She Moved To Sweden
It’s been a week now since I moved to Sweden. Everything since then has been uncertain, uncalculated + for the most part unclear. Whether or not I would actually be able to enter the country was not guaranteed until I stepped outside of the Arlanda airport in Stockholm. The visa itself was incredibly difficult to obtain and the only proof that my student visa had been approved was a four page word document in Swedish (just to be clear, I do not speak or read Swedish) so I essentially had to hope that somehow that would be enough and I guess it was. By some miracle (this week has been filled with small miracles) the woman that reviewed my tickets and visa at the airport asked for my card which I had not received since I was doing the fingerprints etc. when I arrived in Sweden, instead I presented her with a letter from the Embassy which I couldn’t actually read or even understand. She didn’t question it and looked it over as if it were normal, somehow this incredible woman grew up in Norway and was able to read the letter perfectly. I’m not sure how that happened and call it what you want, but I’m pretty sure that she was the reason I even got through.
Arriving in Stockholm was a dream and the sun was shining and the food was amazing and the people were chic and 90% of the men (as observed by my father and I) wore blue jackets with casual pants and sneakers (not a few of them, I’m talking the majority of men on the street, regardless of age, all in blue jackets).
The city I’m living in is Jönköping, about a three hour train ride south of Stockholm and the university is set on this beautiful lake named Vättern. For those of you familiar with Minnesota it’s pretty comparable to Duluth only a lot cleaner looking and filled with blondes.
Moving in was such a trip. In the U.S. when I moved into college I had more information about what I was about to jump into than I knew what to do with, Bard (the school I’ve attended in upstate New York for the past two years) emailed me almost every day starting when I was accepted and sent in my first deposit). In Sweden however that was not the case, I hadn’t received an email from the school since probably June, I had no idea where I was living or if I was living with someone or who that someone might be (the school tells you when you arrive, so that just adds another layer of ‘the unknown’ to the plate). Once I arrived I realized how strange this all was, I was sitting in the hotel with my dad and he was asking me where I was supposed to go and when I needed to move in and I kind of did a double take, I had no idea. I had a *small* breakdown about this. I then found my housing, and thank god, by another small miracle I got my first choice which meant living alone in a small apartment overlooking the city. It feels a bit like Kula, HI where my family used to live when I was growing up, I’ve been holding onto that familiarity.
There are few things that feel familiar here, and I surprise myself at what gives an odd sense of comfort. I felt myself exhale today at the sound of a truck backing up…strange maybe, but the “beep-beep-beep” reminded me of a city and that city could have been Minneapolis and that made me feel a release of some sort, a literal exhale. The people here look like me, they speak English beautifully and I still feel like I have nothing familiar to grasp onto. Perhaps this is what it means to actually and truly ‘step out of your comfort zone’ or maybe I’m giving myself too much credit.
The social aspect in Sweden is what has been maybe the biggest initial culture shock. They do this thing called “Kick-Off Week” here and I figured that it would be somewhat like a more hyped up freshman orientation that we have back home in the U.S. I was entirely wrong or maybe entirely correct, either way it’s been wild and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. For those of you that follow me on instagram (if you don’t definitely do because you’ll get to see all of the shit I’m talking about here @coco_arabella) you may have noticed my stories are a little…shall we say odd? I’ve received a lot of messages over the past few days from people either entertained or concerned or confused or just curious about what the hell all of these adults are doing in matching overalls running and chanting and dancing. I’ve been equally entertained and concerned and confused. This ovve thing (the overalls) is apparently nothing new to most of the people here, people are surprised when I say that I’ve never seen anything like this and that the U.S. definitely doesn’t commonly practice these traditions.
Essentially what I’m talking about is the first two weeks of school where you all wear matching overalls and each school is defined by a color. You all do activities that I personally would associate with what I would imagine rushing for a frat looks like, something I intentionally and strongly avoided in the U.S. and assumed I was avoiding by moving across the world, how naive of me. To be honest I’ve said no to the majority of the activities and observed instead, I’m happy that I’m able to do that, I think that having already attended college I feel that I don’t need to fall under a peer pressure I may have fallen under if I started here, I’m proud of myself for that…I’m not your “roll on top of people I don’t know covered in mud/jump down a mud hill/dance to impress seniors and win prizes by taking my top off” kind of gal and I’m pretty positive that Sweden isn’t going to change that. That being said it isn’t all bad, in fact the majority of it is great and eye opening and interesting and the people I’m meeting are amazing and from all over the world and I feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity. Please do not mistake my lack of interest in the party side of Swedish student culture to be a lack of interest or disrespect for the culture as a whole.
This past week has been a bit wild in regards to not knowing anything (literally) about what I’d be doing a week from the day I moved in and well, I’m here kids, I made it. I’m working on making it, the grocery store is the only thing right now that actively stresses me out because I can’t read Swedish so basically I have to just go off of packaging when guessing what something is. I still cant figure out where the laundry soap and dish soap separate so I’ve been using what I believe to be dish soap and holding off on washing clothes for at least a few more days (don’t worry I brought three suitcases here, I’m not running low).
To everyone that has been supportive and loving and checking up on me and reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
*peep my sweet bb temporary home below (hoping to move into a bigger place soon)*