Wednesday, September 23, 2015

One Month Down, Nine to Go!

Exactly one month ago today, I met Sweden for the first time.

How has it only been a month?! Being here feels so natural that it's easy to forget I haven't been here my entire life. I can now navigate Stockholms Centralstation with ease whereas a month ago, I didn't know the difference between the pendeltåg and the tunnelbana (one is the commuter train and the other is the subway, for those interested). I don't even remember meeting some of my friends here; they seemingly just showed up and we got along so they stuck around. I feel like I've known them for years, but it's only been a few weeks. How is this possible?!

What do you mean we haven't known
each other since childhood?!
I'll admit that spending pretty much every day with the same people has sort of forced us all to become close. A number of exchange students have classes together (unfortunately, I don't because I'm taking a class in English but made for Swedish students), and if we're not having dinner together, we meet up after dinner to play cards and share stories and create inside jokes and memories. I usually don't get home until two or three in the morning, and immediately after I get home, I begin looking forward to seeing everyone again the next day.

Corny? Yes. But true? Absolutely.

I also think that plenty of people find it easy to feel at home in Stockholm. Despite boasting around 20% of Sweden's population, you don't feel like you're in a crowded place. You feel like you're in a quaint village strolling around for the day, even if you're just running errands. I don't know how to explain it. You can't explain what it feels like to be at home; it's something you have to experience on your own, and here in Stockholm, you can definitely experience that feeling.

I'm going to stop before I start sounding too much like a travel brochure.

Here's to another nine fun and unforgettable months in Stockholm!


- Lee

(Here some pictures from some of my favourite momens there so far, because pictures make blog posts way more fun!)

Sometimes I feel like all I do anymore
is pose for selfies.

2015 Eurovision Winner: Måns Zelmerlöw!
Free concert & he put on a great show!

Uppsala is only an hour or so away from
Stockholm, so it makes for a perfect day trip
We had a barbecue. No one really knew
what was going on.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

One Hour in Turku

Here is what I've learned after my first full week of classes at Södertörn:

  • Even though the schedule says we're going to have class for three hours, it's more like two or two and a half hours, because no one, including the professor, forgets about fikadags (or fika time, which is a 30+ minute break where you drink coffee and have a cinnamon roll, which is awesome).
  • Eight A.M. classes aren't really a thing here. Swedes know what's up.
  • You get bombarded with intensive assignments, ranging from eight page papers to reading 500 page books in a day or two, when your professors are expected to teach you a semester's worth of material in five weeks.
  • Despite having so many assignments, everything feels really chill. There's no sense of urgency to get anything done because you only have one course to focus on.
  • We only have class two or three times a week, which totally makes up for the assignments upon assignments upon assignments.
  • You almost always have a three or four day weekend to look forward to.

Life is good.

My class right now, English Children's and Youth Culture, is really, really reading intensive. Last week, I had to read a 200 page book, a 500 page book, and a handful of articles, and this week I have to read two 300 page books, and even more articles. I wasn't kidding when I said reading intensive. But like I said, it's chill. I don't feel stressed or worried about getting it all done because this is literally the only class I have right now (well, I have a Swedish class as well, but the teacher knows our other class is our priority). 

Bunkmate selfie ft. Stockholm sunset
Besides, after I finished all that reading, I had a massive amount of spare time. And what did I do during that massive amount of spare time? I went to Finland.

Kind of.

Fourteen of us decided to take a cruise to Turku, Finland, this weekend. It was a 24 hour cruise that was pretty much 11 hours on boat both ways, a one hour break in the middle of the night, and then one hour in Turku the next morning. And I, uh, kind of slept through the Turku part. That's okay. We're going back to Finland in December, and I vowed that I will not sleep the entire time I'm there this time. 

Besides, the cruise was the fun part! After we threw our bags in our cabins, my bunkmates and I headed up to the deck to catch the sun setting over Stockholm. I got some good pictures, but no photograph could possibly capture just how beautiful it was to see in person.

Sunset over Stockholm!

Where there's a will, there's a way, and there
was a will to fit 14 people in one cabin
After that, all fourteen of us met up again for dinner. Because food on the ship is disgustingly expensive (in a moment of weakness the next day, I spent $6 on a single baked potato), we brought our own food and ate in the hallway where all of our cabins were until a security officer politely asked us to take our party to a cabin to avoid disturbing guests. With fourteen of us and very small cabins, this was no easy feat, but we somehow managed to squeeze into one, where we talked and got to know each other for a few hours. But once the live bands started performing at the bar, that's where we all were! We danced and sang along until all of the bands were done playing, then we moved to the nightclub, where we danced to whatever the DJ played. 

Whenever I got back to my cabin at 4:30am, I was beyond exhausted. And, yeah, so exhausted that I literally slept through the whole being-in-Turku part. 

I guess this is as close as I'll get to
experiencing Finland for now
The next morning, we were all pretty exhausted from the night before, so we kind of just hung out while we waited for the boat to return to Stockholm. We sunbathed on the deck for a while, then hung out at the bar and listened to karaoke (we were going to participate ourselves, but they only had Finnish songs, so we decided to sit at our table and try to figure out what the songs meant instead), and finally, some people wandered off to their cabins to take naps while the rest of us hung out in the cafe for the last few hours of the cruise and gushed over how gorgeous everything we passed was. All in all, it was a great time! 

I'm not sure what's in store for me next weekend. A few people are planning on taking a cruise to Tallinn, Estonia, but being on a ship is exhausting in a way that I can't really explain, so I might wait a while before I go on another cruise. Besides, the end of this period is coming up, and that means more assignments, so I might be ultra-lame and just stay home and work on homework all weekend. Whatever I do, I don't doubt I'll enjoy it because I have enjoyed everything about being in Sweden thus far! 

Hej då!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

An Open Letter to My Bilingual Friends

Hello again! Class started this week, but we only meet once or twice a week and we haven't been assigned anything yet, so there's not really much to report back on. I think it's going to be a fun semester though.

This is a blog post I wanted to put off. I wanted to wait until the middle of the semester or so. But I really couldn't put it off any longer. I've been thinking about this post, writing draft after draft to make sure it's perfect, and I think it needs to be said.

So without further ado, here is an open letter to my bilingual friends:

Don’t apologise for your accent. Your accent is not a sign of weakness, though you oftentimes think that it is. Your accent is a sign that you’ve dedicated years to learning a language so you will be able to communicate with those outside the small parameters of the world you grew up in; it’s a sign of courage.

Squad goals
Don’t apologise for the times you make mistakes, the times you put words where they don’t belong or leave words out completely. These are times of learning, both for you and for me. Your grammatical errors offer an insight to your native tongue, and, instead of apologising, I wish you would explain to me how it would be said in your language because it can often explain why you said what you did in English. I know that the times someone corrects your English or you catch yourself making errors feels embarrassing, but I wish you wouldn’t view these things as embarrassing. You’re learning, I’m learning, and learning is never anything to be ashamed of.

Don’t ever for a second think that I think you’re inferior to me or less intelligent than me because of your English speaking abilities. I know that you’re incredibly smart (you’re smart enough to learn a second language, obviously!), so you never need to try to explain yourself to me.

Words cannot express how much I love you and your presence in my life. Thanks to you, I feel as though I have learned more about the world in two weeks than I have in my entire life.

I only ask one thing of you: that you are never ashamed of your English proficiency – I promise you that it’s great.