Being a student in Uppsala quite simply would not be the same without the student nations: institutions similar to fraternities and sororities, but without all the supposed shadiness and hazing that is part and parcel of our American cousins’ university experience. They are of course still immensely fun and are great ways to make new friends, both Swedish and international, outside of the boundaries of your flat and course.
So, what is a student nation? There are 13 altogether in Uppsala, each representing a different region, county, or city in Sweden. Traditionally students would join the nation that represented their homeland, although nowadays students are encouraged to join the nation (or nations) that they feel represents them the best, with only one nation still upholding the original tradition, and of course internationals are permitted to join any that they choose. Each of the nations has a house in the city that members can use throughout the day, simply as places to study, meet with friends, drink coffee and just generally have somewhere nice to go if they don’t fancy cycling home at lunchtime. Most will also have some form of cheap lunch or a pub during the week, with some even offering a brunch at weekends, and the main club nights are all hosted by nations in their houses. As well as this, nations also have a range of activities open to members, from theatre groups to choirs and sports clubs, giving yet more opportunities to get involved in nation life and meet new people and try new things. They also hold a number of more significant events throughout the year, mostly formal dinners (called gasques) full of songs, speeches, a bitter spirit called snaps, and silly hats made out of napkins. It sounds a little ridiculous to outsiders but they are honestly some of the most fun I have ever had and again a great way to meet new people as guests are seated randomly and encouraged to get to know as many people from the nation as possible.
I am a member Västgöta Nation, founded in 1639, with its current house being acquired by the nation in 1666 and its cosy cellar pub predating the house itself at around 700 years old. As a history student, having a nation as soaked in history as mine is brilliant. It is one of the smaller nations in the city, making it a really personal and warm atmosphere, even if the house itself is a little cold. I am only just starting my second semester and I am already about to start hosting the nation’s pub once a week as an officer of the nation, and the house has already become a second home. Student life in Uppsala is the student nations, and Västgöta really feels like my nation, not simply a society that I am a part of, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Written by Edward Davies – Uppsala University, Sweden