Weeks 5 & 6: Göteborg och Finnhamn och Skansen (Oh my!)

Hej! It has been a while since I’ve blogged. Förlåt! So this week’s post will be an overview of my busy adventures the past two weeks!

The most notable trip that happened two weeks ago was during Core Course Week. My core course, Public Health and Migration, took a trip to Gothenburg ( Göteborg, i svenska) to visit another city in Stockholm, spend time together, and visit museums and lecturers to learn more about migration and health in Sweden. The same day we arrived – after a 3 hour train ride – we visited the Emigrant House, a museum illustrating the history of immigration and emigration to and from Sweden.

The Emigrant House in Gothenburg

Our charismatic tour guide took us back in time on a journey to leave Sweden through Gothenburg, to the southern UK, to finally Ellis Island. We learned that more than 25% of Sweden’s population left the country in the late 1800s because of poverty and economic opportunity in North America. It was fascinating to compare the emigration rates of that time with the current immigration trends in Europe, especially Sweden. It makes me very grateful for other methods of transportation, too, because boats from Europe to North America sounded dreadful.

Also, we visited the World Culture Museum and discussed what happens when different cultures meet. We discussed things like the tragic legacy of imperialism, religious pilgrimage, forced migration, and climate refugees. Our tour guide helped me better understand that history is not just about good people and bad people (clearly, some are worse than others), but that people and groups are complex. Boiling history down to a basic “us versus them” mentality limits ones understanding of the past and the future. This was my favorite part of Core Course Week.

Gothenburg had many fun things to do. I went to an art museum and saw my first real life Picasso! We ate a lot of delicious food and felt underdressed for basically all of our meals. Also, I explored a church building that was purely white and gold – simple, yet beautiful.

Our Core Course Week in Gothenburg was a lot of fun, but the travel was exhausting. We returned to Stockholm in the middle of the week and continued discussing our core course for the rest of the week. I am happy that my classes are interesting and I am learning a lot through them. Thanks to Jad and Melody for organizing the week and making it a trip to remember!

Fast forward one week and come with me to Finnhamn! This is an island located in an archipelago, five hours east of Stockholm by ferry. About 70 DIS students (led by Jim, Esme, and Maddie) made our way to stay at a hostel on the island for a weekend.

The excursion was great because I was able to get closer to many of my classmates and I had a lot of fun exploring the forest on the island. Sweden has a public policy called “allemansrätten” which is the “freedom to roam”. This means that most natural spaces belong to everyone. There are almost no private property signs in the country because almost all the land is public (besides private buildings and houses, of course). This makes natural spaces very accessible and promotes environmental protection. I spent hours and hours exploring the natural beauty that was this island. It felt really liberating to get away from the city because it reminded me that Sweden is not just colorful architecture and progressive public policy, the wilderness in this country is breathtaking.

Big thanks to the leaders of this excursion! It was an incredible weekend!

Besides traveling outside of Stockholm, life has become a bit more routine now. The excitement of a new city has started to wear off and the reality of tests and homework and school is really sinking in. I’m still having a fantastic time here, but I am learning that if I want to switch up the routine, I have to decide to. I need to keep it interesting by exploring and learning and doing as much as I can to ward off the mundanity of the academic routine.

Which is why I would like to conclude this post with pictures from one of my favorite places I have visited in Stockholm, Skansen! Skansen is the world’s first “open air museum” where one can see history of old town Stockholm, Nordic animals, native plants, and a beautiful view of the city. I ventured there this week when I didn’t have a field study on Wednesday and was happily surprised at how much I loved the zoo.

Some key take-aways from Skansen included:

  • Reindeer are much smaller than expected. But wildly cute and entertaining.
  • Climate change is scary because flowers are blooming MONTHS earlier than they should be, but at least we can enjoy them for now.
  • Wolves are super cool and I could watch them all day.
  • Bison are the epitome of majesty.
  • Esme loves cows. A lot.

Thank you for reading!

Week Four: Universal Languages

Virtually all Swedes speak at least a little English. It’s taught in public schools as early as first grade, many of the songs on the radio are sung in English, and museums always provide an English translation underneath the Swedish description. Yet, I am noticing a lot by living in a country where my mother tongue is not the majority. From street signs to public transit announcements, hearing my host family speak casually to each other to hearing the music students converse in the school cafe, it is clear that English is not the primary method of communication here.

I feel some combination of tired and exhilarated because I am immersed in a language that I don’t understand. It is exhilarating because I am motivated to learn Swedish with every advertisement I see, every conversation I overhear, and every person I timidly say “ursäkta” to on the subway. I enjoy hearing the darker, throaty sounds that come so naturally to Swedes and it is a tough challenge to replicate them. But this immersion is tiring. It feels disempowering to not know how to ask for directions or what the announcement on the intercom was. I am uncomfortable having to ask for help, a translation, or “Pratar du Engelska?”. Expecting people to use their second language and conform to my needs as a privileged English speaker instead of practicing their language and culture that I decided to enter myself into makes me feel slimy. Ashamed, even.

But, through this immersion, I am becoming keenly aware of how much I do understand when people speak to me. Not only because Swedish and English are very similar, Germanic languages (which is really helpful), but because humans have an innate ability to communicate nonverbally. These unspoken methods of communication have been a source of comfort to me. It provides solidarity with strangers and friends alike, even if our primary languages differ. I want to share with you a list of universal languages that I have come across through my short time in Sverige:

  • Music: Sweden’s very own Melodifestivalen began last night. It is a cheesy, epic, televised music competition that decides which song will represent Sweden at the annual Eurovision competition in May. With subtle to grandiose choreography, shallow to emotional messages, and hyper anthems to emotional ballads, Melo has it all. Although most songs are in English, the Swedes really have a way of performing and representing their country. This is perhaps my favorite cultural phenomenon I have experienced so far. Highly recommended to watch with friends – you’ll have a lot of fun.
  • Laughter: I feel like I am always laughing when I am with my friends here. Eating dinner, getting drinks, watching a movie, exploring the city, getting lost on the T-Bana, and learning Swedish together are all things that bring me a lot of joy. Making others laugh, hearing laughter, and actually laughing are all incredible experiences. Laughter is something that transcends language and is a manifestation of the joy that everyone has a capacity to feel.
  • Applause: My generous host family knows me and my love for theater so well. Last Thursday, we all went to see the musical “Sister Act” at a nearby theater. Although the entire show (besides one number at the beginning) was entirely in Swedish, I understood the story more than I was expecting. By following along with the audiences reactions – when to applaud, laugh, and clap along to the music – I still felt very connected to the story, the characters, and the emotion behind the show. The talent was impressive and it was incredible to see how Sweden puts on a show. Jätte bra! Brava!
  • Exercise: Physical movement is another way I feel connected to people aside from verbal communication. I attended a yoga class, instructed by my host-mother Ilona, where she guided the group entirely in Swedish. I followed the flow of everyones movements and felt like I followed her instructions quite well. And it acted as an informal Swedish lesson, too! It isn’t even the words that she said, but the tone in which she said them that made it easier for me to follow. I was able to feel relaxed and follow the mental journey of the class, too; feeling the energy of everyone collectively deep breathing and stretching together was powerful and motivating. Through this physical and mental movement together, I did not need language to help me feel more grounded or relaxed.
  • Dancing: This past week, I trekked to the other side of the city with some friends to go to a bar that hosted a queer karaoke night. Once we arrived, I was immediately impressed. So many people were dancing, singing along, and performing together. Songs were sung in Swedish, German, and English and all the performers really went for it. A lot of talented vocalists! I had fun dancing with my friends and the strangers at the bar while we all connected to the songs and the atmosphere. An exciting and beautiful night to remember.
Tickets to “Sister Act” in Swedish

Spoken language is the medium through which we communicate, think, process, and perceive the world. It is something that we identify with, how we think, and how we share our thoughts. But, it is not the only way in which we are capable of understanding. Universal languages are media that connect us instead of divide us. They are felt instead of understood. When we see the collective humanity in all of us and our ability to communicate with feeling and emotion, we can realize that we are actually all the same. We may just say things a little differently.

What other universal languages will you notice today? Please feel free to DM me on Instagram, Facebook, or leave a comment here! I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions! Vi ses!

Week 3: Do it for Fun!

Just like every coach I had in high school made VERY clear to me, I am a student before anything else. And that is true. I am here to learn and go to school and study… BUT! I am also here to explore, have memorable experiences, and not spend all my time in a classroom!

This week has been about doing things for fun. Because why NOT!

First of all, if I have learned anything about moving away from home – and now moving away from the USA – it has been to appreciate my alone time. I have the ability to make myself happy and pleased independently of others. My alone time is special because I have the power to do what I want and bring myself joy.

Specifically, I have been able to play piano and sing a lot because of my host family’s piano in our house. My favorite moments thus far have been when I have late start mornings, watch the sunrise over the Baltic Sea, make myself a latte, and play piano. It is a perfectly relaxing, uplifting start to my day and week. I have taken a lot of time to appreciate these moments.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

In the evenings, there is so much else to do! I have been attending Queers and Allies (Q&A) club the past few weeks and it always makes me happy. We meet once a week, get free fika (!), and either play games, watch a show together, or just talk about our lives/current events. It is relieving to spend time with a group that makes me happy and has given me really interesting, fun friends to spend my time with.

When there is nothing planned to do, never fear. There is always something to do in this city. Wandering around T-Centralen and getting lost looking for the PERFECT coffee shop. Finding a small cafe and randomly taking a chance on the food inside. Taking the subway to a random stop and enjoying the area. Going out on the weekend with friends! I have never felt bored in my time living here. As long as you throw yourself into it and get out of your comfort zone, there is something new to see or do every day.

VASA

One of the museums I have explored so far is the Vasa Museum. It tells the story of a grandiose ship built by the Swedish king in the 1600s. To be the envy of all the European powers and to establish Sweden as an imperialist nation, it set sail with much celebration and fanfare. Yet, it sank less than 100 meters into its journey. Oops!

This museum was beautiful and really telling of the history of Great Power Sweden. Although many Swedes look back on the time in history when it attempted to be an imperialist power and laugh (teehee!), it is a great reminder of how strong this nation is. Not in its conquests necessarily, but in the ambition of its people.

Lastly, my latest adventure has been with my host family! We spent a day at Exploria, a trampoline/arcade/ballpit/laser tag adventure park! I had way too much fun as a 21 year old playing with my little host cousins in the ball pit and on the trampolines. Although I lost epically at laser tag, I got this great gem of Julian and I.

I have been learning a lot through my adventures outside the classroom. Take some time for yourself today and enjoy what is around you. Do something new and explore! Get out of your mundane bubble and engage with your environment. Be present! It’s worked out for me so far, and I’m sure it will for you.

Week Two: Getting in the Zone

The second week of my study abroad experience can be categorized into four words: getting in the zone. Reality has begun to sink in and I am realizing that I am not here for just a quick vacation – I am here for an entire semester of school. In a brand new city. It has been a mix of exciting and overwhelming. From the times I wander through Gamla Stan and take in the architectural beauty that is Stockholm, to the times that I feel so nervous to ask someone a question on the subway because I’m not sure if they speak English. These past few weeks have been about facing the reality that is my upcoming semester!

In order to familiarize myself with the city, I signed up to do the DIS sponsored scavenger hunt across the city. It began at Central Station and we were off from there! To start, we went to City Hall and enjoyed the beautiful view of the water.

The scavenger hunt then led us to other destinations like the old town – Gamla Stan! We weaved our way over cobblestone streets and faced the windy alleyways until we finally found the main square in Gamla Stan. Right at the spot where this epic fountain was built, there was a bloody massacre in the 1500s in order to kill a bunch of nobles. Viva la Revolution?

After admiring the famous rune stone, the graffitied walls, and the cute shops everywhere, we made our way off Gamla Stan and took a ferry to Gröna Lund the amusement park on and island south of Östermalm. Near there, we walked around the green space, walked past the front of Skansen – the oldest open air museum in the world, the ABBA museum, and the front of the Vasa Museum.

Mixtape dropping soon

After we wandered slowly back to DIS, we realized that we had gotten all our steps in a long time ago and it was time to go home. I feel much more aware of my surroundings now that I did the scavenger hunt. I made friends along the way, familiarized myself with the city, and feel much more confident taking public transportation now. Such a great way to spend my Saturday!

Besides galavanting around town, I have been studying quite a bit. I am in 15 credits of classes – about the same as I would be back at Tulane. It has been very doable and the teachers are really understanding about the growing pains we all face as new students. I am really impressed with the DIS staff and how well they are helping people transition into their new lives in Sweden. They really care about their students. (And no, they did not tell me to write that.)

These next few weeks will be about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, making friends, and exploring someplace new. Tack för läser!

Week One: First Impressions

Välkommen! After months of anticipation, I’m here! I finally landed in Stockholm after a 16 hour journey from Denver and the nerves hit me hard. It was really shocking to me that this thing that was so far away for so long was finally here! The reality sank in and I became both really excited and really nervous. Yet, I met my host family and those feelings immediately disappeared.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Honestly, the transition to life in Stockholm took a while. I was plagued with a jetlagged sleep schedule for a week and felt tired most of the day. Especially since the sun sets so early, I felt ready for bed by 6pm most days. I had to quickly become accustomed to new cultural differences:

  • Fashion: SO MANY PEOPLE LOOK SO GOOD! It is not uncommon to see proper looking coats, mostly black and gray, scarves, nice hats, and sleek looking shoes on almost everyone while walking by. The sophisticated fashion sense made the city look so clean and proper.
  • Shoes: You immediately take off your shoes in a living space. Even at the gym, they ask you to change out of the shoes you wore outside into your “inside” gym shoes. (You leave your shoes on in public spaces like restaurants and school, though. Thank goodness.)
  • Snacks and candy: Swedes only snack between meals, eat dessert/candy, and drink alcohol on the weekends. I was so shocked by this! I usually can’t make it a few hours without wanting to munch on something so this was very new to me.
  • Public transportation: The system is all pretty easy! But Swedes are not as friendly as people are in the South in the USA. Nobody really talks on the subway – even if it is packed with people, it can be very quiet. The subway stations are all pieces of art! Each stop is painted, has sculptures, and some even have waterfalls. It makes the transportation system so inviting and pleasant.
  • People are active: Everyone in my host family is very active and that is not uncommon among Swedes. I see people walking, biking, running, and scootering everyday. Get ready to use your legs if you come here!

These are my first impressions of the city! Overall, I am thoroughly happy and impressed with the city so far. I think I am finally over the jetlag, but I am still so excited to be here! Välkommen!

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started