The Study Abroad Newsletter

Night of the Cheesecake Ball

Zoe Whitney

Environment Science
Uppsala University
, Sweden

A cozy blend of sorority/fraternity, pub, and student council, student nations have been the centerpiece of socializing at Uppsala University since the 17th century. Upon arrival in Uppsala, Sweden, many of the exchange students anxiously ruminated on which of the thirteen to choose from. Some even resorted to using a decision tree which guided them towards a final selection with questions like, "Do you like theater?" or "Do you eat meat?" For me, the decision was easy. Hej, my name is Zo├ź Whitney. I am a junior Environmental Science major and English minor pursuing an Energy Science Certificate at Uppsala Universitet in sometimes sunny, sometimes snowy Sweden. I wanted to join Kalmar Nation because it was known for its indie music, had a well-designed website, and offered vegan pub snacks tasty enough to earn a place on Happy Cow (an international, plant-based restaurant finder). To get more involved in the nation and gain a new skill, I worked as an audio technician for events. My favorite of these was the Ostkakegille, or Cheesecake Ball.

closeup of cheesecake on a monagrammed plate

The traditional, opulent look of the nation house contrasts well with the club lights and pumping jams I am operating. Wallpapered halls rise to crystal chandeliers that look over polished wood floors. Tonight, every floor is decorated in the colors of cheesecake, as has been done for years. White cream tops red jam drizzled over yellow sponge. Empty glass milk bottles brim with county flowers. Placed on checkered tablecloths, it conjures the image of rural, cozy villages. I race up and down the spiral staircase between the musical acts, theater performances, and videos I am operating in the pub to take a couple bites of each decadent course served in the ballroom. However, first I must toast the people to my left, right, and center and sing along from a book of Kalmar drinking songs compiled over the last 355 years. If there is a break, it is spent chatting with the strangers-soon-to-be-friends surrounding me, which is considered part of the fun even for old members. We bond by throwing our many bottlecaps at a 20-something dressed as Emil i l├Ânneberga, a troublesome young farm boy from a famous Swedish book series by the author who brought us Pippi Longstockings. The night ends with me earning my first pin and standing on our seats for the last toast.