So you’re taking the brave and bold step to move to another country to start a new life and study your dream course. New adventures await, and long study sessions are around the corner. Maybe it’s the first time you’re living on your own and growing into an independent adult. In which case, there’s some housekeeping you need to do regularly to be an effective and self-sufficient Adult™.
A lot of Swedish student accommodation gives room to one person, and its very common for Swedes to live in single-households. This can be an adjustment for you if you’re used to living with your family, partner or roommates. You’ll have to decide between living on your own, living in a shared corridor or a shared apartment – Ngyuen wrote a blog that might help you make up your mind. Thankfully house shares are quite common and advertised on Blocket↗️ or Facebook Marketplace, so you might find a cozy crew to live with very soon, and there are many perks to sharing a flat with someone!
Whether alone or sharing an apartment, cleaning needs to happen and you need to strategy to make sure it gets done. House shares or shared kitchens might have charts for everyone to take turns with common chores and this can help make it more manageable. If you live alone, it’s all your own responsibility (eek!)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020’s self isolation and being in our homes for waaaaaaaaaay longer than we’re used to, it’s that dishes never end. Dishes are as certain as the day giving way to night and night to day again. There’s no running away from them and student apartment sinks can be very small and leave zero room for a pile to grow. If you’re living alone, you’ll also probably have only the same dish, mug and cutlery to wash so it’s easier to do them regularly and make a habit of keeping your sink clean. Clean sink, clean space, clean mind.
Days and weeks of being a study zombie distorts time (I don’t know what month we’re in, let alone the date) and before you know it, it’s been weeks since you last made a proper sweep and wipe of your floors, counters, desk and stove. I’ve found that cleaning is quite therapeutic and I like having a thorough deep spring clean session once in a while, and blast some old skool grooves or electronic music to really get into it – but pushing it off for too long can make it exhausting and overwhelming. If you need nudges to keep regular cycles of the cleaning chores that are best to get out of the way loooong before you can see they need to get done, I can recommend tracking apps like Tody, ↗️ that will remind you every day, week or month, it’s up to you! No matter what, be prepared to clean in some surprising places when you move out of an apartment, so give yourself enough time to take care of this before moving day.
Food is fuel. Food is love. Food is magic. Food is life. Food is…..oh snap, I’m hungry! No worries though, I won’t need to order delivery from Max ↗️ or Foodora ↗️. I’ve made it the habit to make sure I have food cooked and easy enough to quickly pull together while I take a break from studying, without getting derailed. The best benefits from this are:
- I can make healthy and nourishing food easier to choose
- I SAVE SO MUCH MONEY
- It’s a therapeutic weekly ritual
If you’re nervous about getting started and you’re not sure about how to buy groceries in Sweden, Brooke has your back with her blog. Coming from South Africa, eating out in Sweden is much more costly than I’m used to. So I can’t afford to order food every week – I keep it to once or twice a month (maximum). I personally shop mostly from the local green grocer, or supermarkets like ICA ↗️ or Willy’s↗️. As a comparison, a standard pizza from an affordable restaurant costs around SEK 85-100, and SEK 180-230 for fancier restaurants. Buuuut buying a pizza kit (20-25SEK), cheese (16-40 SEK) and your own toppings like sliced salami (SEK 22-26) and mushroom (SEK 4-9SEK) can cost SEK 62-100 AND you get more pizza = more leftovers. More leftovers = more meals for the week & less time spent stressing about what you’ll eat this week!
What about burgers? A fast food burger from Max or McDonalds is about SEK 35-85, and deluxe burger joints like Tugg or Bastard Burgers cost around SEK 120. BUT how about making your own burgers (including cheese, garnishes and sauces) for SEK 115-175 for FOUR burgers which comes down to SEK 29-44 for one? A burger party with friends is often WAAAY cheaper than ordering takeaways.
Of course, it’s important to eat your vegetables, and all the examples I’ve provided estimates for in this blog include vegan or plant based alternatives, which are super easy to find in restaurants and supermarkets in Sweden. Speaking of veggies, it’s tempting sometimes to grab a ready made salad when you’re tight on time but trying to be a little healthier. Fortunately, many restaurants and some supermarkets have lunch specials that include a salad buffet, so you don’t always have to splurge on the more expensive menu that could charge between 130 and 190 SEK for an individual meal-sized salad. Instead, you can try making enough salad for yourself and a bunch of friends, with enough leftover over for a couple of meals for SEK 65-100!
Of course, there’s a lovely leisurely feeling from eating out that your kitchen just can’t copy, and that’s why I like it as a *once-in-a-while* treat. But I also like that when I cook, I have more control on the ingredients, so I always try to build dishes around a variety of vegetables, flavours and textures to make sure my food is healthy and delicious. I buy and freeze fruit for breakfast smoothies so I just toss them into the blender. My go-to meal prep is roasting 2-3 vegetables like:
- aubergine (SEK 10-30 each)
- mushroom (SEK 4-9 /100g)
- carrots (SEK 10-26 / 500g-1kg)
- beetroot (SEK 10 / 500g)
- butternut (SEK 20-25 each) or
- broccoli (SEK 22 / 250g)
(the options are endless up to you) Then add enough seasoning, garlic, chillies, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, basil or literally any combination of spices and herbs (10-20 SEK each) to keep it exciting. Then I’ll add baby spinach (SEK 26 / 200g), kale or cucumber (SEK 12 each) to make a salad. Or I’ll chuck it all in a tortilla wrap (SEK 14-20 for pack of 8), or toast it into a sandwich. I might chop up the veggies and make a quick stew or pasta by adding crushed tomatoes , cream or buljong (stock). I’ll also add legumes like chickpeas, lentils or black beans (which are super affordable for SEK 7-15 for 380-480g) or if I’m in the mood for something meaty, I’ll add pulled Oomph (a pea protein meat alternative) or grilled chicken or fish. I try to grab a carrot and hummus to snack on so I don’t only snack on potato chips. Of course, and most importantly, drink water throughout the day. Not just tea or coffee but clean drinking water. Swedish tap water is surprisingly delicious (and very safe to drink). You should also make a habit of taking Vitamin D pills to help fight the winter SADs, – it’s the first time in my life I’ve this been consistent with taking my daily mix of vitamins!
Being independent also means ~being independent~. So all the expenses (including the ones you used to split 3-ways with your friends or your parents handled for you) are now your responsibility. You can only stretch a student budget so far before you have to start planning your spending and savings. You can read more budgeting advice from Milo’s handy tips for cost of living and Emma’s budget resolutions. I’m learning to be more proactive and consistent with this every month but I really like the idea of saving money so I have the freedom to spend on the things that really matter like renewing my eyeglass prescription. Of course, using some Mecenat↗️ student discounts to save even more where I can. You can use your savings to make the most of your experience in Sweden and travel and explore the country (only when it’s safe, of course)
I’ll admit, I’m still working on this. I’m a night owl and my best work is often late at night, (but maybe I’m just making excuses for insomnia). Sleep is of course important to keep you rested and energized and you’ll find Swedish seasons might impact your sleep cycle. Summer has extra long day light, from sunset at midnight, to sunrise at 3am, so sleeping is hard! Then winter is muuuuch darker, with sunrise as late as 9am to sunset at 2pm, so you feel tired and sleepy all the time (this is more extreme the more North you are in Sweden). Try to by proactive in managing your sleep – set a routine, have alarms that remind you to end your day and switch off your devices and actively prepare for sleep. This might help you wake up when it gets really hard. This has been my biggest challenge but hopefully you’ll enjoy plenty of good sleep!
This is so important to look after, especially because anxiety, depression, uncertainty, insecurity and loneliness are much more common than you think, especially when you make a huge change like moving to a strange and unfamiliar new country. If you experience this, you’re not alone. I found the support I needed when I suffered from a crippling depression earlier this year, and I hope you can too. Brooke wrote two incredible blogs that can help you prioritize your mental health as a student and show you how to access mental health resources. Stay in contact with the people you love. Contact your university health centre for support. I used Mindler ↗️ to connect with my therapist online and I opened up to my friends so we’ve pledged to be there for each other like a little family. Exercise helps, I love yoga to clear my mind and spirit, and I practice meditation as often as I need to. Part of adulting is realising everyone is making it up as they go along, so no one has everything 100% figured out. So it may not feel like it, but you’ll grow so much, learn what matters most to you and craft your life’s purpose, even if it’s scary to do it on your own.