The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Olivia Urbanski

Hello! My name is Olivia Urbanski and I’m from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I am a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, double majoring in Environmental Studies and International Studies. I am spending my Fall 2015 semester studying abroad in Uppsala, Sweden, with my studies mainly focusing on environmental sustainability within Sweden as well as learning about the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference happening this fall in Paris. I look forward to keeping you updated with many of my adventures while I’m away this semester!
Stay in Band, Kids!

Stay in Band, Kids!

“Stay in band, kids!” It’s something I’ve heard my entire life and definitely something I’ve whole-heartedly embraced as I’ve grown up. Many of you know that I’m a total band/music freak and I’m not afraid to geek out and share that with people. Throughout my life, there have been many benefits from being a crazed band kid, and I’ve found many other benefits (as well as band kids) here in Uppsala.

I immediately made over twenty new friends upon showing up to a nation’s band rehearsal (a “nation” here in Uppsala is a student club/organization, each one having its own building, restaurant/pub, activities, gasques, choirs, bands, etc…). I decided to attend the “Hornboskapen Orkester’s” rehearsal one Tuesday evening, never having played any of the instruments that this “orchestra” was comprised of (only trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, percussion, and piccolo are allowed), yet I was welcomed with open arms (and beers all around) and was a part of that band family within minutes of showing up!

Before this, I had attempted to make a friends (or at least acquaintances) by spending time at the nations casually dining and drinking with the other American students and mingling with international and Swedish students. However, as previously warned, most Swedes are pretty reserved and difficult to warm up to initially, and us American folk from Loyola had made a total of zero non-Newman Institute related friends in the three weeks we’d been here.


(They had me recruiting more members after only attending two rehearsals!)
(Preparing music to play for the gasque attendees as they march up the stairs in couples.)
(Hornboskapen playing at the gasque)

Thanks to my staying in band since 5th grade and going to that first Hornboskapen rehearsal, I gained even more band kid friends (oddly enough – it seems that band kids even on the opposite side of the world have the same sense of humor, making it incredibly easy to fit in right away and feel at home). Additionally, I get to attend rehearsals each Tuesday night (7-10pm, playing everything from “The Circle of Life” in the Lion King to old Swedish folk songs. The thing I found most ridiculous about this Hornboskapen band was that rather than water bottles by most musicians’ feet, there are bottles of beer instead! Obviously, the drinking culture here is incredibly prominent and laid back.) as well as the famous gasques hosted by the Snerikes Nation for free! These gasques are pretty fancy- attendees must dress up in formal suits and dresses and the evening includes a three-course dinner, dancing, singing, drinking, toasting, mini-theatre, and even clubbing afterwards. These 12 hour ordeals are exhausting, but Swedes sure know how to throw a great party

So all in all, stay in band kids. You won’t regret it.

(From the perspective of Hornboskapen members as we are playing at the gasque)
(Marching to Uppsala University as a nation before the gasque festivities begin!)
15 Things I’ve Learned from Sweden

15 Things I’ve Learned from Sweden

15 Things I’ve learned from living in Uppsala, Sweden since August 15th, 2015:


1. Kayaking in the Baltic Sea with Sweden’s former Minister of the Environment (who is also your professor for three of your classes) is a pretty stellar experience.

2. Cars WILL stop for pedestrians no matter where or when. This is a huge culture shock coming from Chicago…

3. It’s always a great time for FIKA! (Fika is not the actual coffee or biscuit you eat on a fika break, but rather refers the concept of taking a break, relaxing, and socializing with those around you. Swedes typically take 1-3 per day.)


4. That being said, the Swedish lifestyle is SO much more relaxed than what Americans experience.


5. The majority of shops close around 8pm (or earlier) Every. Single. Night. No late night Target runs here…

6. Not having classes on Fridays (to ensure the possibility of traveling to other European countries while here) is pretty sweet.

7. You can make 15 jars of jam, a strawberry shortcake, strawberry vodka, two trays of chocolate covered strawberries, a meal of strawberry pancakes, strawberry syrup, and still have plenty leftover to eat after picking 51 lbs of strawberries from a local berry patch! ( and I’m still not sick of them)


8. Don’t be surprised if you’re enjoying lunch on a canoe in a public park’s lake and happen to come across a group of grandparents sunbathing and swimming nude.


9. Everyone spends their free time outside from lounging on blankets in the park, to eating picnics in the shade of trees or running along the river—You can tell that everyone is trying to soak up as much sunshine as possible before there’s only a couple hours of sunlight each day. (In the fall and winter, the sun will only be up for 6-8 hours each day! In northern Sweden, there can be as little as 2 hours of sunlight during the middle of winter.)


10. Grocery shopping can be quite difficult when the only Swedish you know is how to count from one through ten and the days of the week.

11. Thank goodness Swedes are very friendly and can speak English extremely well! I haven’t had any trouble with asking for directions and I now can tell the difference between the cartons of milk and cartons of yogurt when I’m at the grocery store all by myself.

12. Uppsala has a ton of university students, but you don’t have a social life unless you get a “nations” card and join one of the nations. (Nations are somewhat comprable to Greek life in the US, as you have to be a member to participate. But once you’re a part of one nation, you can go to events at whatever nation you’d like. They’re somewhat like student run nightclubs and restaurants that are open for meals as well as partying late into the night. Nations are known to host fancy formals and other dinner events throughout the semester as well!)


13. Everything is gosh-darn expensive here. Eating out costs an arm and a leg- a meal of fish and chips from a local pub cost me about $25… It was delicious, mind you, but I’ve begun to discover the joys (and horrors) of cooking for oneself.

14. Studying environmental policy in one of the most environmentally conscious and progressive countries in the world is already proving to be a phenomenal opportunity. Learning about environmental practices and actually experiencing them rather than simply reading about them in the textbook is absolutely incredible.

15. I could spend an entire week exploring and enjoying the beautiful Swedish archipelagos. They are so unique and truly highlight the special (and threatened) ecological systems of the Baltic Sea.

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This list is just a taste of the many wonderful things I’ve already had the opportunity to experience during my stay in Sweden so far! I’m sure I’ll be having many more adventures (including a visit to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency with my professor on Tuesday! I’m honestly beyond excited for that…which shows you how much of an environmental policy fanatic I really am J ) in the upcoming months and I’ll do my best to keep you updated with everything that’s going on here in good ol’ Sverige.