Why I Want to Study in Sweden
With few programs and countries offering agriculture, ecology, and natural resources emphases, University Studies Abroad Consortium- Växjö/Kalmar, Sweden was the best option for me. In my opinion, there needs to be a major paradigm shift in the world of agriculture from excessively overusing and mismanaging soil and water supplies to using sustainable agroecology and taking into consideration all environmental factors when producing plants. Studying in Sweden will provide many opportunities for me to advance in my education in this area.
Växjö has been called the greenest city in Europe. Already city developers have decreased fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions drastically while increasing use of renewable energy resources. I am very interested in learning about Växjö’s solutions to climate change issues through firsthand experience, especially the utilization of biomass fuel to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, the successful increase in local food production, the employment of integrated pest management for increased organic food production, and the utilization of sewage treatment for the production of biogas. I believe that these methods should be engaged worldwide and Växjö is an example for other cities. The future of agriculture is not simply producing larger amounts of food, but fully utilizing plants and natural environmental processes to create sustainable fuel sources, sewage treatment methods, and ecologically sustainable farming practices.
Even more fascinating, Växjö was able to adopt these sustainability measures because of its proximity to large resources of biomass and hydroelectric power, but first the area had to undergo massive restoration and total reconstruction of resource policies. I am interested in learning about the methods used in Växjö to balance agricultural, urban, and ecological needs of the local watershed. I could learn about these issues directly in a place that has great respect for ecosystems.
For Växjö to successfully implement its sustainability paradigm shift, a connection had to be made through rural and urban citizens, government officials, and corporate leaders to the environment in a shared vision of sustainability. Through conversations with local people, I plan to learn the social, political, and economic processes which lead to the implementation of these programs. I also want to understand how the implementation of these programs affected the lives of local people both negatively and positively. With this knowledge, I would like to promote a vision of sustainability in the agricultural community worldwide by utilizing examples from Sweden of successful integration of these programs.
Adventure is a Part of Me
New perspectives lead to new solutions even if absorbing this information can be overwhelming. I was surprised to hear my advisor say I am one of the first people to ever request to study abroad from the agricultural department at my school. He told me that students in that department like to stay close to home. Adventure has always been a part of my life. New experiences. New friends. New knowledge. I grew up in Mammoth Lakes, California but I went to community college in Sacramento, California and call that home. Now I go to university in Las Cruces, New Mexico and spent the summer working in Washington, Maine. I want to absorb as much of the world as I can. For a whole year, I have been constantly processing new information. With all of the traveling I have done, I feel like I have been away from home for a year now and I am just about to leave for Sweden for four and a half months. There is a part of me that craves the stability and reassurance of familiar places, people, and routines. I am homesick before I leave.
Right after graduating high school, I attended the Faroese Summer Language Institute in the Faroe Islands. That was my first experience being abroad. It was terrifying and invigorating all at once. At the time, I was coping with the anger and sadness of my father’s suicide attempt and later alcohol rehabilitation. There was a cloud of anxiety over me the entire time. I was terrified that my dad might die while I was half way across the world, and I felt overwhelmingly powerless. On top of all of these other emotions, this voyage was before my gender transition. My gender dysphoria lowered my self esteem and confidence. I did not learn as much as I could have from my trip. I closed myself to new ideas while I healed myself emotionally.
Studying abroad in Sweden is a second chance for me to embrace a different culture and perspectives. I am thrilled to open my mind and heart to the world with revived confidence and a positive outlook on life. This past July my dad had a minor stroke. Despite his full recovery, the occurrence awoke those old fears in my mind. For a few days, I reverted to my old anxious ways. Part of me was angry that this type of uncertainty had to shadow another time abroad for me. Then I made the decision to live my life fully for myself.
I will not let anxiety forbid me from enjoying this experience. I will not allow anxiety from my personal life spread into the social and travel aspects of my life. I will not pack any worries from home into my suitcase. There are many questions in my mind whispering anxious thoughts: how will it be sitting on the plane that long? How will the customs and immigration process go as a transman? What will it be like to transfer on the train? What is my housing going to be like? Who will live with me? What will my classes be like? How will the Faroes and Sweden be different? How will I be treated as a transman in Sweden? How is LGBT culture different in each country? And those are just my questions for the first few days!
I will silence these thoughts. I will arm myself with the confidence of having been abroad before. I will embrace the pleasure of unpredictability. I will chose adventure over anxiety. I will transform my anxious energy into curiosity. I want to glean insight from Swedish culture, history, perspectives on agriculture and sustainability, and connectivity between cultural recognition of issues and promotion of social change. Upon my return, I want to compare these views to American positions on the same topics.
This summer I learned two quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh on which I plan to meditate throughout my study abroad experience in the hope of fully applying them to my life. “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy” and “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety, or possessions—we cannot be free.”
I will live in the present in Vӓxjӧ, Sweden. I am on my way.