Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

Hej hej! I figured I should write a journal to start off the new year. Happy 2019!

It’s normal life over here. I go to school, take a dance class, meet up with friends, and eat way too many carbs and sweets. Some days I feel a little more homesick for no apparent reason, but I mostly feel quite content over here. I am about to switch to my next host family, which is nerve wracking but also exciting! I really feel at home with my current family, so I am sad to have to leave them, but I am looking forward to experiencing life differently with another family.

School is definitely difficult. Although I have some really great and caring friends, I miss being able to understand the entirety of lectures and being able to complete assignments and tests. However, with the start of 2019, I’m going to try my best to change the way I feel about school. I am also beginning to help a class of 10-year-olds with English. Well more accurately, I will speak Swedish with them and they will speak English with me. It’s the perfect scenario, because speaking Swedish is much more difficult than understanding. I have already met the kids and they are super sweet, so I’m grateful for this new experience.

To my surprise, I wasn’t terribly homesick over the holidays. It was exciting celebrating in a new way, and it definitely helps that I really enjoy spending time with my host family. During the holiday break we returned to one of my host grandparents house in Fjätervålen. I tried cross country skiing for the first time, and although I was quite terrible at it, I would love to be able to try it again when I get back to the States! We also rode snow scooters, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The sun was still rising, creating skies painted with pink. Look left--there’s a mountain covered with snow, glistering like crystals. Look right--there’s a typical Swedish red cottage surrounded by trees. I wish I could have captured it on camera, but some moments are best just to experience.

I am almost at my halfway point through my exchange. Although it is the most difficult thing I have done in my life, I would not trade it in for anything. Sometimes it can be tiring to constantly pick yourself up again and again. It was like when I tried skiing (downhill) again. After falling for the hundredth time, I just wanted to lay in the snow and give up. Sometimes you can feel the same about exchange. However you find the strength in you--and I have certainly learned in these past 5 months that I am much stronger as a person than I ever knew-- and you pick yourself up again. Through struggles to express myself through Swedish, missing my cats, traveling to and from school in pitch black and freezing temperatures, I have definitely struggled on this journey. My best advice to the new outbounds is to talk to people! Talk to other exchange students, your counselor, Rotex, school friends! I also 100% recommend to journal, and don’t feel pressure to journal everyday. Just have a place where you can write down your thoughts, especially when you are feeling a rush of emotions. It is really inspiring to go back and read and see how much you have grown as a person. I think it’s really important to have an outlet to let all your feelings out, because I have found I can’t express how I am feeling as much as I need to.

“Going through things you never thought you’d go through will only take you places you never thought you’d get to.” Morgan Harper Nichols

I can’t imagine my life without exchange. I am so proud of the person I am becoming and I am looking forward to the second half of my adventure here in Sweden!

Tack Rotary! Tack så så mycket familjen Bjerka! Jag kommer att sakna er! Ni är alltid välkommen till mig i Florida!!

Mom and dad, I look forward to showing you guys my new home in April and giving you guys a big hug!

Hej då och gott nytt år!

Caroline Bernet

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