Your Guide to Swedish Student Nations

Last week I highlighted the differences between life at American and Swedish universities as I experienced during my time at Virginia Tech and Uppsala University. I touched briefly on the student nation system at Uppsala, but didn’t really get to go into depth about this unique tradition. Uppsala University and Lund University are the only two institutions in Sweden which have a nation system, making it a special part of student life. If you were confused by my brief overview of Swedish student nations, then I’ve tried to answer all the important questions!

Who can join a student nation?

Everyone who is enrolled in the university, either full-time or part-time. Students even have the option of continuing to pay their membership after they finish their studies, allowing to come back from time to time and party like they’re 21 years old again. Membership in a nation was mandatory in Uppsala until 2010, but even though it’s optional now, most students still choose to join one of the 13 nations. In Lund, there are also 13 nations which are not mandatory to join, but most students do.

Norrlands Student Nation Sweden

Norrlands Nation in Uppsala, the largest of the 13 student nations.

How do you choose a nation to join?

Many students choose the nation which represents the area of Sweden they come from, but just as many pick based on the social factor, the offering of activities, or opportunities for involvement. There is only one nation in Uppsala which declares students must have a connection to the area to join – Södermanlands-Nerikes (Snerikes) Nation. International students are free to join this nation or any other nation they wish.

What do the nations offer students?

Every nation varies in its offerings, but for the most part they offer social activities, a cafe or pub, a library, and housing options. Some nations hold club nights one night a week, others host lunch every weekday, and others are known for their fantastic pub nights. Student nations are exempt from certain taxes, so a night out at a nation is far less costly than at a “normal” establishment in town. All of these offerings are student-run. Additionally, many nations have a choir which is open to members either just by signing up or by audition. Throughout the year, the nations will hold special parties called a gasque, which are fancy student dinners. Go to as many of these as possible, trust me when I say that fancy dress in Sweden doesn’t mean boring!

varmlands student nation

The choir from Värmlands Nation in Uppsala, considered to be one of the best student choirs in the city.

Is there an initiation into the student nations?

No, this isn’t Animal House! Once you sign up for a nation as a first-time student, or “recce” in Swedish, you will have the option of attending new student events. These include events such as pub crawls, a reccegasque (new student dinner), or any other type of welcome event. Here you will be introduced to the people who run the nation, its traditions, and its history. This makes it easy to meet new and older students, as well as sign up for future events and opportunities happening at the nation. I highly recommend snapping up as many tickets to new student events as possible – I met one of my best friends in Sweden randomly at the new student dinner!

Student nation Sweden

A student dinner at Malmö Nation in Lund, Sweden.

Which is the best student nation?

My friends reading this know exactly which nation in Uppsala I hold my undying loyalty to, but truthfully it all depends on your own interests! Party people will enjoy the nations holding club nights, fantastic singers will go for the nation with the best choir, and those looking for leadership opportunities might chose a smaller nation. Some of the nations come attached with stereotypes about the people who are in them, but in my experience these are highly untrue! No matter which nation you chose, you can still enter any other nation so it’s not even important to join the same one as your friends or significant other.

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Images from here, here, here, and here

Anna Guastello
26 Aug 2014

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