Imagine a place where you take language classes in the morning, shop in the height of fashion in the afternoon, and take evening hikes in virgin forest with Viking ruins around every bend. To top it all off, every meal is a delight ‘cause the place you’re living in has some of the best food in the world (assuming you love fish!). It also has IKEA outlets. Are you in heaven yet? Sweden is just one notch down. Leading the world in design, featuring breathtaking landscapes, and speaking a language that is ranked among the easiest to learn for English speakers, Sweden is the perfect place to learn a new language abroad.
Sweden is situated between Norway and Finland and has a lovely stretch of coast on the Baltic Sea. From forests to mountains (and the hundreds of castles that dot everything in between), take advantage of one of the least-populated countries in the world and explore the wilderness. Then, hit the books and find some locals to befriend in the swanky Swedish cities.
Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is in the south of the country yet it is undoubtedly the “center” of Sweden. Even though it’s actually located on 14 different islands and is connected by bridges, the city is compact and fairly easy to navigate by foot. From the historic Gamla Stan neighborhood to the incredibly modern city center, Stockholm is among the best places to live in the world and you won’t go wrong with language programs here. If you like the sound of colorful subway tunnels and trick-or-treating on Easter, set up your language learning headquarters in Stockholm and learn the joys of “After Work.”
The other main hub for language programs in Sweden, Uppsala, has the feel of a typical university town, but remains a center of cultural significance. Originally a 6th-century religious village where human sacrifices were made to ancient Nordic gods, Uppsala has expanded to become a city steeped in academic excellence and riverside beauty. Language students coming to Uppsala to learn Swedish typically come during the summer months, as the winter can be pretty harsh. For those looking for a chill party vibe, but good learning atmosphere, or authentic cultural events without the tourists, Uppsala is the perfect destination for language study in Sweden.
Language Programs in Sweden
Most language programs in Sweden are intense summer programs that can last anywhere from two to twelve weeks. Swedish winters can be pretty rough, with only a couple hours of light per day and regular temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit (yikes!). A wise student will sacrifice wintry reindeer play for a language course in the perpetually-sunny-skies of the summer season (literally, the sun rarely sets!).
A bonus about language study in Sweden is that, if you’re a native English speaker, it’ll be fairly easy for you to learn Swedish. Since both languages are in the Germanic language family tree, both Swedish and English exhibit similar grammar rules and vocabulary. Students longing to master the English language will also benefit from the clear accent and relative fluency of Swedish English speakers. In fact, many regard Swedes as speaking English with a near-identical American accent!
Most language courses in Sweden will have the traditional learning atmosphere of teacher and students in a classroom. Lesson duration and the number of days per week will vary depending on your interest and the school’s availability. More language students welcome the opportunity to live with a Swedish host family, a service many language schools in Sweden happily coordinate (there’s no escaping the lutfisk now!).
Costs & Affordability
Travelers coming to Sweden might not find it to be the most affordable place, as items, in general, are on the expensive side. The currency of Sweden is the Swedish Krona, and it’s pretty strong in the global economic field. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant will typically cost about $11 and a Coke will be about $2. On average, most amenities in Stockholm will be a little higher than in the rest of the country, and those who are on a budget should definitely avoid shopping in the city center.
Costs will vary depending on the language school and courses, but the biggest factor that determines the price is what’s included in the program. Since the types of available language programs in Sweden vary from non-traditional to classroom based, prices will also be different. If you choose a language program in Sweden that places you with a host family, you often won’t have to pay for room or board. However, even if the more traditional classroom language lessons will be cheaper, you might have to find your own accommodation and do grocery shopping on your own, which could end up costing you more. In short: do your research!
Remember to check out Fund My Travel to crowdsource your funding as well as GoAbroad’s Scholarship directory to find scholarships specifically for foreign language students. Understand the cost of living, create a realistic budget plan, bulk up your savings account, and you’ll be fine…as long as you can keep your H&M shopping sprees in check!
Accommodation & Visas
As one of the most developed countries in the world, Swedish housing will be incredibly comfortable and will offer all, if not more, of the amenities that you are used to back home. The one thing that you might have to do without is air conditioning, but if the Vikings did it, then so can you! In Stockholm, you’ll most likely stay in an apartment or flat, even if you’re living with a host family. Language programs in other Swedish cities will likely mean living in smaller Swedish homes. As with all living spaces European, you might have to get used to smaller buildings and rooms. Be sure to check with your program provider or language school in Sweden to see exactly what type of housing is offered, or ask if they provide assistance in looking for accommodation if it’s not included.
Unfortunately, to enter Sweden, you might have to deal with something not mentioned in any ABBA songs: visas. Depending on where you’re from, you’ll have to get in contact with a Swedish embassy or consulate in order to obtain a visa. If you’re from the United States, no visa is required for stays under 90 days, but always double-check with your language school or program coordinator to inquire about specifics.
Benefits & Challenges
As much as we would all like to believe language study in Sweden is racy crime novels and affordable higher education, it can’t all be 100 percent fantastisk (that’s Swedish for fantastic); you might find yourself feeling like a Swedish fish out of water. Some have said that it can be hard to make Swedish friends as they can sometimes come across as a reserved bunch. However, underneath all of those layers of clothing, they are kind of like (beautiful, blond) teddy bears, so don’t be shy to give it a try. They’ll be so impressed by your language learning, and they’ll all want to be your BFF soon enough.
Surrounded by your new friends, you will soon start to see the world in a new way and think outside of the box. Sweden highly encourages independent thinking and is all about creative approaches to common problems. The concept of hierarchies doesn’t exist; a mix of collaboration and personal responsibilities are the way to go instead. And the “most equal country in the world” seems to be doing well on many fronts; inclusion and open-mindedness produces forerunners not only in gender equality and LGBT rights, but also in global trends and technological innovations. If you’re reading this while listening to Avicii on Spotify, you clearly appreciate their creations.
Sweden is green, gorgeous, and covered from head to toe in viking lore. With its lush forests, modern cities, and a wonderful language, you’ve struck the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you’re looking to learn an easy language abroad, in an unusual setting, with an alluring cultural component, you’ve found your new hem, sweet, hem.