2015 Fall Allie Wallace CIEE External Programs Sweden

Making the Most of Melancholy

Lights in Uppsala Cathedral

As I write this, I have just nine weeks left in Sweden. Just 63 days. My time here is more than halfway done. The realization shocked me out of a daze that I hadn’t noticed I’d fallen into. While I was going about my business in Uppsala, the better part of my semester abroad came and went and I was left staring after it like a train I’d just missed.

The mid-semester slump is a very real phenomenon. Even at my home university, I find that the middle of the semester is when everyone gets bogged down in schoolwork and just bumbles through their mundane routines. But the slump seems to function a bit differently in the context of study abroad.

When I was new to Sweden, the first order of business was to make myself at home. I made some friends, decorated my room, figured out how to navigate the university system, started studying Swedish. I didn’t travel much, inside the country or out. I wanted to be really settled here in Uppsala. And I did settle in. I did school work every day, spent time hanging around with pals, hit the gym a few times a week, had a class now and then.

Grey skies behind the last fall leaves

But some days ago, I was struck by a spontaneous and keen awareness of my transience here. What was I doing sitting at home when there were still so many things I hadn’t seen and done, in Uppsala, in Sweden, on the continent? What had I done with the last month? How could I have wasted so much time just floating along when my time here is so scarce?

Upon reflection, I feel that that time wasn’t wasted. I had a lot of little experiences in that time, though perhaps without being aware of and appreciating them. But I realized that I need to make the best of my last 63 days, to be more present and to stop “settling in.” I had settled right into a post-honeymoon slump, but I’ve been startled out of it.


I wrote a list of all the things I want to do in the time I have left here: visit every student nation at least once, go to the art museum in Uppsala’s castle, visit a different part of the country, go to a concert or to the ballet. I want to go for more walks, plan more activities with friends, go to more events around town.

Early evening in central Stockholm

My school workload is lighter now, so there’s nothing to keep me from actively being here, taking it all in while I can. I could deactivate my Facebook to make it easier to focus on the present. I’ll plan for the things I want to do instead of acting like they’ll eventually happen of their own accord. I’ll be more intentional in what I make of this opportunity.

I’m told there’s a Swedish word for the feeling I have now, a word without an exact translation. Vemod– the quiet, longing sense that something dear will soon be gone. How strange it will be when I go home and that word stays here and I’m left with no name for how I feel.

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