It has now been a little over two weeks since I packed my bags and reluctantly hopped on my return flight back from Sweden to the U.S. Going into my semester abroad, I didn’t really have too many expectations for how my time in Stockholm would play out. I didn’t know anyone who had studied abroad in Sweden before, let alone anyone who would be in my study abroad program. Before leaving the U.S., everyone I knew that had gone abroad told me that it would be the best experience of my life. While I did find their statements to be incredibly corny, hearing their enthusiasm made me more excited to begin my own journey. And while I did know that it would be an enriching experience, I truly wasn’t expecting to feel as at home in Sweden as I did.
Before I left for Sweden, I spoke to someone who had previously enrolled in DIS Copenhagen; I remember him telling me that he still keeps in touch with his friends that he met abroad. After hearing this I was so surprised; not necessarily because I didn’t think I would make friends, but I thought everyone I would meet during my semester abroad would be more like “placeholders” until I returned back to my friends at Temple the following semester. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While I was nervous to go into the semester surrounded by strangers, I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made when selecting my study abroad program. Because the majority of us went into the program not knowing anyone, we were almost forced to be more open and friendly at the start of the semester. Somehow, I was lucky enough to have met some of my best friends in the program on our first day in Stockholm, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had them by my side for the entire semester.
During our final days abroad, my close friends and I all made sure to check off the final things on our Stockholm bucket list, ranging from trying popular (but expensive) restaurants, throwing our friend a surprise 21st birthday celebration, and going to Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s famous amusement park on the water. The worst part was when we finally had to say our last goodbyes, but one friend told me it’s not hej då (goodbye), but only vi ses (see you later). We all exchanged our U.S. phone numbers to ensure we could keep in contact once we touched ground in our respective states.
Coming home was a really bittersweet experience that I feel not many people talk about when it comes to studying abroad. After living in Stockholm for five months, I had gotten so accustomed to my daily routine, social norms, and having the freedom to explore the city whenever I wanted. By the time May rolled around and we had to start thinking about packing up our things, I truly felt so at home, living next door to my best friends with the city center only a 15- minute train ride away. While I did miss my family and friends, I felt so anxious about the upcoming summer and what my life would look like once I returned home.
Making plans to stay in contact has really helped me cope with saying goodbye to my semester in Stockholm but more importantly, the friends that I made along the way. Since returning home I’ve made sure to journal to truly process and reflect on my time abroad, and some of my friends have begun making photo albums and videos to sum up our time together. Even though it felt so bittersweet to leave everyone, I began making a different bucket list of all the things I wanted to do when I returned to New Jersey. These ranged from getting bagels and coffee with friends, hosting the first family barbecue, going to New York City, and returning to my summer job at the beach, among others.
Despite feeling happy to be home with my family but still missing my friends and time spent abroad, I keep returning back to one thought; I feel so grateful to have had this experience in Stockholm. I can truly say that these past few months have been some of the best in my life, and I would relive it all again if I could. I learned so much about Swedish culture, experienced the hustle and bustle of city life, and made friends with such genuine people that I hope will last a lifetime. Stockholm is a place that I will always hold close to my heart, and I thank you for following my journey.