News - March 21, 2019

Living with a Swedish family

Anne van der Heijden

Who: Annemiek Blasweiler (24), MSc student of Biology
What: Internship at the Uppsala University (UU)
Where: Uppsala, Sweden

‘I wasn’t very adventurous during my internship period in Uppsala. It was winter, it was cold, and it was sociable, but mainly indoors. I would sit cosily on the sofa with a cup of tea, looking at the snow outside. Not very exciting, perhaps, but it was nice. And of course, I didn’t sit still all the time: it was lovely to go walking there, especially in the late summer.

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I did a study at the university for six months, in the Population Genetics research group. That was a great workplace, with lots of other international students who I spent a lot of time with. I did research on butterflies and I had fairly specific learning goals. I especially wanted to get better at bioinformatics. That meant I was at my computer every day from nine to five. That bore fruit because I have now managed to get a PhD place in Wageningen. I think my clear choices for my internship must have helped with that.

Baby in the house

I also really wanted to experience what it was like to live abroad, how you adapt to that and how to deal with loneliness. Because I was certainly lonely at first. I was quite spoiled with my friendship group in Wageningen. In Uppsala, I had to do my best to get out and make contact with people. Luckily I was staying with a friendly family. I rented a room from a family with a baby who was six months old when I arrived. They had warned me about that, because not everyone can cope with such a hectic home situation. Luckily, I sleep deeply, because I was never woken up by the baby. Or maybe it was a very quiet baby.

No bread

The nice thing about staying with a Swedish family was that I learned more about daily life in Sweden. I often joined them for meals and I tasted Swedish specialities. We ate sushi regularly too, or they made fish dishes themselves. Apart from that, Sweden mainly has sweet stuff to offer. There were endless sweetshops and sometimes the supermarket was half full of sweets. Even the bread was sweet, so I didn’t eat bread for six months.

In the streets of Uppsala I got the opposite of a feeling of claustrophobia: there were not enough people out and about. At first, that made me feel unsafe but after a while you get used to there being so few people around. Otherwise, Sweden is part of Northern Europe of course, so it’s all pretty much the same.’