If you’re a new student arriving in autumn, you’ll sooner or later see groups on campus, dancing or chanting and wearing “weird” clothes. At least that were my first thoughts when I arrived in autumn 2019 and saw people in different corners of the campus dancing and playing music.
I know what you might think and no, they did not go crazy cause their studies are too hard 😄 If you see these groups on campus, you’re already in the middle of Swedish culture! At KTH these groups are called “Chapters” and they are connected to different areas of study. Every programme belongs to a specific Chapter! You can recognize the different Chapters from their different coloured overalls (there are also some wearing a tailcoat instead).
You might wonder: but why? I’ll try to explain as good as I can from an international perspective and what I so far learned about it. When the Swedish students start into their five-year programmes at KTH, they can join a big welcome reception. It takes place before the autumn semester starts and the older students have planned out lots of fun activities for the new students which are called nØllan (I was told a translation for this is “zero years”, because they haven’t been studying before). But the welcome reception is not the only thing the chapters are doing. Every chapter has their own chapter hall, where you can study together, meet friends or heat up your food during lunch break. Each chapter is also hosting a chapter pub during the week. The chapters also organize different fun or business events targeted to their study programmes. So, this is not only a great opportunity to meet new people but also to get some business contacts.
Maybe you also wonder: how can I join? In general, once you became a THS member, you’ll also have access to your chapter hall. Which means when your chapter is opening their chapter pub, you’ll be able to access it and also bring a plus one if you’d like. If you want to participate even more, you should talk to some Swedish students that are usually in charge of the chapter’s activities. It differs very much how much they also do for international students, but usually they are very open to everyone that would like to participate.
Okay, so far so good. But your head might be screaming: where do I get the overall? This is a bit more complicated. Usually, students buy the overall when they start into their first year of the five-year Swedish programmes. At the beginning, the overall is completely empty, but over time, students earn or collect patches to stitch on their overalls. This is how they become unique!
Sounds great, but can you also get an overall as an international student? This as well depends very much on your chapter. I heard from some friends that their chapters also offer them to students that “only” start into their master’s programme, but in case you can’t get hold of them, there is still the association called “THS MAIN” (THS MAsters and INternationals) that is offering their overall to everyone who wants to participate in the fun! This is also where I got my overall from! And shush 🤫 It’s said that you’re not allowed to wash your overall unless you shower with it 👀
So, don’t be scared if you see students in colourful overalls on campus, rather go up them ask them what chapter they belong to and what else they can tell you about this part of Swedish culture – they probably know way more than I can tell you 😄 And it’s the perfect ice breaker to get to know some Swedish students as well.
Enjoy the sun!