Vi Ses Igen Sverige!

It has been a week since I left Stockholm and returned to the States. The last 168 hours have been filled with Christmas celebrations, catching up with friends, and catching up on sleep. Those hours have also been filled with telling every person I encounter all about my time abroad. I am already beginning to see how this time away has shaped me without me even realizing it.

As much as I love home and am so happy to be back in South Carolina surrounded by friends and family, I cannot wait to go back to Sweden (hopefully in the summer so I can avoid the cold at all costs) and act as if I were a local, knowing every which way to go and maybe speak a bit of Swedish here and there. I already know that my remaining three semesters at Wofford will be impacted by my time in Stockholm, mainly impacted by the classes I took at DIS. My Forensic Psychology class I absolutely loved, and I cannot wait to share what I learned in that class with the Psychology professors and majors back at school. That class helped me realize how many career opportunities there are in the Forensic Psychology field, which opened my eyes to paths I could take post-graduation. My Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism class was one of my favorites. It was so cool to learn about Terrorism because it has affected our lives every day ever since 9/11, it seems like. I have always been interested in working in Counter-Terrorism and was so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from one of the best in Europe. My professor for that class told us to let us know if we ever need letters of recommendation or help finding jobs in Counter-Terrorism, something I know I will definitely take him up on once graduation is near. My Nordic Contemporary Art class was another one of my favorite classes I took while in Sweden. We got to visit so many museums and institutions in Stockholm, and I am so thankful that I could see beautiful works of art that I probably would have never gotten to see in person otherwise. I hope to bring back some of the skills I learned from that and incorporate them into my remaining Art History classes at Wofford.

Sweden was so much fun and taught me so much, not just in the world of academics but also about myself. I know that my life is forever changed and that my remaining time at Wofford will be impacted in every way because of the experiences I had over the last four months. I also know that after graduation, my time in the workplace will also be influenced by my semester in Stockholm.

The Con of Being From the South

When I took Spanish classes in middle school and high school, I realized how hard it was for me to pronounce certain words because of the “Southernness” in my voice. For example, I would pronounce ‘señor’ as ‘senior’ and luckily got away with it. This same pronunciation problem arose while in Stockholm and taking my Swedish language class. The Swedish language has not been too difficult to learn, thanks to my outstanding Swedish professor and the resources we are provided. I have noticed that while not on my end, there is a translation barrier between Swedes and Americans or English speakers. Thanks to almost all of the Swedes in Stockholm knowing how to speak English because they were taught it in school, there is no language barrier.

When my Swedish language class visited a local Swedish high school to discuss the different aspects of our cultures, I noticed that there is not always a direct translation of things in Swedish into English. One student was trying to describe this subculture within the teenage driving world here in Stockholm, which he translated into what American culture as “redneck.” However, the teacher, an English speaker himself, said that this was not true, and he could not begin to think of how to describe the culture because there were no words in English that matched up to the Swedish way to describe it. To this day, I still cannot picture what the young Swedish student was trying to describe to me.

Going back to my reference earlier to my Spanish class days, there are many verbs in Swedish that look like verbs I used in Spanish. Sometimes in class, I will accidentally start speaking in Spanish because of this. Another memorable language mishap that happened while at the Swedish high school was when I had to list my majors in Swedish to the students. Instead of saying “och,” which means “and” in Swedish between saying psychology and art history, I said “y,” which means “and” in Spanish. I was so embarrassed afterward when I realized I spoke Spanish instead of Swedish. Oh well! I guess I should have stuck with taking Spanish courses because apparently, it has stuck with me. While I may not be the best Swedish speaker, I hope to continue to learn it when I return to the States through apps such as Duolingo. Hopefully, I will not speak “Spandish” and will be able to calm my Southern drawl down a bit.

Connections Are What Make the World Go Round

Making connections with those around us is vital to our growth in life and survival. Without connections, how would ideas spread, and how would we be supported in our endeavors? Making friends abroad has been quite an easy task. This ease could be attributed to living in an apartment complex on the same floor with other students in my program. Another factor could be the program’s size, which is around 65 students, give or take a few. Being in a small program means sharing classes with lots of the same people, and that class sizes themselves are small too, allowing for an intimate space to be shared where we get to know one another on a deeper level. My apartment complex has two common rooms specifically for the use of my program only. Students have put together social nights where we all get to spend time together and bond. After these social nights, we typically go to the city to explore the nightlife together.

While it has been easy to make friends with students within my program, it has been much more challenging to bond with local Swedes. Swedes, in general, tend to keep to themselves, and while they are very nice when having a surface-level conversation with them, it takes them much longer to open up and become friends with people like us who are only here for a short amount of time. This just means I will have to come back to Sweden and work my way into the local scene more now that I am aware of this element of the Swedish social culture.

Exploration and Relaxation

Studying abroad in the movies is displayed as four months of constant motion. Let me be one of the many to tell you that that is Hollywood, and this is the real world. Just like college in the USA can be draining, so can the academics of studying in another country for a semester. Adjusting to life in a new country can be exhausting in addition to the stress of school. During my time here in Sweden, I have had many opportunities to explore this new city I am living in and have some time to relax and recharge.

Before the cold and darkness set in, I would take walks to the lake near my apartment to get some fresh air and some time to myself to think and breathe. There is also a gym beside our apartment that I got a membership at so I could let out some stress on the treadmill too. When I want to study or work on projects, I like to have my space to think and spread all of my materials out. I typically go to a café a few train stops away from my apartment. I love the basement of the café and try to grab the five-person round table for myself and all of my books. Sorry, not sorry other customers!

Additionally, I like to read one of the books I am reading for fun before going to bed. By doing this, I keep my eyes off of screens and disconnect from the world of social media. It also lets my brain begin to wind down prior to going to sleep. I have found it helps me fall asleep faster than when I stay up on my phone. Another way I recharge is by going to an infared sauna in the city to sweat out my stress. Such a great way to restart my week! Other students, I have found, also deal with the stress of school and moving to Sweden by taking time out of our days for themselves to either explore the city solo or sit at a coffee shop and catch up on work.

When I am not taking time to recharge, I can be found exploring the great city of Stockholm. I am a big fan of museums, and luckily, Stockholm has over 50 museums! My favorite museums that I have been to are the ABBA museum, Modern Musset, and the Vasa Museum. Stockholm also has opportunities to explore nature around every corner, so I can also be found wandering around the nature pockets within the city!

Exams and Studying to Discussions and No Pressure

Call me crazy, but I love exams. I love prepping myself for upcoming tests. I love studying. While I might not do fantastic on every exam, I see exams helping me recognize what I need to focus more on. In addition, exams are a way to help me see how much I have learned in my classes. My parents always encourage and support me when it comes to my academics; however, they never put pressure on me, and when I say I got an A- and pout about it, they just laugh and say that I am the only one who is putting the most pressure on myself. Guess I owe a thank you to my competitive personality! Here in Sweden, though, there is no pressure or emphasis on grades. Is this a good or bad thing?

Well, for me, it has been both a good and bad thing. While it was easy to adjust to the academic culture in Sweden, it has been not easy in one aspect regarding grades. Since my grades factor into my GPA back home at Wofford, I put long hours into my work. My professors rarely put grades in because it is the Swedish way to not worry about grades. Stressful for this Wofford girl! Luckily though, my two professors of the courses that factor back into my majors have put in grades thus far. While I see this unawareness of my grades as annoying, I have come to accept that when in Rome, do as the Romans do or, in this case, when in Sweden, do as the Swedes do. Another Swedish aspect that is not incorporated back home as often as it here is in academic settings is discussions. We are meant to bring our ideas and questions to the table. This opportunity has opened my eyes to others’ opinions and has allowed me to voice my own.

I am very fortunate that while I am here in Stockholm at DIS, I am getting credit towards my graduation for all four of my courses. Two of those courses also count towards my majors. My Forensic Psychology course is going towards my Psychology major, and my Nordic Contemporary Art course counts towards my Art History major. My classes are small and very similar in size to those at Wofford. My smallest class here is my Nordic Contemporary Art class which consists of three students, including myself. Going to school in another country is very similar in that scheduling and class topics are the same as if we were back in America; however, it is very much hands-on learning here. We even get to take field studies with our classes, which allows us to visit other institutions and places related to what we are learning about in class. Additionally, these field studies help us see the surrounding areas of our home here in Stockholm!

The Real Italy for a Week

Hej Hej! Or should I say Ciao! I mentioned a few blog posts back that Stockholm could be the second Italy of the world due to all of the Italian restaurants that seem to be on every corner. Last week though, I got to travel to the real Italy!

At DIS Stockholm, we get one week out of the semester to travel independently. Many people went to places such as Prague and Germany, but my friends, Grace and Roxanne (fellow Wofford students), and I decided we would pack our bags and head to the land of carbohydrates!

While I have not had as much of a language barrier in Sweden, thanks to mostly everyone speaking English, this was not the case in Italy. We went to Rome for four days and then spent the rest of our time on the Amalfi Coast in Positano. Coming from the cold of Stockholm, we were expecting rays of sunshine and warmth for a few days. Unfortunately, we checked and checked the weather app, but Mother Nature had her own ideas. The cold of Italy did not compare to the cold of the Nordic, though.

When in Rome, we ate lots of yummy pizzas and plates of pasta, of course! We visited the Vatican museums and got to go on a tour of the Colosseum. It was so amazing to walk through the sites there that contained hundreds of years of history. We even got blessed by the Pope on Sunday! While we did have fun in Rome, we could not wait to get on to our next destination for a slower pace!

I felt like we were locals in Positano due to our Airbnb being further away from the hotels and on the same street (more like an alleyway) as those living there year-round. There was a beautiful church right down the way from us, and the streets were filled with cute cats! We named the cat that was outside our door every day Martin. He was a sassy little thing! And just when I did not think the authentic Italian food could get any better, the restaurants of Positano proved me wrong. The best meal there was my truffle ravioli. (I am a sucker for anything truffle.) I could eat that meal for the rest of my days.

The best day in Positano, though, was when we had signed up to be chartered to Capri and spent a few hours there. Capri Blue is a real thing, and the water surrounding the coast is breathtaking. I will be going back to Positano as soon as possible!

This experience was excellent, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to share it with my friends! As much as I loved Italy, I could not wait to be back in Stockholm. I did not think I had considered Sweden to feel like home yet but being away for a week made me appreciate my time here so much more! The best part about being abroad is not only getting to experience the culture in another country but being so close to other countries that are usually hours of travel away when back in the United States.

My Day to Day in Stockholm

God morgon! Frukost tid! (Good morning! Breakfast time!) A typical morning in Sweden consists of waking up in my apartment, getting dressed for class and preparing my breakfast, which usually consists of a granola bar or a piece of toast. However, if my day is free of classes or it is the weekend, then STHLM Brunch Club or The Greasy Spoon are the places to be for breakfast. Since leaving America, I have CRAVED many foods that remind me of home. One thing I have craved the most is a classic American breakfast consisting of pancakes, hash browns, and eggs. Luckily the previously mentioned establishments deliver on satisfying my cravings! The rosti, a hash-brown pancake, at The Greasy Spoon is chef’s kiss.

My breakfast at The Greasy Spoon! Not pictured: my rosti!

On days that I have class, I usually make my own lunch, a pasta of some sort, and bring it to DIS to eat. I make a salad or pasta dish at home for dinner if I am getting in later from classes. Nevertheless, if my night is free of homework, then it is off to one of the districts of Stockholm, such as Gamla Stan (“Old Town”), for dinner! In between all of these meals, a Fika or two might slip in. Fika is a time of hanging out with friends and grabbing pastries and coffee. Fika is the best and is something I look forward to bringing back to the States!

The transportation system in Stockholm is very easy to navigate. I take the pendeltåg (“commuter train”) to Stockholm City and switch over to the tunnelbana (“metro”). I take the red line towards Mörby Centrum and hop off two stops in at Stadion. Stadion’s station is right outside of DIS, which is VERY convenient. Stadion got its name from being the district that is home to the 1912 Olympic Stadium. The Stockholm Stadion is located right beside the building that DIS is housed in. We can see the outer wall from school!

DIS is located inside of Kungl. Musikhögskolan, or the Royal College of Music. The program is split between the 4th and 5th floor and consists of 8 classrooms. On the 4th floor is the Student Hub. In the Hub is a printer we can use for printing and books that can be checked out. The Hub reminds me of Wofford’s library because there is staff there to help answer any questions, much like at the circulation desk back at school and because it is where I primarily go to study. On the 5th floor, there are two other study halls that mimic the Student Hub but only consist of tables for studying.

When I am not studying or in class, I am most likely sightseeing in Östermalm or Gamla Stan. You could also find me visiting art museums or other museums in Stockholm, such as the ABBA museum! The shopping in Stockholm is just as amazing as the city, so you are bound to find me in and out of stores!

One of my favorite pictures at Fotografiska, the photography museum
ABBA! But in wax form!

Italian, Neutrals, English…Oh My!

Going from what some think of as being the “Land of Fried Food” to a place over 4,500 miles away, one might think that the food would be total opposites. Nevertheless, here I am, a little over a month into being in Stockholm, and I am surrounded by fast-food and Italian restaurants on what seems like every corner. Not much has changed in the food department when going from America to Sweden. Now maybe the portion sizes are smaller, but not by a tremendous amount.

Italy or Sweden?

Being someone who is slightly obsessed with clothes and fashion back home, I was beyond eager to see the street style of Swedes. In South Carolina, it is not unusual to see brightly colored clothes all year round due to the weather being nice (and unpredictable) for the most part all year round. In Stockholm, though, I have learned that black is the new black, and neutrals are something Swedes cannot live without. Jeans are another item that is on repeat here. Luckily, I heard from others how sweaters are a must and to be prepared to tone down my colorful closet before coming to Stockholm. Now I feel like a local when I pull my black turtleneck over my head in the morning and when I walk around in my wide-legged jeans. Oh, and my white sneakers. Neutrals head to toe!

At the Moderna Museet. One of my favorite museums thus far!

Apparently, I have a southern accent I had never been aware of until I got here. Not only has it been pointed out to me by peers at DIS, but it is getting in my way during my Swedish Language and Culture class when pronouncing certain words. However, I am just in luck because, for the most part, all Swedes speak English. Although I hope by the end of this semester, I will have the basics of the Swedish language down and will be able to have a small conversation with locals.

No matter what language you speak, you are sure to be speechless at the amazing views here in Stockholm.

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.