Avhandling försvar, festen, och svenska snapsvisor (dissertation defense, party, and Swedish drinking songs)
Consider this part 2, or maybe part 3, of my posts about getting a doctorate in Sweden (part 1 is here)
As I noted in my post about Valentine's Day yesterday (part 2), I attended another doctoral defense at Uppsala. I'm still pondering just how different a Swedish doctoral defense is. Yesterday, Anni was grilled by her "opponent" for more than an hour. Just when I would think he was wrapping up his questions, he'd ask another. And another. They actually had a great conversation about her work, with her apparently calm and collected the whole time.
After she finished, the chair of the department (who was helping orchestrate the defense) announced that her grading committee, advisors and the opponent would meet elsewhere and discuss whether she passed (with her grade of pass/fail to be hung up outside the faculty common room door). In the meantime, Anni was greeted by many well wishers, which must help distract.
Like with the previous doctoral student, I can't imagine a) working this hard to prepare a dissertation then having someone else present it, b) waiting for my grade to be posted for the world to see, and c) planning what is effectively a wedding reception afterwards. This isn't unusual; see for example, this other blog post about it. I finally asked a colleague what would happen if someone were to fail. She said they don't get to this point without being pretty sure the person is going to pass.
The afternoon passed and the noise from the lunchroom built over time. I put down the work I was doing and went to investigate- no Anni in sight, but plenty of grad students, faculty, and staff well into the champagne. And well dressed up... heels, glitter, fancy dresses, suits. I'd worn a suit, which I don't do most days (nice pants and a sweater suffices for work). The saying is that Swedes dress down for work, and dress up for parties. Indeed.
6:25 PM, and people gathered up to walk over to the Småland nation.
What is a nation, you say? Uppsala University is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, university in northern Europe, founded in 1477. (I digress for a second: an early notable professor is Carl Linnaeus in 1741. Linnaeus is credited with creating a classification system for plants). Anyway, in 1477 or 1741, it was a) unusual to actually attend university, and b) not easy to get to. Students from different parts of Sweden tended to live together. These groups of students were eventually recognized as "nations."
The Småland nation, founded around 1645, had students primarily from the Småland area of Sweden. Apparently, this is the regional name- there are two towns in the area which had agreed not to use the Småland name. A rivalry ensued when the nation took Småland for its name, leaving its rival town to use the town name. Not entirely sure it makes sense to me either.
Today, the nations are actually run seemingly as businesses aimed at bringing students together, no requirement to actually be from Småland. Småland nation itself advertises its byline at "Commitment, love, and so much dance." They have a pub, a choir, quiz nights, housing, etc. They also give scholarships; a number of grad students have been able to attend conferences given funding from Småland nation.
Anyway, 6:35, we arrive in the Småland nation complex- really a block of buildings that includes quite a bit of rentable common space, a dance hall set for the dinner, student housing, a bar, etc. We worked our way through the complex to find the right space. Found it: checked coats and bags with a bag check, gathered in the foyer. The space felt like it wanted to be fancy, but also had a slight frat house vibe-- like a lot of parties had taken place here and the walls bore witness to more than they'd wanted to see.
Champagne laid out for all. People gathered, chatted. Two grad students were the masters of ceremony for the evening. They eventually announced that if one was interested in "snaps", one could buy tickets for it before heading upstairs. The sign on the wall announced that snaps were 40 swedish kronor for 1 ticket, and each person could buy no more than 3. I eventually figured out that "snaps" referred to some sort of alcohol- shots, perhaps? According to Wikipedia, "snaps is a Danish and Swedish word for a small shot of a strong alcoholic beverage taken during the course of a meal." I don't drink much these days, but decided when in Sweden, do as the Swedes do and bought 1 ticket.
7 PM. At the invitation of the evening's masters of ceremony, all ~60 people tromped upstairs and looked at the map to figure out where we were sitting. Large room with serious looking portraits- the inspectors. 3 long formal tables, elaborately set. Name tags on the table and instruction book laid out (entitled "agenda, procedure, fine-print").