Tales of a Vet Student Exchange; When vet students storm Sweden

After a slightly dramatic start to the day after waking up with water pouring through my ceiling, I unceremoniously threw all my worldly possessions in a pile as far away from my “new indoor water feature” as possible, and gratefully left my legends of housemates to deal with the problem so I could catch my flight. Thankfully the rest of the day went without incident and aside from a slightly panicked run from one side of Amsterdam airport to the other to catch our connecting flight (If you’ve never been to Amsterdam airport it’s HUGE so leave plenty of time between connecting flights or be prepared to do a week’s worth of cardio sprinting to your terminal like I did!), we all arrived in Sweden in one piece.

When we arrived, we were excited to be greeted by a landscape covered in a snow. Thankfully, unlike in the UK the Swedes treat snow like a mild inconvenience and just crack on with business as usual so we all piled into the cars to head out to Uppsala where the university was situated. Myself and Liv were being housed with a student called Cece, her flat was right in the town centre and was incredibly warm and cosy, a far cry from the damp, bitterly cold student houses in Liverpool! We happily snuggled up on her sofa bed excited for our week of adventures to begin.

The Uppsala university had several student unions which students chose between, each union owned bars, café’s, student housing, sports and activity centres and big old fraternity houses which coupled as clubbing venues. It seemed between them they owned most of Uppsala, this was a very different situation to our own Student guild which only had a single building to its name. The day began with the biggest buffet breakfast any of us had ever seen, the walls were lined with pancakes, yoghurt, jams, bacon, breads, cheese and pastries and the smell as we walked in had our mouths watering. After filling our boots and waddling out of the café twice the size we went in, we began our walking tour or the quaint little town of Uppsala. The small, sleepy town was a stark contrast to the large, bustling city of Liverpool, and while Merseyside was almost constantly shrouded in a grey mist, Uppsala was covered in a twinkling flurry of snow. Wrapped up warm in all the winter gear we could fit in a Ryan air sized hand luggage suitcase, we trudged around the town while the Swedes pointed out landmarks and we stopped for a few strategical selfies.

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That afternoon we were delighted to find out we were taking advantage of the snow and going sledging! It snows so often in Sweden that they have designated areas for sledging, complete with log cabin café’s and fire pits for toasting marshmallows and hot-dogs. We had an amazing time embracing our inner child, drinking ‘spiked’ hot chocolates and stuffing our faces with smores. We all found being a child was incredibly tiring and after drying off and warming up we were all ready for bed.

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The next day we visited the university campus – a brand new building complete with everything a vet student could ask for. They showed us where they held their lectures and practicals and talked more about their teaching methods and course structure which was wildly different from the ones adopted by UK vet schools. They then took great delight in taking us to meet the numerous vet school ”pets” kept at the university. Unlike in the UK, it is legal for students here to practice things like blood sampling on healthy animals so all the pet goats had mismatched shaved patches dotted along their bodies. This must be an excellent opportunity to practice, though I’m not really sure what I’d make of it if I was one of their “pets”.

That evening we were taken to the vet school common room – this was a house equipped with a bar, kitchen, dance space and …. HOT TUB AND SAUNA?!? Our vet school barely trust us with a kettle let alone our own spa, needless to say, we were all incredibly jealous! I am pretty sure student satisfaction at Uppsala university must be incredibly high thanks to this little gem! The swedes had been hard at work making us a three-course meal consisting of traditional Swedish cuisine – a prawn bruschetta type thing, reindeer stew and an apple and cinnamon tart for dessert. I was excited to try the reindeer, as I enjoy embracing new culinary experiences and if you’re a meat eater I’d highly recommend it (it kind of tastes like gamey beef)! Between courses the Swedes taught us some of their vet school songs ( some of which were eye-openingly rude) which they traditionally sang together at events. A few drinks down we were all howling with laughter and singing loudly and out of tune in horrendous Swedish ( I feel sorry for anyone in earshot that night!).

After the meal we all threw on our bikinis and launched ourselves into the hot tub … only to retreat squealing with our skin the colour of lobsters as it was far too hot. While the hot tub was cooled to a less blistering temperature we all sweated it out in the sauna whilst discussing our campaign for a spa in Liverpool and how we thought the university would take it. When the hot tub had finally cooled down we all squashed in like sardines before deciding to take turns jumping out and sledging down the hill in next to no clothes ( it seemed like a good idea at the time…. it was not!) and a stolen viking hat. Said viking hat then featured in multiple strategic locations in our naked calendar photo for the vet school charity calendar…..

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Our next stop the following day was to visit the university farms, we got taken on a tour by the manager of the dairy unit who was incredibly proud of her Swedish brown’s, I will comment that they looked a dam site more healthy than a lot of UK Holsteins I’ve seen. We then had an easy-going afternoon and a nap to prepare for the big fraternity bar crawl. The swedes insisted we dress up in vet scrubs and were accompanied by a cuddly animal which was taped to us for the entire night. We had a shot of this mint flavoured vodka which tasted like toothpaste in each bar we went in so by the time we were at the final fraternity I was having a GREAT time. We were amazed that they held club nights in these grand old houses, it was baffling to us that they trusted their students enough not to remove all valuable or breakable objects which would have definitely been broken or stolen, had we been back in Liverpool. It was an incredibly cool atmosphere dancing around in an old mansion with the music blaring and the light from the disco ball bouncing off the ancient mirrors decorating the walls. On the way back after the club had turfed us all out we stopped off for a burger. I can honestly say it was one of the best burgers I’d ever tasted, nothing like the cheap, greasy take-out available in Liverpool after a night out (though that may just have been the sheer volume of alcohol I consumed that night talking!), and it did wonders to sober up this mere five-foot girl after too many shots of mintu!

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Our farewell  breakfast before we sadly caught our flight home proved a fantastic cure for the hangovers we were nursing. One of the girls spent the morning making homemade waffles coupled with sweet cream and cloudberry jam – if you are in Sweden or neighbouring countries try this jam, it’s amazing! After saying farewell to our newfound Swedish friends we boarded the plane for our journey home with lots to tell our Liverpudlian brethren and plans to campaign for a vet school spa!

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