Making Friends with the Swedes

Swedish people are known for being closed off and a little shy. But once you get to know them, they are very friendly! However, the hard part is getting them to talk to you! I wish I was able to interact with more Swedish locals, since my housing and school is all American students. DIS has set up events that allow us to meet local students, but unfortunately, they don’t always turn out well, since not many students show up. DIS even provides housing options where Swedish students live in the same building, but from what I have heard from friends living there, they do not get to interact with them that much.

One great program DIS has for students who do not live in host families, is a visiting host program that matches students with families so they can meet whenever they are available. I knew from the beginning of this semester that I did not want to live in a host family, so I thought a visiting host family would be great. I was matched with a couple that has three children, and we meet every few weeks to do fun activities together!

Me playing a game with the kids in my family! They tried to teach me to count in Swedish.

I really like having a visiting host family because it get to experience life in a typical Swedish family! My family lives on a different island a while away from Stockholm, so it was really cool to see the residential neighborhoods in Sweden that I do not get to see in the city. Since I am not taking a Swedish language class, my visiting host family also teaches me a little bit of Swedish! The younger kids in the family are just now starting to learn English in school, so they do not really understand it yet, so it is nice to learn some Swedish to communicate with them.

My favorite thing about being with my family is learning Swedish traditions first hand. During one of my visits, I learned to make cardamom buns, which is a very important Swedish skill. I also was able to go mushroom hunting in the forest, which is a very big activity in Sweden. My family goes mushroom hunting all the time!

Me and my family mushroom picking in the forest!

Mushroom picking season is summer and early fall, and since we went later in the fall, the leaves were on the ground and made mushroom hunting harder! My family knew all the good spots where mushrooms grew, so that helped a lot. It takes a lot of concentration to figure out what is a leaf and what is a mushroom! My whole family, even the younger kids, knew the good kids of mushrooms from the bad kinds and they were able to show me. After picking the mushrooms, my visiting host mom showed me how they are cleaned–with a little brush! My visiting host dad cooked the mushrooms and showed me how they eat is with toast. He also made other typical Swedish dishes such as pea soup (this dish can be traced back to the Viking times and they put mustard in it!) and cauliflower soup. It was a GOOD meal!

Doing thing like these makes me feel more at home in Stockholm. There would be no way I could try to go mushroom hunting by myself and getting homemade Swedish food is different that trying to get it from a touristy restaurant. My family has been so welcoming and inclusive, and let me ask them any questions about Sweden! They are also interested in life for me back home in the US so it is a great way to learn about our cultural differences and similarities.

A lot of times, it can be hard to be so far from your family for such a long time, but having a different family to be around can help with those feelings. My visiting host family especially reminds me of my family back home, since they have two daughters and a son, like my family! We celebrated Thanksgiving together with the other host families, so it was really nice to be around a family during the holiday season.

The Studying in Study Abroad

Studying abroad for a semester is similar to freshman year, with orientation, making new friends, establishing a new routine, and adjusting to a new way of learning. Academics is one of the reasons I decided to go to Stockholm specifically, because DIS offered me classes for both of my majors that I could not get back home at Wofford.

The DIS Way

One of the first things you realize about DIS is that they take academics VERY seriously. The attendance policy is very strict and the students are expected to be on top of their schoolwork. The class sizes are similar to Wofford, my biggest class only has 20 students. The professors are also very friendly and try to get to know their students, similar to many professors back home! Fun fact: in Sweden, you call your professors by their first name in school!

Something unique about DIS is that the program includes two travel trips with your core class to another city and country. For my core course, Forensic Psychology, we went to the city of Gothenburg for three days on our short study tour to visit institutions that worked with recidivism and crime in Sweden. For our long study tour, we went to Edinburgh, Scotland for six days to go to organizations that work with the justice system and rehabilitating victims. We had the opportunity to hear a chief detective from the Edinburgh police share one of his tough murder cases and made us think of how to solve it. My favorite organization we visited focused on changing attitudes about the criminal justice system and opening new options for rehabilitation beyond imprisonment. This hands on way of learning as a class gives us first hand experience from police officers and workers in many different organizations.

Me with some girls from my Core Course exploring the botanical gardens in Gothenburg!
My core course in front of the Edinburgh Police Station!

Academics

As a Psychology and Anthropology/Sociology major, I am able to take classes that fulfills credits for both my majors in Stockholm! Forensic Psych is not offered at Wofford, so I was excited to get a chance to take this class in general, and it also counts as an elective towards my Psych major. Swedish Politics and Glued to the Screen are counted as sociology credits. I also had room to take two classes for fun that only count as hours towards graduation, so I picked Psych of Loneliness, which is a very interesting class, and the Vikings since I’m in Scandinavia! DIS offers classes in many topics, so it was fun to pick classes outside my major as well.

My schedule at DIS!

Classes at DIS only happen on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesdays are free, because each class has two field studies that happen on random Wednesdays throughout the semester. On these field studies, we go to museums, schools, or programs that are related to what we are learning in class. If a class doesn’t have a field study, then it is just a free day to explore or catch up on homework! It has been nice having class only four days a week, and it will be an adjustment to go back to having classes five days a week back home.

The Work Load

Coming from Wofford, I was used to studying and reading a lot to prepare for classes, and at DIS, reading also makes up most of my schoolwork. One big change is that all my classes require reading and class participation, and at Wofford, I only had a few classes like that. It was hard at first to juggle all the readings for all my different classes, but I think I am on top of things this far into the semester!

Living in a LLC: A Field Trip Every Week!

One thing that makes DIS different from other study abroad programs is that it offers students the opportunity to live in a themed Living Learning Community! In DIS Stockholm, the two LLCs are the Outdoor LLC, which I am in, and the Music LLC. The students in the LLCs all live on the same hall in the same building with other DIS students. Each LLC meets once a week to do an activity together with an experienced leader hired by DIS. For the Outdoor LLC, we meet every Tuesday in the late afternoon after class and it is a good break in the school week! It is basically having a fun trip every week!

Why I Chose a LLC

When picking my housing for living abroad, I thought living in an LLC would give me a good opportunity to get to know other students better since we had to meet every week. At Wofford, academic LLCs are offered to freshmen, but I did not get to participate in one, so I thought it would be a good time to try one! I specifically picked the Outdoor LLC because I wanted to explore parts of Stockholm that I would not get to on my own. So far, I can definitely say that I have done and seen more with this group than I could ever do alone!

Meet my LLC!

The number of students that sign up for the LLCs change every year, and this year, we have a small group! We are a total of six students, all from different majors, different parts of the US, and with different outdoor experiences. I really like having a small group because we have gotten to know each other really well and it makes our excursions a lot more fun! Our LLC leader is Hanna and she is one of the coolest people I have met in Sweden! She is a climbing instructor and works with environmental groups. She plans every activity we do and makes sure we are comfortable with it.

My LLC! (minus one because she was sick) Hanna, our group leader, is the second from the left!

Week 1: A Boat Ride!

For our first Tuesday trip, we went on a ferry ride around Archipelago, which is an area of Stockholm that is make up of many islands. We rode the ferry until we got to the small island of Vaxholm. There, we had a picnic on the rocks by the water to watch the sunset and get to know each other.

Week 2: Kayaking

For our second activity, we went kayaking in Brunnsiken, which is a lake in a big natural park in Stockholm. We kayaked as partners and had fun racing each other and eating cookies while floating in the middle of the lake.

LLC Weekend: Camping

Each LLC has a weekend where they go on a trip together, so we went camping at Tyresta National Park, which is about 30 minutes outside Stockholm. I had never camped overnight outside before, so it was a new experience for me! First, we hiked the cliffs that led to the camping spot next to the water. We cooked all our meals outside, so I learned to cook over an open fire! At night, we climbed the cliffs again to stargaze, and I saw a shooting star! We also met a Swedish family at the campsite and we introduced them to smores, because they don’t make them in Sweden. They loved them!

LLC Weekend: Caving

Before leaving the campsite during our weekend away, we went caving in the natural caves made by rocks that fell from the cliffs. I had never been caving before, so it was a little intimidating at first, especially after the Swedish family we met told us how small it can get in there! We had a cave expert lead us through the paths in the cave and show us the interesting rooms in there. There is a pathway that is called the Devil’s gate because it is so small to pass through! There is also a room named the spider room because of the amount of spiders inside it- it was not fun sitting in that room. Caving required a lot of strength to pull yourself over the rocks, but I was able to do it! It was really a once in a lifetime experience.

Week 3: Outdoor Climbing and Rappeling

For our third weekly activity, we went to an outdoor climbing area in Ryssgraven, which is just outside Stockholm. It was a very tall rock right next to the water. I had never rock climbed outdoors before, so I was a little nervous, especially after seeing how tall the rock was! We had expert climbing instructors that had on a belay system, so that made me feel better. We could pick whether we wanted to climb up the rock and also rappel down from the top of the rock. At first, I was sure I did not want to rappel down from the rock because of how high it was, but after climbing up the rock and walking backwards back down, I knew I could try rappelling. It was scary to walk backwards off a high cliff, but somehow I managed to do it!

Week 4: Hiking

For this week, we went hiking at a very popular spot in Stockholm called Hellasgarden. We were able to hike around a lake and see some of the prettiest views! It was good to enjoy the nice weather and spend time together.

Week 5: Forest Bathing

Contrary to what the title of this activity implies, there was no bathing involved! For this activity, we to one of the quietest forests in Stockholm to get in touch with nature. It is called forest bathing because you are supposed to use all of your senses to take in everything around you. There is a project in Stockholm where the noise level in big forests is measured to determine which forests are the most quiet from the sounds of the city. We were able to wander around and just take in everything around us. It was very peaceful!

Week 6: Bouldering

This past week, we went to a huge indoor climbing center in the city to go bouldering! I had never done it before, but I have rock climbed, which is pretty similar, except you are not attached to a rope. Climbing took a lot of strength and control (my entire LLC is sore!), and actually a lot of thinking to figure out the best path to go. Climbing and bouldering is a very popular activity with Swedes, and it was really cool to see the experienced climbers do some very impressive moves!

More Coming Up!

We have about five more weekly activities for the rest of the semester! Some activities we have planned include: biking in Djurgarden (a small island in the city), visiting a sauna, and ice skating once it gets really cold in the winter. Next week, we are going to do parkour and I am so excited to try it!

I Feel Accomplished!

Joining this LLC has pushed me to be braver and try things I never thought I would do! With most of the activities, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone a little to experience something completely new. Especially rappelling off a cliff, I was so proud I did that! Hanna has inspired us to appreciate nature more and get outdoors. When I joined the LLC, I was a little nervous at first because I did not have a lot of outdoor experience, mostly just hiking, but everyone in the LLC had different levels of experience so we were all trying new things. Hanna and everyone in the LLC is very encouraging, and we always have a good time during our weekly activities!

A super cool picture Hanna took of us while camping! I look forward to every Tuesday!

My Average Swedish Week

Living in a different city comes with new routines and schedules. Here is a look at my day to day life in Stockholm!

Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I have class at 10:05. I have to wake up earlier than I would at Wofford, around 8:30, so I have enough time to get ready, eat, and commute to school.

My building is the yellow one in the back. I start my days here!

My Commute

Where I live is only 20 minutes away from DIS by the Metro, or Tunnelbana. It only takes me about five minutes to walk from my housing to the train station, it’s a quick walk! After seven stops, I get off the train to get to school. The exit is right in front of my school building so it is very easy to get to class!

This is the Hornstull train station, where I start my commute every morning!
My favorite view during my commute (especially when it is sunny!) This train station is on the water!
Inside the Stadion train station (where I get off). I like seeing the rainbow every morning!

Stockholm city decorates their underground train stations in many themes. In fact, it is such a big thing that the city gives art station tours to see all the different themes!

The Facilities

Because DIS Stockholm is such a small program (we only have around 90 students total!), it does not have our own building. Instead, DIS is located inside the Royal College of Music and has four identical wings that have study spaces and classrooms. I like to use the tables to do my homework between my classes. There is also a help desk for all the students to go to for questions or help with school or anything!

The Royal College of Music, also known as KMH. DIS is on the top floors of this building.

Because DIS shares a building with KMH, there is a restaurant in the school that offers a discount on its lunches for all students! They also offer pastries, fruits, coffee, drinks, and other snacks that are easy to grab between classes. I like to treat myself to a pastry or coffee every once and a while! For lunch, I like to pack sandwiches, or any leftovers I have to save money.

School

I have three classes that meet Monday and Thursday, and two classes that meet Tuesday and Friday. In total, all of my classes meet twice a week, which is a nice even school schedule. In the breaks between my classes and in the evenings, I find myself doing homework. The work load at DIS is very reading heavy, so I always have assignments to be working on.

DIS has four wings that look like this. The help desk is in the back. I like to work at these tables.

A New Way of Living

Living in an apartment is a big change for me! I share an apartment with one roommate. We don’t have our own rooms, but we have our own spaces in the big room. The biggest change for me is that I have to buy my own groceries and cook my own meals instead of just going to Burwell for food! I have finally started to get into a routine of going grocery shopping when I need to after school and cooking on certain days when my class gets out. So far, my favorite thing to cook is pasta. It is easy and cheap!

I made spaghetti!
Garlic, spinach, and chicken pasta! I feel proud every time I cook!

Outside of School

When I am done with classes, I try to get into a routine of what I do with my evenings throughout the week. On Mondays and Thursdays, I get back from class later in the afternoon, around 4:30. I try to go for a run when I get back on the trails next to the water that lead to parks. Many people run there so I feel motivated and the sights are beautiful!

I found this bridge while running! It is so pretty and peaceful!

After my run, I usually cook and eat dinner before doing homework for the rest of my evening. On Tuesdays and Fridays, I get back from classes earlier in the afternoon, around 3:00. On Tuesdays I have excursions with my LLC (living learning community) that last until the evening, and on Fridays I like to spend the afternoon with friends (we like to treat ourselves to a good cafe dessert), or take a nap! Whenever the weather is nice, I like to go on walks near the water to catch the sunset!

This is a spot I found while walking that overlooks the water and city! Many people enjoy it too!

On Wednesdays, we don’t have class, but every class we take has two field studies that happen on a Wednesday sometime throughout the semester. So sometimes, I will have two field studies and be busy all day, or sometimes I will have an afternoon or morning one so I have half the day off. On some lucky days, I have the whole Wednesday off! I like to use that day to explore the city! These past few Wednesdays, I have gone to the free museums around Stockholm.

Me at the Medieval Museum! So far, it is my favorite free museum in the city!

On the weekends, I like to find fun places around the city. Most of the times, I like to walk around the main shopping streets in the middle of the city, or explore neighborhoods a little farther outside the city. One big thing I have discovered around Stockholm is flea markets! They are really big in Stockholm and are easy to find. There is only close by to where I live that happens every weekend during the fall. Here, you can find cheap clothes, handmade accessories, art, music, and food trucks! Every weekend, I go someplace new and I am happy I get to explore Stockholm every week!

A crepe food truck at the flea market. This is the cutest food truck I have ever seen! And the crepe was delicious!
A ride at Grona Lund, an amusement park on an island! I went here one weekend for fun!
Me and my new friend! I found him in Gamla Stan, also called the Old Town. It is a great place to explore!

Fika: Not Your Average Coffee Break

Looking at cultural differences between Sweden and the US, there are not many noticeable differences in everyday life. Going for a coffee break, especially with friends, is something people do in every culture. In the US, going to Starbucks or a cozy cafe in the afternoon for a little break is not uncommon. However, doing it every day, or even twice a day, is definitely uncommon in the US. This is not the case in Sweden though! Fika, which translates into a coffee and cake break, includes so much more than just food. It is a break during the day to socialize with friends or coworkers. In fact, just having a coffee and pastry by yourself does not count as Fika, because companionship is what makes Fika a real Fika.

Fika is not Fika without friends!

It’s a Ritual

Fika can happen twice a day! Once in the late morning and later again in the middle of the afternoon. The practice of pausing your day to socialize is basically mandatory, and big companies in Sweden, such as Volvo, stop working for Fika! Fika can also happen by candlelight, which I have not experienced yet, but would love to! Drinking coffee and eating pastries with a group of friends around some candle sounds like a great bonding experience!

A Cinnamon Bun, But Better

While Fika includes all types of pastries, croissants, pies, and cakes, the most common Fika pastries are cinnamon or cardamom buns. Called kanelbulle in Swedish, these buns are on a whole different level than American cinnamon buns. It is twisted into a fun shape, and baked to perfect mix of crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, with sugar chunks sprinkled on top! The cardamom buns are very similar, but since it’s made from a spice, it is more savory in comparison to the sweetness of cinnamon buns. I don’t think I can go back to American cinnamon buns after eating the Swedish buns!

Cinnamon buns (left) and cardamom buns (right) freshly made at a bakery!

Baking: It’s Art

Cafes and bakeries can be found all over Stockholm, and it is very hard to resist the colorful displays filled with goodies! After passing by so many in the city, I have learned to appreciate the skill and cleverness that goes into baking. In the US, we still have amazing pastries, yet the ingenuity of Swedish pastries is something that I really appreciate!

Bread shaped as a crawfish, how do they do this?!
Freshly made red velvet croissants in a bakery, something I have never seen before!

A Way to Make Friends

One of the first things my core class did together was get Fika. Also, when meeting my visiting host family for the first time, we went to a floating cafe on the river to get Fika. In Sweden, Fika is the first step when meeting someone new. Even in everyday life, Fika plays a big role in continuing close friendships and social connections. I think it is so interesting that an entire country observes this practice religiously, because it shows the importance the Swedish people put on companionship. I love the idea of taking time out of your day to focus on connecting with others, especially over amazing desserts and coffee. In the US, getting coffee with friends to catch up is usually an every-once-in-a-while kind of activity. I think having a practice like Fika in the US would be a great way to make people slow down their work or school day and feel refreshed to finish their day strong.

These colorful displays never fail to catch my eye!

Fun Fact: Sweden is ranked country #6 in the list of biggest coffee consumers!

My First Week in Stockholm!

A street view in Sodermalm (my area), I love how colorful all the buildings are!

First Impressions

My first day in Stockholm was filled with beautiful sites and sleep deprivation. I arrived at the airport at 7:00 in the morning and was met by DIS in arrivals where they led us to a cafe with plenty of croissants and drinks for all the students. After waiting about an hour for more students to arrive, we were bussed to our housing. We were given the rest of the day to unpack and settle into our apartments, meaning it was a fight to stay awake for the rest of the day. The first thing I was told about my housing was that we were lucky to live there. Known as the hipster area, Sodermalm is filled with restaurants, parks, and beautiful water views. I was amazed at how pretty everything around me was!

I was a little hesitant about moving to a city, especially in a different country. I was worried about public transportation, being surrounded by another language, and living in a crowded area. I was happy to find out on my first day that the train station and many stores and restaurants were within walking distance! And there were many different options! The train lines were super easy to navigate, and I found myself exploring other stations whenever I could. On my first day, I was definitely not prepared to see the lack of written English. For some reason, I had thought English would be written on public signs or at stores and restaurants. It was hard to order food when you couldn’t read what it was! I felt intimidated by all the Swedish speaking people around me, but I quickly learned that almost everyone in Sweden speaks fluent English and are willing to help out if you ask!

My building: Hogalidsgatan! (It’s a mouthful that none of us can accurately pronounce)
The view from my window! I love sunsets.

Learning New Things

The only things I had heard about Sweden were basic: Ikea, ABBA, meatballs, and cold weather. I quickly learned how little I knew about the country I was going to live in for the next four months. First of all, the Ikeas in Sweden are not like the Ikeas in the US, but there are specialized stores, so you have to make sure you are going to the right one! I also learned that the food in Sweden is very multicultural–I spent my first few days eating falafels and pad Thai, and there are restaurants of every type all within walking distance. I quickly learned to not assume the weather in Stockholm would be cold–the temperature reached up to 80 degrees, and each person I met told me it will not get very cold until February!

The one thing I was super excited to be right about was ABBA. Not only is there a museum in Stockholm, but during my first day of orientation, we had an ABBA singalong! After singing Dancing Queen with 100 other people, I finally felt excited to take on city life in Stockholm!

Me with a few classmates and ABBA enthusiasts in front of our school building!

One thing Swedes take very seriously is afternoon coffee, which they call fika. After only a few days, I learned to appreciate it a lot! Fika is a time for people to get together and take a break from their day, while eating amazing pastries and coffee. The most popular fika pastry is cinnamon buns, topped with grains of sugar.

One of my first fikas in the city. The pecan pie was delicious!

Island Views: My Favorite

Stockholm is made up of many small islands, connected by bridges. This means there is water everywhere! One of the first things I wanted to do was explore the parks and trails along the water. There are always boats, kayaks, and people enjoying the outdoors! During an evening walk with some friends, we found some rocks that gave us an amazing view of the island across from us! Sitting on the rocks and watching the sun set over the city was one of my favorite things I have done so far.

I love walking on the trails by the water!
A sunset view of the next island. One of my new favorite things!

Pre-Departure!

Hi there! My name is Sam and welcome to my page where I’ll be documenting my study abroad journey! The city I will be living in is Stockholm, Sweden.

Why I Decided to go Abroad

Traveling is not a stranger to me, in fact, my family and I travel a lot over the summers for fun! However, choosing to live abroad for a few months is a different experience. For me, the biggest deciding factor to spend a semester abroad was the opportunity. College is a time for exploring new things and it is the perfect time to learn how to live on my own. Another deciding factor was the program I decided to pursue. Since Wofford does not have any classes similar to the Forensic Psychology course I will be taking, I decided that pursuing education outside of Wofford was a good opportunity for me as well.

Like many others, I was concerned about being in a different country for an extended amount of time. I think my “epiphany moment” occurred during Interim this past year when I went abroad to Morocco. As part of the cultural experience, my class was paired off to live with host families in the Medina of Rabat. My host family included a mother and grandma who could not speak English. Communicating was challenging at times, and after the struggle I decided that if I could survive in a country where I cannot communicate, then I can definitely survive in a country that speaks English!

Me and my friend Jordan with our host grandma in Morocco!

Why Sweden?

Choosing where to study abroad is a hard decision, but thankfully, there are people at Wofford who are there to help with that! The first time I went to meet with someone from International Programs, I walked out with about eight catalogs of possible programs and cities all over the world! Because I am a very indecisive person, having so many options overwhelmed me for a while.

In the end, I picked Sweden because of what I wanted for my education. As a Psychology and Anthropology/Sociology major, the DIS Stockholm program gave me the opportunity to take many classes in both of my majors. Also the Forensic Psychology course I will be taking is something I am interested in, but would not have the opportunity to explore if I stayed at Wofford. Language also influenced my decision to live in Stockholm. Other programs that appealed to me came with required language classes, which was something I did not want to take.

One thing about DIS that made me a little apprehensive was how little people at Wofford go through the program. I am the only student from Wofford going to Stockholm, and only two other students are going to the Denmark location of the DIS program. After seeing how many people were going to the same programs or same cities, I was a little worried about going to Stockholm alone. Having a familiar face would be comforting, but I think it would be a good opportunity to meet new people.

Brochure for my program!

Thoughts, Concerns, and Goals

Going to a new school is very nerve-wracking, especially when it’s in a different country! I am nervous about taking unfamiliar classes, learning a big, new city with a large transportation system, and meeting new people. One thing that is very comforting is that all the other students in my program will be experiencing the same concerns so I know I am not alone!

My biggest concern just days before leaving for Stockholm is packing. How cold will it be in Stockholm? Is my winter clothes warm enough? D How many shoes do I need to bring? What can I survive without for four month? And most importantly, how will everything fit into my luggage?! Hopefully I don’t forget anything.

Through my experience abroad, I hope to explore new classes that will hopefully help my decisions for a future career. I also hope to get a taste of city life and master public transportation, since you don’t find much of that in Spartanburg! I also want to be more outgoing and explore as much as possible, whether it be around Stockholm, or other countries nearby!