Anastasia is a third year History and English Literature student currently spending her Erasmus year in the picturesque Swedish city of Uppsala. Sweden has shown her that there’s no escaping her Russian descent, with every silver birch tree reminding her of the Motherland. Although she may come across as condescending with her Royal County Berkshire accent and overzealous passion for history, in truth she is as lost as the rest of her generation. Her passions include Korean High School dramas, Jane Austen novels, Swedish cider and a newfound love for documentary photography.
Starting a relationship when you’re abroad with someone from home is bad, ending it while you’re abroad is worse. There’s nothing quite like a lack of close friends to remind you how alone you really are. And the February gloom didn’t help much either. Luckily for all, I did not resort to manslaughter in my desperation because I was too busy drowning in Modernist literature. Second semester has hit hard and, surprise surprise, I’ve completely forgotten how to study. For the record, if you’re looking for a good post-break-up read, Ulysses is perfect. As you slowly feel your brain turn to mush, everything else ceases to matter. My original plan to use this year abroad as a holiday fell through, and my follow up plan of preparing myself for final year was a terrible mistake.
Six months have flown by and for the first time I’m faced with the realisation that my time here is running out. You’d think that by now I’d know everything there is to know about Uppsala and, like a true Brit, would have been to every club and pub in town. Well you’d be mistaken. My newly arrived flatmates were horrified to discover my lack of Uppsala clubbing experience. In truth, I seem to have erred on the side of safety and loyalty to my preferred nations (and I’m also a certified hermit). So over the course of this semester I have to make up for everything I’ve missed out on: travel-wise, socialising-wise and drinking-wise. Wish me luck.
My family came to visit, which added to the growing list of reasons for why I shouldn’t study. This meant a lot of nagging about getting my vitamins in, finishing the copious amounts of food they brought me, and tidying my room. On the bright side, they also took me away to Stockholm for a week and together we explored the countryside of Upland, the county Uppsala and Stockholm are a part of. Although heinously miserable in grey February, the small villages and castles were very impressive and I fully intend to make a return with a bottle of wine and a picnic in summer. I’ve now visited a village that was founded in 980 on the picturesque shores of (the currently iced over) Lake Mälaren. I also managed to squeeze in two museums, a royal palace, an art gallery and an opera. Not bad for the week my essay was due, ey?
Winter in Uppsala has certainly not been without its bonuses. For one glorious month the whole place was transformed into a winter wonderland, and we even got to see a bit of sunshine! This meant that studying had to take a backseat, as I am not one to pass up an opportunity to go ice skating (and not the kind where I slid all the way down the hill en route to the supermarket).
However, with the winter months everyone seems to have gone into hibernation. In small fairy-tale like Uppsala it’s hard not to feel oppressed, much like Sleeping Beauty in her tower, except without the good looks or any prospect of a Swedish Prince Charming coming to save me. Ah well, at least there’s an abundance of cider!
Completely unrelated: I’ve discovered I love lecturing people an unhealthy amount. It would appear I am turning into my mother, developing a ‘teacher voice’ and a habit for telling people to eat their greens, spend their time wisely and wash their hands as soon as they enter the house. This is an unprecedented disaster. Not only am I becoming a nagging bore at the age of 20 but this also explains the lack of friends. Forgive me my friends, for I have sinned. Personally I blame Sweden, I don’t know how or why, but I am sure it is to blame. The singular good thing to come of me hitting middle age is that I’ve developed a keen interest in cooking, particularly (like a true Russian housewife) soups and pancakes. So if you can forgive me for my nagging you’re all welcome round for tea.
Images courtesy of Anastasia Kennedy