Is it boring to live and study in a small Swedish town?

I had lived all my life in a busy capital city, hustling in Jakarta with 12 million other people. So, when I got accepted to Jönköping University, I had mixed feelings: excited but also anxious about moving to a small town (that several months ago I didn’t even know existed). Will I have friends? Is there anything fun to do there? Those concerns popped up in my head.

I feel that many share similar concerns. It’s kind of scary not just because you’re in a new country but also because you need to change drastically in terms of lifestyle, language, and culture. But rest assured, even though it was quite a shock, but those concerns weren’t true at all. Living in Jönköping gives me balance: I have never run out of fun things to do, but I can also have my own peaceful time when I need it.

➡️ Annamaria talked about the differences between smaller & bigger cities in Sweden
➡️ Justine also wrote about her experience living in Linköping

So here, I will share my experience of how I spend my time and navigating a student life in a little Swedish town.

A group of international students planting seeds in a dorm room.
Planting seeds for our urban garden with Tillsammans för Jönköping. //Photo: Nana

Joining a community
It can be a student club or a local community, or making one with people from your home country. The university has a lot of clubs and each club has their own events and activities. For me, I joined SSA (Student for Sustainable Action) and from one of their events I got introduced to a non-profit organization for community initiatives called Tillsammans för Jönköping (Together for Jönköping). That led me to Kulturhuset, the town’s cultural hub, which hosts interesting activities, such as screenings, performances, and soup kitchens.

Exploring the nature
Sweden’s tiny towns, like Jönköping, are an outdoor paradise. We often swarm to the green areas during the warmer months for picnics, strolling around or swimming in the Vättern lakeside, or spending the weekends trekking the numerous trails in the area. There are also many activities to do during the winter, like skiing, ice skating, and –my favorite is, sauna then dipping in a frozen lake.

International students resting at the top of a hill by a lake.
Hiking and exploring the nature with friends. //Photo: Nana

You can just go to your favorite place in town, and ask if they need a volunteer. Most will say yes, of course who would deny a helping hand! I think of volunteering as a step to understand Swedish work culture while helping me integrate into the community. I volunteer in two places, Erikshjälpen (my favorite second hand store in town) and Kulturhuset. I simply let them know the day and time I will be there, and I volunteer usually once a week.

Actively looking for events
Check the Instagram accounts or Facebook pages of your favorite places in town, and the city account itself. Or, you can go to the city library, and they usually have something going on. For example, in Jönköping there is a språkcafe (language cafe) every Thursday in the city library and also some movie screenings.

International students doing a tarot card reading with friends.
We did a tarot reading while chilling on a picnic outside. //Photo: Nana

Be creative with friends
Yes, create your own events with your friends! You can have cooking together, potlucks, making arts and crafts sessions, or even studying (and munching) together. Once, me and my friends had a “Google Maps culture sharing night” when we toured each other’s hometown using Google Maps and told our life story from back home. We also occasionally have house parties and barbecues outside. The possibility is endless!

Changing your mindset
Having a positive mindset is the most important thing for me. “Everything around you is new and different from back home, so how can it be boring?” Or, what also works for me is to build up your own routine, so you can plan your week and build habits.

Keep Growing Mental Health GIF By YouTube

One thing that I noticed is that the size of the town created a tight-knit community. You bump into people you know when you are walking around, so the city feels warmer. Of course, it is still annoying sometimes that places are closed on the weekends, compared to the 24/7 bustling city life where I’m from. But most importantly I believe it is not all about the location; it is about how you use your time meaningfully and the people you surround yourself with.

So to answer the title of this article: No, it is not boring at all. 🙂


Written by Nana

19 Apr 2024