Last week I had my 100th day in Sweden and it is hard to believe that 1/4 of my year is completed, but a number of wonderful memories that I have gained thus far makes me very excited for the coming months.

I have been wanting to write a post for nearly 2 months now, but I am so busy the weeks just seem to fly by. Not only have I switched host family’s once, but twice. My first family did not work out so I stayed with my Rotary counselor and her family for a month until a new family could be arranged. I had a wonderful time with my counselor’s family and was sad to leave but my new family is very nice and I am very happy here.

I am getting more and more used to school life and have recently switched to speaking only Swedish. It is very difficult to not speak English but I know the beginning is the hardest and that it will get easier over time.

Autumn came much faster than I expected, with the cold weather and the leaves turning colors in the middle of September. I found myself stuck with my limited 4-5 sweater wardrobe much earlier than I thought and have had to go shopping quite frequently to buy more layers. The weather has been quite similar to Minnesota's, however everything has come about a month earlier than it does back home: the fall colors, the cold weather, and the darkness. Although I expect my winter here to be slightly warmer by a few degrees, I expect I will still be complaining along with the rest of the swedes. Everyone here has told me to prepare for November because the weather can be quite depressing with the sun setting at 3:30pm, but I have woken up to the sun shining nearly every day for the past two weeks and am as happy as ever! Fall has been very beautiful and I have tried to get outside as much as possible and enjoy the sun it before disappears for the rest of the year.

I have been trying to take advantage of the weekends to explore Stockholm and travel. I have visited IKEA numerous times, bought a fjällraven backpack, explored the underground metro art, visited the American candy store, had lunch in an old medieval restaurant in Gamla Stan, and more.

I have absolutely fallen in love with Stockholm! The sites in the city are absolutely beautiful and the people are wonderful. I love how Stockholm is safe, clean and has a wonderful public transportation system that allows you to go anywhere in the central part of the city within 20 minutes, either by taking the train, bus, biking, or walking. A concept of Swedish culture that I have quickly come to adore is Fika. For those reading that are not Swedish, “Fika” is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning "to have coffee", often accompanied with pastries, cookies, pie and most especially, Kanelbulle (Cinnamon Rolls). As the weather turns dark and cold outside, I love the feeling of relaxing inside while talking with your friends over a nice, warm drink and pastry.

I have also had numerous chances to enjoy some time outside of Stockholm and city-life and visit smaller towns and the countryside. I enjoyed seeing all of the old, red houses & buildings and the quiet of strolling the cobblestone streets and paths found throughout Sweden & Scandinavia. In early October, my class from school went on an overnight trip to a scout house an hour north of Stockholm. It was a good opportunity to bond with my classmates as we cooked food. played games and went mushroom/blueberry picking.

The following weekend in October all of the exchange students that are living in Stockholm got to visit the students living in Strängnäs, a cute small town that attracts many tourists in the summer and I could see why, it was absoluly breathtaking. With all of the fall colored leaves on the trees and on the ground, it made me a little jealous that I am not living there for the year. We did a short walking tour and then stayed the night at a large scout house where we listened to music and played group games into the early morning.

I have also visited Uppsala, the fourth largest city in Sweden located an hour north of Stockholm, a couple times. It has the same feel of Stockholm since it is so close, however much smaller and less crowded. I, along with other exchange students, visited Uppsala Cathedral, the tallest church in all the Nordic countries, and where the tombs of Gustav Vasa, the first King of Sweden, and his queens are located. We also visited Uppsala Castle, ordered to be built by Gustav Vasa in 1549.

I got the exciting opportunity by one of the Rotarians from my host club to go sailing for a day out in the Stockholm Archipelago. It was a beautiful, magnificent ship called the Tre Kroner manned only by teenagers. As we sailed further and further out into the Archipelago, I could slowly see the trees disappear until the only thing that emerged from the water were small islands of inhabitable rock. I also saw a few seals and a couple eagles but the weather was too bad for much wildlife to be out. The weather was very cold and rainy, and when we were away from land the wind was so strong, enormous waves were crashing on the deck and the sailboat took large dives up and down as it floated through them. By the end of the day, I was freezing and was soaked head to toe from rain and waves, but it was absolutely one of my favorite things I have done so far.

By the end of October, it was time for Autumn break, Höstlov in Swedish, and I spent the week and a half in Odense, Denmark with Anja, my mom's best friend from when she was an exchange student in Denmark, and her family. It was great to relax and enjoy small-town, Danish life with great people without the stress of learning Swedish, school, etc. Halloween is not a big holiday anywhere outside of America, but it was impossible for me to end October without some sort of celebration, so we carved a small pumpkin, made pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and roasted the pumpkin seeds while listening to scary (and not so scary) horror stories. For the entire month of October, it is astonishing how little I thought about Halloween. Without all of the decorations in every store and Halloween movie marathons on TV for the entire month that consumes America every October, it felt like a completely different sort of fall season where I just enjoyed the fall colors, crisp air, warm drinks, people, and the city.

On my last day in Denmark, I got to go tour Copenhagen the whole day until my flight back to Stockholm that evening. It was an absolutely beautiful city and am super excited I was finally able to see it. I saw the Little Mermaid statue, The Blue Planet Aquarium, The Old Citadel - Kastellet, Rundetaarn, Amalienborg Palace, Fredrick's Church, Nyhavn, Rosenberg Castle, Freetown Christiania, and City Hall. It was a wonderful break! I loved Denmark, and I hope I get to return again soon.

Last weekend I went to a Rotary-hosted Crayfish Party with 40 other exchange students from around Sweden, some who I hadn't been able to meet yet. As we slowly arrived from around the country to this little town called Anderstorp, each student was met with screaming and an abundance of hugs. Our international family was together again at last! We danced and caught up with each other until the early morning when everyone crammed onto the floors of the small rooms and tried to sleep as much as possible until breakfast. We spent Saturday outside in the woods hiking, playing games, and having a barbeque. As the sun began to set in the afternoon, we took some photos with our flags and then a small group of students gathered up the courage to go swimming in below freezing water. We went back to the scout house and waited until we could go to the crayfish party.

A traditional crayfish party is an occasion celebrated by all Swedes usually around August outdoors, but the cold weather did not allow for that. We did, however, stand up to the tradition of having colored paper lanterns hung around the table. The most popular type of lantern shows a smiling full moon. Both the tablecloth and the colorful plates are also supposed to be of paper, and people wear comic paper hats on their heads. During the feast, you eat crayfish and shrimp cold, with your fingers. Bread and a strong cheese are served on the side with traditionally snaps & beer as the drinks of choice. This time we had Julmust & other sodas to shout "Skul!" to every time we finished singing a song throughout the course of the dinner.

After the feast, we were introduced to another strong part of Swedish culture: Suströmming. The canned, fermented herring is so disgusting many Swedes go their lives without ever trying it. When the canned was opened, the most horrible, revolting odor filled the outside air, definitely the worst smell I have ever experienced. A select few exchange students were willing to try it. Some had how it is traditionally eaten, with flatbread, potatoes, and onions, and some it plain. After seeing mixed reactions, I thought I would give it a try. At first, I don't think my taste buds knew what was going on, but within the next few seconds, I could barely swallow it. Suströmming did not taste half as bad as the smell, but I will never be eating it again. At least I can check it off the bucket list!

I have had a great three and a half months in Sweden & as I look at the calendar, I have many more exciting months to come! I am super excited for Christmas and the festivities Stockholm will have leading up to it! Thank you so much to everyone back home for your support and to all of my new friends here that are making my exchange a blast! I wish everyone in America a happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful start to the holidays!

Move your blog to Nouw - now you can import your old blog - Click here

Likes

Comments

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” – Robin S. Sharma

This is a quote I believe everyone should live by. It has stood by my side whenever I have felt happiness, nervousness and homesickness while I have been on exchange thus far. It reminds me of all the reasons I decided to leave my comforts of life in America and look for personal discovery, growth, adventure and experience alone in a foreign country. Being an exchange student, you don’t only build a new life for 11 months, you build a lifetime of experiences and perspectives that no one else can take away.

I have been in Stockholm, Sweden for 5 weeks now and I appreciate your patience as I have begun to adjust to a new way of life here. It is hard for me to comprehend what has happened within the last month; I often must remind myself that I have two lives, one in America and one in Sweden. I went from my American life of normality to traveling thousands of miles across the world and flipping my entire world upside down.

The day of my flight to Stockholm, I was really relaxed…I wouldn’t be surprised if someone called me crazy for how relaxed I was. For many months I knew I was going on exchange, and as I slowly closed the chapter of my life that took place at Stillwater High School, reality never struck. I said goodbye to friends and family and packed up my suitcase because my mind knew I was leaving, but I subconsciously did not know what was happening. We put my heavy suitcases in the car and I said good bye to my dog, Andy, one last time. When my family and I arrived at the airport everything happened very quickly… we checked my bags and said goodbye before going through security. There were no tears, at least none my end, because it wasn’t a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘see you later…I’m already anticipating our next hug’. Within minutes I was through security and at my gate where I met Grace, another exchange student from Minnesota on her way to Sweden. As we flew across the world to start a new adventure, we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen from above the clouds.

I had no problems while traveling, and within 12 hours I landed in Stockholm and opened the doors to my host family and my Rotary counselor. They were very welcoming and they took me to their apartment in their area of Stockholm, Hammarby Sjöstad, which can be translated to “Lake City”. It is a beautiful, residencial area with newly developed urban housing that surrounds a lake.

Throughout the first week I explored the area by my apartment and parts of central Stockholm. The first days I was with my host mom, Sara, since I did not know anything about the layout of Stockholm, but by my third or forth day I was on my own, finding my own way throughout all Stockholm via metro and busses. My favorite sight was Gamla Stan, the Old Town, a small island where Stockholm was founded in 1252 A.D. and is the largest and best preserved medieval city in Europe. I also participated in the Stockholm Pride festival with another exchange student living in the Stockholm area.

After a week and a half in Stockholm I spent a week in Sundsvall, a town in the northern half of Sweden, where I had an Introduction Camp with the other Rotary Exchange students that will also be spending the year in Sweden. There were twenty three of us at our camp, representing seven different countries (11 from America, 2 from Switzerland, 1 from Mexico, 2 from Brazil, 4 from South Korea, 1 from Taiwan, and 2 from Canada). Everyday we had approximately seven hours of classes covering rules, Swedish history & culture, and a little bit of Swedish lessons while the rest of the time exploring Sundsvall. It was an amazing opportunity to meet the other students who lived all throughout Sweden. All of a sudden I didn’t feel alone in my experience; I now had a big family that would support each other through our ups and downs as the year continues.
When I returned to Stockholm I spent the rest of the week exploring more of Stockholm and the surrounding areas while the weather was nice. A few exchange students who lived near me in Stockholm joined me at Gröna Lund, the small theme park in central Stockholm. My host mom and host brother, Anton (13), took me to Vaxholm during the weekend, an old town in the Stockholm Archipelago. The traditional Scandinavian houses were beautiful to look at as we walked through the streets.

I began school at Östra Reals Gymansium that Monday. It is taking some time to get adjusted to the school, my classmates, and my classes which are all instructed in Swedish, but I know I will get used to it soon.

At the end of August I went to Åre Wild Camp with another 40 Rotary exchange students in Sweden. Most of us were new arrivals, but there were a group of students from Australia and Thailand who arrived in Sweden in January. Throughout the weekend we mostly hiked and kayaked throughout Åre, where the largest ski resorts in Sweden are located. It was great to see all of the other exchange students again as I have grown very close of many of them through out the month. It was also great to be outdoors, enjoying Sweden's beautiful nature before the weather gets cold.

I have had a wonderful first month in Sweden and am very excited for where the rest of the year will take me.

Thank you for your love and support for this adventure of mine!

Likes

Comments

The world's cultures have grown to be a passion of mine. I have wanted to experience and be a part of as many of the world's beautiful cultures as possible during this short period of time called Life.

I am Carolyn Wrightsman, a high school student from Minnesota in the United States of America. I am taking my first step to assimilating into one of the world's cultures beyond my own as a North Star Rotary Youth Exchange student to Stockholm, Sweden.

I am thankful for all of the support from my family & friends. You made this journey of mine possible. I am very happy to have a place where I can describe and share my wonderful experiences abroad.


I am not afraid to walk this world alone.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.

I will not fear the world, but embrace it.

Likes

Comments