The Beginning of an Amazing Adventure!
It’s so crazy that as I write this, I have been in Sweden for 47 days! So much has happened!
My flight over was wild and crazy: including getting lost in every airport as well as having my last flight canceled in Amsterdam and I even ended up sleeping in a café! When I thought finally landing in Göteborg was the end to this craziness, I was even more wrong. My luggage was missing, and proceeded to stay missing for a full week.
During that first week, I was so immensely homesick, and I truly learned why everyone says you need to get busy. Because when you do nothing you think. And when you think you think of home. When you think of home you think of dad. When you think of dad you think of his amazing food. When you think about the amazing food you think about laughing over the dinner table with your family. And when you think about that – you cry. Homesickness for me was intense downward spiral thinking. I sobbed in the shower on a daily basis. I cried myself to sleep. I wasn’t sure I could really do this.
But after a week of being in Sweden, everything turned around. My luggage arrived, I bonded with my host sisters more over Just Dance on the Wii, and everything looked brighter.
Now, I am having such an amazing time here in this country. I wish I could explain in full detail about every single moment that has passed, but that would be intensely boring. So I’ll about some differences I’ve noticed in Sweden:
• School is so much more laid back. I’ve been in school for a month now and I’ve only turned in 1 assignment – and there have been no tests. There is no dress code.
• Students call teachers by their first name. I thought this was awkward at first, but I’ve been getting more and more used to it. It really makes things more personal, I think.
• At school, student can and will smoke cigarettes and use chewing tobacco – I thought this was so strange because of the no tobacco rules in Florida.
• SCHOOL FOOD IS SO GOOD. Everyday there is a hot food buffet! And it’s free! There is also a soup bar with bread, butter, and a typical-Swedish type of crunchy bread called knäckebröd. It’s amazing. (Also, so is all of the other food here, but the fact that even the public high school food was tasty really stood out.)
• Sweden is so green – and I mean that in two ways. There are forests literally everywhere, especially a ways out from the city into the countryside where I live. It is so beautiful. On the other hand, Swedes care so much about the environment and it is so refreshing! All families separate their garbage into food garbage/other as well as recycling with separations into glass, plastic, paper, and tin!
• Swedes tend to be outside so much more than people back home. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not close to 100 degrees F everyday, but I still like it! It is typical to walk to bus stations (to get to school or home from school) or to walk or bike to shops if you are close enough.
• Instead of one big shopping trip a week, people tend to shop a few times a week.
• There are practically no streetlights. I would say 90% of street “things” are roundabouts and Swedes use them MUCH better than Floridians do!
I’ve also done a few amazingly fun things since being here! I’ve gone fishing to catch crayfish and had a traditional end-of-summer crayfish party or, kräftskiva. I went to a party kind of like a high school homecoming in the US, called a Kick-In. I’ve swam in a lake. I’ve trekked through a forest. I’ve gone to spinning, Zumba, and Pilates classes with my host mom. I’ve climbed up the inside of a mountain in a silver and nickel mine at 2ºC. I’ve made friends from all over the world. I’ve attended and survived Swedish high school for almost a month. I’ve made actual Swedish friends!
If any prospective outbounds are reading this, let me give you some advice. If this completely terrifies you but also sets your heart on fire – do it. Exchange is crazy, wild, emotional, and so many things. But one thing it always is – is worth it. Take a leap of faith. See how crazy and amazing this world is. You won’t regret it.
I’ve been writing application essays to college while on exchange because I’m taking a gap year. Here’s an excerpt from one of my essays:
“But everyday I lean more about this amazing culture. And everyday I learn more about the beautiful and confusing language I am fully immersed in. And everyday I learn more about myself as I deal with homesickness, navigating European public transportation, trying to make friends in a foreign language, and so much more. Some may say it’s crazy to spend an extra year in high school for no credits, but I know just how valuable this experience has been and will continue to be for me. Being an exchange student means truly learning the meaning of the quote: “You’ll never know your limits until you push yourself to them.” I’ve cried getting off the bus at the wrong station. I’ve been so homesick that I’ve wanted to quit. I’ve been so frustrated with my language skills that I’ve wanted to scream. But exchange teaches you something through this. It’s that, no matter how crazy things get – you get up. You go on. You survive. And somehow, it becomes the best year of your life.”
Thank you so my host club, sponsor club, RYE Florida, RYE Sweden, and my amazing family for supporting me! I love you guys!