Mia, outbound to Sweden

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It has been way too long and I completely apologize for withholding information of a country that deserves to be told over and again. 

Since I last wrote it was October, I was kinda sad and on a social media ban, I am soooooo different now wow. 


Let’s begin where I left off: 

October: 

Anderstrop 10/21-10/24 
Enjoyed a super nice time with Sweden’s other exchange students having a little late, but great Crayfish party. A weekend spent dancing with my Italian and taking trips into the deep Swedish forest. Thank you Rotary for the great time! 

The leaves continued to change and the cold started to find her place in my life. 

Sweden doesn’t really celebrate halloween, but I was able to carve pumpkins and make cupcakes for a nice Fika with all the RYE families in Karlstad. I remember it being the most beautiful view of the largest lake of Sweden, with a sunset at about 3pm… I know early….Welcome to Swedish Winter time. 

November:

Norrköping 10/31-11/3
So once upon a time a Swede named Agnes came to Florida as an exchange student, specifically to Panama Beach. Another girl, Floridan had found out she would spend the next in said Agnes’ country. The two became very close and had been separated for 5 months, but finally reunited in Agnes home town. 

No, but I got to go to my best friends amazing historical town. Surprisingly this town turned out to be one of my favorite’s in Sweden, the rich history and seemingly effortless way to restore all old factory building into schools, museums, apartments, cafes made it so charming. We saw a play, toured the beautiful town and just had an amazing time. 

I had my first ever play all in Swedish, like with real lines and a real audience. I am such a highly confident person on stage, but I will admit playing a Gorilla for 50 kids, speaking Swedish was certainly a new experience and I’m so happy I had such an amazing class to work with and a big thank you to my patient teacher and best friends who helped me actually sound Swedish during the play. And my host mom for staying up late to rehearse my lines with me. 

Election day: 
It was a new, almost unreal experience seeing the election from another country. I began to speak to English classes about 4 weeks before the election, about how the American System works, who is important and even a bit about my own views. Many Swedes are quite liberal, which is very interesting for me to live and learn about a completely different government system. I watched the election at a big sleepover event with a Swedish youth political group, “the Swedish Social Democrats” and was even interviewed for the newspaper and appeared front page the day of the election. Not to go in depth about my views of result, I’ve grown so much seeing my country from another view. When I’m older I want to work as an international politician and this is exactly the experience I need to reach my goals. 

Thanksgiving: 
To start I spend my free class watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving crying to myself, I didn’t miss the event itself, more like just the underappreciated time I spend at grandma's house in South FL, yelling about politics. I even dressed nice for school. Going home was very fun though, I had the other 3 boys (2 Americans and 1 Italian) come over for dinner and my best friend came into town just to celebrate. We had a big Swedish-American Thanksgiving, with burned cornbread and overflowed gravy, and a beautiful pecan pie, it felt just like my home away from home, not to mention falling asleep right after on the couch watching tv. My host mom asked why the food made her so full, I replied “that’s Thanksgiving.”

I got a gym membership…. it lasted a less than a month before I quit…..exchange in a nutshell


December:

Food, concerts and the most cozy I’ve ever ever felt in my life. 

Stockholm 2.0 12/2-12/4
Whoop, whoop, my city again!!!!! Returning to my Swedish version of the Big Apple was again a dream, filled with more photo shoots, luxurious food I couldn’t afford and friends that made me explode with joy. Dressed in all red for the season, I was so so so ready. First real day, we headed out of Sofia’s house, camera in hand, outfits planned and makeup done. I had the “exchange snapchat” for the day, in which I snapped all the things for the day and I was not about to let Sweden look boring. We began Saturday knowing I was going to have a special snapchat account where over 600 people view my story, so I had to make my day be extra fun. We headed to old town and looked at the charming and old cathedral, the palace, some stores, a candy factory, the Gamla Stan Christmas market, which was adorable and packed, and my favorite- the Riksdag or the Swedish Parliament. It was so enhancing and interesting to me as I want to work in politics when I grow up. The big cr eam colored arched building had so much character and class it was magnificent, it was so different than my country’s government buildings, I guess you could say more european, different charm. Seeing this country makes me realize how young mine is. After the tour around Gamla Stan we made our way to a fancy restaurant I found while looking for Instagram worthy spots in Stockholm and oh were my expectations exceeded. The restaurant was an old green house on a garden that was probably the most aesthetically pleasing place I had ever been. The food, carrot soup with a side of french bread and a cookie was ever so delicious and the photo shoot that followed defiantly made the trip there worth it. Full of food and good photos we made our way through the snow to The Swedish Natural History Museum, it was pretty cool to be in a museum where the writing on the walls is in a language different from your own. 

Day two we set out to go see the real life palace, like where the king and queen live!!! Fairy tale moment! They too had a Christmas market, but this time we had the palace gardens surrounding us. We made our way past the vendors, into the pricy gift shop and partly into the palace itself. It was not as big as I thought, but oh so magnificent. Marble everywhere, luxurious stairs, large ceilings. We found some dogs who were tied on leashes outside, we wondered who would bring their dogs to the castle and later learned from my host mom they were probably the Royal family’s pups! After a few photo shoots at the palace, we headed to the dreadful train station to say goodbye to our “oldies,” many tears later we newbies watched as some of best friends headed off and even worse we watched the friendships of our oldies shine through as they said goodbye to each other for the last time. It reminds me of how lucky I am to have such close exchange friends and to think one day they will be a world away and not a short train trip away. I took my bus home, sore from walking, with a bit of a heavy heart. 

This month has absolutely been my favorite of exchange. I’m not sure if you are aware, but in Sweden the sunsets really early in the winter, like 2pm or 3 some days. And the dark mixed with the cold doesn’t always bring the happiest of feelings. I start feeling this seasonal depression in October cause you know I’m from Florida, but I tried my best to work around it. However December changed that all. Christmas isn’t really the same here as America, actually I would say it's quite different. I’m not sure if you have had a chance to hear Swedish before, but it has a very distinct rhythm and some say it sounds like a song. Well Swedes are so so so so good, I mean so good at singing, like it comes so naturally, harmonizing and almost all children have been in a choir at one point of their life here. They’re amazing singing capabilities come to light in December with a concert at least once a week. 

Saint Lucia Day: 

St.Lucia was a Saint in Italy who was thought to help the poor and represent bringing light in darkness. In Sweden a girl plays St. Lucia and wears a crown with candles,( yes, real candles, it's kinda dangerous) has her hair down (normally a girl with long blonde hair), and wears a white dress with a red band, because she was killed for falling in love with one of the people she helped. She sits and holds a tray of Lucia Buns and behind sings a beautiful choir all dressed in white dresses, holding one candle each. This tradition is seen in small churches with groups of small children (and fake candles, because no no no), in schools of all ages and even professional Lucia concerts in big concert halls. 

On Lucia day my host parents came into my room at 6 am, wearing the traditional clothes, holding candles and a tray with Lucia buns, singing the song “Sainta Lucia,” I was so excited for this day and so moved they took they effort to prepare a little ceremony, I couldn’t help but to break into tears. That day I went on to eat 4 Lucia buns, and watch the concert in school twice and the best one in Sweden on TV. Living in Sweden had been getting especially hard for me dealing with my growing sad emotions, the cold and the dark and this holiday really touched me. I hope to celebrate it for the rest of my life. The beautiful sounds of the choir and not one light on, just candles will sit in my head for the rest of my life. 

In Sweden we never put up all the decorations at once, every week brings more and more. And the tree goes up only 3 days before, weird, right? But no I promise, it makes you appreciate the month a little more knowing it's never complete, it builds the anticipation. So in the month of December I probably went to 15 concerts; Lucia, school, host dad’s choir and every one struck a new chord in my heart. I think every concert was a little hint of the culture and it kept showing me how beautiful Swedish culture is. Swedish Christmas candies are the best!! Like we have really been missing out and we make them home-made, lots of sugar and a very happy Mia. In Sweden we have this thing call “Julbord” which is basically a Christmas table, you start with choosing from a buffet of fish and herring (I don’t particularly enjoy fish, but I tried everything cause why not), then you move to cold meats, then hot meats and finally dessert which means more CHRISTMAS CANDY!! ! And it's served with this drink called “Julmust” and Jul means Christmas so to me in broken Swedish English, it kinda sounds like Christmas must… Jul-must. 

In Sweden and many European countries Christmas is celebrated on the 24th and at 3pm we watch a show called “Kalle Anka” which is Donald Duck, but it's basically a series of Donald Duck and his friends in Christmas. It kinda of funny to truly see how far Disney’s legacy goes around the world (being from Florida and all) After watching that for an hour, I spend dinner with my family and again had a “Julbord,” and finally presents! One family member dresses up as the “jultomten” or Christmas troll which is kinda Santa, but not really. Anyhow that person is in charge of giving out presents, and this year that was me! I got a sweater, a Karlstad towel, a fika tray and a book on Sweden and while I’m used to expensive and over the top presents, these presents had so much meaning, they were all things I loved and valued and it certainly was Christmas I won’t ever forget. That night we attended Midnight Mass which was in my local 100 year old church and just illuminating. 

The next morning (the 25th) I wanted to do something special for my family and woke up early to cook an American breakfast, complete with pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs, I also made the rule of not changing out of their Pjs. I then gave them all their presents from me and I opened my presents from my American family. It was all perfect. 

New Year’s was kind of hard to celebrate without my American family as it has always been the biggest holiday for us, but it was also fun to experience it with my Swedish squad watching the fireworks over the river. 

January: 

Tis the month of changes. While the new year changed so did the family. I was extremely close with my first family and I spend hours crying just because I wouldn’t get to see them everyday. But I will say, as hard a it was to move, my new family brought all kinds of new joy and it turned out more than okay. In this family I have 4 siblings all of whom have been on exchange in America. Two are in college, one on exchange and one is 2 years older than me and attends the same school. They all have been incredible and the one two years older has really become one of my best friends. It’s nice to have a sibling at home again, to make fun of, ask advice from and sometimes even help with homework. My new family is highly musically talented and it’s so fun to hear them sing and play all night.
So this month was the beginning of the winter sports starting with my first time walking on a frozen lake and skating two days in a row for 3-4 hours a day and it was soooooooo cool. (Literally) 

February: 

WINTER at it’s highest! Cold and snowy, but what a fun month.

Isaberg: 
More Rotary trips! This time I was back in the South of Sweden with my buds to go….. SKIING. It’s very obvious to know I am from the Sunshine state, whether it’s my giant winter coat or constantly falling on the ice you tell me how I stand out in Swedish society in the winter. Well my time to shine came when I went skiing for the first time, it was going really well, you know on the baby slopes until I accidently went on a huge slope, freaked out and sat on the mountain for 20 min absolutely terrified. I even facetimed my mom while stuck to get my mind off of being sacred. I ended up standing up again, only to fall 1 second later, so I then took off my skis and went down on my butt. Needless to say I was terrified and did not continue to ski that day. But it was a great new experience and fun to experience with other exchange students. 


Skiing Con’t: 

For some reason I was so determined to get this skiing thing down. I don’t know if it was the 3 year old Swedish kids passing me on the slopes or the raging Swede in me, I just knew I had to keep trying even though it scared me beyond belief. I'm a tad dramatic, but heights on a roller coaster are a bit different than heights on a mountain full of snow. My balance is terrible, but from that first trip, I never gave up and skied every single weekend after that. Either in the small ski slope near my house alone or in the big one up north with my family, and while I never really got the full hang of it, cried more than a few times (I’m not kidding,) and had a body full of bruises, I was so proud of myself. I faced my fears and somehow, someway got down the slope and with every fall brought a new memory. Not to mention, I saw some beautiful views in the process. 
One day even school took me cross country skiing and made American pancakes. What a fun “field trip”!!

March: 

Stockholm 3.0 

Both of my host parents lived in Stockholm, well actually they met there, so the city means a lot to them. While there with my host family I got to see where they lived, what cafes they went to and it was kind of cool to get a glimpse into their old life besides photos. We went to the Abba museum, which is as Swedish as it gets and to the Tutankhamun museum. I spent one day in Uppsala, a big university town and had lunch with my Swedish host grandma and she was sooo nice. Apparently she normally doesn’t always talk to much and can be a bit shy, but she loved speaking English and it really helped us bond. I even got to go inside the Dome kyra in Uppsala which is the largest church in Scandinavia. After that I split up from my host parents and headed back to Stockholm for the 373369 time in my life. I only had one day with Sofia this time and her friend from Italy was visiting. It was so funny to actually be the translator this time. I had my first authentic Mexican in 7 months, visited the Vasa Museum, had a great Fika and sat on a dock and watched as broken ice passed by. The next day I headed over to Eskilstuna to see my friend John and see his city! 

Mullsjö and Lidköping :

I was so happy to be invited to speak at PETS about exchange with my best friend Anne from Canada. I got to go to school with Anne for a day and meet her friends and family. We watched “Melodifestivalen” which is like Sweden’s biggest competition, it’s basically a lot of yelling and voting for your favorite. (one of my favs won) 

I have been very lucky to gain new friends in Sweden, one being a girl from Syria, whose mind and unapologetic character stood out. We became great friends talking about politics and sharing our life stories. We decided to start an International Relations club at school where every meeting we discuss a new world topic. While we’ve only had one meeting and there was a mere 10 people, I’m really excited to see it continue. 

These past few months I’ve had my fair share of tears, missing homc and feeling utterly alive. But finally things are calm, not too high, not too low and when one of those feelings comes to hard I know how to handle it. My friend recently asked “wouldn’t you had loved to have the feelings you have now in the beginning of exchange?” So I thought about it, well of course I would, but I have experienced so much to get here and I would never give that up.