Olle’s Story: Uppsala University

Universities are not just universities. They represent social values of the land they are established on, they empower moral values of the society they are rooted by, they signify what their students dream and achieve. University are more than buildings, campuses, students or professors, universities are only possible bodies that can carry a person further, a society beyond, a world into true peace. Universities, which cherish common wisdom and truth, are writers of the future, designers of tomorrows and fighters of farther enlightenments. The century we left behind proved that not conflicts but dialogues, not dogmas but truths, not fictions but facts, not battlefields but research fields, not hidden agendas but shared notions could help us to create a better world.

Today, I invite you to the dreams of a young Swedish guy who probably dreamed a better life for himself, but also imagined a world in which even sacred truths are shared with common to create a better understanding.

The only information we have is that Olle Johansson was the first known university student in Sweden, coming to Uppsala from Gotland to study in Uppsala University. The calendar was showing the year 1477, when he moved to a small but shining Scandinavian town, Uppsala. Records show that he registered to study theology and general philosophy for five years. As you guess, the information we have so limited and damaged; and the only resource we have is unwritten stories and his notebook in Uppsala University Museum, Gustavianum.


My intention is not to speculate history or to create a myth. On the contrary, I want to invite you to understand his inner world and childish excitement when he was leaving his village – maybe first time- on the top of a horse wagon to go to a harbor in Gotland Island and then taking a trip to Stockholm while watching waves on the deck of a wooden ship, and dreaming his and his country’s future as the one of the first students in Sweden. Imagine the feeling he had when he saw the gorgeous cathedral salutes Uppsala with its cold but protective shadow. Imagine the shining eyes of him dreaming to create a real difference. Imagine a guy who was entering into the first university of Sweden and Scandinavia, which will change the destiny of a country forever. Imagine Olle, the first person who sat in one of classroom desks which, later, would belong to countless scientists, poets, writers, politicians, world changers, dreamers, and now to us.

A guy away from his home and his loved ones came to Uppsala and dreamed to learn, to discover and to spread out. Now, I am standing here, under the same shadow of cathedral’s towers, after 539 years later and I am still dreaming to learn, to discover and to spread out.

Sadly, I did not know Olle before coming to Uppsala to study. His story was a mystery until now. Yet, when you try to think broadly, his story is our story.

The university, which became the canvas of Olle’s dreams 539 years ago, is still welcoming our dreams. The university, which became the home for Olle, is still caring us. The university, which gave him the power to reach the truth, is still opening new doors for us. The university, which changed Sweden’s destiny, is still inspiring to the country.

In 1477, after 22 years from Gutenberg’s printings, Uppsala University hosted its students’ dream, Olle’s dream. And it is still a home for ours.

Come and join us.

Andaç Baran

Written by Andaç Baran

28 Mar 2016