From Talking to Strangers to Strange to Talk

When I first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, I was beyond excited. My nerves had subsided, and I was eager to get to my apartment and unpack. Surprisingly, after over 24 hours of traveling from city to city and country to country, I was not that exhausted; I was ready to meet new people and see new places.

Leaving the airport, the roads and surroundings on the way to my apartment in Sollentuna looked shocking normal, and “American.” I do not know if I was expecting it to all look like a movie and so over the top, but I remember being surprised that I was not unfamiliar with the landscape. My apartment is small compared to most USA apartments (maybe not NYC apartments, though). I am sharing it with a fellow Wofford student, Grace which is very nice to have a familiar face along with me on this journey! Although it is maybe smaller than what I am used to, it serves its purpose.

Lunch in the city!

The adjustment to the time difference, apartment, commute, and school has not been that hard. It honestly has been quite flawless. The adjustment that has been the hardest for me to wrap my head around is how reserved the Swedes are. I am used to talking and smiling at strangers on the street and having simple conversations with others while on transportation. However, here, the morning commute, and really any commute for that matter, are relatively quiet. Everyone sits apart (which was happening long before the pandemic) and has headphones in. “Music on, World off” kind of thinking here. Maybe it is just the Southerner in me who wants to talk everyones’ ears off, but the Swedes are opposite in that regard.

Another thing about the Swedish culture that is not similar to the American culture is the amount of trust people have in each other. Coming from a culture where I have always been taught to be aware of my surroundings and keep an eye on my things wherever I go, I have had a massive awakening. People will leave their bikes outside of buildings or restaurants because “it is their bike and no one is going to take it because it is theirs and not anyone else’s,” or at least that is how my Swedish language and culture class professor describes the amount of trust the Swedes have with one another. An example of the trust that can also be seen here in Sweden is that parents just let their kids go freely everywhere. You will see kids who are probably not even eight years old on the metro and commuter trains — something I have and will probably never see in America.

Learning about Swedish life during the 1830’s at Skansen, the first ever open-air museum that’s mission is to teach about Sweden’s history and culture.

While it may seem like Swedish people are reserved and keep to themselves, they are lovely people once you do happen to strike up a conversation with them. Before coming here, I did not have any reservations about traveling internationally. I have only ever left the country once before, and that was to go to Jamaica. With this being my first time in Europe, I had no prior knowledge of anything. I wanted to learn as I went, although I did research what Stockholm was like and the best things to do here. My time so far here has been a dream, and I am so excited for what the following three months have in store!

View from my apartment window! Beautiful sunset and a great outdoor space for all!

South Carolina to Stockholm

HejHej! My name is Bladen Bates and I am a junior at Wofford College. Coming from a town in South Carolina where it feels like everyone knows everyone (or at least their cousin or neighbor) to a city like Stockholm that is massive and read out has been quite thee culture shock. When walking the streets of Greenville I would smile, wave, and strike up conversations. But here, in Stockholm, privacy and personal space (especially on the public transportation) is everything.

Walking back to my apartment from the grocery store

Each of my classes so far has opened up with the traditional first day agenda of introducing ourselves and where we are from. In addition to answering those questions we have been asked “Why Stockholm?” To be honest, I did not choose to come to Sweden because it had been a lifelong passion of mine to see the Nordic or that my ancestors are Swedes. In fact, I choose to come to Stockholm purely because of the core course I am getting to take through DIS (the program I am enrolled in this semester). I am a Psychology and Art History double major on the Pre-Law track who is obsessed with any and everything having to do with learning about criminals. So when I learned that DIS Stockholm offered Forensic Psychology I was sold.

View of the pendeltåg (commuter train) from the platform

Coming to Stockholm knowing little to nothing about the city and country of Sweden itself I was nervous. Nervous that I would not be able to speak with locals. Nervous that the commute to and from school would be a pain and difficult to navigate. Nervous in general to be living across the world for four months. However, my excitement to go abroad and do something that will forever change me outweighed my nervousness. Once arriving in Stockholm my nerves calmed quite a bit when I learned that for the most part everyone in Stockholm and Sweden speaks English and that the public transportation system is very easy to navigate.

The streets of Stockholm

When I first toured Wofford and learned about the amazing study abroad programs I could not wait for my time to go aboard to come. My decision to study abroad is the second easiest decision I have ever made, with choosing to attend Wofford being the first.

Sight from a water tour of Stockholm

Tomorrow it will have been a week since I set foot in Sweden which is so hard to believe. I am looking forward to taking classes that Wofford does not have to offer and exploring the city with the friends I have already made in this short amount of time. I hope during this time I will personally gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Swedish culture. On an academic level, I hope that my time here in Stockholm will instill a richer passion for Forensic Psychology that could eventually lead to career choices.