Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

Although it is crazy to believe, 11 months have gone by, and on June 29th I will be leaving Sweden. Since I will be returning home so soon, I have been reflecting a lot about all the amazing people I have met that made my year extraordinary. Before leaving for my exchange year I ate at a Chinese restaurant where I got a fortune cookie. On the fortune stood, "Good friends and laughter will soon surround you." I put it in the back of my phone thinking of my up-coming exchange year. Boy, was that fortune spot on. Between meeting amazing friends at school, other exchange students, and my incredible host families, I feel so lucky. My stomach churns at the thought that my exchange will be over so soon. I am beyond grateful for these past 11 months. Even if every day wasn’t easy. Even when I hated the dark winter. Even when I was absolutely fed up with learning Swedish. I know I will always carry this year with me.

It feels surreal that I will be leaving so soon. Part of me understands that I soon will be on an airplane headed back home. However the other part of my brain refuses to wrap itself around the fact that I will be back stateside in just a few short days. When I said goodbye to some of my school friends earlier in June, it didn’t click in my mind that I would be leaving. After meeting such amazing Swedish friends at school, it’s hard to think that I won’t return to school with them this fall.

These past final months of my exchange have been busy, so here are some of the things I have been up to.

-My family came to visit me in April, after being apart for 8 ½ months. It felt unreal showing them where I live and go to school. Having them meet all my families and friends here was a special thing too; it felt like having both my homes at the same time. We were able to visit some cities in Sweden, and we also made it to Oslo, Norway. It was incredibly difficult having to say goodbye to them, however I am grateful they could experience my life here in Sweden with me for a couple of days.

-In early May I visited my sister, Abbie, who is studying to get her masters degree at Malmö University. It was nice to get to see a little bit of southern Sweden and to have a chance to catch up with Abbie. Even though we have both lived in Sweden this year, we have had different experiences which was cool to talk about. One thing we share in common though is some of the good snacks and chocolates we have found here in Sweden haha.

-At the end of May, my host family took me to France to visit my host mom’s cousin and her family. France was absolutely beautiful and the trip was incredible; especially considering that fact that I adore my host family so much.

- Last week I went to the archipelago where my host family's summer house is to celebrate Midsummer. Midsummer night is the lightest night of the year and its origins come from welcoming summer time and the season of fertility. Curious as to what Swedes do during midsummer? They all leave the city and go to their summer cottages. They eat lots and lots of strawberries, because Swedish strawberries are truly delicious this time of year. They dance around a pole and sing about small frogs, among other things. They wear flower crowns and eat meatballs and herring. I am glad I got to experience this unique holiday! It also is truly exquisite to be outside at 11:30 PM and it still be light outside.

Other than that I have been keeping busy meeting friends and enjoying the summer weather. Sweden’s summer weather is pretty crazy. Either it’s in the 60s or the 80s, but overall I can say I’m scared to return to Florida’s weather. I have adapted to cooler weather and now I can even appreciate 55F without freezing.

It’s incredibly simple and complicated as this; I’m excited to return to Florida but I am far from ready to leave Sweden. It’s a tug of war of feelings. My heart is split between Florida and Sweden which is a pretty extraordinary thing, but also quite difficult.

So thank you Rotary. Thank you mom and dad. Thank you my wonderful host families, friends and counselor here in Sweden.

Tack för allt. Jag kommer att sakna dig Sverige. Jag kommer att sakna mitt andra hem. (translated: Thanks for everything. I will miss you Sweden. I will miss my second home.)

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