Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

Hej från Sverige!!

From stopping to eat blueberries as I climbed up mountains with my host family, to having to stop in the road to let reindeer pass, my time here so far has felt surreal!

I arrived in Sweden August 1st and I have enjoyed my first month here so much! I live in Stockholm, but the second day I was here in Sweden, my host family brought me to their grandparents winter house. It’s about 6 hours from Stockholm and their house is located right next to a mountain for skiing. (Fjätervålen) We walked through forests, bathed (a lot), climbed mountains, picked blueberries then made blueberry pie, went fishing, and saw lots of reindeer! Everything was so beautiful and there was a stillness and quietness in the air that was so beautiful.

I really like my host family!! They are so fun, kind and welcoming and I am so happy I am with them! I have a 12 year old brother (Vide), 13 year old brother (Kasper), 15 year old sister (Lova) and then my host parents (Nicklas & Kristina). Lova just left for France, and although i’m so excited for her to start her exchange, i’m sad our month together is up!

Another fun thing I did was go crayfishing with my host family. Although I didn’t participate in putting the dead fish in the traps, I did get to go out on the little boat and pull up the crayfish we caught from the water! We then had a party, which consisted of quiche, lots of bread and cheese, crayfish, and ice cream cake.

As for school, I started August 20th and I’m in the natural sciences track. This means i have biology and lots of math, in addition to Swedish, religion, Spanish, P.E., and English. My class at school really feels like a community. I’m in the first year so everybody is new to the school and everyone seems to look out for each other. I have people to sit lunch with everyday and hang out with during breaks between classes. And we all bonded over feeling super sore after our first gym class haha.

So how is school in Sweden different?

-Schools have different programs. (At my school they have the economics track and natural sciences track.)

-I have the same people in all of my classes which I love! It makes it easy to really bond and get to know people

-Teachers commonly let students out of class 10/15 minutes earlier if they’re done with lessons.

-I start/end at different times every day. (On Thursday I start at 10:10 and on Friday I get out at 2!!)

-Everybody gets a laptop

-Lunch is free, and they always have knäckebröd (hard bread) with butter set out, as well as vegetarian/vegan options.

What else is different about Sweden?

-Everybody is out walking, biking, bathing and enjoying the nice weather! This goes along with an important right in Sweden, Allemansrätten一or "everyman's right.” Under this, Swedes are granted the right to roam wherever they please in the countryside, forests, etc., as long as they respect the land.

-Little kids have a lot of freedom/independence and you even see young kids finding their way to school by themselves via public transportation.

-There’s bread/cheese/butter with almost every meal. (And I’m in love…)

-People don’t drink as much water or just beverages in general. Maybe i’m just so used to having to stay hydrated in Florida, but it’s definitely weird using tiny cups, and not having free refills.

-Fika really is a prominent thing in Sweden! Basically fika is where you take a break, drink coffee and eat sweets, and maybe catch up with friends. I’m always happy for a fika break!

And Homesickness?

Of course I have moments where i really miss my family, friends and cats, but I also know this year will not last forever and I need to appreciate and enjoy it as much as I can! It’s hard to have to say goodbye to all that you know, but the thing is you have so many hellos and new experiences waiting for you ahead. Yes there are days I wish I could be eating Chick-fil-a with my friends or making countless target runs with my mom, but i know those moments will be waiting for me when I return home. It’s also important to find a balance of communication back home. I don’t think you have to cut off communication completely, but also don’t go overboard every day.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

Lastly I wanted to say thanks, tack så mycket, to Rotary for making my exchange possible! Thanks to Mrs. Paula/Jeff for all your passion, dedication and kindness you pour into this program. And of course thanks to all the support and love from my family and friends!

Vänliga hälsningar,

Caroline Bernet

Click HERE to read more about Caroline and all her blogs