haha

One quirky thing about Lappis is that every Tuesday at 10pm, residents open their window and scream out of it. What is now known as the ‘Lappis Scream’ is apparently designed to relieve study stress, which I only found out after my first Tuesday thinking there was a massacre going on downstairs.

After about a week of settling in, socialising and orientation I began my first week of classes.

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Dad and me exploring the campus

I’m studying an Arts and Commerce conjoint and doing a bit of both degrees while on exchange, so I have to navigate multiple campuses. Frescati campus is the main campus at Stockholm university and has a massive library and student common areas – this campus is where I do all my arts based papers. Kraftiket is the business campus and is wholly separate from all other campuses. Being located in Lappis, we’re super lucky that a bus basically takes us door to door to both campuses, meaning lazy students (me) can make it to class in about 10 minutes.

Academically, Stockholm University is structured quite differently from Auckland. Instead of doing all four papers at once and being assessed for each throughout the semester, my semester has been split into four periods of about a month each so I do each paper once at a time. This means I’m able to fully focus on one subject at a time so I’m learning a lot, however there are so many more required readings and you are always jumping straight into the next course load as there are no holidays between periods.

Classes are split between large lectures, intensive seminar groups and optional study groups. We are mainly taught in English so my classes are filled with a mix of exchange students and Swedish students (who all have impeccable English). However, there is also a large focus on group work which makes it super easy to meet both Swedish and other exchange students.

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One of my group work teams with our final project, which we slaved over with the efforts of an exchange student

My transition into Stockholm and University life has been smooth (enough), however some tips for making the move as easy as possible would be:

  • Do your research – before I left Auckland I had done plenty of research about standards of living in Stockholm, experiences of the Swedish winter, other exchange student blogs…the works! You can never be too prepared.
  • Opt for a hall of residence if you can – this will make meeting new friends so much easier, especially if you’re introverted like myself.
  • If you can, pick papers that have group work (never thought I’d be saying that!).
  • Go to everything! Universities usually put on a heap of events for incoming students, both to get your bearings and to socialise.

If you have any questions about Stockholm or anything at all, feel free to contact me at lred135@aucklanduni.ac.nz. I’ve just finished up a month of travel around Europe, Africa and Asia so my next post will be all about the highs and lows of travelling solo. Until then!

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Lucy: First Impressions of Stockholm

When I received my acceptance letter from Auckland saying I had been chosen to go to Stockholm University, I had no idea what to expect. I had picked my university options on a whim about a year in advance and it never really occurred to me that I’d be spending 5 months in whichever country I ended up getting chosen for. I was just happy to be going anywhere!

So, five months after receiving my acceptance letter, I was off to Europe with 30kgs of luggage and no clue what I was getting myself into. I’d never been to Sweden before, or Scandinavia in fact, so this was a destination completely out of my comfort zone but I threw myself in head first and now, two months in, it’s really starting to feel like home.

The first thing I realised when I hopped off the train in Stockholm after a month of Euro summer was that Stockholm was definitely going to be one of the colder destinations I could have chosen. I quickly swapped my sandals and shorts for a jumper and started to explore.

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Exploring Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town

Stockholm has one of the most extensive public transport systems I’ve ever come across, basically getting you door to door wherever you want to go. An Access card will get you unlimited trips on any of the transport for a pretty good price, including the overground and underground trains, busses and even ferries. One of the best things about the underground system (or tunnelbana) is that every station has been decorated to make it into a work of art, and every station is different.

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The various beautiful underground stations in Stockholm

Another thing unique to Sweden is they love fika! It literally translates to ‘coffee and a cake break’ meaning that it’s super common for Swedes to meet for afternoon tea to catch up and socialise. My Stockholm guide book says that in Sweden, locals eat on average 300 cinnamon buns each year. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I sure am a convert!

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FIKA!

Finally, one of the best things about Stockholm is that it’s built on the water across 14 islands. The water is one of the most comforting parts of the city and definitely makes it slightly easier to be away from the City of Sails. The archipelago that surrounds the city is stunning and only a short ferry ride away!

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One of Stockholm’s many waterfronts!

That’s all from me now! Goodbye from (cold) Stockholm!

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Emily: Travel

Hey everyone! Emily here checking in! What a crazy last 7 months it has been…

I’m not even really sure where to start, but I thought I would try outline some of the wild travel adventures I’ve had for you all.

Simply being in Europe opens you up to a world of travel. You can catch a flight to Barcelona for 19 euros! On exchange I was lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. For the past 2 months I have had time off uni to go and visit these new friends in their hometowns, as well as a bunch of other places.

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In the past 8 weeks I’ve travelled to Ibiza, where I bumped into Ellie Goulding at an Amnesia opening party, Barcelona to marvel at Gaudí’s architectural masterpieces, Manchester to visit a friend and party at Parklife Festival, Nice for some French Riviera exploring and croissant consuming, Frankfurt to stay with my pal to discover castles older than New Zealand, Denmark for 8 days of freedom at Roskilde Festival, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London to catch up with some mates and attend Wireless Festival, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento to indulge in Italian culture and a multitude of pizza, Croatia for Ultra Europe Festival, Hvar island and finally Sutivan, a town on the coast of the island of Brač where I am currently writing this blog post.

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It has been an extremely full on 2 months with A LOT of stories to tell when I return to NZ. I have had the time of my life these past 7 months and could not recommend an exchange program enough to anyone who is interested! Lund, Sweden was a great university where I met so many exchange students from all over as well as Swedish people, as it is a popular destination for other exchange students. Lund is so close to Copenhagen that it enabled me to fly to a new city every few weekends thanks to cheap flights! It’s a European hub for travel with lots of budget airlines flying through there. Sweden was the best choice for me and I loved every second of it. I got a taste of everything in Sweden, from extreme snow storms in January winter time to sunny celebrations in the park for Valborg (a spring event). Valborg is a tradition where all the students of Lund university head to the main park for the day and enjoy music and drinks in the sunshine to welcome in the spring. It is a huge event consisting of about 30,000 students! It was one of the best weekends in Lund as we were able to hang out with all of our friends in one place as well as meeting a wave of new people!

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I will miss all the special people I met on my exchange so, so much. Luckily, the internet makes them feel a little less far away. I will be sure to go back for another visit once I have saved a few more pennies in my bank account! Coming from New Zealand is a huge honour when you are overseas, as most people have such positive connotations with our country and how beautiful it is and always express their desires to go there. I have already offered to host anyone who is interested in visiting and I have some friends coming over from Germany and Scotland during the summer to visit. I have definitely caught the travel bug after these 7 months away and I am sad it is all coming to an end, but I know I will be back in the near future!

As one of my Scottish friends told me, “you may be poor in money, but you will be rich in experiences.” – Kirsten McIntosh.

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Emily: Last Post!

For the final blog post from my Swedish exchange, I would like to share some tips and advice to anyone thinking of heading on exchange. All I can say is that I had the time of my life travelling Europe for 8 months, met some incredible people that I know I’ll be friends with for life, and experienced a completely different education system overseas.

When I arrived in Sweden, the only real culture shock I experienced was the temperature. It was -10 degrees and the wind made it feel even colder! It was early January so Winter was upon us and so it is crucial you come prepared for this weather. Another shock was the language. I have studied German and French but the Swedish language is unlike anything I have ever seen before! However, everyone in Scandinavia speaks almost perfect English, so I did not find it that difficult to function in their country.

I loved heading to Sweden for an exchange and I wouldn’t call it a mainstream destination! Never in my life did I imagine myself living in a place like Sweden or even visiting Scandinavia. ‘Iceland’ and ‘The Norther Lights’ are sort of those far away magical places that you read about in books but never expect to witness and visit yourself. I feel extremely lucky and proud to say I have visited those places at 20 years old, and I will definitely be going back! The opportunities are endless when on exchange. I loved Lund for it’s fabulous town and location. A short 40 minute train ride to Copenhagen meant you could literally be in a new country in less than an hour. Copenhagen airport provided me with the chance to travel to so many new places, usually for less than $50 dollars! You can head to Barcelona for 19 euros for a weekend away! If you are at all interested in heading to Sweden I would encourage you to visit as the people are all so incredible there. They have a very modern, equal society when it comes to race, wealth, and gender. It is not uncommon to see men pushing prams down the street. Lund is a popular destination for exchange students all over the world, which meant that I got to meet people from all across Europe all the way to people from New Zealand and Australia! Leaving New Zealand really opens up your eyes to the vast amount of cultures and people in the world. You meet people with different humour and personalities to anyone I have ever met at home, you become more confident and gain an urge to continue to meet new people and travel! I cannot highlight enough how fantastic the past 8 months of my life have been, and I can’t wait to head back as soon as I can! Going on exchange is like gaining a second home and I will cherish my Sweden experience for the rest of my life, thank you Auckland Abroad for making this life changing experience happen – I am truly grateful for the opportunity to add the world to my degree.

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Food, glorious food: Emily

Sweden is filled with a diverse variety of food. It is most famous for it’s meatballs and surströmming, however, being a vegetarian has meant that I have sought out some other options that Sweden has to offer. It’s a paradise for vegos – every café and every supermarket provides a vast scope of vegetarian alternatives which has made living and eating here beyond easy! One in ten Swedes are vegan or vegetarian meaning they have delicious replacements for all animal products, you can always catch me eating ‘chicken’ nuggets and falafel on the daily!

Food I have cooked at home in Lund

The Swedes value personal freedom and choice very highly, which is why every social event or eatery takes into account everyone’s preferences for food, something I hope NZ catches on to soon! ‘Fika’ is a Swedish tradition and basically means ‘to have coffee’, which is often accompanied by a small sweet treat like a pastry or a slice. Having a fika with friends is a chance to sit down and have a small catch up before continuing through the rest of the day, and many Swedes will enjoy more than one fika a day. I love this idea as it gives you a chance to pause and have a short break to enjoy a coffee and cake with others.

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Food I have found in Sweden

My favourite part of experiencing food here has been discovering their Swedish fast food burger restaurant – Max. They have about 5 different vegetarian burger options (one of which is a vegan pulled pork BBQ burger – my favourite!) that taste better than any substandard McDonalds burger. It reminds me a bit of Burger Fuel at home in the sense that it is still fast food but of slightly better quality. They cost about $8 New Zealand Dollars each as well which is cheaper than Burger Fuel but more expensive than McD’s to give you an idea. All of the uni students are obsessed with Max and it’s always our first stop on the way home after a night out! Sweden is crazy for tacos and there is always an aisle in every supermarket dedicated to taco related ingredients alone. On the subject of tacos, Lund has this great little taco shop that barely fits more than 6 people in it at once but serves up the freshest, tastiest little tacos around. Again, they have vegan and vegetarian options of course so no one has to miss out! Sweden has been a vegetarian paradise for me as I have been able to try so many new things that I would normally have to miss out on back home in New Zealand. I am already saddened with the thought of going home in a few months and having to say goodbye to all this glorious food Sweden has to offer… I will have to hit up Uber Eats to see if they can deliver me some Max burgers back to NZ! Sweden has stolen my heart and my stomach, and it will definitely do the same to yours too if you ever visit!

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Accommodation Awards: Emily

This week our Ambassadors got involved in the bi-annual Auckland Abroad Accommodation Awards, awarding their digs with the most appropriate badge of honour, such as most friendly dorm, most affordable and most cramped but cosy dorm!
Let’s see what Emily has awarded her accommodation in what we consider to be the Oscars of university housing…

Klostergården Student House

*Drum roll please*

I would like to formally award Klostergården Student House with the awards for ‘Fantastic Location’, ‘Best Amenities’, and ‘Most Affordable Housing’.

Allow me to explain this in better detail..

Klostergården Student House is located in the Klostergården area of Lund, Sweden. Surrounding the accommodation is 2 supermarkets, a church, a library, and restaurants (including a pizzeria) all within one minute’s walk from the front door. It is also a 5-minute bike to the town center. However, it is a little far from the University itself and the other uni accommodations. I only have one class a week because most of my work is done online or through group work done outside of lectures, so I don’t find myself having to go into campus very often. When I do have classes, it’s only a 15-minute bike ride or a 25-minute bus ride.

My entrance to Klostergården Student House

Klostergården Student House instantly impressed me with a high standard of living when I first arrived. I am sharing a twin room with my roommate and we have a bed each, a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, desks to study on, and our own bathroom. Everything you need is provided for you, including kitchen utensils, lamps, chairs etc. It is a luxury to not have to share a kitchen and bathroom with a whole floor of students (like we both had to do in O’Rorke), as we can control the mess. Having said this, being in a self-contained unit can mean that Klostergården is not the most sociable accommodation option, as there is no shared space to hang out with others. Nevertheless, I have made many friends here who I visit daily – we often cook dinners together or have movie nights.

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Kitchen area
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Dining Area
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Our Room

 

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Bathroom

 

Klostergården Student House is still definitely a party place! There are no RAs and it is filled with lots of young people who are all international exchange students, so we often have corridor parties before heading to one of the 12 student nations for a rowdy night out! These corridor parties have been a great way to meet neighbours and friends from all over as everyone crams into the ground floor corridors and our rooms to party. These can go until 4 or 5am in the morning! The rooms are surprisingly sound-proof, so when you’ve had enough it’s easy to shut your door and head to bed. We also have a Facebook group chat where we organize events that everyone can attend, just the other week we went out for a Klostergården dinner and basically filled out the restaurant! The location and amenities (plus fantastic friends) make it easy to settle in here.

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Our Corridor
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My roomate Nat at our window
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View from our room

The final award for ‘Most Affordable Housing’ is given to Klostergården Student House because I believe it is a bargain for what you get. I paid my accommodation fee upfront, a total of about $1,800 NZ dollars. This fee includes power, water, wi-fi, a fully furnished flat and free laundry services. Broken down over the 23 week stay, that’s only $78.26 NZ dollars a week! You would never find such a high standard of living (with all the extra bills included) for this cheap in Auckland. Not to mention the great location means we don’t spend a fortune on busses either as we can easily bike anywhere we need to. Overall, I LOVE living at Klostergården Student House and there’s no where else I’d rather be! ♥

I made a video of my first week in Lund, which includes a snapshot of our accommodation. You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a-9IjrHs2g&list=PLCE-3jhXhEabCHxq4bxNybLXKPskUDiX1&index=5

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