Sweden risks losing top students.
More and more foreign students are interested in coming to Sweden to study. But it looks like Sweden may lose some of these often top students and future researchers when the government now introduces special fees for students coming from countries other than the European Union. Last year some 122,000 students wanted to come to Sweden to study, it has been free for foreign students to study at Swedish universities and colleges, but from December this year all foreign students will have to pay up to 90,000 SEK ($12,750) per year in fees. Many other universities throughout Europe have the same fees, and the Swedish government is also planning on establishing scholarships so that students can finance their studies in Sweden. Högskoleverket (the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education) doesn’t think this is enough, however. The scholarships may only cover a small part of the cost of studying. According to Högskoleverket, this may lead to Sweden losing a lot of very bright students and researchers-to-be. Last year, Nordstjernan reported that Lund University was voted one of the 100 best universities in the world by Times Higher Education, so it seems it would be of interest to entice more foreign students to Sweden. When metro.se polled its readers whether they thought it was OK to have foreign students pay, the result looked like this: 75% said “Yes, they should pay – since Swedes pay when they study abroad”, 20% said “No, it’s not right, we lose a lot of competence”, and 5% said “Don’t know.” What do you think?

Meet the Bernadottes.
In case you didn’t know, it seems like all of Sweden has been hit by the royal wedding frenzy. This, folks, is the year that will see the weddings of both our princesses: Crown Princess Victoria will marry her Daniel Westling and Princess Madeleine will say “I do” (or rather “Ja”) to Jonas Bergström. The weddings have led to a renewed interest in our royal family and Temaresor, a Swedish travel agency, is now introducing a tour called “In the footsteps of the Bernadottes”, which goes to the south of France and is marketed as the perfect preparation for the wedding. Guide on the tour (which will take place the last week of May) is none other than Cecilia Bernadotte af Wisborg, a second cousin to King Carl XVI Gustaf. Who should go? “Confirmed royalists who want to get to know more about the history of our princesses,” says Peter Hellström at Temaresor. But if you like good food, you might also come along for the ride. According to the program, there will be plenty of wine, Jambon de Bayonne, oysters and armagnac. A visit to the castle Bernadotte is also included, but it has more to do with wine production than with Crown Princess Victoria. The tour will take you from Bordeaux to the town of Pau, where in 1763 Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was born (ardent Nordstjernan readers will remember this from our series on Swedish kings and queens). Pau now hosts a museum in homage to its famous former resident. The tour ends with three days in Biarritz, from where excursions to Espelette (known for its chili peppers) and Bayonne (known for its air dried salted ham) before it’s time to go back home to Sweden. And presumably get ready for the weddings. For more info, see www.temaresor.se

Royal cleaning.
Talk about a royal cleaning! The beautiful 700-year old Storkyrkan in Stockholm, where Victoria and Daniel will get married on June 19, is undergoing some serious scouring. The enormous silver altar is being cleaned, right this minute, with Q-tips and cotton swabs, and in order to get the mural paintings free of dirt, a special kind of wheat dough is being used. Add to that the painting of the pews, the polishing of the wooden floors as well as the pulpit. How can a church become so dirty, one wonders. “Well, it’s because there are a lot of candles burning, and visitors drag in a lot of dirt from the street,” says Åke Bonnier, dean of Stockholm’s cathedral parish. The cleaning of Storkyrkan will cost around 14 million SEK ($1,985,393.05). According to Bonnier, Storkyrkan has been in need of cleaning for many years, but it isn’t until now, with the upcoming royal wedding, that it is being done. “We are very happy and feel honored to have this wedding taking place here. Many people will visit afterwards. And we hope that everybody realizes what a wonderful place it is,” Bonnier says. The renovation will be done on May 2, when the church will again be open for the public.

A Nobel Love Story.
It was December, 1950, dark and presumably dreary, when American author William Faulkner came to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. It was a grand prize then, just as it is now, but it seems as if something other than the prize caught the attention of the famous Southerner. “I love you, I think of you all the time,” he wrote to a Swedish woman named Else Jonsson five days after having received the prize. To be “a Nobel Prize bloke” was nothing, he wrote, compared to spending an afternoon with her, enjoying her eyes, her hair, her mouth and her body. This was the first of 62 letters that William Faulkner wrote Else Jonsson during the coming 9 years. Their correspondence outlasted their actual love affair (which ended in 1953). Many of Faulkner’s letters are intimate, erotic and at times amazingly outspoken. But the letters are more than love letters, they are also descriptions of life at the farm outside Oxford, Mississippi, about the weather, about everything really. They give an insight into Faulkner’s life. According to Faulkner researcher Michael Gresset these letters are quite valuable, more so than any other of his letters, with a few exceptions of letters to his mother and to the American literary critic and author Malcolm Cowley. “Else Jonsson might,” Gresset says, “have been his most intelligent and receptive reader.” Who then was this Else Jonsson? She was born Dahlberg in 1912 and grew up in Piteå. She was interested in literature from an early age, but never studied. She moved to Stockholm in the mid 1930’s and worked there in a bookstore. In 1937 she married author Thorsten Jonsson and moved with him to New York a couple of years later. Else became a widow in 1950. She has been described as someone who loved art, read a lot, went to the theater, knew a lot and was very vital. You can read more about Faulkner and his love for Swedish Else in Joseph Blotner’s “”Faulkner: A Biography” ISBN-10: 1578067324.