Vivianne, Outbound to Sweden

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Hi everyone. I’ve only been in Sweden for one week, but I’ve already fallen in love with this wonderful country. It’s quite a bit different than what I’m used to, but that’s perfectly fine. The whole reason us exchange students are on exchange is to see a different way of live and that’s exactly what is happening. I have to say though, it’s not as cold here as I thought it would be.

Travel:

This was my first time on a plane. Ever. So you can understand how nervous I felt about getting on different panes and navigating through the different airports for almost 2 days straight. Not to mention my best friends had me watch Final Destination a few weeks before I left, which didn’t really help calm my nerves. In all honesty, I was more afraid of the planes than the fact that I would be living in a foreign country where I knew no one and couldn’t really understand the language.

I left Jacksonville around noon. I waited with my mom, stepdad, and younger sister outside of the gate until it was time for me to leave. As far as I saw no one cried while I was getting on the plane, although I don’t know what happened afterwards. I know I teared up a little knowing I wouldn’t get to see my family in person for a whole year, but then I quickly went back to being nervous about the plane.

Miami airport was the most difficult to navigate. I had to go to Check-In to get my next two boarding passes, but I couldn’t find the desk. I eventually asked someone working there who told me where to go, but they didn’t seem too pleased that I asked them. Luckily, the woman working the desk was very nice and even drew a map for me on the back of my boarding pass to show me where I would need to go next and what I could do while I waited. After going through security and finding my gate, I only had a little more than an hour to wait for my next flight, so I really couldn’t do much besides wait in the crowded waiting area.

My flight to London was 8 hours long, but I hardly slept. I think I got 30 minutes of sleep at most, and for the rest of the time I was playing games on my phone with the screen light turned down so I didn’t disturb everyone else who could actually fall asleep. However, I wasn’t even that tired when I got to London, I was more hungry and annoyed by the fact that I'd have to wait 6 hours in the airport.

I can’t really say much about the flight to Stockholm, since I was asleep the entire flight. When we arrived in Stockholm, I had to wait in a long line before I even got close to baggage claim. Eventually I got both of my bags, but I had trouble finding the exit. I had to ask my host family by email where it would be. When I did find it, I walked out of the airport to see my host mother and father, both with signs saying “Welcome to Sweden Vivianne!”. During our drive home, they pointed out a lot of buildings and areas, and told me what each of them were. When we finally got home, I immediately fell asleep after eating. I was absolutely exhausted.

First Week (and a half):

My first week was full of travel. My host family showed me around Mariefred and Strängnäs. I got to see my school, which looks so different from my school in the U.S. I found out that I’ll be taking the bus to school everyday. A public bus, not a school bus. I have no clue how public transportation systems work really, since I’ve never really used them, but luckily my host family arranged to have another student show me what buses to take and where to go.

My host family took me to three castles in three days, with two of the castles being royal castles. First was Drottningholm, where the current King and Queen of Sweden live. After that was Gripsholm, which is in Mariefred near where I am living now. You can actually see this castle from the window of my home. Last was Taxinge, which is a small castle that is known for having a huge cake buffet. The other two exchange students and I met for the first time before getting on a train and spending a lot of the day here.

Later in the week, my host family and I went to Utö, which is a small island east of Stockholm. It was raining for most of the day, but we still had fun going around to the museums and walking around the island.

On Sunday, we met with the other two host families and exchange students, along with two outbound students leaving for the U.S. later this month. We got to hang out and tell each other what our countries were like and how school would be. We ended up playing a game like HedBanz, but it had a Swedish name that I can’t quite remember.

The day after that, we met up with the other two exchange students again to check out the Kulturskolan (Culture School) in Strängnäs. The school is sort of like an after school program where students can take classes in music, theater, art, and film. As of right now, I’m thinking about joining one of the art classes, but I still have to talk with my host family about it.

Yesterday, my host parents took us three exchange students to the older part of Stockholm. It was really crowded, but everything looked so great that I didn’t really care. We saw the Royal Palace and the Changing of the Guard. Later we got to tour CIty Hall, which was so beautiful that I didn’t believe it was actually City Hall! This is where the Nobel Banquet is held, in the Blue Hall (which is, sadly, not blue). My favorite part was walking up the steps that the guests of the Nobel Banquet get to walk down. It wasn’t really anything too special, since about 100 other people were doing it at the same time I was, but it felt nice nonetheless.

Challenges & Successes:

Since it’s only been a week, I haven’t really had many challenges or successes.

I guess one challenge would be that everyone here speaks English. Rotary didn’t lie. Whenever my host family introduces me to someone, they automatically switch to English. Restaurants hear me speak with my host family before we come in and immediately pull out an English menu for me. It definitely makes it easier for me (sometimes a bit too easy), but I still want to try and use Swedish. My host parents have put sticky notes on some objects around the house, so I’ve learned a few object names in Swedish. Now I can understand some more of the words my host parents say when they speak to each other in Swedish.

I haven’t really been homesick or anything, and I think I’m adjusting fine. I think that it will be better for me when I get into school and develop a routine. Since I don’t have a routine yet, I don’t really know what to do sometimes.

I also have to get used to having a little less household responsibility than I have in the U.S. There, I have a younger sister I have to take care of during the day while my parents are at work. I drove myself to school, picked my sister up from school, cooked when needed, cleaned when needed, and took care of our 4 pets. Here, I don’t have any siblings (in this host family). I can’t drive and my host parents do most of the cooking (although I do help. I don’t need Rotary thinking I’m not helping). We have people come to clean the house every two weeks and we have a dishwasher. There isn’t really that much for me to do, so I try to find small chores that I can do to fill up my time, but there aren’t really that many.

Closing:

“Closing” sounds a little too formal for me, but I couldn’t really think of anything else. I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.I don’t really have anything else to say besides thank you. I do want to thank everyone who helped me get here, and I have a few specific people that I want to thank here.

Ms. Paula and Mr. Jeff, thank you for supporting me and the rest of D6970. We greatly appreciate everything you have done and continue to do for us. Just know that we’re all going to do our best and make you both proud.

Mr. Göran and Ms. Catrine, thank you for teaching me a lot about Sweden and helping me improve on my Swedish a bit. You have done so much to help me that I can’t even fully process it. Hopefully when I talk to you later this year, it will be in Swedish.

Rotary Club of Orange Park Sunrise, thank you for sponsoring me. I definitely wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. I hope to be able to Skype with you later and talk with all of you about my life here in Sweden.

Rotex, I have to say, all of you are awesome and you know it. I don’t think I even need to tell you how great you are. So, thank you for showing us the ways of exchange and helping us through training.

Friends and family, I’ve already thanked you a few times, but I figured I should do it again since you deserve it. Thank you for helping me get here. To me, it is worth all of the hard work spent, and hopefully it is to you too. I look forward to sharing my exchange with you.

Lastly, my host family, host club, and host country, thank you for taking me in and allowing me to experience this beautiful country firsthand. I never thought something like this would be possible for me, but as I can see now, it was definitely possible, I just needed the right people to help me get here.

This wasn’t as short as I intended for it to be, but if you’re reading this you made it through the whole thing. Thank you for reading my journal and I look forward to sharing the rest of my exchange with you!