By Susan Holmberg
Many years ago, more than I care to mention here, I spent a summer studying Swedish language in the medieval university town of Lund. I had been studying Swedish at my university in the US for two years and had assembled a respectable vocabulary, but I had never been to Sweden nor had I been exposed to the language in its natural setting.
As I am sure anyone who has completed an intensive summer language course in any country would agree, the experience tremendously improves your language skills. And, as I am sure anyone who has taken a Swedish summer course would also agree, spending 3-6 weeks in Sweden during the height of the summer is a truly transformative experience.
To an American, where a 100 year old building is considered ancient, the sheer age of the university and its buildings left a deep impression. The medieval town with its cobblestone walking streets and stone buildings with 12 foot deep walls were the perfect setting for enjoying coffee at an outdoor cafe. Students came from all over the world and ranged in age from 20 to 70, and we bonded in a way that only this kind of experience can inspire.
There are numerous locations and programs for Swedish language study during the summer months. Here we outline a few – selected for their unique and inspiring geographical settings.
40 minutes by train from Stockholm lies Sweden’s oldest university town. Founded in 1477, Uppsala University has been an important center of learning for centuries. The Uppsala International Swedish Session (UISS) is a long-standing program that offers a wide range of courses and activities to students. Beginning in 1963, the program currently hosts between 210-250 students ranging in age between 18 to 65. Swedish language courses are taught at 9 levels, from beginner to nearly fluent.
Alongside language instruction, the program offers several courses in Swedish society and culture, some of which are taught in Swedish (for those at a more advanced level). Swedish film, folk music and courses on Swedish history and society provide a broad context within which to deepen one’s knowledge of Swedish language and culture. Classes are taught 4 days per week, with the fifth day reserved for historical and cultural excursions. Students live in dormitories at the University, generally in single rooms with private sink and toilet and a shared shower in the hallway.
Among the activities one can expect beyond the weekly excursions and film viewings are Midsummer celebrations, barbeques, potluck dinners and, at the end of each three week course, a ”student gask” or formal 3 course dinner followed by a dance. Weekend trips include Finland, Värmland and, at an extra cost, a hiking trip to Lapland.
Courses begin in mid-June and run for 3, 6 or 9 weeks. The application deadline for courses beginning June 15 is May 1, May 15 is the deadline for courses beginning July 6, and June 1 is the deadline for courses beginning July 27. The price tag for the 3 week program is approximately $2,460*. The 6 week program costs $4,625 and the 9 week course costs $6,680.(www.uiss.org/index.php/en)
Located near the southern tip of Sweden is the university town of Lund. Established in 1658, Lund University is Sweden’s largest institution of higher education and research.
The summer language program in Lund is operated by the International Swedish University Program (ISU), an extension division of the university also known as Folkuniversitetet. Three beginners’ level courses are offered, each lasting three weeks. The first begins on June 27, the second on July 14 and the third on August 4. Students spend the mornings in the classroom 4 days a week. Afternoons feature guided tours, guest speakers and Swedish films. Fridays are reserved for field trips to surrounding points of interest such as the island of Ven and the naval town of Landskrona.
The deadline for applying to the 2014 Lund summer language program is June 20. The tuition fee for the first two modules is approximately $1,150, while the third module costs less, $830, but does not include field trips or other activities. (www.folkuniversitetet.se/skolor/Internationella-skolor/ISU/Our-courses/S...)
Situated just 36 miles north of Göteborg on the Bohuslän coast is the beautiful rustic island of Tjörn. A haven for boat lovers during the summer months, students here can study Swedish language and enjoy Swedish culture both inside and outside the classroom.
The Tjörn summer program is a 3 week course that has been operating for 30 years. On average it hosts between 40 and 45 students who are divided into three groups based on their language level. Students spend 5 hours in class Monday to Friday. While the primary focus of the curriculum is Swedish language, lessons on Swedish culture and society are regularly featured. Day trips include an excursion to Göteborg and another to the island of Marstrand. Field trips on Tjörn itself include a visit to a local workplace and an evening visit with a Swedish family. In the evenings Swedish films are shown.
In contrast to most other programs, the teaching staff is comprised of international instructorswho teach Swedish language and culture abroad (primarily North America). Students live in the dormitory of the Bilströmska Folk High School. Each room has its own bathroom with shower. The price tag for the three week course, including lodging, meals and associated activities, is approximately $2,000. The application deadline is May 31. (www.sverigekontakt.se/?id=626)
For those seeking a highly personalizedtraining regime that focuses heavily on speaking skills, the island of Gotland off the east coast of Sweden might fit the bill. This program has been running for the past 5 years and is part of the Swedish Express program that also operates in Göteborg and Stockholm. The size of the class as well as its duration and contents stem from the skill level and needs of the individual students. It can be as short as one week with just one or two students (30 hours of instruction), but during this time the student receives intensive verbal skill training. Outside the classroom the practice continues as students and teacher continue to interact, applying the thematic lesson from the classroom (i.e. food, eating) into the real world.
In addition, Gotland offers plenty of beautiful scenery and fascinating places to visit, some of which are included in the course. The main town is the medieval fortress of Visby. Many students stay in a hotel in Visby, while others prefer a youth hostel or staying with a Swedish family. Program organizers will help arrange accommodations according to student preferences. There is no official deadline for applying to the Gotland course, though it is recommended that prospective students get in touch as soon as possible in order to secure a place to stay during the busy summer season. The best way to do this is to e-mail Martin Ohorn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The cost varies according to the number of participants. If there are at least 3 students, the cost for 30 hours is approximately $750. If there are only one or two students, the cost is a bit more. (http://swedishexpress.eu/Gotla.html)
*All prices are US dollar conversions from Swedish Krona calculated on February 8, 2014.