When I applied to study abroad in Stockholm, I pictured my daily routine in the hustle and bustle of the city. I imagined myself surrounded by tall buildings and busy streets filled with pedestrians and taxis, so when I got my housing assignment in Sollentuna two weeks before my arrival in Sweden I was very surprised. I was assigned to live in an apartment building meant to house undergraduate and graduate students in the suburbs of Stockholm. This meant taking a 30 minute commute to the city center by train, and a 40 minute commute to school by train and metro.
At first I did feel a little bit disappointed. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, and was ready for a change of pace when I moved to Philadelphia my freshman year at Temple. I was expecting a somewhat similar environment when I applied to study abroad in another major city, but in some ways Sollentuna feels a lot like my hometown. At first many of my friends felt the same as well– we were worried that we might miss out on the “city life” because we felt so far away from the rest of our friends at DIS.
However, that feeling of disappointment only lasted a day or two. After I got to know a few people on my floor, we were able to bond over our living situation, joking about our little apartment building in Sollentuna (we now affectionately call it ‘Solly’ or ‘Solly T’). While at first I thought the commute to the city could feel monotonous, it’s actually been a part of my daily routine that I look forward to. It gives my friends and I an opportunity to just sit down with no distractions and catch up on each other’s weekends or do some last minute group studying before class. When I commute alone, I spend that time reading or listening to some of my favorite podcasts and music albums. I’ve come to really appreciate our little suburb– I feel that I’m able to separate myself from the hustle and bustle of Stockholm and come home to a neighborhood that is much quieter and more peaceful.
One of my favorite things about Sollentuna is that it’s centered around a huge lake where locals can walk their dogs on the trail that surrounds it or even go ice skating and play hockey when the water freezes over. Walking that trail has become one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day of classes. I don’t know how best to describe the feelings I get from watching the sky fade from blue to pink, watching the ducks waddle around on the ice, and feeling the cold air on my cheeks. It’s a good reminder to just appreciate the quiet and listen to the sounds of the birds and the wind rustling through the trees. We’ve also gotten to know the town pretty well, and my friends and I have now become regulars at a few local businesses; one of our favorites being a sushi restaurant on the first floor of our building.
Living in the suburbs also encourages me to explore parts of Sweden that aren’t as touristy or well-known as Stockholm. Yesterday, my friend and I visited Sundbyberg, a suburb only a couple miles away from Sollentuna, and found that it was very diverse, with restaurants from different cuisines and families chatting to one another in different languages. We hiked up to an overlook over the town, which was beautiful– it had just snowed, so the trees were almost twinkling in the sunlight (sunny weather is a rarity these days, so that made the day even more special).
Afterwards we stopped at a café to grab coffee and a pastry. My favorite part of the day was when we found a little farmer’s market in the town center on the way back to Sollentuna. The workers were so friendly and even helped us to pick out the best pomegranates and apples from their display. We also noticed that not only was the fruit fresher, it was also more affordable compared to the grocery store near our apartment complex.
While this may seem like an ordinary day to most, these are little experiences and connections that make my study abroad experience feel so special. Coming home to our little neighborhood in Sollentuna feels like I’m unplugging from the city. It’s really starting to feel like a home, and I love the sense of community here; I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.