An open letter to Sweden

13932770_1084764428281605_1203874337253934947_nThey said about a hundred times that the study abroad experience is life changing. I felt like a child being told about puberty or something, so with every time it was said, I rolled my eyes more and more.

I had grown up traveling often with my family. I had been to the remote parts of Slovakia, Disneyland Paris, California… all of it was cool but not life changing. Traveling never felt all that special to me, so study abroad just seemed like it would be different but not “life changing” as everyone kept preaching at me. I suppose what I am saying here is that I was wrong. Study abroad really does change your life.

14064223_10153739836061674_4775507275533716255_nWhen I got on the plane four months ago, I was scared and stressed by the idea of traveling so far. I had barely slept, and I was half way across the world from my family. Having Jenna there was settling, but she and I were not the closest people, so I knew this adventure would be a chance to get to know her more too.

I never thought I would go cliff jumping ever in my life. I never thought I would go to a different country just to see a concert. I never thought I would be in the Highlands of Scotland learning the history of the Jacobites. I honestly barely knew anything about Scotland. I never thought I would explore Stockholm with my parents for Thanksgiving. I never thought I would go to Amsterdam, let alone on a last minute weekend trip just because.14615805_1149672048457509_7441376029207501827_o

I never thought I would fall in love with Sweden.14516603_1134321053325942_1338915698938529255_n

Sure, when I got here, everything seemed so  magical and pretty, but Colorado had mountains and people I loved. My homesickness came and went and came and went. The ebb and flow of the weeks let me figure out a lot. I discovered various pieces of myself that I had been questioning for a long time, I learned I could live far away from my family and not only survive but thrive.

It was the birds. Every day at six o’clock in the evening, the birds would take off from city center in a beautiful mass of black feathers and calls that rang all over town. It was the food. I never knew what I would be eating next from falafel to kebab to meatballs and lingons. It was the air. The texture of each breath felt different, most likely due to humidity, but let me romanticize the air, reader. I do not need your judgement. It was the people.

14424682_1120353474722700_6990275174744506806_oThe friends I made here… I wish I could write this section without feeling like I need to cry. From the day I met Emily at Kristianstad to Andreas always stopping at my door to talk in the first weeks. Kirsten, Emily, and Dimitri showed me a sense of adventure I did not know I had. Clubs and cliff diving and drinks and games, they showed me a new layer to life… who knew Canadians could do that?

Jenna. She is the best travel partner in the entire world, and I truly consider her one of my closest friends in the entire world. I know I would never have gotten to know her at the depth I did had we not gone through all of this together. I look forward to our escape room trips back in Denver.

Thomas hugged me the day I met him, and I laughed at his thick Southern accent. Roxy scared me the first day I met her. I was so nervous, but the more we talked, the more 14680688_1353783461299063_2309713399309757046_nI knew she and I would be friends for life. Kalle made me laugh from the moment I met him and we have been best friends ever since. I could not imagine this experience without his South African accent. Meki and Dalia will forever have that dumb accent in my head. Max and Michael are my favorite Irish and English speakers. To be fair, I almost never knew what they said. No party or costume adventure will ever be the same without Ellen’s enthusiasm. Loke and Philip finally convinced me to learn Swedish songs and feel a part of the culture. Nicoline showed me that love and kindness come first in this world. Daesung taught me to laugh more. They all showed me that you can choose your family, and I will forever be grateful for each and every one of them.

14572289_1129305270494187_7127248726314310624_nFinally, Sweden itself. When I got off the plane, I never thought the country could actually be warm. I was sweating and sick for six weeks. When the weather changed to liveable, I  watched the leaves change to a spectacular shade of red and orange. When winter started to roll in, I doubted the sun’s existence and how it could be cold but not snow. Sweden confused and amazed me. I never knew what each day would bring.

With my last three days here slowly moving along, I find myself in deep reflection. Though I look forward to going home and back to reality, I realize that Sweden has been the adventure of a lifetime. Not a lot of people can say they have been to the North, let alone live there for four months. I fell in love with this country. I do not want to leave, but it is almost time to close this chapter and move on.

To those who changed me and made this adventure easier and tons more fun, thank you. To Lund University, the classes were fun and different. To Sweden, never change your weird ways.

With that, this is my last post of this adventure. Hej då och tack så mycket for alla.15170986_1179713162120064_2562769547987244383_n

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