So I’ve been here in Sweden for almost a month now and so much has been going on! My first class started a few weeks ago and has been going really well.
The class I am taking is called Sweden, Society, and Everyday Life. It’s been really interesting learning about Swedes and their customs and I think it has truly given me some insight into studying and living here in Sweden. The education system here is a bit different from what I’m used to. At Stockholm University, students take only one class at a time and classes usually last only 4-6 weeks. In addition, I only have class for about 4 hours a week and am required to do most of my work, readings and research outside the classroom in my own time. Sounds like a great deal, right?
While it seems ideal, it has been hard to adjust to. I like having so much time to explore the city and get acquainted with life here, but it has been somewhat difficult to manage my studies well. I have been doing alright so far though and I’m starting to get the hang of it. I definitely plan to keep my grades up while also having fun!
On top of classes, I’ve been trying to get familiar with the city of Stockholm. Last week, a large group of us spent the day in the city. We visited the famous Vasa Museum where an ancient war ship, recovered from the bottom of the Stockholm archipelago, is being continually maintained and preserved. Being the history nerd that I am, this was my favorite spot of the day. The effort it takes to preserve the ship and tell its story as well as the story of those who lost their lives when it sank was fascinating!
After that stop, we took a 30 minute walk toward Gamla Stan (Old Town). It was about 25º F cold and snowing but it was also beautiful out, so we decided to make the trek. Once there, we stopped in a café for fika, which is the traditional Swedish coffee and pastry break that many workers and students take mid-day. It was nice to relax for a minute, but before we knew it we were back in the cold, exploring tourist shops and boutiques selling traditional Swedish goods.
The one downside of the cold, dark winter is that many shops close early in the day, around 3 or 4 PM. Once the shops closed down, we headed back home to rest before returning downtown to go to a very popular club in Södermalm (the young, trendy area of Stockholm, also referred to as SoFo). It was really fun to experience nightlife, but we definitely paid a hefty price to do so! Overall, my experience of Stockholm has been amazing and I can’t wait to continue to familiarize myself with this city.
In addition to exploring Stockholm, I’ve been traveling around Europe, too! It has been quite an adventure planning everything. For this past weekend, a few friends and I had tickets for a cruise to Riga, Latvia! We were supposed to leave on Friday, spend Saturday in town, and be home by Sunday morning… all for a grand total of $20! Unfortunately for us, we missed the departure time for the cruise. There were about 8 of us and we decided to take the metro to get there for a cheap price as well as for convenience. However, we didn’t leave with enough time to get to the dock.
The instructions said that boarding would begin at 4:30 so we planned to be there at around 4. The metro was right on time but the 10 minute walk turned into a 20 minute walk. Once we reached the terminal, we had to realized that we were at the wrong one. There were two separate terminals for the same company and it was quite difficult to navigate the streets surrounding them. Once we understood this mistake, we ran… and I mean we straight booked it to the right cruise ship! It took us another 10 minutes and by the time we reached the correct terminal, the staff informed us that we were 5 minutes too late. It was probably the most disappointing end to our efforts for a fun weekend away. But as sad as we were, everything worked out when the staff simply changed our reservation for the same cruise for this upcoming weekend!
Once it had settled in that we wouldn’t be going, we headed to System Bolaget–the state-run alcohol stores–to pick up a few beers for a night in together. These stores are the only places within Sweden to buy drinks with an alcohol content higher than 3.5%. Their hours are very limited and the prices are very high, but we figured it would be nice to splurge considering the day we had all had. Once we had eaten dinner and were all hanging out, we decided that spending the weekend in Stockholm wasn’t what we wanted.
We booked tickets for the train to Copenhagen, Denmark for a quick and cheap weekend getaway. We lucked out with cheap hotel reservations since most of the hostels were already fully booked, and left Saturday around mid-day! Once in Copenhagen, we purchased tickets for the Hop-On, Hop-Off tour around the city and were able to visit much of the city in our short and unexpected time there.
The first day we walked to see the Little Mermaid, Rosenberg Castle, Kastellet Fort, and Churchill Park. It was a jam-packed day! The next day we headed to Christiania Freetown which is an autonomous neighborhood, or commune, that is known for its tolerance of Cannabis. It was definitely an adventure heading there and seeing the openness many people had toward smoking. After visiting Christiania, we went to the main shopping district to walk around and grab lunch. It was a nice relaxing day and a few hours later we were back on the train to Stockholm!
This weekend we are headed to Latvia and the weekend after a few of us are headed to Amsterdam. I’m trying my best to get familiar with Stockholm while I’m here during the week, and I’m also trying to capitalize on my free weekends by traveling to nearby European cities. This has been an incredible experience already and each day brings a new adventure. When returning from Copenhagen, I couldn’t help but feel like I was returning home. Stockholm finally feels like home, and I could not be more thrilled to call it that for the next five months!