There are plenty of big universities in Sweden. Stockholm, Uppsala, Malmö, Lund… and they all have their special quirks.
But those who studied at the University of Gothenburg get something truly unique, and it can be hard to explain it to those who haven’t experienced it.
So here’s a shout-out to those who get it – 9 things you’re guaranteed to miss if you studied in good ol’ Gothenburg.
1. Campus in springtime
Cherry blossoms on campus. Photo: Tanti Kostaman
You know that old Edith Piaf song, La vie en rose? It conjures up special images for the lucky Gothenburg alumni.
“Every spring the campus turned absolutely pink,” exclaims María José Velásquez, called Majo, a former global studies student from Bolivia. “It looked like something from a magazine! The cherry blossom trees welcomed us every morning and I have at least 1,000 pictures of them.”
But it’s not just about campus in the springtime. It’s campus in general.
“The various departments are scattered all over the city, forming a giant campus connected by the iconic blue trams,” says Mercè Montoliu, a Spanish student who studied biology at the University of Gothenburg. “Gothenburg feels like a university city, but you also get the warmness of all the local inhabitants.”
Mercè is now doing her PhD at Uppsala University.
“Here in Uppsala I actually miss that variety,” she says. “It’s basically just students living here.”
2. The trams!
The classic old Gothenburg trams. Photo: Steampipe Production Studio AB/ Göteborg & Co
Speaking of trams! How could you not miss the trams?
“Of course I miss the trams!” Mercè exclaims. “I think we all have the same childish feeling of wanting to pull the rope in the old trams to announce you want to get off at the next stop. Any new student will admit that.”
“The trams in Gothenburg have a special charm not possessed by other transportation systems,” agrees Tanti Kostaman, an Indonesian alum who studied communications. “Gothenburg is the second-largest city in Sweden, but it’s still easy to get around thanks to its reliable transportation system.”
And it’s not just the trams.
“Gothenburg’s ferries are a great feature as well,” Tanti adds. “My campus was on Hisingen Island, and I lived on the mainland. It was refreshing to take a ferry from my campus to the city!”
3. The libraries (plural!)
One of the many libraries in Gothenburg. Photo: Eva S. Andersson
Nerdy, perhaps, but totally true.
“Many of the libraries at the university have a Harry Potter look, and others are more post-modern. But they’re all cosy!” says Majo.
“I felt like a Hogwarts student every time I sat in social science library in Old Town,” Tanti agrees.
“And in spring the Campus Linné Library is perfect because you can see the cherry trees. Just as the departments are spread across the city, so are the libraries – and you can pick whichever library suits your needs and your mood.”
The Social Sciences Library, the Humanities Library, and the Economics Library were among Majo’s personal favourites. Sometimes she would spend the whole day there.
“At some point I spent more time in the library than in my own place, and I wondered why I was even paying rent,” she laughs.
Photo: Dino Soldin/ Göteborg & Co
Work hard, play hard. Every student at the University of Gothenburg knows that after work comes – well, “afterwork”.
“The rule on Friday was not to eat breakfast, so we could eat and drink even more at the afterwork,” Majo laughs. “We tried so many places and they were so cheap! I bet King’s Head rings a bell – it’s one of the most famous afterwork places in the city.”
Another favourite area is Avenyn, Gothenburg's main boulevard, where many places offer special student deals for afterwork.
“The area is quite fancy – despite the weird Poseidon statue at Götaplatsen,” Tanti remarks. “It's always busy but it becomes even livelier on Friday evenings!”
“I miss places like Andra Långgatan,” Mercè adds. “All the students joined there for afterwork and to have a nice time even on the darkest nights. It was mythical! It was a place where students and locals met, and you always ended the night with a couple of new friends.”
5. Sharing a kitchen
Photo: Superstudio D&D/Göteborg & Co
Speaking of new friends, the communal kitchen is another great place for meeting them.
“My best memories of student life took place in a kitchen – even though I don’t know how to cook,” Majo laughs. “There were lots of kitchen parties in the student residences. Can you imagine that we once fit 25 people into a kitchen built for 8?”
“The student apartments have their own charms,” Tanti says. “When I lived at the student residential area Olofshöjd, I had international neighbours to share the kitchen with, and sometimes we had a pleasant potluck dinner together.”
Chilling in Gothenburg. Photo: Niklas Bernstone/Göteborg & Co
And indeed, Gothenburg is very international. “I feel so grateful for the diversity on campus,” Majo says.
But at the same time, students love it because it’s…Swedish.
“One of the best things of Gothenburg is that, even if it is a quite international city, you get the feeling of being around Swedes every day,” Mercè explains. “I have a lot of Swedish friends there, and I was able to learn a lot of Swedish, too. Now that I am in Uppsala, it is practically impossible to practice Swedish because the city is so international.”
That makes it easier to learn the culture – something which has a lasting impact.
“Now that I’m back home I feel weird not taking my shoes off indoors, and I miss the midnight sun, and Zlatan’s face everywhere,” Majo confesses. “Maybe I’m a bit Swedish now!”
A fika pause in Gothenburg. Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
Fika is a very important part of Swedish culture – and it’s done right in Gothenburg.
“From the many café chains to the small local cafes, Gothenburg has it all,” Tanti says. “I couldn’t really pick a favourite! Da Matteo, Eva’s, Le Pain Francais, Condecco… morotskaka, hallonpaj, vaniljsås! Just thinking of it makes me hungry.”
“Oh, how I miss you, fika!” agrees Majo. “The smell of chocolate muffins in the student cafeteria….I was such a big fan of those muffins that, on my birthday, the owner of the coffee shop gave me one with a huge candle.”
8. Nature and the archipelago
The Gothenburg archipelago. Photo: Emelie Asplund/Imagebank Sweden
One of the best things about studying in Gothenburg is that the entire city is your campus.
But not just the city – the archipelago, too.
“The Gothenburg archipelago was my favourite picnic place and perfect for a quick getaway,” Tanti recalls.
“It’s easy to reach by ferry, but once you’re there, you’re in a totally different environment, comprised of beautiful nature and quiet villages with cute houses. Right after our graduation ceremony my best friend and I made an impromptu trip out to the archipelago, wearing dresses and high heels – just because we could!”
9. The other students
A student party at Göteborgs Universitet. Photo: Johan Wingborg
In Gothenburg you’re never alone.
“The University of Gothenburg has lots of student ambassadors, both international and local,” Mercè says. “They helped me a lot before I arrived, and then I had the chance to be an ambassador and help other students.”
Majo, too, made friends from around the world. “I miss also the crazy Greek, the awesome Spanish and the coolest Canadian!”
“I’m a bit teary-eyed because of the nostalgia,” Tanti confesses. “My class was quite big, almost one hundred students, and we partied together after exams and got to know each other. Hopefully someday we’ll have another party together!”
Photo: Göran Olofsson/GU
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by the University of Gothenburg.