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 A
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
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!