Jag Älskar Sverige (I Love Sweden)

Swedes will notice our American accent most of the time. My friends and I have tried to speak Swedish when ordering at a restaurant or café, and the Swedes will respond back in English to our Swedish. Swedish students must learn English as a second language beginning in elementary school. So, it is not abnormal to hear English being spoken in a café or on the train to school. However, Swedes appreciate it when we try to talk to them in Swedish.

Mina bästa vänner de heter Sammie och Marissa! (My best friends their names are Sammie and Marissa)

I am taking a Swedish language and culture class offered in my program. Before moving to Stockholm, I began practicing Swedish over the summer. To be honest, I thought it was manageable and easy to pick up. Some of the Swedish words are cognates or look like English words. For example, dricker means to drink in Swedish. We must participate and speak a lot in my Swedish class, so I quickly got comfortable speaking the language. Most of the people in my program are enrolled in the Swedish language course. So, we often talk to each other, saying short phrases or using hej (pronounced hey), which is hi in Swedish. I also had to do an oral exam during finals week for my Swedish class. It involved my partner, and I speaking to each other for five minutes in Swedish. It was challenging but a lot of fun to practice. It went smoothly, and we were so proud of each other! We talked about where we are from, what we study, and what we like to do in our free time in Stockholm. It will be strange to go back home and not hear a different language or even use Swedish. 

Here are some words or key phrases to navigate living in Stockholm:

Hej, hej hej = Hi

Hej då = Goodbye

Ja = Yes

Nej = No

Ursäkta = Excuse me, sorry

Tack = Thank you, please

Varsågod = You are welcome

Jag heter… = My name is…

A Short Journey, but Forever Friends

Making friends is, without a doubt, challenging and somewhat stressful. Going into college, we all had to make new friends, find our group, and we did not expect to have to do that again. Now, we are abroad, needing to make friends and find a comfortable group. Abroad programs can be big or small, so we experience different challenges. My program at DIS Stockholm is around sixty students, so it is manageable. 

There are two housing units within my program, so each apartment has a group of around twenty students. The group in my apartment has become extremely close. We live about a thirty-five-minute commute to the city, so we usually just do something in our apartment if we have social events. I typically see two to three of my classmates at least once, just running into them on an ordinary day. It is normal to bump into someone you know in the city!

This time abroad is short; four months go by so quickly. So, everything is more intense and heightened (in a good way), friendships, experiences, and so much more. You have a certain amount of time to make friends, and in “real life,” you would not have a set time limit. I have gotten extremely close to the friends I have made here. We have traveled to different countries together and bonded over the experience of being abroad.

My program is small, so my classes are also small. I know most everyone by face and name. The DIS program incorporates academic travel into their curriculum, so I traveled with a few of my classes to different places in Stockholm and even went to Greece. Not only do we get to experience new learning and culture, but it also allows us to build friendships within the class setting. I have created great relationships with my friends and even my teachers because of these opportunities. 

Swedes are challenging to get to know; they are reserved and keep their tight-knit social circle. It would be hard to approach someone on the street and just make small talk. In Swedish culture, that would be considered strange. Luckily, my teachers arrange field studies where we can interact more with locals and have a chance to chat and learn more about the culture. Two young medical students visited for a psychology class to talk about life in Sweden. My teacher even arranged an end-of-the-year dinner for my class and invited some young Swedes. These small events have allowed me to connect even more with the Swedish culture.

Overall, building relationships can be complex. It is vulnerable and sometimes hard to step out of our comfort zone. I can say that the friends I have made abroad will be friends I will have forever. These new friends quickly became my chosen family. My friends have experienced such a strange, exciting, scary time with me. We have gone through the ups and downs of traveling, homesickness, and studying. We have connected on a deep level that I do not think could be achieved in such a short four months at home. I would not trade my experience or new friends for the world.

Swedish sightseeing with my friends Katie, Bladen, and Elizabeth.

Grace’s Five Helpful Habits While Living Abroad

Me time at my favorite coffee shop.

1.         Alone time and setting boundaries

I value my “me time.” Especially in college, my alone time has become one of my top priorities for maintaining a healthy mindset. Sometimes it can be hard sharing a small space with a roommate; however, it is good to set boundaries. It is totally okay to ask your roommate if you could have some alone time in the room, and honestly, they probably were thinking the same thing! Alone time allows you to reset, decompress, and tune into your feelings. It is essential to get just a few minutes of alone time to relax and recharge. Living abroad is busy; a lot of energy is put into socializing, traveling, studying. Make sure you put yourself first and know how you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically. 

2.         Explore, get outside, and move your body!

Sometimes, the easy option is to stay in your room and lay in bed. And sometimes, staying in bed all day is much needed! For me, Sweden is a place where the sun rises late and sets quite early. So, I must get some fresh air and sunlight. It is essential to spend some time outside, no matter where you are studying abroad. Ask a friend to go for a walk, sit in the park, or take a stroll around the city! Any little bit helps to boost my mood. Sometimes I find it hard to fit in time, but occasionally I wake up early and just do a 15-minute walk to clear my head. Even a little bit of movement every day helps me feel better mentally and physically. 

One night during a walk around the lake near my apartment.

3.         Call friends and family

I am usually the type of person to call my parents often, like 4-5 times a week. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of studying abroad, so I enjoy pausing and calling my mom to chat for a few minutes. I also try to reach out to a friend from home to check-in and catch up. When I’m feeling homesick, it is nice to hear a familiar voice. In the beginning, I was worried that my friendships back home would not be the same but staying in touch with them and calling often shows that the relationships are still just as strong.

4.         Sleep

Sleep is SO important. Traveling, socializing, and studying really drain my energy (in a good way)! Sleep is often overlooked due to late-night studying, spending time with friends, or waking up for an early flight. I try to go to bed before 11pm and try to wake up around the same time every day, but of course, there are times where I stay up too late and sleep in. It is just essential to get enough rest because my days can often be long and jam-packed. Remember: it’s okay to say no to something if you are tired and need rest!

5.         Journal, be mindful, and be open

First, I find journaling a great way to note everything I have done while being abroad. Second, it is a way to vent and keep track of how I am feeling. I prefer to journal every morning and then whenever I feel like I have a lot going on, mentally or physically. Writing down my thoughts helps me release stress and anxiety about my day. I love to reflect on my days, like what I did that day, how I felt, or things I need to do. Journaling helps me start my day with a clear mind. When my time abroad comes to an end, I will be excited to read back on my time in Sweden; my entries are my memories and keepsakes!

My favorite park near campus.

Love for Learning

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

– Malcolm X

At Wofford, I am a psychology major, and I hope to specialize in holistic wellness as a therapist or counselor. At DIS Stockholm, my focus is psychology, and I take Positive Psychology and Psychology of Loneliness. Only one of my psychology classes will transfer towards my major, and the other will count towards my general hours to graduate. Wofford’s psychology program focuses on clinical-based work, while I am learning to apply theories and topics to my everyday life. So, I am being educated in both academic and life lessons. A win-win!

I will always appreciate the academic experience Wofford has given to me over the past three years. I have learned more of what I am passionate about, psychology. It has allowed me to narrow what I would like to accomplish in the future. Wofford has surrounded me with successful, hard workers that put their studies first. I have learned clinical-based psychology regarding my psychology major, which gives me an even greater appreciation for the topic. Through Wofford, I have been immersed in the academic culture to prepare me for my future work and education. Most Wofford classes offer a structure based on lectures, homework, papers, and tests. 

In Sweden, I have been fully immersed in learning about the world around me, not just based on academics. My classes are based on discussion and participation; we rarely do lectures. Every Wednesday, one of my four classes takes a field study based on our studies. On Wednesday, for my Psychology of Loneliness class, we participated in an hour yoga session learning how to use movement to combat depression and anxiety. My Nordic art class time is mainly used to visit art museums throughout Stockholm and learn about the Nordic culture. Just last week, I traveled to Greece to study the well-being of the locals and what happiness means within their lives. My DIS professors value their students’ input, and most classes revolve around insightful conversations. There is very little homework because our grades are mainly based on participation, presentations, and papers. I appreciate learning in different ways, and I have enjoyed being pushed out of my comfort zone of public speaking. At least once a week, I have a presentation in one of my classes which typically would cause stress, but lately, I have enjoyed doing this. 

At first, I struggled with adjusting to a more flexible academic curriculum expected to have more participation and discussion. Now, three months into my semester, I am quickly speaking up and standing in front of my classmates. Having a small program helps create a sense of safety and community, which Wofford also provides for me. I have loved both aspects of Wofford and studying abroad in Sweden since they each have such different educating styles.

My Positive Psychology class visited Athens, Greece, to study the well-being and happiness of the locals.
My Nordic Art class took a visit to Moderna Museet.
My Positive Psychology class in Gothenburg, Sweden, trying their famous kanelbullar (cinnamon buns)!

Grace’s Stockholm Food Favorites

The Greasy Spoon is a go-to breakfast and brunch spot with a few locations throughout Stockholm City. The atmosphere is welcoming and cozy especially on a rainy Sunday morning. The menu ranges from a classic breakfast with eggs and bacon to unique apple crunch French toast. My personal favorite dish is the eggs benedict and fresh orange juice with a side of rosti which is like hash browns. Some other dishes I have tried are blueberry lemon pancakes and the simple stack of American pancakes.

Café Pascale is my favorite café to grab a cinnamon bun, a coffee, and a place to study. It is a quaint, local café on the corner of a quiet street in the city. In my opinion, Café Pascale has the best kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). The staff is friendly and talkative which makes for a comforting environment that feels like home. The café has community tables where you can hunker down and get schoolwork done.

Karla Café is just a ten-minute walk from my program’s campus. It is another great area to sit down and chat with friends over coffee and tea. However, I love their lunches. My favorite meal is a Caesar salad with a side of French fries and garlic aioli. You can’t go wrong with such a classic choice! The café is in a lively area of the city which is great for people watching. I can’t forget to mention Karla Café has a wonderful selection of desserts and pastries too.

Coçito is a restaurant I just recently discovered. Occasionally, there have been times where I miss food and need something to remind me of home. I have always loved Mexican food especially Chipotle, so I was disappointed when I realized it does not exist in Sweden. However, I have found a restaurant that closely resembles Chipotle. Coçito is a local place that has burritos, burrito bowls, tacos and so much more. The restaurant is never too busy, so I enjoy the calm atmosphere. My order is a burrito bowl with pulled pork, rice, beans, cheese, and with lots of toppings. So yummy!

A Swedish Day in the Life of Grace

In the mornings, my commute to school is peaceful as I prepare for the day ahead of me. I hop on the commuter train to Stockholm City and switch onto the metro. My program shares the building with the Royal Music College, it is such a bright and beautiful space. I even get to hear and see students practicing the violin or piano. My school day ends around midafternoon and that is when I grab Fika (coffee and a pastry). The campus is in a central location of the city called Östermalm, a lavish area and an abundance of shopping, restaurants, and cafes. 

My perfect day in Sweden would consist of:

Breakfast: My favorite breakfast place so far is STHLM Brunch Club. It is the best mix of typical American food within the Swedish atmosphere. It is a popular place, so getting there when it opens is a must, and waking up early is worth it. My favorite dishes are the eggs benedict with roasted sweet potato or their fluffy pancakes with bacon. And I can’t forget their oat milk lattes!

Adventure: I love museums. Luckily, Stockholm has plenty ranging from Scandinavian history, art exhibitions, to the ABBA Museum. The Moderna Museet, the modern art museum, has been my favorite. It was such an amazing experience to see Picasso, Warhol, and Matisse up close and in person. I also really enjoyed Skansen, a historical museum and zoo. I loved learning about Swedish culture and getting to see moose, bears, wolves oh my!

Fika: I cannot go a day without getting Fika, either by myself or with some friends. My go-to order is usually an iced latte (with oat milk – Sweden’s specialty) and kanelbulle, a cinnamon bun. You really can’t go wrong with any Swedish dessert. My favorite cafes are Karla Café, right by the school, or Café Pascale which is closer to my apartment. Both are quiet but bustling and making it an ideal study and people-watching spot. 

Exploring the city: Usually for me, exploring the city consists of walking around and window shopping. Östermalm is shopping central, busy, and constantly changing. This area is always lively whether you are looking to shop or find a place to eat. 

Dinner: Depending on the night, sometimes I will go to the city to eat or cook dinner with my friends. My usual dinner choice is most likely Italian food and luckily Stockholm has plenty of options. Once a week, my friends and I will cook dinner together which is always fun and a nice way to end my day.

Vi ses! (See you!)

Stockholm Could Be My Place

Enjoying the “warm” weather (45 degrees Fahrenheit… brrr)

In all honesty, I am in love with Sweden. The food, the people, the architecture, I love it all. Every aspect of Sweden has become all my very favorite things. The Swedish culture has always intrigued me and now I get to live in it. I get to experience the lifestyle, the great shopping, delicious food, and so much more.

            So far, from what I have tried, the Swedish food consists of lots of potatoes (potatis), fish (fisk), and Swedish meatballs (köttbullar). Everything is so yummy. Stockholm has a very diverse culture so walking down the street I pass Italian, Asian, and even Persian food. Everywhere I go, there are so many options. One thing you can’t pass up if you go to Sweden is Fika. Fika is a popular Swedish concept treated as a coffee break. It is very encouraged, even by professors, to take a break to grab coffee and a pastry. This small break allows for you to relax with friends, colleagues, or classmates. My typical Fika consists of an oat milk latte (oat milk originated in Sweden) and princess cake. Princess cake is a light cake with whipped cream and raspberry filling – it is delicious.

            English is pretty much the second language to most Swedes. However, they do appreciate when we use Swedish such as saying “hej” (hey) or “tack” (thank you). Sometimes it can be overwhelming being immersed in a culture where your first language is easily spoken. In Sweden, I appreciate being able to communicate comfortably with the locals. My program, DIS Stockholm, offers a Swedish language and culture class which has been great for learning about where I now live. Since taking this course, I can order at cafes, have simple conversations, and I am continuing to learn.

            The thing I have observed the most here is that most Swedes are reserved and tend to keep to themselves. This idea of modesty and reservation is called: The Law of Jante. It is a general knowledge in Sweden that behavior like standing out and bragging is not appropriate for this culture. Before learning about this in my Swedish language and culture class, I noticed that Swedish style consists of mostly neutral colors, and many try to blend in. The Law of Jante is so different than our typical American Dream ideals. Americans promote uniqueness and success, while Sweden shies away from it. The law is generally an unspoken rule of Swedes and not a taught concept.

            Sweden fits my personality and my lifestyle choices. I was pleasantly surprised coming to Sweden, and I am loving it so much more than I expected. I am excited to continue learning about the culture and getting to write about it to you all. Vi ses nästa gång (see you next time)!

Unexpected Things Becoming the Best Things

Hej hej, everyone! I am nearing my third week of being in Stockholm, Sweden, and it has already gone by so quickly.

My last day at home consisted of many mixed emotions: bittersweet, eager, nervous, and excited about moving to a new country for four months. My flight consisted of a short layover in Iceland, and soon I was off to Sweden. The bus ride to my apartment was around twenty minutes from the airport and during the ride I was able to meet some of the other students in my program and future apartment mates. When I received my housing assignment, I was slightly confused. My address was not in Stockholm. As I arrived, I quickly learned that I was about a twenty-minute train commute into the city. I was not too thrilled not to be right, smack dab in the city. However, after being here for almost three weeks, I have come to enjoy where I am living and really get to live life as a Swede! Living outside of the city is a great way to experience more of Sweden, navigate the train commute, and interact with locals. My apartment building is right beside a park, a five-minute walk to a lake, close to the grocery store and cafes.

Transitioning into my Swedish culture was both easy and slightly difficult. Most locals here speak English which was great for not knowing much of the Swedish language. Swedes have some unspoken rules; stay to the right on the escalator, little to no talking on the metro, things like that. However, learning these things were quick and simple. Only three weeks in, my friends and I are starting to blend in with the locals. It is such an amazing experience being immersed in a new culture and to learn all about Sweden firsthand.

Vi ses (see you soon)!

Goodbye US, Hallå Sweden!

Hej, or hi, in Swedish! My name is Grace Verrill. I am a junior psychology major studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. I am from South Berwick, Maine, so being far from home has never been an issue for me. 

While hearing so many of Wofford students’ stories, it sparked my interest of studying abroad for a semester. I had no preference of where I wanted to go when starting the study abroad process, but after researching the DIS Stockholm program it seemed like a perfect match. In Stockholm, I am concentrating on Positive Psychology, the study of mindfulness and well-being of a person. Each DIS core class has a travel week which means I will be traveling to Athens, Greece in October! The destinations your class takes you often relates to the materials you study. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to pursue my passions of psychology and travel.

Over my four months abroad, my program gives a lot of free time to explore the city and travel outside of Sweden. I plan on exploring Stockholm, the surrounding cities, and hopefully visiting my friends who are studying abroad in Europe as well. This experience will really push me outside my comfort zone and to embrace change and the unknown. The thought of moving to an unfamiliar country with no one I knew is challenging. I must remind myself that other students are in the same boat as I am, and this time will fly by so quickly. Change is scary, but so is staying the same!