haggis, whisky walks, and prisons: my week in Scotland

Wow, it’s been awhile. Please bare with me as i get back into the swing of writing as this might be a little rough at first.

In mid-october, my forensic psychology class took a week-long trip to Scotland. The first half of the week was spent in Glasgow where we visited a variety of organizations that focused on criminal offender rehabilitation. The most memorable organizations in Glasgow were Positive Prison and Kibble.

Positive Prison is an organization set up by ex-offenders to help offenders assimilate back into society by offering resources to help them with getting a bank account before they’re released, sets them up with different support groups, and other resources they may need to successfully assimilate back into society. This organization is unique in that it is made up of ex-offeneders who have been through the system and had to go through exactly what the offenders they aim to help are going through. A great thing that they do is they have someone from Positive Prisons waiting at the prison for the offender when they get out, because most times, they get out and have no one. During our meeting with Positive Prisons, we got to hear all about the organization and the ex-offenders told us their stories– which has had a lasting impact on me. We even got to here how they apply psychological research from a forensic psychologist we had met with earlier that week, which was really cool. We split up into smaller groups and each group spoke with an ex-offender and you could really tell they got out and turned their lives around and are now having a positive impact on other offenders’ lives.

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The next organization that was one of my favorites was Kibble. Kibble is an organization that focuses on children in the system. Most of the time children are sent there to live during their trial but they can also be sentenced to Kibble to live their after their trials. They also house children in the foster care system and have different housing for the different reasons the children are there (foster care, criminal behavior, or criminal- like sexual behavior. We got to tour the facilities which was beneficial to see how they actually implement their practices rather than just hearing about it.

As a social activity on the way to Edinburgh, we stopped at Loch Lomond and canoed around the loch. It was a lot of fun, but very cold and my canoe almost tipped! The views were incredible, so it was easy to ignore the temperature.

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Edinburgh. Edinburgh is by far one of my favorite cities I have visited in Europe so far. The buildings seem like history was frozen in time, and not like most major cities where most of the buildings have become modernized. The Edinburgh Castle is in the middle of the city and you can see it from almost anywhere in the city. While in Edinburgh, we did a city eat and drink walking tour and we went to the Edinburgh Prison.

The city walk was one of my favorite things because our guide was very knowledgable and gave us a lot of great info that I don’t think you’d typically get from just a google search of the city. We stopped at different restaurants and bars to taste traditional Scottish food and drink, such as haggis and blood pudding (tastes good, but I would recommend eating before you know what it is!) and whisky at the Scottish Whisky Society.

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Visiting the Edinburgh Prison was an awesome experience, as I have not visited a prison before. We met with a prison manager and he explained how they run the prison and all of the logistics. At this prison, they separate different types of offenders into living quarters based on the type of offense, and their shirts are different colors for the different offense. For example, the sexual offenders live in their own ward and wear maroon colored shirts, and long term prisoners live in their own quarters and wear dark green shirts. A guard took us on a tour of the prison after our little lecture, which was super cool! We went to the sexual offender ward and got to look at a prisoners jail cell (which no joke looked almost the same as a college dorm room, the prisoner had music bumping and everything), then we met with the head prison guard and he told us about what his job looks like day-by-day at the prison. He was in charge of prisoner complaints and he read us some of them, and explained that most of them are pretty comical to read, but there are serious ones too that he must address. After, we got to meet with the prison psychologists that meet with the prisoners and that was really awesome! It was such a cool experience to visit this prison and it definitely gave me a different view on how prisons work and how American prisons could be changed.


All in all, Scotland has been one of my favorite experiences abroad and I would not hesitate to go back and visit as many times as I could (or maybe even move to Edinburgh ;D). My fellow classmates and I still reminisce about our trip and talk about how much we want to go back!

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stay tuned for my next blog posts about my long break, moving to Copenhagen, and my thanksgiving break! i can’t believe there are only 16 more days until this experience is over!



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Updates on My Swedish Life

Hej hej!

Sorry it’s taken so long to write… I’d be lying if I said I’ve been too busy doing really awesome things in Stockholm (not that I haven’t, just not enough to keep me from writing). Sometimes you just need some “me time” i.e. laying in bed watching netflix, not worrying about anything (for example: blogging or a reading assignment). Unfortunately, I will admit, I have probably had too much “me time” and it’s time to come back to my blog and reading assignments.. (maybe i can put the reading assignments off for a little while by writing my blog ;D) so here’s what you’ve missed during my 3 weekends of “me time.”


Core Course Week in Gothenburg

Core Course Week is a week where each program goes on a short 3 day trip to another city in Sweden to focus on their core subject and then spend the other 2 days doing field studies in Stockholm. Forensic psychology traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, where our psych professor lives, on September 12-14 to meet with leading experts in forensic psychology. Gothenburg is a city that is about 5 hours south of Stockholm. How do I know this you ask? We had to take a bus all the way there… it was long, I was tired, and we had a lecture as soon as we got off of the bus; but this week was going to be one of the most informative and interesting weeks I’ve had in my forensic psychology program.

The first academic visit we had was at a forensic psychology research facility. We listened to experts in forensic psychology share their research findings in topics such as eye witness memory, lie detection, and victim blaming.

After our visit, we were taken to a group dinner. I expected something where we could order what we wanted and it would have enough options that everyone would be satisfied. Unfortunately, we were only given a very sad beet salad. Knowing that in most restaurants you get a salad before your main course, I did not really eat the beet salad as I am kind of a picky eater. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that that was all we were getting until they took the picked-at salad away (with judgmental glares) and brought out some kind of dessert. Luckily I was not the only student who was unsatisfied as some of my classmates went to a Mexican restaurant after leaving the beet salad restaurant. Our program leaders in Gothenburg found out and gave everyone 100 SEK (around $12) to compensate for not feeding us enough. I, however, didn’t even think to go get more food (so I really just profited from it) and a few of my friends and I went searching for a moose park we were told existed in Gothenburg, in hopes to see a moose.

To our surprise (and amusement), this “moose park” was indeed just a normal park, with a playground and a pond and lots of green space to play in. Despite our other friends being discouraged and ditching, my friend and I continued through the park in search of the elusive moose. We never did come across any moose, but we did however stumble upon a zoo that was randomly in the middle of this park. We saw seals and penguins, and despite how weird it was to have a zoo in a park, it was cool to see those animals! I wish we would’ve stopped looking for the moose then, but we decided to continue through this park despite how late it was getting. My phone ended up dying and my friend’s was almost dead and somehow we ended up lost in what we later found out was our professors neighborhood which was no where near the hostel we were staying in. (don’t be worried mom, if you’re reading this!! you know what they say… getting lost can help you find yourself. i just get lost a lot.. hehe) We eventually found our way back to our hostel and got a good nights rest for the next day, which was full of activities!

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The next day, we visited a psych ward where criminals go for a period of about 4 weeks to have a psychiatric evaluation done for their trial. We also visited a sort-of halfway house (nothing like the ones in America) where criminals can choose to finish out their sentence there as long as they have a job or are in some sort of education program. They only get a certain amount of hours for free time a month and they have to get it approved by the people in charge. If they violate any of the rules, they go back to jail. The purpose of this halfway house is a soft re-entrance into society, to get them ready to go back into society. It’s located in a big city, so no one knows that these people have a record and that makes assimilating back into society easier. It was really interesting to see something like that, because we don’t really have anything like that in America. We then went bowling with our class and our professor, who is a nice lady from China, told us that the way she bowls is that she “pretends they are criminals, and she knocks em all down.” The next day we went on a cultural boat tour of Gothenburg. It was beautiful. When we returned home, we visited a prison museum that has now been turned into a hostel. It was cool to see what prisons used to look like, but it was weird because there were people staying in the museum.

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Tyresö Slott

2 weeks ago, I went on a field trip with my History of Sweden class to one of the biggest homes in Stockholm not owned by royalty, but by nobles. The home, however, was considered a castle because of how close the owners were to the royal family. The home was donated by the owners to the Nordiska museum and everything, including the radiators, were considered an artifact. An interesting fact we learned, was that one of the noble women who owned the house took down the towers and burned the land near the water so that it would look like the place had already been invaded if the Russians were to pass by. There was a painting of Marie Antoinette and part of her dress was in a cabinet in the hallway (pictured below). The grounds were absolutely beautiful and there was an apple orchard that you could take apples from. The view from the edge of the island was incredible.

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Here are a few pictures of Gamla Stan (the old town) and me showing some Theta love in Stockholm!

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This past Friday, I went to my first real concert ever. I wish I could tell you it was some Swedish musical group, like ABBA, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I went and saw Justin Bieber, and despite how American it was, it was probably one of my favorite experiences here thus far. I’ve always been a fan of him and I LOVE his music, and was sad when I missed him this summer in Atlanta. When I found out he would be here, I jumped on the chance to see him and bought tickets right then. I’ve been in a little funk lately, missing all things familiar to me. However, getting to see him perform and having that sense of familiarity listening to his music helped me get over my funk. Even though some people may laugh, hearing I went to Justin Bieber in Sweden, I don’t regret seeing him instead of doing something cultural because sometimes you need something familiar in an unfamiliar place.

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Sorry for the lengthy post and next time I’ll try to write sooner. Here are some things my readers have to look forward to for the rest of my semester:

Scotland trip (Glasgow, Edinburgh): 6 more days

Italy trip (Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, Pisa, Venice): 23 more days

Move to Copenhagen: 35 more days

Amsterdam trip: 44 more days

Barcelona trip: 48 more days

Santorini trip: 66 more days

HOME: 70 more days


Until next time, readers.




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change is scary.

Getting acquainted to new places can be hard for most people. When I moved from Oklahoma to South Carolina, it took me years to be able to call Spartanburg my home and truly enjoy living there. People generally don’t like change. We like our routines and change forces us to step out of our comfort zones. Change can be scary. We try to avoid it as best as we can. Studying abroad is the opposite of avoiding change. There are new people to meet, new places to go, and a whole new culture to learn.

As much as I hoped Sweden would be just like America, it isn’t. And there are some major cultural differences that have taken me some time to get used to.

The main cultural difference I’ve noticed is the way Swedish people socialize: they don’t. They actively avoid eye contact with everyone on public transportation, you don’t see anyone making small talk with the person sitting next to them on the train, and if you smile at someone, be prepared to get a confused and hostile look back (this has happened to me multiple times).  What’s weird though is if you stop someone for directions or just help in general, they are the most friendly and helpful people. They (like myself) just don’t like to initiate the social interaction, but once initiated they are super friendly (again, like myself).

Another big difference I’ve noticed is that no one says excuse me. They either push past you or I’ve seen people stand behind someone for a few minutes until they move. People walking towards you don’t try to walk around you either. They will walk straight at you, and if you don’t get out of their way, they will bump into you (and then not say sorry or excuse me).

Public transportation is a big way to get around in Stockholm. It is very efficient and very clean compared to the US (not that I’ve ever been on public transportation being from Spartanburg but from what I’ve heard). We got a transportation card when we arrived that covers trains, buses, and ferries as long as we stay within a certain “zone.” There is a subway station about 3 minutes from my house, which makes getting out and exploring really easy. The most interesting thing I’ve seen in stations and malls is that you have to stand on the left of the escalator so if people are in a hurry the right side is free to pass. The Swedes get very annoyed if people are just standing on the right.

FIKA. This is the most popular activity Swedes participate in, however, I don’t really enjoy it. Fika is normally taken in the afternoon and it consists of drinking coffee and eating a dessert pastry. I don’t drink coffee, so I normally don’t take Fika but when my friends want to go for Fika, i’ll go and get a kannelbulle (a delicious Swedish cinnamon bun).


Ok, so now onto the scary experience I promised you in my last blog post..

When strangers in Sweden start being overly friendly, that can be a bad sign after knowing how anti-social Swedes are.

It was a Friday night and a bunch of us were going to a club. On the way there, me and two other guys decided we didn’t want to go the club with everyone, so we ditched and went to a quiet Irish pub for some drinks. On the way back to the t-banna (train station), we ran into so Spaniards that lived in Miami for a few years and were on vacation in Stockholm! it was nice to talk to people in English and I even got to practice my Spanish with them! They were very nice and just wanted directions to the t-banna and which color train line to take. We took them to the t-banna and they were off on their way. After that, we went to find our own t-banna to go back home. As we were rounding the corner, two guys approached one of the guys I was with and were being overly friendly and were getting super close to him. They started walking away and my friend realized that they had stolen his wallet from his front pocket while they were talking/distracting him. At first, the other guy and I didn’t want to believe that had happened, until we saw them keep looking back at us while they walked away. It wasn’t until my friend started chasing them and seeing them start running away that I realized it was true and how freaky the whole situation was. Luckily they only took the cash (60 SEK, which is about $7) he had in his wallet and threw it down on the ground as they ran away (Swedes hate confrontations). Ever since then, I have been extremely cautious around anyone I don’t know. We as humans want to believe the best in people and the sad truth is that not everyone in this world is good and you have to be careful in new surroundings. I wouldn’t say I’m naive at all, I’d like to think that I’m pretty knowledgable about the world and the bad things that can happen, but it’s different when you actually see it happen. That’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned here so far.

Until next time.




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royal sheep and Amy Schumer in Sweden

The school week is set up differently here. It’s kind of a strange set up, but it allows us to do things I wouldn’t typically get to do at Wofford. We have classes on Monday and Thursday and Tuesday and Friday, and then Wednesdays are saved for field studies (which is just like a field trip). Each class has about 2 field studies for the semester and on Wednesdays that we don’t have field studies, we just have the day to ourselves.

This past Wednesday, I had a field study for my Swedish language and culture class. We went to Drottningholm Palace. Drottningholm used to be the Royal summer palace when the royal family was living in the palace in Gamla Stan, but since that palace is now open solely as a tourist attraction, the Royal family resides at Drottningholm permanently. We took a public bus to get there, and I learned that I much rather prefer taking the t-banan (Swedish metro) as it seems a lot easier to maneuver.

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The palace was beautiful. It was almost like I was in a Disney movie or I had been transported back a few hundred years. We got there around 9:30 and the gates didn’t open until 10, so we were able to explore the grounds for a little while. We went back to the garden where all of the plants were cut to look like a geometric shape, because thats how the garden had always been kept. The view of the palace from the garden was incredible. We got to learn a lot of interesting facts about Sweden’s history, such as  most of the statues around the grounds were taken from other countries when they invaded, and are displayed around the palace as trophies of their conquests. The best part of the trip for me was when we were wandering around the grounds and happened upon some sheep grazing in the garden. They weren’t scared of us at all. They came right up to us and let us pet them. It was definitely not something that would typically happen in America.

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When we actually went in the castle, we didn’t have a lot of time at all to do our tour. Our professor booked our ferry ride back to school at 11 and the palace didn’t open until 10, so we were very rushed and didn’t get to see everything. I was pretty disappointed because this was the field study i was most looking forward to and each room had so much history that we needed much more time to get the full experience of the palace. It was awesome getting to tour the royal family’s home and I tried picturing what it was like to live here hundreds of years ago. I could picture them throwing extremely elegant and lavish parties and walking around the gardens. It definitely gave the effect that I had traveled back in time.

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The ferry ride back was incredible. It took around an hour to get back to the city and it was cool because one minute you’re sailing through the countryside and the next you’re sailing into the city. The ferry itself was pretty nice. It had a restaurant and a cafe, so a few of my classmates and I had fika (I will explain in my next blog what this is) on the ferry, and then went to the top to enjoy the views. It was funny because we were sailing into the city and saw some buildings that looked familiar, and I realized they were the buildings that I see from my room and that we were sailing past my apartment building!

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That same night I went to see Amy Schumer. I love Amy Schumer’s work a lot and some might say that she is my “spirit animal.” When I found out she was coming to Stockholm back in June, I knew I had to come see her so I bought tickets right then.  I went and saw her when she came to Greenville in April, so weirdly enough this helped me with my homesickness and made my feel like I was back home. Needless to say, the show was incredibly hilarious, as she usually is. Being that I bought my tickets back in June, I had floor seats and I sat by myself. However, when my friends learned I was going alone, they got tickets (not sitting with me though) so that I wouldn’t  have to go there alone. Sitting by myself in another country was scary at first, but it really helped strengthen my independence. Being that my seats were so close to her, I was also very close to the guy that put our show in the news by yelling out something vulgar to Amy Schumer while she was performing and ultimately getting roasted by her and kicked out. It’s pretty cool to get to say that I was sitting so close to the guy that made it onto the news! This show was a lot better than the Greenville show, as that it was the first show she had ever done an encore at! When she finished, everyone just kept clapping and chanting her name, so she came back out and asked if we wanted her to keep going. It was such an awesome experience.

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Stay tuned for my next blog where I discuss some major culture shock and a pretty scary experience I recently had.



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How Not to Get to Sweden: a distressed American’s how-to

I did everything right. I checked into my flight the day before. I got to the airport at 11:30 when my flight wasn’t until 2:35. I stayed at my gate for 3 hours without venturing too far off for food, just so i wouldn’t miss my flight. But even with all of the measures I took to ensure I had a smooth travel experience, my flight from Charlotte to Newark got delayed long enough that i was going to miss my connecting flight to Stockholm. Not wanting to have to deal with the hassle in Newark, I went to the United lady at the gate and inquired about switching my flights so that I could still arrive in Stockholm on Saturday.  The woman switched my flight to a 9:45pm flight with a connection in London. It seemed almost too easy. I got on my flight in Charlotte much more relaxed than I had been an hour before, but dreading having to wait at Newark for another 4 hours.

Upon arrival in Newark, I went straight to my gate, sought out some New York style pizza, and put on a movie to pass the 4 hours. That’s when I started getting notifications from Newark that my flight to London was delayed again. First to 10:30, then to 11:30, and finally I received that dreaded notification that told me my flight to London had been cancelled. All at once, everyone that was on my London flight was running to customer service, and i found myself following, all trying to get on another flight out that night. We waited and waited at customer service until the manager told us that there was another flight to London that we could get on. I found myself running again. Unfortunately, they put like 3 people on that plane and sent the rest of us back to customer service. It took about 2 hours until I finally got to meet with a customer service representative, and if you can’t already tell how lucky I am, I was the last person from the flight to be helped. There was nothing else flying out that night that could eventually get me to Stockholm, so United put me up in the Crowne Plaza for the night (which was probably too fancy for someone like me) and gave me a bunch of meal vouchers (which I used at some fancy Italian steakhouse in the airport the next day because treat yoself). Unsurprisingly, the next day United had troubles with the plane again. We boarded the plane and I thought everything was going to finally go smoothly, until the captain came over the intercom stating that the last crew didn’t check everything properly and they needed to bring a mechanic on the plane to fix some stuff. At this point, I thought I was never going to make it to Stockholm. After about an hour of just sitting on the plane, we finally taxied and took off! I was thrilled that after around 39 hours of delays, cancellations, and waiting around at airports I was finally on my way to my new home for 4 months!


I don’t know why I thought everything at the airport in Stockholm would be in English, so I shouldn’t be too surprised that I got lost and ended up outside of some random terminal, where I finally got a taxi and was on my way to my Residential Community. When I got to my housing, I was shocked that this is where I get to live for the next 3 months. The building looks like some sort of castle and the view is incredible.

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(building, my room, and our view)

Orientation went by like a breeze, and was a little overwhelming at first. Being a day late, I didn’t really get to have the chance to figure out how to get places so I was thankful that I had the other 15 people I live with to follow around until I could find my way around. We went to Gamla Stan, which is Stockholm’s Old Town and it is very beautiful. It really made me feel like I was in stereotypical Europe, with cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings. We learned in my history class the other day that Sweden hasn’t really ever been bombed so most of the architecture in Sweden has remained in place.

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(Gamla Stan, the old town)

Classes started on Thursday and they’re going to be more work than I expected, but very interesting. We don’t have classes on Wednesdays because that day is saved for field trips for different classes, which will be a lot of fun! Some field trips I will get to go on are trips to the Royal Palace, a prison, and different museums, which will definitely help me learn about the Swedish culture! I’ve already noticed some cultural differences that are definitely interesting, but this blog is getting pretty long… so until next time.




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