Student life at Swedish universities is as varied as the universities and cities themselves. Whether you’ve chosen to study in an urban centre or a traditional university town, you’ll have a host of activities at your disposal. The hub of student activity is each university’s student union, which organises social events for students. However, you’ll also find many ways to get involved in your local community and in outdoor and sporting events.
Student unions and nationer
Student unions, formed to represent the social and academic interests of their members, are found at every university and university college in Sweden. Membership is voluntary; students pay a membership fee of SEK 50-350 (depending on where they’re studying) at the start of each term.
Student unions are students’ official voice on campus and are often the focal point of student social life at a university. In addition to helping international students get settled during the first weeks of every semester, they operate restaurants, cafés and bars; arrange parties with live bands; run sport programmes; and organise orchestras and student theatre groups. Getting involved with your student union is a great way to meet friends and broaden your social circle, either through participating in activities or becoming involved in running the union itself.
Students at older Swedish universities are organised into nationer, or nations, representing the different regions of Sweden and often dating back several centuries. If your university has nations, these will usually be the focus of student social life in your town and a great place to enjoy a cheap meal or drink, club night or formal dinner.
Societies and interest groups
Most Swedish universities are home to societies for students sharing a similar interest. Your student union will have listings of societies, and you can also keep an eye out around campus for flyers advertising societies and events.
Many universities offer pubs and clubs on and around campus, and university towns and larger cities offer an array of bars and clubs. The legal age for drinking in Sweden is 18, though some establishments – mainly in the bigger cities – may only admit people over 20 or 23 years of age. Outside of bars and restaurants, alcoholic drinks including wine, beer and liquor are only sold at Systembolaget, the Swedish state’s alcohol monopoly; you must be at least 20 years of age to purchase alcohol there. Beer with an alcohol content of 3.5 per cent or lower can also be found at grocery stores, and is sold to people aged 18 and over.
A lot of people go out for a drink at the weekend, and there can be long queues from early on outside the more popular places. Some nightclubs charge an entrance fee, usually ranging from SEK 50 to 150.
It’s no surprise that big cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö offer an active cultural scene, with restaurants to enjoy, concerts to attend and museums to discover. However, even smaller cities in Sweden have lots to offer off-campus. Discovering all your city and region has to offer and getting involved in your community can be a great way to meet Swedish friends. Ask your university for advice on local events and societies, or visit your municipality’s website for listings.
Sport and outdoor activities
Students at Swedish universities tend to be very active, and there are many ways to get involved in sport as well as to explore Sweden’s beautiful nature. Most universities offer sport or fitness centres, and many organise intramural teams for sports like football, handball, hockey or bandy. You can also get involved in local community teams through the organisation Korpen (link in Swedish) or through your municipality‘s listings.
Hiking, cross-country and downhill skiing, and orienteering are popular outdoor sports in Sweden. STF (the Swedish Tourist Association) offers advice on outdoor adventures across the country, and your university may also have advice on local activities.