By: Pola Papadopoulou
First order of business: Establish that life in Stockholm as a foreign student is expensive! Coming from Greece is hard enough on its own with the financial crisis plaguing the country while the need to go abroad for studies and work remains unquenchable in young people. According to Invest in Greece, this country sends more students to study abroad per capita than most other countries. However, this article is not written to present the data of immigration and the reasons why, but rather to highlight through this short introduction, a personal introduction, that despite the difficulties there are young people moving abroad from all over the world; and since Stockholm is the centre of this article, it is also of key importance to underline its multiculturalism and internationality.
Being a foreign student in Stockholm, and even more so an unemployed student, can prove a real buzz. Personally, I have lived in Stockholm since August 2013 and I can measure the pros and cons of the city. However, the following details might apply only to me or people coming from the same country and similar background, nevertheless, it’s always nice to know.
As a European citizen it is most likely that you will not have to pay any tuition fees at least when pursuing your Master’s degree. This is also one of the major reasons I moved there for my studies. However, if one comes outside of Europe, one is required to pay fees, but one is also entitled to a scholarship and financial aid, which is only fair, I guess.
The different services on campus reflect, in a way, the prices in the city. Printing services, for one, are a bit expensive with a page reaching 50-60 cents. Comparing prices with Greece, a single page costs around 5-10 cents, so you can see the difference. In addition, on-campus restaurants are a bit overpriced, as well, with a single meal reaching up to 8 euros. Compared to Greece, the prices are considered farfetched, especially when students can eat for free at the university “restaurant” just by presenting their student ID. Another overpriced campus service is the university gym where the membership for students costs about 50-60 euros per month. Again at the universities in Greece, and I am thinking of a specific university in Thessaloniki, the cost of the gym is 1 euro. A bit different, isn’t it?
Leaving the campus life behind and moving on to the housing in Stockholm one can not only observe the price, but also the difficulty of finding a place to stay. I know a lot of people who have been looking for months for a place to stay. Some of them didn’t even find one until they were in Stockholm and they had to look for places while staying in hostels. And let me tell you one thing: hostels are expensive too! Being in a foreign country equipped not just with a small backpack that you can carry around easily, but with all your belongings in a huge suitcase can be a nightmare. Having to book a different room every day and having to search for a place, too, adds to insult. When you finally manage to find a place you will settle for anything offered because you have to store your things somewhere and be sure that you will have somewhere to sleep for the next months, always depending on the contract you sign.
What you find may come as a shock to some people, mostly people from Greece I would say, because in Stockholm you will probably end up in an apartment occupying a room with a family whose child left the house. This is considered to be the norm, but if you ask a Greek mother you are better off homeless or uneducated. It always depends on the culture. If you end up in such a situation as was described above, be prepared for the amount of rent that you will have to pay. Most rooms in the city are usually very small, which comes as a corollary to the houses and apartments being generally of small size. The monthly rent depends a lot on the area, however, for a room of, let’s say, 10m2 you will probably have to give around 3000-3500 crowns minimum, which translates into 330-380 euros. Included in the price, and this is a very positive aspect of Stockholm housing, are the bills and the internet. Other than that you have to share a kitchen and a bathroom and play by the rules of the owner(s). I am not suggesting that this is what happens all the time, but a lot of people I hang out with have told me this is how it goes most of the time.
I am sure that what a lot of university students have in mind a lot is, also, how to be entertained while in an another country. One has to start all over again discovering new places as they experience the new culture that unfolds before them. When I say entertainment I include bars, cafes, restaurants and event happening venues. There are a million of those in Stockholm. Going out on a Saturday night, the city offers you countless possibilities to enjoy yourself. What you need to keep in mind though is your budget. A glass of wine (an all-time-favorite of mine) can cost at least 90 crowns which roughly translates into 10 euros or so… not to mention cocktails. What is very advantageous, though, is the fact that everywhere you go for an event whether it be the opera or the cinema, there are almost always special discounts for students by showing a student ID. Is there a greater way to immerse yourself in the Swedish culture and cut down on a few crowns?
Despite the costly life in Stockholm, it still remains one of the must-see places, in my opinion. It has a unique beauty and especially during the spring and summer months it is very inviting. As a student, it might seem difficult to control your spending, even when you only buy necessities, but I want to believe that this will pay off with future employment opportunities and gain as Sweden continues to be one of the most organized countries in the Europe, if not the world. Just don’t forget to carry your ID at all times and drink a few shots at home before going out!
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