Luleå 2014: Orientation Week

Apparently I had to go all the way to Sweden to finally start doing normal adult things like grocery shopping, cooking for myself, and using public transportation. Now my first experience with them has been done without knowing the language that everything is written in, so I’d say I’m going to be a pro at this adulthood thing by the time I get back to the States. A few of my more amusing mishaps have included buying cream cheese before realizing that bagels aren’t a thing in Sweden. I’m also not certain that the stuff I’ve been washing my hair with is shampoo.

During the week of orientation, the Luleå University Reception Committee (LURC) had tons of events planned for us. Some of them were really simple, like a couple of barbecues where we talked to other exchange students and got to know one another. They introduced us to games like Viking Chess, which involves throwing sticks at blocks while avoiding knocking down the king in the middle.

Once one team has eliminated all of the other team’s blocks they can start trying to knock over the king, but they must throw backwards and between their legs.

More important were the tours that they had of the university campus, the shopping area, and downtown Luleå. The tour of the town in particular gave me the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures. City hall has a great view from the roof!

They also had a few events to introduce us to things specific to Swedish culture. Fika is a midday coffee break with pastries, much like fellowship time that most churches I’ve been to have after service. We also walked up to a nearby ski hill to try out their sauna and hot tubs. It was way hotter than any sauna I have been in before.

One of my highlights of the week was the trip to Storforsen, one of the biggest rapids in Europe. The power displayed in the water was awe-inspiring to say the least. It was a nice day of walking around and looking at nature. There weren’t any animals around, not even any birds. I suspect they were scared away by the size of our group because some of the informational signs talked about the wildlife.

The only event that I consciously decided not to go to were the nightly parties at STUK, the nightclub on campus. I have smelled their main hall during the day, and I can tell you that I don’t want to be there at night.

Class schedules here are a little weird. I got confused during orientation week, not realizing that the Swedish Language for International Students course started before September. I missed two days of class, but the professor told me that I can just sign up for the session that starts on September 9th. Apparently it isn’t a big deal. My Swedish History course seems to fill up the quarter more like a normal class, but every class period has a second one scheduled immediately afterwords. At first I thought that might mean that they taught the same material twice in a day and I could choose which time I wanted to go to, but the professor seemed as confused as we were when we brought it up yesterday. That’s another thing that I got to do for the first time in my life: going to class on Labor Day!

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Originally published at on September 3, 2014.

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