Thursday, May 8, 2008


JoeYesterday I learned two things, fascinating to me if to no one else, and tangentially related. The first is that after months of waiting, the acceptance letters for the next round of Masters programs at Uppsala University finally came out yesterday, and I'm happy to report that I've been admitted to the computer science program starting in the coming fall. The announcement was originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago but there was some sort of delay ("caused by our national agency, not Uppsala University," according to the head of the department) which has prolonged my agony. Hmm, where to begin my story…

All university applications in Sweden are submitted through a single agency, called Studera or University Studies in Sweden. They forward the applications to the appropriate schools and also provide feedback to applicants curious as to their status. Unfortunately, Swedish law severely limits the amount of information that can be provided online without a Personal Number, and as I didn't have one when I applied, I could only access the most basic information. Anyway, some time in early April my application was marked "Unqualified" because the University could not "verify" my undergraduate record (I say that as though they informed me of it, but actually it took two weeks of e-mails to figure that out, after I noticed that my status had been changed). Apparently they had requested a verification from EMU and never gotten a response, and so now my application was on hold. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking—notifications were supposed to go out any day now. I talked to EMU, and they said they would be happy to verify my enrollment, if only they had ever received a request! The Records office gave me detailed instructions for how to do this, which I passed on to Studera. The next day, my status changed to "Processing," and it was all better.

Well, for about six hours, anyway. Then I went back to being "Unqualified" with no further explanation. Fortunately, about then I found a phone number for Studera (listed on the Swedish version of their website, under the undergraduate course selection section), and a couple of hours on hold with them resulted in this information: they had nothing to do with it, and despite what their own website said I needed to call the University Admissions Office directly (which I could do most weekdays between 10:30 and noon). Argh. The Admissions office said they couldn't tell me anything, but redirected me to the department, where I finally talked to an extremely helpful woman who called up my file and confirmed that a request for verification had been sent but no response had been received. She also told me that none of the information I had sent to Studera to try and fix the situation had ever been passed on to the University, so thy weren't taking any further action. So I told her how to verify my enrollment, and by the next morning I was back on track, now equipped with a Selection Group and a Merit Rating. These are both required to be made available to the applicant—unfortunately, no one said anything about requiring an explanation of what they mean, so every university uses different letters and numbers and none of them are publicly explained. OK, fine.

By this point it was only days before the official announcement date, which was then rescheduled as I mentioned above. So I tried not to think about it for two weeks, and meanwhile obsessively checked the website three times a day. And then yesterday, a day before the new announcement date, I got my letter of admission. So now I'm exhausted.

Oh yes, I said two pieces of news. The second is that Jennifer figured out who the mysterious red jumpsuit people were at Walpurgis: they're the Uppsala University Computer Science Department! Apparently, undergrads at Uppsala are issued jumpsuits in their department's colors. These jumpsuits are then required to be worn at all department functions, and attending a function gets you a new patch. They even wear them to national student gatherings for the departments. Oh, and you aren't ever allowed to wash them. It's unclear whether this bizarre tradition extends to graduate students or not, but either way, I guess it explains why they caught my eye—those are my peeps!

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