Like most college students, I have yet to experience a “normal” semester of college. I spent my freshman year sitting in front of a laptop, my first semester of sophomore year adjusting to a hybrid class structure, and now here I am about to spend the next 5 months abroad. While I am excited to spend my spring semester in Europe, the pandemic, and namely the new Omicron variant, has made it difficult for me to picture myself in Sweden. With CDC guidelines constantly changing as the virus continues to evolve, I feel an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the upcoming semester. We are required by the Swedish government to get a negative test before our arrival, and given how contagious the new variant is, I am still nervous that I won’t even be able to board my flight. However, on the flip side to all of the nervousness and uncertainty that I am feeling, I am also extremely excited to see what these next five months in Europe will bring. I’m already imagining how it will feel to go on weekly runs bundled up in the streets of Stockholm and sit at a coffee house with my sketchbook and pen.
Before stumbling upon this gem of a study abroad program (where not only will I be able to explore Sweden for almost 5 months, but also travel to London & Helsinki in a week-long study trip), the only real interaction I have had with Swedish culture was going to Ikea. While I know that the infamous furniture store is nowhere near an accurate representation of what Swedish culture is like, I do hope that Swedish meatballs will be a routine part of my diet abroad. All jokes aside, after doing more research into their cultural norms, I learned that Sweden is consistently ranked in the top 10 happiest countries in the world. I found that this can be attributed to the way that Scandinavians approach life, which is much slower paced than what I am accustomed to in the United States. I have learned that this laissez-faire approach comes into play in almost every aspect of the Swedish lifestyle; most people who live in Stockholm use public transportation, which can take up to 70 minutes one way, and only five grades (A-E) are used in schools to help students’ focus on enjoying class content rather than their grades. I am eager to experience this cultural focus on quality of life for myself, and hopefully adopt many of these values when I return to Temple next year.
I am excited to document my experiences along the way, detailing the inevitable ups and downs I will go through as I learn to adjust to the semester. While I am nervous as to what this semester will hold and the uncertainties of the pandemic, I always come back to how grateful I feel to even have the opportunity to spend an entire semester in Stockholm. As my departure date looms closer, I have been spending my time packing and unpacking my suitcase in an effort to assemble the perfect capsule wardrobe, figuring out how to exchange my U.S. dollars for Swedish krona, and surrounding myself with my family and friends every chance I get.
I hope that my blog will be a helpful resource for any public health majors looking to complete major requirements abroad or anyone who is interested in exploring all that Sweden has to offer!