Timst’s Happy Place

(500) Days of Sweden

by timst on January 12, 2014

Yes sir, 500 days. A little bit less than a year and a half since I left Nantes and settled in Sweden. Time for a retrospective of the past few months.

Where am I now? As I announced earlier, I am not actually on the last stretch of my studies, as I have switched my Comp. Sci. master for a more… grounded program: Social Media & Web Technologies. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically it’s about the modern tools and usage that allows us to create modern, powerful websites likes the ones you use every day. For now, it’s going fine. Sometimes I’m second-guessing my choice to study IT (“fuck everything and start an MBA” is the new “fuck everything and leave to Sweden”), but at twenty-two I’m not getting any younger* so I guess I’ll have to finish what I started now.

(*Yes, that statement was specifically designed to piss off my numerous older friends. How did you guess?)

On the side, I’m still a board member of the VIS student association, and it’s the cat’s pajamas (best expression). There’s always something to organize, a process to improve, or new ideas to implement. It sometimes feel more like a startup than like a student organization, and it’s really rewarding to be able to work on real projects that have a real impact on the world, compared to the make-work projects I have to complete for the uni. It doesn’t put bread on the table, or credits in the student file, but I’ve never been that enthusiastic and persevering with a project than now, so I’m pretty happy about it.

It’s thanks to them that I had the chance to participate to two of the best moments of the past semester. First, I went to Tampere, Finland to take part in the Norther European Platform of ESN (VIS’ “parent org”), during which people from all over Scandinavia and the Baltic countries come to talk about how they do stuff. What it really means is that the days were filled with workshops and plenaries meetings (ESN is a pretty sizable organization, so there is a certain amount of red tape to go through), while the nights were devoted to what was euphemistically named “social activities”. Many great memories here. Tell you what, when you have taken part of a 4 hours dinner during which you sang “L’internationale” in Swedish while drinking snaps, you have pretty much led a good life.


Next we have the kinda famous ESN Sea Battle. It goes like this: ESN rents an entire cruise ship, fill it with 2000 students from all Northern Europe, and make it go from Tallinn to Stockholm and back during three days and night of party. It’s pretty hardcore, especially since the ship has a duty-free shop with alcohol cheaper than anywhere else in this region. As a result, ESN and Pernod Ricard (a company that apparently owns, like, all the alcohol) created last year a project called Responsible Party, which tries to encourage student to… well, party responsibly. Needless to say, cheesy PSA posters have a limited effect on students who already forked over 150€ for the specific purpose of getting wasted for half a week, so our most successful activity was the one I was put in charge of: transporting a backpack containing a 10 liter bag of water through the ship, and giving free water to students (the water at the bar costed 1€). Huge, huge success. That being said, it was a pretty peculiar experience to walk around at four in the morning like one of the Big Daddy from Bioshock (complete with another volunteer that guided me through the ship), especially since the backpack leaked and the boat was seriously rocking. Still, worth it, if only to see the face of people who all looked like they spent a month in a desert when I arrived and gave them a glass of the precious liquid of life.

Next semester has a few other good moments waiting for me, in particular a new trip that I and some other VIS board members created: we’re going to Norway! 4 days of fjord visits, glacier hikes and $15 Big Macs (no, seriously). We spend the first night in Oslo, and then it’s Mountain Time:

map of norway

Right in the Sogn og Fjordane traditional region. Fjord central. It doesn’t get more Norwegian than that short of going to the Lofoten islands, but the road is long enough as it is: 15 hours by bus from Växjö to Jostedal, our campsite’s location. Something to look forward to. Still, I’m thrilled to see how the trip will be, especially since I contributed to its creation, so it’s doubly stressful.

In other news, I started learning Swedish more assiduously. Until then, I was just absorbing it by osmosis, but that’s not exactly a quick or efficient process, hence why I’m still pretty much unable to have a conversation. So I decided to kick it into high gear by acquiring this:

Essentials of Swedish grammar

A very good book, summing up everything there is to know about how to speak Swedish. My first impressions after reading half of it is that Swedish is a quite simple language to learn from a structural point of view, with for instance only five tenses. So three more (depending on how you count) than English, but, like, 15 less than French (for instance, see all the variations of être, “to be”. And yes, I commonly use almost all of them). As a result, the book is pretty short with a measly 160 pages, whereas the french equivalent is a three-volume bible of 300 pages each. The time I save learning the grammar is likely going to be lost learning the pronunciation, though: I’m already pretty bad at English pronunciation, as my friends take great pleasure in reminding me almost daily, so Swedish for me is, like, dragon speak. It’s all about practice, I suppose.

One question I get from time to time is “so, are you going to go back to France after your studies or are you going to stay here, marry a swede, grow old, die and have your ashes used to polish Ikea furniture, as is the local tradition?”. And my reply so far has always been some kind of variation of “I don’t know”. I have no interest in going back to France, which is a nice place but with a number of critical flaws that I can’t get over. But I’m not sure that “jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden” either, as the Swedish anthem goes. Maybe I’ll move to another place, elsewhere in Scandinavia, perhaps. Most likely, I’ll to wait to see what opportunities present themselves.

Going through life with no game plan sounded a little frightening at first, but the truth is, there is no predicting the future. It’s better to face things as they come, and that’s what I intend to keep on doing through 2014!