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Student Life in Sweden: What to Expect

Student life in Sweden is vibrant and diverse, with opportunities to explore the country’s beautiful landscapes, engage in cultural activities, and make lifelong connections with fellow students from around the world. 

From cozy cafés and bustling cities to the great outdoors, Sweden has something to offer for every student.

Here’s everything you need to know about student life in Sweden:

Academic Environment

The Swedish higher education system comprises two main types of institutions: universities and university colleges. Universities focus on research and offer a wide range of academic programs, while university colleges (also known as “högskolor”) tend to focus more on professional and vocational education.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Swedish universities strongly emphasize student-centered learning and encourage students to actively participate in their education. Lectures and seminars are the main teaching methods, but these are often supplemented by group work, independent study, and practical exercises.

Here’s what characterizes teaching and learning methods in Swedish universities:

  • Lectures and Seminars:
      • Lectures delivered in a large classroom setting.
      • Seminars are smaller and more interactive, with student participation expected.
  • Group Work:
      • Group work is an important part of learning in Swedish universities.
      • Students are assigned to work on projects or assignments together.
      • Encourages teamwork and communication skills.
  • Independent Study:
      • Highly valued in Swedish universities.
      • Students are expected to read widely and engage critically with the material.
      • Encourages independent thinking and development of own ideas and opinions.
  • Student-led Education:
    • Students have a say in the design and delivery of their own courses.
    • Encouraged to provide feedback to lecturers and professors.
    • Ensures education is relevant and engaging to students.

Class Sizes and Interaction

Class sizes in Swedish universities vary depending on the program and institution, but they are generally smaller than in many other countries. This means students have more opportunities to interact with their professors and receive individual attention and feedback on their work.

Professors typically provide guidance and feedback during seminars and group work sessions, helping students deepen their understanding of the material and develop their ideas and opinions.

Professors in Swedish universities are also available to meet with students outside of class. This allows students to ask questions, discuss their work, and receive feedback on their progress. Professors often hold regular office hours where students can drop in for one-on-one meetings, or they can schedule appointments at other times if needed.

Students are encouraged to engage with their professors and peers, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to develop their critical thinking skills.

Assessment and Workload

Here’s what characterizes the way Swedish universities assess: 

  • Combination of exams, essays, oral presentations, and group projects.
  • Exams at the end of a course, including written and oral components.
  • Written assignments and essays that encourage critical thinking and research.
  • Oral presentations and group projects that test collaboration and communication skills.

In terms of workload, here’s what is usually expected:

  • Full-time workload equivalent to 30 ECTS credits per semester.
  • Around 40 hours of work per week, including attending lectures and seminars, preparing for classes, and completing assignments.
  • Emphasis on independent study and active learning.
  • Encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Effective time management skills are important to manage the workload.
  • Professors are available to provide guidance and support when needed.

Culture, Climate, and Social Life 

Culture, Traditions, and Social Norms

A strong emphasis on individualism, equality, and work-life balance characterizes Swedish culture. While Swedes may seem reserved at first, they are generally polite and respectful and value personal autonomy and fairness in their interactions with others.

Regarding social norms, Swedes are generally very punctual, and being late is considered rude. Social gatherings often involve fika, a Swedish tradition of taking a break with coffee and baked goods.

Sweden has a rich history and unique traditions that are worth exploring as an international student. Some of the most important traditions include Midsummer, Fika, Lucia, crayfish parties, and the Dala horse. These customs provide great opportunities to learn about Swedish culture, socialize with locals, and make new friends. Don’t hesitate to ask locals about their favorite traditions and customs, as they may have unique insights to share.


Due to its location close to the North Atlantic and the prevailing south-westerly to westerly winds, Sweden experiences a relatively mild climate during the winter months. However, the northernmost part of the country has a sub-Arctic climate with long, cold, and snowy winters.

Here are a few facts about the climate in Sweden: 

  • Sweden has a cool and temperate climate with four distinct seasons.
  • The winters are cold and snowy, while summers are mild and pleasant.
  • The amount of daylight varies widely throughout the year, with long days in the summer and short days in the winter.
  • The northern part of Sweden has a sub-Arctic climate with long, cold, and snowy winters.
  • Central and southern Sweden have shorter winters but can still get quite cold.
  • The country experiences prevailing south-westerly to westerly winds, which can affect the climate.
  • Sweden enjoys long hours of daylight in the summer and extended periods of darkness in the winter.

International students may find it challenging to adapt to Sweden’s colder climate, but it’s definitely possible with some preparation and effort. To stay warm during winter, dressing in layers is crucial. 

Students shouldn’t avoid outdoor activities, as Sweden offers plenty of winter activities such as skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing. It is also important to stay active, take care of your mental health, and embrace “hygge” by doing things that make you feel cozy and comfortable, like snuggling up with a good book or drinking hot cocoa. 

Social Life 

Socializing in Sweden as an international student can be a bit challenging, but it is definitely possible. Here are some tips to help you socialize in Sweden:

  • Join clubs and organizations. Joining clubs and organizations is a great way to meet people with similar interests. Most universities have student organizations for sports, hobbies, and other activities. Check out what’s available on your campus and sign up for something that interests you.
  • Attend events and activities. Attend events and activities hosted by your university or local community. This could be anything from concerts and festivals to sporting events and parties. These events are a great opportunity to meet new people and make friends.
  • Be open and friendly. Swedes are known for being reserved and may seem distant at first, but don’t be discouraged. Be open and friendly, say hello, and start a conversation. It may take some time, but you can build lasting friendships with patience and persistence.
  • Learn the language. Although most Swedes speak English fluently, making an effort to learn Swedish can go a long way in building relationships. It shows that you are interested in their culture and are willing to learn and adapt.
  • Use social media. Join social media groups or communities for international students or expats in Sweden. These groups can provide information and opportunities for socializing and networking with other international students.

Cost of Living 

As an international student in Sweden, you can expect to spend an average of SEK 8,000 to SEK 13,500 ($765 to $1,292) per month on living expenses. 

Accommodation options range from dormitories to apartments, with prices varying between 3,000-9,000 SEK ($290-$865) per month.

Food and grocery expenses typically range from 2,000 to 3,000 SEK ($190-$290) monthly. Transportation costs can range from 700-1,000 SEK ($70-$100) per month, depending on location and frequency of travel. 

Other monthly expenses, such as clothing, entertainment, and leisure activities, can range from 1,500-2,500 SEK ($145-$240). 

Read more about the cost of studying and living in Sweden for international students.

Budgeting Tips 

As an international student in Sweden, it’s important to budget your expenses to ensure that you can comfortably afford your cost of living. You can save money by cooking your meals at home and taking advantage of student discounts. 

Public transportation is affordable and efficient, making it a great option for getting around. You can also look for part-time work opportunities on campus or in the community to supplement your income. 

Be sure to take advantage of free or low-cost activities, such as exploring the city’s parks and museums, to have fun without breaking the bank.

Places to Visit

Some places you can visit as an international student in Sweden include:

  • Stockholm. The capital city of Sweden is a must-visit for international students. It offers a vibrant nightlife, historical attractions, cultural landmarks, and a beautiful archipelago.
  • Gothenburg. The second-largest city in Sweden is known for its lively music scene, numerous parks, and green spaces. It also offers a stunning harbor and the famous amusement park, Liseberg.
  • Gotland Island. Gotland is a scenic island located in the Baltic Sea and features beautiful beaches, historical attractions, and medieval ruins.
  • Uppsala. Uppsala is a beautiful university town known for its historic landmarks, including the iconic Uppsala Cathedral, Botanical Garden, and the famous university library.
  • Lund. Lund is a small, picturesque town with a charming old town and a world-renowned university. It offers a rich history, numerous cultural events, and beautiful parks.
  • Kiruna. Kiruna is a small town located in the far north of Sweden and offers unique experiences such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. It is also home to the famous Icehotel.
  • Abisko National Park. Abisko National Park is located in the Lapland region of Sweden and offers some of the best Northern Lights viewing opportunities. It also features beautiful hiking trails, lakes, and stunning landscapes.
  • Malmo. Malmo is a vibrant and multicultural city located in the south of Sweden. It offers beautiful parks, beaches, and a lively music scene. It is also known for its modern architecture and historical landmarks.

Public Transportation and Getting Around

Sweden has a well-developed public transportation system that is both efficient and reliable. International students can purchase a student transportation card, which offers discounted rates on buses, trams, and trains. 

Many cities also have bike-sharing programs that are affordable and convenient for getting around town. Additionally, walking is a great option for short distances and is a great way to explore the city. 

Getting around Sweden as an international student is easy and affordable, thanks to the country’s robust public transportation system.

Healthcare and Insurance

Healthcare in Sweden is of high quality and easily accessible to all residents, including international students. 

As a student, you will need to have health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay in Sweden. The insurance should cover both medical and dental emergencies, as well as any other necessary medical treatment. 

In case of a medical emergency, you can call 112 to get immediate assistance. Additionally, you can visit any public healthcare facility and receive treatment for a nominal fee.

Job Opportunities

Sweden offers various job opportunities for international students. On-campus jobs are usually available, such as working at the university library, bookstore, or cafeteria. Part-time jobs outside of the university are also available in fields such as hospitality, retail, and customer service. 

Working part-time while studying can provide valuable work experience, help with financial stability, and enhance social integration in the community. However, the job market can be competitive, and proficiency in the Swedish language is often required for certain positions.


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