Congratulations on being accepted to Stockholm! If you have gotten over the fear of endless winter nights and cold weather and have decided to attend here, you will have the experience of a lifetime! There are so many aspects which make the Swedish way of life unique, and you are about to experience them all. To make this transition easier for you, here are some bits of information, collected by the CommUnity Post and the InnoEnergy MSc School, that you should know in order to plan your stay here:
Stockholm. Photo: Leon Haupt
Take vitamin D to minimize the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which can be caused by lack of sunlight. For the students contributing to this article who did, the winter was no problem! And either pack or plan to buy a winter coat and snow boots as it does get quite cold and snowy :-). A light coat is good the rest of the year. Find one student’s survival guide here.
Ask for student discounts EVERYWHERE, you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save!
The KTH library holds this regular event that allows you the chance to share/learn languages with other students. A great way to meet people and get free lunch! Details here.
Rådhuset Tunnelbana. Photo: Leon Haupt
The process itself is quite straightforward and all non-EU students will need to follow it. Here are some useful links when applying for a Swedish visa:
- Swedish Migration Board Website
- Immigration World Blog - Applying for a Sweden Student Visa in 5 Steps
Note for American students (and possibly students from other countries which may travel to Sweden without applying for tourist visa): As long as you have the letter from Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency) approving your visa, you can complete the fingerprinting and photo part of the process upon arrival in Sweden. If you have purchased a plane ticket which does not return within 90 days, you will have to explain this to the airline as the letter is mostly in Swedish. It may be beneficial to email the Swedish embassy in Washington asking to confirm that US citizens do not require a visa to travel to Sweden and that the student visa process is to be completed upon arrival. Showing this email (in English) is what convinced the airline to allow boarding.
Personnummer (Swedish personal identity number)
This is the key to an easy life in Sweden!
Who needs one:
- International students admitted for studies for at least 13 months and who intend to stay even longer.
- Generally non-EU students.
- EU students who wish to work in Sweden.
- Any student who needs a Swedish ID (to open a bank account for example).
- For all other EU students, a temporary personnummer can be emitted, which is enough for a 1-year stay in Sweden. They will receive a card from Mecenat which can be used as proof that they are students studying in Sweden, but an ID is also required as the Mecenat card does not have a photograph of the student.
Student accommodation and process
If you are a first year student and you are studying at KTH then you have likely been assigned student housing. It is recommended that you accept the student housing, otherwise it is quite difficult to find on your own.
Here are some tips from experiences of recent residents of various areas:
- Björksätra - this is the residence where most InnoEnergy students were housed this year. Despite being far from campus, it was a great InnoEnergy community making it convenient for project meetings and study sessions. With the construction of a new accommodation, this may be less the case next year, however Björksätra has a nice beach close by and is only 10 minutes from IKEA!
- Hanstavägen, Kista - You live in a shopping mall!
- KTH Accommodation Flemingsberg - Despite being a bit more cut-off from the general accommodations in Björksätra or Lappis, it is still a good place to live, as you have easy access to pharmacies, a supermarket right downstairs, and the hospital across the road. It is also well connected in terms of transport, as you can choose to take the train or connect to the red metro line by bus.
For more information on accommodation, you can check the university website.
City Hall view. Photo: Victor Blanaru
Swedes speak English!
Sweden is considered one of the best English-speaking countries in the world, and it will be quite a challenge to find Swedes who speak little or no English anywhere in Stockholm. This makes it incredibly easy for tourists and foreign students to ask for directions, as you just need to find a fair-haired Swede, ask your question and receive your answer in almost flawless English.
In Sweden, tap water is incredibly clean, and totally safe to drink unless marked otherwise. It is also the reason why in restaurants if you ask for some water, you do not need to pay extra for it unless it comes in a bottle. Tap water is clean, and free of charge anywhere, not to mention it is much less intensive on the environment; the impact of bottled water as opposed to tap water has been described by a study done by another InnoEnergy Student, which can be found here.
Fika is one of the Swedes’ favourite pastimes, and refers to the coffee breaks that they take together either at school or at the office. You will find coffee and cinnamon or cardamom rolls everywhere. Tip for fika on KTH campus: the library has the best kannelbulle (cinnamon rolls). Semla are a special roll only available during mid-January to mid-March and should not be missed!
Typical fika. Photo: http://www.scandikitchen.co.uk/summer-fika/
Swedish academic quarter
Swedes are generally a very organized and punctual people, but for classes for instance it is an accepted fact to wait until 15 minutes had passed after the beginning of class in case some students miss their train or take longer to reach the respective buildings on campus.
Not the clothes to cover your legs! Swedes take recycling and environmental friendliness very seriously. Aside from being a very clean country and having good waste management, in Sweden you will find the notion of PANT printed on soda and beer cans and on PET bottles. This means that the value of that Pant (1 SEK for cans and small PET, and 2 SEK for 2-liter PET) is paid extra when purchasing the item, but you can have that money back in the form of a ticket if you recycle them. Each supermarket generally has a recycling station, where you insert the can/PET, it gets scanned, and you receive a ticket to exchange for cash or to use as a coupon.
Keep an eye out for this! Photo: http://burk-bloggen.blogspot.se/2016/06/
In Stockholm it is quite expensive for male students to get a haircut, as Swedes believe in equality in prices. Therefore, it will be considered cheap if you can find a hairdresser for 150-180 SEK. Some of the recommended places by InnoEnergy students are:
- Huddinge Klippotek in Flemingsberg
- Tensta centrum
Because of the state-owned alcohol monopoly, you will only find low-level alcoholic beverages in supermarkets. Everything else from can be found only in Systembolaget, and it is generally at a higher price than you might expect from other European countries. Be advised that, while you can generally find a Systembolaget in your area, they are only open for a limited time, until 19:00-20:00 on workdays and 15:00 on Saturdays. On Sunday they are closed, so any events need to be planned in advance. Pubs and bars still sell alcohol, although at much higher prices and it is generally tricky to find some with lower prices. Most bars will close at around 1:00 in the morning, with clubs going until longer to around 3:00-4:00.
- Bara Enkelt. 29 SEK per 0.4 L draught; 49 SEK per glass of wine
- Hirshenkeller. 59 SEK for 1L before 20:00h
- Temple Bar. A bit more expensive, but it has live music sessions. Also has cheap beer if you have a member card.
- Aifur Bar - The Viking Bar. Varied beer assortments. More expensive, but worth the experience
- Oliver Twist. Lots of options!
- Trädgården. Really cool outdoor bar and music venue with club that is still open in winter!
You’ll quickly realize that dining and drinking out in Stockholm is more expensive than many European countries, but here are our recommendations:
- Sweden is, in general, very vegetarian and vegan friendly.
- Herman’s. Buffet with student prices and a great view of Gamla Stan
View from Herman’s. Photo: Tara Trafton
- Jensens Bofhus. Deals before 15h on weekdays.
- Omnipollos Hatt. Great beer & pizza. A bit pricey.
- Katarina Ol Café. Great beer & New York deli style menu. Also a bit pricey.
- Da Luigi. Great, reasonably-priced, and yummy Italian food!
- Chilli Masala or
- Indian Garden for wonderful Indian food!
- Fridays. Good deals before 14h on weekdays.
- Kalf & Hansen. Organic Scandinavian food
- Julbord at Urban Deli. a highly recommended Christmas tradition.
- American food and gift store (Sveavägen 106, 113 50), when you need french fried onions for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole!
- Austin Food Works for Southern food, when you’re craving southern food.
- Hattori Sushi Devil at K25 has tempura fried sushi rolls.
Outdoor restaurants with a nice view
Myrorna is extremely useful because it is a second-hand store with everything from books to electronics, sports equipment, furniture, music, clothes, kitchen items and more. The largest one is in Ropsten, with another in Sodermalm and Skärholmen Centrum. Student discounts apply here!
Sweden’s pride! Along with H&M of course… When it comes to furnishing your apartment, IKEA is the cheap and efficient way to go. There is a large IKEA store in Skärholmen which can be as challenging as a maze, so make sure to ask for directions in case you need them!
Natural parks and islands
There are many natural parks around Stockholm, and these are some of the main ones you may want to visit while you’re here:
- Långholmen is an island formerly home to a prison and now popular picnic destination.
- Obervatorielunden is an oasis near Drottninggatan.
- Skotskyrkogården is a woodland cemetery and UNESCO heritage site.
- Djurgården is an island full of museums and restaurants near the center of Stockholm.
- Tyresta is a nice place for a day hike or overnight camping!
There are many museums with free entrance in Stockholm (some only one day per week), so take advantage of that!
The main museums you have to visit while you’re here are:
- The Nobel Museum
- Vasa Museet (110 SEK for students)
- Abba Museum (250 SEK)
- Fotografiska (105 SEK for students)
Other places of interest in Stockholm
- Gamla Stan (Old town) – Main street for souvenir shopping is Västerlånggatan
- The Radio Tower (Kaknästornet)
- Boat trips along the Archipelago (But only during spring and summer, otherwise you won’t see much since they take place in the afternoon!)
- Kulturhuset for cinema and theatre
- Heron City Mall for movies
- Mall of Scandinavia for shopping
Cities to visit throughout Sweden
- Kiruna: Your best bet to see the northern lights!
Northern Lights in Kiruna. Photo: Leon Haupt
- Gothenburg (Göteborg): Sweden’s second city, a beautiful weekend destination!
Göteborg. Photo: Diana Ionescu
- Gotland: A cultural gem a ferry ride away!
Visby, Gotland. Photo: Tara Trafton
- Sigtuna: Oldest town in Sweden (founded in 980). Beautiful viking ruins, sights and you can also see Stora Gatan, which is said to be Sweden’s oldest main street.
Sigtuna. Photo: Diana Ionescu
- Avesta and Forsbo in Avesta, Dalarna: Beautiful places if you need some calm and quiet away from the noise of the city. There are wonderful cabins along the river where you can relax and forget about the stress for a while. You can also see the largest Dalarna horse in the world outside this restaurant.
Dalarna horse and sunset in Forsbo. Photo: Diana Ionescu
- Walpurgis Night (April 30th): Make sure to visit Uppsala on this day, as they have a special celebration city-wide. Then in the afternoon make your way back to Stockholm for the bonfires in Riddarholmen and Skansen.
Valborgsmässoafton festival in Riddarholmen. Photo: Marco Barbaro.
- Midsummer (June): As important as Christmas for Swedes. Largest celebration is held at Skansen and involves raising the Maypole, traditional singing, dancing, making flower wreaths etc.
Midsummer Eve at Skansen. Photos: Victor Blanaru
- All Saints Day (First Saturday of November): People go and light candles on graves. It is especially beautiful to see in Skogskyrkogården.
- Lucia, the Festival of Lights (December 30th): To celebrate the shortest day and longest night of the year, young girls, called "Lucias," appear in restaurants, offices, schools, and factories, wearing floor-length white gowns and special headdresses, each holding a lighted candle.
Places to check out for these events:
- Keep an eye on events organized by Nymble on KTH Campus
- Participate in CommUnity-Sweden events and Speaker Series
- Aurora: To track the Aurora Borealis during winter and decide the best times to visit Kiruna or go to Bjorksatra beach to try and catch a glimpse of it.
- SL/ Res I STHLM: It has everything you need to know for planning your trips by public transport.
- KTH Hallen: For the University Sports Hall, to book classes and have the updated schedule.
- City Bikes: Public transport bike sharing
- Swish: For people who have a Swedish bank account to transfer money and make payments
- Espresso House: For discounts at their coffee places.
- Blocket: Website and app for buying and selling products (Second-hand).
- Bortskankes: Useful because some Swedes give away their used electronics for free.
Information for accepted students
For more practical and administrative questions about your first year. Please visit the InnoEnergy website for your specific programme guide:
in collaboration with The CommUnity Post and InnoEnergy Masters School
Special thanks to: