I am not one to typically write bubbly and sappy endorsements. If asked to write an honest review about my 4 years at college, I would have plenty of criticism to go along with the praise. But my six weeks at UISS were genuinely some of the best weeks of my life. I was taken by surprise with how much I fell in love with the
My brother and I decided to enroll in UISS after our respective college graduations. The decision was as much about learning Swedish as it was about postponing our entrance into the working world. Our mom’s side of the family lives in Uppsala, so our goal was to finally have real Swedish conversations with them (apart from exchanging pleasantries and asking to pass the butter). But what we got out of the program was so, so much more than a scholastic exercise in conversation and grammar.
UISS is, in short, an exceptionally happy and welcoming place. People of all ages, backgrounds and creeds come together to forge lifelong friendships, sing, laugh, learn, love, and above all, be themselves. The atmosphere created by the entirety of the UISS community is so uniquely welcoming and kind; I have never before been in an environment where so many different types of people are so comfortable being honest with each other, being goofy around one another, and being themselves. There is such a high bar of mutual respect and kindness that at the end of the program we couldn’t all help but think, “man, if only the rest of the world could treat each other this way.”
A rapid-fire list of highlights and tips:
- The staff is so much fun! Spend time with them, talk with them at Fika, bug them in the office about the daily riddles, and get to know them.
- Go to the UISS events. All of them. The potluck dinners, the social evenings, the musical evenings. It’s not corny orientation icebreaker bullshit. It’s just a bunch of people making new friends and having a great time together.
- Lapland and Finland are absolutely highlights. Each was a fantastic and unforgettable experience for very, very different reasons. Seriously, go if you can.
- Morning courses are kind of long, honestly. I got through 5 years of undergrad avoiding caffeine, but it was UISS that finally got me addicted to coffee. My Swedish improved a lot though, and the teachers were awesome (shoutout to Anna and Anki).
- Speaking of long morning courses, try something out of your comfort zone in the afternoon! I am an engineer who had never sang or performed in any way, shape or form before UISS. But I took a drama/music course (Förbättra din svenska med hjälp av drama/musik/gestaltning) and then a music course (Cornelis Vreeswijk, ett liv i sånger och texter) for my two afternoon courses. I would say these two classes defined the program for me. It was so different from anything I’ve done before, and so much fun. When you’re not singing, you’re laughing and joking with classmates. And the teachers are some of the most talented, friendly, and charismatic people I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from. My brother and I even wrote and performed our own songs for the farewell dinner (I have no plans to quit my day job, though).
- Farewell dinners are bittersweet, memorable, and hilarious.
- Be social, be yourself, meet people, speak Swedish outside of the classroom as much as possible, smile, and try to appreciate the finite time you have in Uppsala. I miss it already.