At the beginning of my study abroad journey, I started to write about my day everyday to update my family and friends. Since around June 16, I haven’t been sending daily reports mainly because my classes started to get a bit more busy, so I wasn’t able to write every day. However, since my journey is winding down, I’m starting to catch up on my missed days (thankfully I do take a picture almost every day so I can recall what I was doing). These are snippets from June 1-4, when I was a little more consistent and still in Stockholm. Some of the things I’ve included may sound mundane, since it is a play-by-play of what happened everyday, but not everything you do when you travel needs to be a grand tourist event.
*I’ve changed most names to just the first initial for better privacy, but you’ll find some exceptions (i.e. a guest speaker who is already famous)
-I woke up somewhat later because I had stayed up late working on my notes for our Symposium today, but I joined two of my friends at a bubble waffle cafe
-We chatted, and M left to go to the lab and K and I departed separately because I had to go to class and K explored museums on Gamla Stan. Before class, I went to the library at Stockholm University and organized our group project.
-At class we had a Symposium (graded discussion) but it was not super stressful. The class was split into half, and my small group did the Symposium for the first half of class, and the second half of class we worked on our final project– making a card game about a psychiatric disorder (making a card game about PTSD is hard). We outlined our physical parts of our card game, and agreed to meet around 12:30 before class to print out our parts and actually playtest.
-After class, my group of friends wanted to walk around some malls to look at second hand clothes to see if we could find anything interesting. The problem with my class being so late is that things are not open for too long. Stores close the earliest 8pm on weekdays and 10 the latest (disregarding bars of course but I’m not super interested in them) so Canadian G and I met K and American G at a thrift store. Canadian G bought a cute cup for his grandfather but besides that we didn’t get anything.
[Two of my friends have the same name and almost the same last name so to differentiate them, we called them “American G” or “Canadian G”]
-Canadian G tried on this coat which I thought was cute, but it was big for him and he wasn’t feeling it. And if you have the means, you should wear clothes you feel comfortable and confident in.
-We walked around some more in the mall. We found a Tasty America which sells American (plus UK, Japanese, and Mexican snacks…but it’s called Tasty America…let’s not think about it too much) snacks but they are super expensive. You will never catch me buying a box of Lucky Charms for $11. No Thanks.
-K tried getting a limited apple shake from McDonald’s but they ran out so he got a mango pineapple drink which didn’t look great but he said was alright.
-Since a lot of places close early, we looked up a place to eat dinner, so we went to a ramen place I have been to before that I liked. The guys liked it too, K struggled with chopsticks but he survived.
-As we were heading back, the guys jumped on a train as it was leaving and I missed it, which wasn’t a big deal because there was another one coming up. But at the stop we got off to get home, they waited for me and I really appreciated that. After dinner, we headed back to our housing and turned in for the night.
-I met my group to work on our group project at 12:30. We printed out our game parts on regular old pieces of printer paper (we might get some cardstock but it won’t be necessary) and started to playtest. Almost immediately we found things to change, but that’s why we playtest!
-For class we had a guest speaker, Kathinka Evers, who is so famous and intelligent and cool. She’s a professor of philosophy at Uppsala University (please look her up) and we talked about the conscious and unconscious. She said she would send her slides to our instructor, but to reach out if we had additional questions. After she talked to all of us, I went to get a snack from the restaurant, and actually met her on the way down. I thanked her for her mind boggling thoughts and she thanked me for my intelligent and difficult to answer questions 🤩
-After some more neuroscience, I decided to go to the library after class (although I didn’t get in because the library closes at 6 on Friday 😭) so I worked outside of the library because there is a lounge. But I headed back to my housing (which we lovingly call the Hog because none of us can pronounce Högaildsgatan), but I took a detour to get dinner at McDonald’s for convenience sake. There was a man walking up to solo and small groups of girls and talking to them so I kind of regretted not getting takeout because I started to feel on edge, so I pretended to call someone and took my food back to a seating area where there were families sitting together and I ate. It was fine, it’s McDonald’s, but I think I felt extra meh about it because I was worried that the guy was going to come back to where I was sitting and try to talk to me. So I shoveled my food down (even the apple shake which was good retrospectively but not life changing), and left ASAP and didn’t fully relax until I was in my apartment. This type of thing happens in the US too, but since I’m currently in a foreign country, a stranger talking to me makes me feel more unsafe than usual. Luckily, I didn’t see that man again, but it’s always important to prioritize your own safety.
-The previous day I had made plans with my friends and our finalized plans were to explore a famous food market, go to a paradox museum, and decide on the fly to figure out what to do afterwards. We were also meeting up with one of my final project group members S, her room T, and another student, so American G and Canadian G and I went to the food market to wait for them (K and M were doing other things, but they met us up later in the day)
-We waited at the entrance of the food market for the other half of our group, then we wandered around inside. There was a vast variety of food, both that you could eat in the market at little cafés and restaurants and booths that you could take home and cook with like fish and meat. There were also vegetables and fruits you could buy and desserts
-We ended up ordering individually from different restaurants but ate in the same place, except for Canadian G who was looking for a specific Asian soup that was advertised that had unlimited refills but he couldn’t find it, but he got Swedish fish soup that he was very satisfied with. While he was eating (the rest of us started eating early), we strolled through some shops. I think I’ve said before that I’m looking for a fashionable trench coat and I found a very beautiful one that was really good quality at a store called Didriksons but uh…it was 500 USD and I was not gonna pay that much for a trench coat. Maybe for the future when I have more money.
[note: I finally found an affordable trench coat! Everyone give Copenhagen a lil kiss for that]
-After eating, it was time for the paradox museum (or optical illusion museum according to my boyfriend…but paradox museum sounds much better). This is probably my favorite museum because it was just so fun and interactive.
-After making our way through the museum, we decided to go to an international food festival in Sollentuna so we needed to take a light rail, which is still public transportation but a different kind of train. The food festival was very big and very lively– it was also the last day. We strolled around food stands then entered into the mall that was next to the food fest. S, T, and I got boba in the mall, and we were a little weary since my other final project group member L got really overly sweet and somewhat flavorless boba, but we all got some really good drinks. I got a strawberry milk concoction called “Strawberry Dream Galaxy” and it was delicious
-We walked around the mall, no luck on a trench coat in H&M but I might buy other clothing too. Still holding out hope :)
[don’t worry past self, we got the trenchcoat :) ]
-M met up with us at this point, got a “tornado potato” (a potato that is cut into a swirl and fried), and we decided to walk along the water shore. K also met up with us, but not before M chased and terrorized some ducks and geese (she also bothered some swans too and they hissed at her). We headed back to Stockholm City (the main city center) and got dinner at a pizza place. It was really good, but I still think eating pizza with your hands is much better than using a knife and fork.
-We strolled around some souvenir stores and headed back to Hornstull Station (the station that we get off to get home), got candies to share for dessert, and we went to hang out in my room. Perhaps I was on a happiness high, but hanging out with all of my friends, sharing some Swedish sweets and laughter, created a core memory
-I went to the Stockholm University Library with Canadian G to work on our projects that are due this week. I think we worked for about 3 ish hours and then we met up with K and M. They were going to go to a burger festival, I wasn’t interested in going, but I was interested in meeting up and chatting. So we all met in Kungsträdgården (the King’s Garden), watched some feisty seagulls try to steal churros from people, and watched Canadian G actually win a chess game against a 12 year old expert. We thought he was going to lose; the kid was really good but he got a little sloppy and Canadian G found a way to win. We then speed walked around some malls, but they open and close early on the weekend, so we just headed home. I worked on homework, texted my life bringer (Hi mom), and headed to bed.
So what are you, my curious reader, supposed to get from some pieces of my daily life in Stockholm?
Embrace spontaneity. Besides going to class and scheduling when I needed to work on my final project (making a card game is a lot of work), everything was planned on a whim. Structure and order is great, especially when I’m in my normal routine at university, but my study abroad experience doesn’t need to be planned out day by day. It kind of takes the fun out of studying abroad if you treat it like your normal routine. If a consistent routine does work, great! But don’t be afraid to be a little flexible.
Safety is very important! For the most part, I’ve felt pretty safe throughout Scandinavia, but if there are moments where you feel very uneasy, follow your instincts. The subject of concern may be temporary or may be a misunderstanding, but it’s better safe than sorry. If you need helping calming down, friends and family from home, study abroad friends, or just grounding yourself in your room are all great solutions to reduce your anxiety
Making friends is hard. Especially in the program I’m in. Not that I haven’t enjoyed my DIS experience, but since I’m here all three sessions, and every session changes every 3-4 weeks, my friends change every 3-4 weeks. So just when I get attached and strengthen those connections, a good chunk of my friends are all done with their study abroad experience for the summer. That did make me apprehensive about making friends at first, because after 3-4 weeks, my study abroad friends would become long distance friends, which isn’t bad, but sometimes maintaining a long distance relationship of any kind is difficult. And the hurdle to get over that apprehension is weird and I don’t have a good solution for it besides pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Plant those friendship seeds, hang out with people after class, trade Snapchats, and see what sticks. Not every person you reach out to is going to be your friend, and that’s okay. But some will, and those friends will use the love language of memes and snapchat streaks to see how you’re doing.