It’s hard to believe my time studying abroad has finally come to an end. As I sit in the airport, reflecting on the past month and a half, I find it difficult to put into words what this experience has done for me. I can confidently say that I will be coming back to the United States as a changed person. Bittersweet doesn’t even begin to describe my journey back home. While I definitely have found myself missing my routine, friends, and family at home, I know that saying goodbye to Europe is one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. Now, I also have to say goodbye to the culture of Scandinavia, the new friends I have made while abroad, and the routine I have created while here.
While I have only been abroad for six weeks, I know that coming home will be a huge culture shock, now that I have become accustomed to the differences in the Scandinavian countries I have visited. The most noticeable difference I have noticed from being back home is how much more open-minded everyone is here compared to my peers back home. I found that the changes I wish to see implemented in the United States government are common sense to those in Sweden and Denmark. For example, I had a conversation with a local shopkeeper about the free healthcare system in Sweden. She told me that citizens pay $20 per hospital visit, with a maximum of $120 USD downpayment, the rest is covered by the government. Once that $120 maximum is reached, the rest will be completely paid for by the Swedish government. Additionally, she told me it was impossible for her to fathom having to pay for the use of an ambulance. I told her it was impossible for me to wrap my head around only having to pay $20 per hospital visit. I shared with her that I knew individuals who would purposefully not seek treatment for their illnesses due to how costly it is, even with health insurance. She audibly gasped at this, she couldn’t imagine someone purposefully not getting help for their ailments. “It’s a shame, and completely heartbreaking to hear about the struggles one may face due to an inability to pay.”
She also told me it may be difficult to see a doctor in a timely manner due to the free healthcare system. In response, I asked her about private practices also being available to ensure that one may be able to receive treatment at a faster rate. She said that while it is an option, she finds the idea of private practices to be gross, because she didn’t believe someone should try to make a profit on someone’s sickness. This was a completely new perspective I had never heard before. In America, doctors are known to be one of the highest paid professions due to the extensive schooling and knowledge they must possess to perform their job adequately. Asking someone in America if they thought private practices were unfair or flagrant, they would probably look at me like I was crazy.
However, considering students in Sweden are paid $500 USD to attend classes starting in high school, it would make much more sense that she would have this viewpoint. Whereas in America, many individuals go into immense student loan debt for being in school for that long, it makes sense to pay them high salaries to make up for the arrears they possess. I really enjoyed talking to her about her viewpoints of the Swedish government, because it felt like I was getting a real opinion without bias. She was completely happy with how her government was run, and felt protected with the social safety nets provided. She said while of course this meant more taxes to pay, she wholeheartedly believed it was worth it. It gave me hope that perhaps one day in America we could see changes that would actually be able to benefit those experiencing poverty on a wide scale.