All right, listen. I’m a union supporter. My dad’s really involved in the union movement. I also understand that rank-and-file members don’t always see what their unions do for them and resent their union dues. I fear I’ve become one of those people.

Here in Sweden, membership in the student union is compulsory for all students. It costs 310 SEK a semester — about 50 bucks. Without your student union card, you can’t take exams. The student union card also entitles you to student discounts on Swedish trains. Beyond that, I really don’t understand what the student union does. At the presentation for international students at the beginning of the year, the student union representative could only manage to repeat “We have a pub” over and over again. But you have to pay 30 SEK ($4.25) just to enter this pub if you’re a member (more if you’re a guest)!

All right, so instead of just bitching, I did a little research and came up with this info page from the Swedish Institute. They say that “compulsory membership fees have allowed them to improve conditions for students”. That’s pretty vague. They also say that student unions are in charge of accomodation at some universities. Here in Falun, though, the housing is arranged through the municipal housing authority.

Education in Sweden is free and $50 per semester is a small price to pay for a master’s degree. And I want to believe that the student union is there to advocate on behalf of the students if necessary, in which case I’m happy to contribute my bit. It would just be nice to know that our student union was doing something besides running this lame pub.

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