Student life here in Lund is robust and full of excitement, and trying to tackle everything at once can feel a little overwhelming. So here are some introductions to student life essentials. In this article, I interviewed Filip Alexis, former foreman of Kalmar Nation on student life and activities in Lund.
What is a nation?
There are three big student life branches at Lund University: the Student Unions, the Academic Society (AF), and the Nations – the branch that focuses the most on social activities. Filip Alexis explains: ”I would say that a Nation is a kind of a substitute family when you’re away from your own family.” This is where students can find affordable lunches and dinners, as well as common grounds for socializing and other activities. It used to be that students would be sorted into Nations based on what region of Sweden the students were from – hence the regional names of the Nations. But these days Nations are open to all students. Since Swedes tend to socialize through common activities, I would highly recommend joining the student union and volunteering in a Nation event to get familiar with student life here.
A sittning is a dinnerparty which started as one of the oldest student traditions there is – getting drunk. During the evening, a three course meal, alcohol and many of singing is provided. The songs are usually whimsical, witty, and sometimes raunchy. It may seem overwhelming at first since most of the songs are in Swedish and lots of little accompanying traditions to the singing won’t be explained. But, with the help of alcohol and more attendances, you’ll be singing along and banging the table at the right moment in no time. The general advice is: ”You don´t have to sing right, but sing along”.
Spex is an abbreviation from the Swedish word spektakel (spectacle) and is a student comedic musical theater. Lund’s first spex is commonly considered to be Gerda (1886), a play about a giantess. Since then, many newer spex have come into play. There are plays that have been performed for over a hundred years, but they differ each time as the jokes change depending on current topics in politics and entertainment. Spex is also where many famous Swedish comedians got their start. Spex are special in that the performers interact with the cheers from the audience. Filip Alexis says: ”Usually they’d prepare different versions of a part so that it becomes sillier and sillier. It’s very interactive. Sometimes they know the audience are going to make them perform two or three times, so they prepare for it.”
Nollning is the Swedish student orientation which goes on for about ten days. Most visible are the students from the engineering school. This is where you see Swedes in colorful overalls roaming around the city. The colors of the overalls are divided up by their departments. But even though Even though nollning is mostly typical for LTH students, most other students do it too. The word nollning comes from “nolla”, which means zero. So nollning is for students at the “zero” level, before they are officially introduced into the University.
Tug of war
Tug of War or dragkamp, is generally had during the end of April. It used to be an event where crowds of people met up to watch tug of war matches. These days, the competitions in tug of wars are still robust, albeit a lot less vicious. According to other Nations, Kalmar Nation would very often win as they had special boots and a tradition to eat cake for breakfast on the day of competition so they would get heavier.
1st of May
This is a day where students wear student hats to welcome the summer and engage in discussions with the authorities of Lund University. In the old days, this tradition used to be the day when students were allowed to give criticism to their professors. This tradition has since faded out, but the bigger form of this tradition still remains. The student body as a whole will gather and engage in a series of criticism and discussion with the school’s Vice Chancellor. The chairperson of the Student Union represents the student body and holds a speech to the university as a whole. The Vice Chancellor, Torbjörn von Schantz, is allowed to give a response based on the criticism, but he won’t know what questions will be asked. So he’ll have to be honest and improvise as the questions come. After the questioning, the chairperson of the Student Union will give a “vivat” or “pereat” – basically a thumbs up or thumbs down – to the Vice Chancellor. It’s also worth knowing that the day before, on the 30th of April, is “Siste april”, a tradition for students to get drunk in the city park. So, many students will be really hung over on the 1st of May.
Tandem in an annual tradition that started around the 70s when students from Gothenburg biked down to Lund for the Lundacarnival. These days, it’s mostly Lund students going up to Gothenburg by a bus, partying and enjoying the ride, until everyone takes shifts biking back to Lund as a parade. Since drinking and biking are involved, students are recommended to pace themselves. Anyone can join the events, but it’s usually quite hard to find spots.