vart du vill, så fort du kan.
Wherever you want to go, as fast as you can.
The second month in Sweden has been absolutely stuffed. From experience, I know that the best way to get integrated in a new environment is to get involved. So that is what I have been doing. A lot of it.
If you don’t want to read all of the text and are just checking in on me: To sum it up, I am very happy! Whether it be the country I chose or the friends I have made so far or what I am spending my time on, I am truly content and grateful.
Jag har blivit kär i Sverige
This month, I have fallen in love with Sweden. It started as a crush but now it’s getting stronger everyday. This country is a stunner, and I feel really grateful to spend this year here.
A definite highlight of this month was thus when I took a kayaking trip in the Öregrund archipelago with my nation. An archipelago is a conglomerate of islands close to the coast. We kayaked the Baltic Sea during the days and spent the nights on some bigger land formations, which was horrendously cold in early Swedish October. While physically exhausting, it was mentally so rejuvenating and such a wonderful way to learn more about this country. Still reminiscing about those sunsets.
In addition, October has always been my favorite month, and I must say that Uppsala is giving me lots of reasons to keep it that way. The colors have been insane. Simply cycling to class, I feel like I am part of a Wes Anderson movie. ’tis the time for fuzzy socks, long afternoon coffee dates, and scented candles. (Which is no deviation from my all-year-routine. Oops.)
Jag har hittat mitt nya hem
In my previous post, I told you guys about the student nation I had chosen: Gästrik-Hälsinge Nation. I realized very quickly after joining how much I not only enjoyed meeting new people there but also getting involved and investing my time in nation life. To me, it is the combination of making new friends, learning about and preserving Swedish student traditions, and spending my time consciously that fascinated me. So, I became a club worker!
As ‘klubbverkare’, I am part of a small group of eight people, which essentially keeps the nation running for the semester. In teams of two, we cover one night every week at the bar. In addition, we work at the various gasques (= formal dinner) and different other events. Thus, we get exclusive entries to a lot of parties, many ‘thank-you-events’, and guaranteed integration because of our omnipresence and shared pain.
So far, it has been a whirlwind. I was officially elected as klubbverkare October 2nd. October 3rd I had my first real shift followed by perhaps the two most labor-intensive consecutive weekends of my life. Apparently, I have the tendency to get really unlucky in work load, which has resulted in a couple semi-breakdowns but also in some funnily absurd stories and new friendships.
I’m excited to spend the next few months with my nations people laughing and meticulously cleaning the 150-years-old wooden floor.
Jag lär mig om svenska historia
In addition to the aforementioned insanity, I am currently studying a 225% workload. After five weeks, I finished my first course on ‘American History’ and moved on to two new courses: ‘Nordic History’ and ‘American Politics.’ Both of which are of deep interest to me, but I must say that the former has absolutely captivated me.
Learning about Swedish history has been a top priority for my time here, since a nation’s history speaks volumes about its contemporary state and mentality. Thus, I am glad I in this course get to learn about the Nordic welfare system, which has had such a fundamental impact on the five countries. In many discussions with Swedes, I have so far detected a strong trust in authorities whether they be politics or university related. This has a lot to do with the system, since the welfare model only works if everybody cooperates thru e.g. high taxes and lowered confidentiality.
Having studied in Germany and grown up in Switzerland, this is new and strange to me. Due to 20th century history, Germans are very skeptical of every slightly powerful person. They are distrustful of and resentful towards most if not all political parties, which conveniently ties in with their sarcastic humor and favorite hobby: complaining. In regards to Switzerland, semi-direct democracy makes it difficult for the individual to blame the government for ‘wrong’ decisions. It leads much more to the polarization of the Swiss people: old vs young, rural vs urban, conservative vs leftist. This can also be explained through the nation’s federalist history.
All in all, I am hoping to learn a lot more about Sweden’s past to also understand why many Swedes have told me, “We may be known as one of the world’s ‘best’ countries but it’s not all butterflies and rainbows.”
Jag kan förstå mer och mer
Oh Swedish, ya little, beloved pain in my ass.
These past four weeks, I have practiced and improved a lot. I am now at a point that I can successfully watch Swedish series (admittedly with subtitles as for now), have a decent conversation with my weekly language tandem, understand everything that’s written in the klubbverkare chat, and phrase easy texts myself. Under good circumstances, I can understand perhaps 60% of a Swedish conversation but am not able to reply just yet. Oral comprehension does remain difficult, though, since Swedes slur so much. Of course, I also need to improve my vocab. Maybe it was not the best idea to start a series on 1940s Sweden, because I now know outdated grammar forms and swear words.
A lot of Swedish people have asked me why I am even attempting to learn the language, especially since I am not staying for my Master’s. However, practical utility has never much allured me (which explains my major, haha). Honestly, I am learning Swedish because (a) I think it is beautiful; (b) I love acquiring new languages as it tells so much about a culture; (c) I feel like I am not going to be fully integrated until I speak or at least fully understand Swedish; and (d) I like challenges.
Darför ska vi se om jag klara av det.
After the initial month of excitement, these past four weeks have been much more a time of adjustment and integration. I have now arrived at a state of near normalcy with friends I see on a regular basis, hobbies and courses I enjoy, and daily life’s bagatelles. Five years older than the last time, I am much more laid back going into this year abroad. Yes, it is an extraordinary part of my life, but it does not necessarily have to be the best year of my life. Giving up on that expectation is the best thing I can do to improve the eight months I’ve got left.
Until next time!