From frogs to Vikings: Skellefteå's wild freshmen rites

One of the activities during the orientation period is 'Burträsk Bingo' – a kind of challenge competition. Here, a first-year student earns points by biting into a mentor's hat.
One of the activities during the orientation period is 'Burträsk Bingo' – a kind of challenge competition. Here, a first-year student earns points by biting into a mentor's hat.

A giant frog, a demon, a Viking, a shark, a living meringue... well, the list just goes on. It's an oddball crew causing a ruckus on the streets of Skellefteå right now. But who are they, and what are they up to?

Skellefteå 24 augusti 2023 15:05

Freshmen. Or first-year students. You might have seen them downtown or near the campus – dressed up, partly masked, and perhaps a bit tipsy. This week marks the freshmen period or "nolleperiod," the time of year when new students are welcomed to Skellefteå.

The colorful revelry really stands out. The overalls, the patches of fabric and the general excitement - it's a spectacle that can be a bit puzzling to outsiders. The first-year students are on the lowest rung of the ladder. Above them are the "phösare" and "överphösare", the more experienced students who serve as organizers.

The senior mentors are very keen on protecting their identities. The first-year students are not allowed to know who is hiding behind the masks.

The nolleperiod is infused with student humor, and each institution has its own traditions. At Campus Skellefteå, the concept was inherited from LTU and then developed its own flavor.

Skellefteå isn't exactly known as a student town, and there are "only" around 50 freshmen. But there's solid work behind the nolleperiod. Different events are organized every day for two weeks – gatherings, plays, parties, and much more.

Campus Skellefteå is growing, and this year sees a record number of post-secondary programs. According to Ida Lindh, who's the hgher education and research strategist for the municipality, the nolleperiod is absolutely crucial for the city's student life.

–The work of the student association is very important. As many as 90 percent of the students come from other places, and in that context, it means a lot to have a good start, a social community and a proper welcome when you arrive here, she says.

Over 30 individuals have taken on roles as 'phösare' and 'överphösare' during the orientation period.
After the orientation period, the students receive their overalls. They come in various colors depending on the program, and there's a plethora of patches to sew on.

This sentiment is shared by the freshmen as well.

– I find the nolleperiod fantastically fun. It's like one big theater where you get to play and be a bit ridiculous. When everyone lets loose, it's easier to relax and get to know each other. It's an amazing sense of community, says Rasmus Karlsson, who moved to Skellefteå from Luleå to study computer graphics.

Johanna Persson, studying to be a teacher through distance learning at LTU, agrees:

– I'm from Karlstad and previously studied at Karlstad University, but the atmosphere here in Skellefteå is better. There's more love here, and you feel very welcome, she says.

Rasmus Karlsson and Johanna Persson's mentor group have a large frog as their mascot.
One of the activities during the orientation period is 'Burträsk Bingo' – a kind of challenge competition. Here, a first-year student earns points by biting into a mentor's hat.

It's already known that Skellefteå municipality envisions an explosion of student numbers on Campus – the goal is a whopping 15,000 students. Lindh doesn't see it as an unreasonable ambition.

– I firmly believe that it's a reasonable goal. We're one of Sweden's fastest-growing municipalities, and we're the only one of our size without our own educational institution. The number is based on a national comparison with other municipalities of our size, including both program students and those taking individual courses. As a long-term goal, it's absolutely reasonable, she says.

What do you mean by long-term?

– We're aiming for around 2040. The number of educational opportunities and students will gradually increase, says Lindh.

Ida Lindh, strategic manager of Campus Skellefteå.

How do you plan to reach that goal?

– There's a direct correlation between the number of educational slots and the number of students. Through the 'Skellefteå Universities Alliance,' we're engaging in dialogue with various educational institutions to increase the number of players on Campus. Already next year, we'll see new programs, and this autumn, we'll present more updates," says Lindh, adding:

–This is a central issue for ensuring Skellefteå's long-term development. Access to higher education is simply a prerequisite for continued growth.


The freshmen period is an event planned and carried out by students to provide a warm welcome to new students. The purpose is to introduce them to their studies and the campus area, and to help them get to know each other. 

Participation in the role-playing during this initiation period is voluntary.

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