Last week I had the incredible chance to go to Kiruna Sweden, a town almost at the top of the country. As a rotary student we get so many opportunities to go on amazing trips with the exchange students and I am so glad that I went on this one.

Monday morning I embarked on my journey and after a quick plane ride I arrived in Kiruna and met up with the other students. It was so nice to be able to see all of them, we are scattered all over Sweden so these excursions are the rare occasions where were all together. At the beginning of the year I went on a language camp trip to Sundsvall and almost everyone who went there was at Kiruna and it was amazing to see them after almost a year of being apart for some of us. That evening we went on a tour of LAKB, the mine that Kiruna is famous for. There they produce massive amounts of Iron Ore everyday and it was cool to be able to actually go in the mine itself and see what it was all about.

Tuesday morning we all got on the bus and went to Jukkasjärvi, a smaller town just outside Kiruna. The first thing we did was ride in sleds pulled by snowmobiles, we rode across this frozen lake and I can still picture the beauty that I saw, nothing can come close to it. Snow covered everything and it was honestly unbelievable how perfect and quiet and peaceful it was. Being in those sled with my exchange student family reminded me of why I came on exchange in the first place, to live and see the worlds most beautiful and unexpected sights. We went snowmobiling and ice fishing and just enjoyed being in each others company. In Kiruna there is also a hotel made solely of ice, everything from the walls, the chairs and even the chandeliers. The rooms were decorated with ice sculptures and ice art and each was different, with a new theme. Unfortunately since Swedish spring is coming the hotel had started to melt in some places, you could feel small drops of water hit the top of your head sometimes. However it was still amazing to see something so unique and famous. That night we learned more about the Swedish indigenous people, the Sami. We met and fed reindeer and then enjoyed smoked reindeer and potatoes for dinner... A bit ironic. The food was good but the people were better.

One thing I have always wanted to do was see the northern lights and late that night I got to do just that. After waiting for what seemed forever, the Aurora Borealis showed itself to us, and even though it was a quick show and the city lights dimmed them a bit they were there. I don't think I've ever been more amazed or in awe of anything. It made me suddenly very aware of just how small I was and just how amazing the world could be. Definitely one of the highlights of the week.

Wednesday was a full (and snowy) day. After waking up early we all put on our snow gear and went dog sledding. Now, if you know me you know that dogs are basically my favorite things on earth. Well Laxforsen (another small town) has more dogs then people and let's just say I was in heaven. It was absolutely amazing to see all the dogs and how excited they were to run, all howling and yapping to each other while they were being hooked up to the sled. I couldn't get enough of them, especially a little puppy, soon to be sled dog, that the exchange students dubbed "Juanita." In the evening the school that put on our activities for the week also prepared us a delicious dinner, what's more Swedish than moose? And after we stuffed ourselves with delicious food everyone sang their national anthems with the other students from their home countries. I must be biased now and say that of course the Americans were the best but it was really cool to hear everyone and see how proud they were of their home. No one went to sleep that night until very late, it being the last night and all. We all just sat around together playing odds and laughing until we couldn't laugh anymore.

It was sad to leave Thursday afternoon because for some of us it was the last time we'll see each other, this year has flown by but Kiruna was definitely the best way to start bringing our time together to a close. I will definitely be going back to Kiruna someday, it was such a magical place.

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This year has been one of the most, if not the most, amazing years of my life. I have met so many amazing people and had the opportunity to experience so many wonderful things. I never would have guessed that I would find a home half way across the world from everything I've ever known but I have and for everyone who made this place home for me, thank you. Exchange is full of fantastic things but there are definitely some things that a hard about it and since I want this blog to be honest I'm going to share a part of my year that was hard but also taught me so much more about myself.

Heartbreak hurts wherever you are and this year I met someone who completely changed my life for the better. He made me happier than I've ever been and showed me how much life could mean. I got to love someone more than I've ever known you could love someone. I think it's important to remember that everyone who comes into your life has a lesson to teach you and I am so lucky to have learned so much from this person. The past couple years before exchange I was having a hard time learning to love myself for who I am and having someone love you for everything that you are, even the things you're insecure about, makes you realize how much your worth. Not that your worth is based on other people but it helps you learn to love yourself by having someone show you all the things that make you amazing, especially the little things about yourself that you never noticed.

We've all been told not to fall in love on exchange but I don't think that's something that can be controlled. Love comes at the most unexpected times and you have to embrace it. There's nothing I would change about my exchange year, or the time I had with this person. Not only did i get to spend the time with such a wonderful soul but I got to make memories that I will always have. Exchange is all about living and making life time lasting memories and that exactly what I got to do. I wouldn't trade anything to not feel sad, because the sadness means I had a once in a lifetime love. I got to not only have an amazing year but I got to meet someone that will forever be in life.

To the boy who has my heart but I know we'll always be friends, thank you. Thank you for making this year so much better just by always being there for me, and for making me laugh until my stomach hurt. You're my favorite bean and I'm so lucky to have you in my life. Thank you for the time we had together, it was the best time of my life. You introduced me to new people that I wouldn't of had the chance to meet and all the adventures we had together will leave me with stories to tell everyone for the rest of my life. I'm so glad you're my best friend.

I haven't talked about any of this before on my blog but I thought it was time. I want to include everything about my year here so that all of you can be on this journey with me. I'm just rambling now but it's okay, this is my blog.

The truth is life is hard sometimes, especially when you are in a new place. But nothing can beat loving someone and getting loved back, nothing. Love as much, and as hard as you can, you'll be a better person because of it. And remember that you'll be okay when everything seems to fall apart, you're strong and each ending brings a new beginning.

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I can't believe it's already been 200- something days! It's seems like this journey just started yesterday, except now it's starting to warm up and I know it's time to start getting ready to go home. You might say now "but you still have quite awhile" and to answer that I'll say "These 7 months have flown by so the next 4 will go by even faster."

I think it's hard for non- exchange students to really understand and grasp the idea of living and falling in love with a country and then leaving and going back to a life that seems so far away. When I first arrived in Sweden I felt like the year would last forever and now I have to realize that this is just a step in my life, not my whole life. That's really hard, trust me. I have made so many amazing friends here that in my heart this place feels like home but in the back of my head I have to keep telling myself not to get completely attached to this place because even though I can always come back, it won't be my home when I do, I will be a guest, a tourist... And that scares the shit out of me.

Exchange is not a year in your life, it's a life in your year and even though the idea of leaving this place is one of the worst things ever, I'd never change my decision about becoming an exchange student and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who had the opportunity.

You learn so much in the year and you'll go home a much better, mature, and whole person.

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Hej! Kaya här! Detta kommer att bli min sex månader uppdatering! Jag vill skriver i Svenska lite men de flesta kommer att vara på engelska så att alla förstår.
(Hey! Kaya here! This will be my six months Update! I want to write in Swedish bit but most will be in English so that everyone understands.)

So I have been in beautiful Sweden for 6 months... I can't believe it, where has the time gone? It feels like just yesterday the nervous American girl who hated being gone from home for even a couple nights got on the airplane to start a whole new life... Now I've been in a new bed halfway across the world for 192 nights. Wow.

I wanted to write this post because it's been quite awhile since my last one and 6 months is quite a big deal, as an exchange student it not only means you've been away from home for half a year but also that your exchange is halfway, if not a little more, over. I knew going into this year that it would go by quick but honestly I never imagined it would go by this quick.

Becoming an exchange student was the best decision I ever made. Even though these past six months have been filled with ups and downs, there have always been more ups and I feel, and am positive I will always feel, incredibly lucky to have been able to experience all the accomplishments AND obstacles that I have encountered in the past 193 days, and every day that is to come. I would highly HIGHLY recommend becoming an exchange student to anyone who asked me because it's a life changing experience. The people I have met and the friends I have made will be with me forever, and the other exchange students I have had the pleasure to be with the past 6 months are some of the most incredible, brave, and wonderful people I have ever met. They truly have become like family to me and I think it's so amazing to have become so close to people my age from all over the world. I look forward to experiencing the rest of my exchange with them and just knowing them for the rest of my life.

Sometimes I think of what it will be like when I go home and how I will feel when this portion of my life is over and it just all seems so surreal to me. I've only been here for half a year and already it feels like home to me. Even though I am very excited to see all my American family and friends again I know that part of my heart will always belong in Sweden with my family and friends here. Swedes are some of the most amazing people I've ever had the pleasure to come in contact with, I have never had a day here where I have felt unwelcome or like I don't belong. Sure there have been days where I feel different in small ways then people but it's never been a bad feeling. There's something so magical about being halfway across the world and feeling at home. When I think about waking up in my own bed after my exchange is over I can't help but already feel a little tinge of sadness knowing that although I'm home, I'm not home. I wish there was a way for me to take Sweden and California and mash them together, then I'd never feel like I was missing something. But as much as I'd love to be able to do that I know I can't and I know one day, sooner then I'd like, I WILL wake up back in California and as much as I want to I won't be able to just "hop on the subway and go adventure in Stockholm" or "meet the exchange students for fika in 30 minutes." We will all be back in our regular lives and this year will be the great story we will tell everyone and anyone we can for the rest of our lives. But I still have 5 more months so I try not to think about that, I still have these opportunities and I will make sure to take every one I can while I still can.

Wow this post started to get sad... Let's lighten it up a bit shall we? I thought it would be fun to make a list of 6 of my favorite Swedish things in honor of my 6 months.

I know I have talked about this many times but the coffee here is out of this world. Maybe it's just because it's "exotic" to me but I definitely like Swedish coffee more then American. I also really just like the idea of Fika, I think it's so cute and sweet and just AHHHHH. I will definitely be bringing Fika back to California with me.

Being an American in a city where public transportation is not the safest/most popular/ideal choice I was a little worried about it coming to Sweden where I was aware that it was very common. I was worried I would get lost all the time or that I would be scared of going places by myself but I have so much respect and gratitude for it! It's honestly the most convenient way to get around and it's Eco friendly! I love being able to just hop on a bus/subway and get where I need to go without having to worry about finding a ride or inconveniencing someone by making them drive me. It's nice to be independent and it's so freeing.

I start school at 11:30 on Tuesday and Fridays I end at 10:45... Need I say anymore?
Actually yes, I also really like how Swedish gymnasiums (high School level schools) give students a chance to pick they're path (film, cosmetology, social science, natural science, music), I am in the film class and it's so fun!

I was at a party recently where the music they played was ABBA... ABBA... Being an ABBA fan I was thrilled to hear them playing good music instead of just party rap and pop.

I have also noticed a difference in the eating habits of the general Swedish population in comparison to some Americans, swedes eat healthier and are more health conscious on a more general scale. I love eating healthy and I think it's cool to be able to do that while I'm not surrounded by deliciously sugary cereals and taco bells on every corner tempting me.

Maybe it's silly but being A HUGE dog lover, especially of French Bull dogs (my favorite), I think it's really cool to see so many people with their bully's. I've never seen so many people with this type of dog and it makes me really happy.

So there we go, 6 months have past and I've had the time of my life. I can't wait for the rest of my exchange!

​så, hej då allihopa och saknar dig alla 



So I realize that it's been awhile since I last posted... That seems to be what I say whenever I post something new haha

But anyways I figured it's better late than never so here's my blog post for December/Christmas in Sweden!

I was a little concerned that the holidays would bring a lot of homesickness and missing my family and friends back home and while more feelings did arise it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I realized that although I did (and do continue too) miss home, I am nowhere near ready to go home yet so I am okay. I can manage the feelings because I know this year is a gift and I will have no choice but to go home sooner than I want too so I might as well take advantage of everything and make each day and moment count.

Christmas was absolutely wonderful. I am so grateful to have been placed with my host family because they made me feel like part of the family and that's one of the reasons I think I was able I overcome the homesickness. It was a little different celebrating Christmas Eve on the 23rd, and actual Christmas Day on the 24th (which is the Swedish and I guess most Scandinavian and some other European countries way) but I enjoyed the experience and it was still perfect.

We were joined by my host mothers parents, who are wonderful people, and although there weren't many people I think the people that were there made everything perfect.

Christmas Eve, after I returned from shopping and visiting exchange students and school friends, me and family ate dinner together and then watched The Polar Express. The house was so cozy, with candles lit and the spirit of Christmas filling every little space in my body and the house. After everyone went off to sleep or read I watched The Santa Clause (the movie me and my family back home watch every Christmas Eve) and drank hot chocolate. Then it was off to sleep.

I woke up Christmas morning and enjoyed a really good breakfast with my family (and of course there was a lot of coffee) and then we all took a walk. There wasn't any snow which was a little disappointing but as I'm writing this the weather report says there will be snow some time this week, so keep your fingers crossed for me!!

We got home and began to prepare for the big Christmas feast. Some of the dishes (which you can see in some of my pictures) were very very different from typical American Christmas food. And I'm proud to say that I tried everything... However I did not particularly like everything... My host mother said that it wasn't that I didn't like it it was just that I knew other people like it more I left it for them to enjoy 😂😊 the smörgåsbord (the term for all the food) consisted of a lot of fish (3 kinds of sill or herring, smoked eel and salmon, potato and fish casserole, and cooked but cold salmon), elk (which I found out I absolutely LOVE) köttbullar (meatballs), julskinka (Christmas ham), prince Korv (sausages), and an assortment of other goodies. Throughout the meal the adults drank schnapps and sang songs and me and Karin (my 14 year old sister) drank Julmust (a Swedish Christmas and Easter soda made from Holly berries). It was so exciting.

After we ate we watched the Disney cartoons which play for an hour every Christmas. I have been told that it has been the same ones since it started in the 60's I believe. It was so fun to watch it with my whole family because it's a big tradition and almost everyone in Sweden watches it. We enjoyed the Christmas candy that me and host sisters had made the Sunday before Christmas while we watched it and I've decided that I will be making the candy next year at my house with my little siblings.

At about 4:30 Tomten (Santa Claus) paid us a visit and gave out a couple presents to each of us. This was also different that back home because in American Santa comes at night and the children don't see him usually. It was so cute and fun and I'm glad I got to see that part of Swedish Christmas also.

Then we began the process of opening presents (swedes open presents later in the day instead of right in the morning). My family has a tradition of writing small rhymes on each presents that give hints as to what the presents are. So we all sat in a circle and took turns reading the rhymes and opening them. I received many thoughtful and wonderful gifts from my family, it was so kind of them and it made it feel even more like Christmas. I hope they all enjoyed he presents I got them too.

After opening the presents I took a walk and talked to my family back home for about an hour. It was Christmas Eve morning for them so I got to talk to my whole family as they were all together preparing for Christmas. It was nice to be able to share my experience with them and I can't wait to take some of the things I did here back home to share it with them next Christmas.

Christmas night me and family played song star, a karaoke game, and that was so fun and entertaining. My host family are all very musical so it was fun to see them all showing it off and having fun while doing it too. I even joined in a little even though I'm usually pretty shy about singing in front of people.

I went to bed happy and satisfied with my Christmas experience and I'm so thankful to everyone who made it such an amazing and enjoyable Christmas season.

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So I realized today that it's been so long since I last posted an update... I sincerely apologize to all my starving and needy readers... Yes most of that was sarcasm.

Anyways I'm sitting waiting at school so I figured this might be a perfect time to just quickly tell all of you some of the things I have been up too lately in this country that continues to amaze... And freeze me...

So as some of you may know I recently turned 18. At first I was a little sad that I wouldn't be spending my 18 birthday with my family and friends back in the states but I took this opportunity to appreciate this place I'm in and I really just took advantage of all that Sweden has to offer. I met up with my few friends and just had the best time. Eating the amazing food here and just soaking up as much love and culture as I could. The Friday after my birthday I had a small dinner party with the exchange students at my house and it went surprisingly well. The food was good and the company was even better. I even got to see some of the exchange students who live in Falun and Malung (smaller cities about 5/6 hours away from Stockholm) I really appreciated that they made the long tiresome journey just too see me and it made the time even better. I'm so happy I got to spend this time and those days here in my second home.

Now on to thanksgiving. I'm trying to post this before my phone dies so I'm sorry if it's pretty short, I promise I'll post a more in detail one later.

Swedes don't celebrate thanksgiving and I thought it would make me very homesick to see all my friends and family on social media enjoying their home cooked meals with their families on that day. But once again I decided to make the best of it and made a makeshift thanksgiving dinner for my host family. I ended up making chicken (as I didn't dare to even try to cook a whole turkey), cranberry sauce, candied yams, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and biscuits. I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself... It turned out quite good. I enjoyed being able to share a part of my culture that Swedish people don't have, and I was glad to share in their first official thanksgiving with them.

Other than those two things not much has happened here. I continue to tremendously enjoy my exchange year and I can't wait for the rest of it. I already know it will be incredibly hard to leave this fantastic place but I plan to make the most of it and never stop myself from doing something that I want to do during this time. I know that this is a once in a lifetime chance I was given and I'm so incredibly glad I had the courage to embrace it and take chances.

Above is a picture of my thanksgiving dinner I made 😊😊

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Over the first weekend in Höstlov (fall school break) I went to a small ocean side city called Kalmar about 5 hours car ride from Stockholm.

The drives to and from Kalmar, while very long, were very beautiful and it made me appreciate my time here even more.

We stayed with my host fathers sister and her family and it was so nice meeting more of my "family." They were so nice and I immediately felt welcomed and apart of things. They have 2 children, a boy and girl, and it was very interesting to meet Swedish children who were younger than I am as I spend most of my with people my own age.

Okay let's talk about the Castle. Kalmar Slott (castle) was initially constructed in the 12th century but was improved in the 16th century under the direction of King Gustav 1 and his sons. It is absolutely stunning and I am so glad I had the chance to go and see it. I obviously took many many pictures so prepare for an overload. In 1856 architect Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander initiated restoration/reconstruction and by 1891 the castle had gained the silhouette it has today.

On of the most significant political events in Scandinavia, The Kalmar Union, occurred in the castle. Te Kalmar Union was made up of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden (which included Finland at the time). It was organized by Queen Margaret I of Denmark.

I very much enjoyed seeing the castle and I hope maybe I can go back someday ad show someone else it's beauty.

Also for those of you who don't have me on Facebook, I enjoyed a quick (and very freaking cold) dip in the ocean by the house I was staying in. The water was 10 degrees Celsius which translates to 50 degrees Fahrenheit... And if that doesn't sound cold to you then please believe me... IT WAS!

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(Warning that post may be a bit scattered and it doesn't have one theme so enjoy my random thoughts)

Hej hej! bara en liten uppdatering för du! Jag har den mest fantastiska tid här i Sverige!! Just nu är det Höstlov (fall break from school) och dess nästan halloween ❤️👻🍭🍫🍬

(Hello! Just a little update for you! I am having the most amazing time here in Sweden!! Right now it is Höstlov (fall break from school) and it's almost Halloween)

Okay maybe that wasn't all correct but hey at least I'm learning!

As I said its almost Halloween and as many of you know Halloween is my absolute FAVORITE holiday. Unfortunately Halloween isn't as big of a holiday here in Sweden as it is in America... NO MATTER! I will bring American Halloween to Sweden! I have been wracking my brain trying to think of a costume and I think I am going to e a cat. Trick or treating is very popular but I will be attending an all night horror movie party on Friday and then Saturday I will be going trick it treating (or trying to trick or treat) and dinner with some school friends.

OH GOSH FRIENDS! I have met so so so many amazing people here! My classmates at school are marvellous and I'm so lucky to have them. Also I hang out with the other exchange students a lot which is very nice as we're all going through this year together. I consider them my family and I feel blessed to have them along with me on this fantastic journey.

I would also like to talk about my host family because they have made transitioning into the Swedish life style so easy for me. One of the things I was worried about when debating on going on exchange was that I was going to miss my family, I do miss my family really much, but it helps tremendously to have such an amazing host family here. They help me with anything I need and they treat me like one of their own. So Åsa and Anders if you're reading this, thank you! I am incredibly grateful for everything you've done for me so far.

My 18th birthday is coming up soon and I am so excited to celebrate it in this amazing country. I feel especially excited because one of my best friends will be coming to visit and she will be here for my birthday... My heart starts beating fast every time I think of seeing her at the airport. I always enjoyed having parties and just being with my family on my birthday and this year I plan to have a relaxing day and order Thai food and watch High School Musical... Yes I'm almost 18... Also one of my classmates families wants to have a birthday dinner for me also which is incredibly nice of them.

Okay okay okay enough of the scattered topics. Please read my next update because I went to Kalmar which is a marvellous little ocean side city.

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Happy cinnamon bun day from me and stocky gang!

Enjoy some pictures from our baking adventure 💙💙💙

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"That's how you know you love someone, I guess, when you can't experience anything without wishing the other person were there to see it, too."
- Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants

I think this is the first blog post that I start crying while writing... Not necessarily sad tears, just tears... Half sad/half happy-ish...

I've been in Sweden for almost 2 months... That may not seem like such a long time but these past 2 months have seemed like forever. That's not a bad thing, I am having such an amazing, fantastic, wonderful time here in this beautiful country and I'm absolutely positive I wouldn't trade this experience or opportunity for the world but it feels as though some of my heart is missing...
They say one of the worst things (well maybe not worst, but difficult) about exchange is missing people back home and to be honest that is 100% correct.
The people here are amazing and I've made friends, which I think helps a lot with adjusting, but sometimes I'll think about my family and friends back home, just waking up when I'm going to sleep or just going to sleep when I'm waking up and I wish they were here with me. It's hard to just uproot and change everything. It's hard to start a new life when you're still so connected and exposed to the old one.
I wish all my friends could be here to have this amazing experience with me, to see everything I'm seeing, to travel this journey with me. I miss being able to call them one minute and see them in 5.
Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision in going somewhere so far away from all the ones I call family, all the ones I've been with practically my whole life. Part of me feels as though I'm missing out on one of the last years we'd have together before all growing up and going our separate ways.
But then I'll walk outside and see the sky or walk through Gamla Stan and see all the beauty in this place and I'll get a message from them saying they love me or they miss me and they hope I'm having an amazing time. Those little messages remind me that I did make the right decision, they remind me that I am always going to be with them and they'll always be with me even with all the miles and oceans between us.

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