Monday, March 7, 2016

Birthday Cake and Snapchat Filters

I'm under a lot of stress right now, and I've been under a lot of stress for a while now. It's the kind of stress that literally has affects on my life. Sometimes, it's the kind of stress that makes it difficult to get out of bed and live my life. It's the kind of stress I was hoping to avoid while spending my year abroad in Sweden.

After all, I'm supposed to be having the best year of my life, right?

That's the logic I tried to apply when I was having an especially stressful day and tried to talk bout it to my friend. It feels kind of stupid to be sitting here on the border of miserable when I'm so fortunate to be sending a year learning and living in Sweden. But my friend gave me the most humbling answer ever: "Life doesn't care if you're supposed to be having the best year of your life. It doesn't care if you're in Sweden or in America or anywhere else. Life happens, and it's going to affect you in positive and negative ways whether you want it to or not."

What I took away from this conversation was that I need to continue to make the best of whatever life throws at me, no matter if it's positive or negative. I will run into setbacks, but, in the words of Henry Ford, "obstacles are just things you see when you lose sight of the goal."

Finally, I set my sights on the goal again.

The best quote from the book I read, and
also some very helpful life advice!
So what have I been up to the past month? Really, not much. I recently completed a class called "Swedish Society and Culture," which was interesting because it offered me the resources to learn even more about the society that I'm living in. As a part of our final exam, we had to read a book originally written in Swedish and that is set in Sweden and analyse aspects of Swedish culture in the book. I chose to read the novel The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and I absolutely loved it! I found little signs of Sweden hidden all throughout the book. It's perfect if you want a little taste of Sweden but can't physically make it out here... :)

Right now, I'm taking Comparative European Politics, and, honestly, I think it might be a little advanced for me considering I've literally never taken a class in political science, but everyone else in the class has been really helpful so it's at least manageable! I actually really enjoy the class; I knew the basis of politics in countries such as Sweden, Germany, and Finland, but this class is giving me an opportunity to explore the political situation of various countries in depth. Despite it being difficult, it's a lot of fun, and I'm glad I decided to take it! The last meeting for the class is already next week, though, which makes me sad, because this is a class I would love to take all semester! I still think that Sweden's "one class at a time" setup is really great, but some topics I just really wish I could spend more time with.

Academics aside, I recently had my birthday! I turned 21, which is kind of a big deal in the States, but here in Sweden, it's just another birthday. Even though my friends knew this, they did everything in their power to make it the best birthday I've ever had. And they succeeded! When I got out of class that day, my friends that were also in my class were rushing me toward the bus stop to go home, which I was kind of confused about because I had been planning on walking home and calling my
mom, but they seemed insistent on me taking the bus with them, and I figured I might as well if it was that important to them. Once we reached our bus stop and approached my apartment building, I began to bid farewell to my friends, trying to tell them I'd see them later, but they informed me that they had received direct orders to take me to someone's kitchen but weren't allowed to tell me why.

Because I'm not an idiot, I figured out that a surprise birthday party was being thrown for me.

(Subtly is not your strong suit, Arnaud.)

However, I will admit that it was the best birthday party ever. All of my favourite people were there, which was the most important part for me. I would have been happy with a lousy birthday cake and dinner and no present because I had great company, but I really had the best of both worlds. The cake was literally all I ever wanted in life and more: a peanut butter Oreo Nutella Cheesecake.... Honestly, it doesn't get much better than that. My friends, who know I have a weakness for globes and maps, bought me an inflatable globe, and on the globe they marked all of our hometowns and everywhere in Europe that I've visited. Don't tell anybody, but it took all I had in me to not shed a few happy tears. After that, we had a taco dinner, which was absolutely amazing, and to complete the night perfectly, we saw Deadpool, which was hilarious! Really, best birthday ever.

Thanks, y'all.

After my birthday, we had a roadtrip! Usually, roadtrips aren't very exciting to me. More than anything, they're a hassle but also the cheapest way to get to Point A to Point B. But I guess that's what happens when you live in the middle of nowhere and it takes longer for you to drive to the
grocery store than it takes most Europeans to leave their country. However, this road trip was exciting! I hadn't been in a car since I left the States, so part of that excitement was just being able to be in a car again. I was also excited to see more of the Swedish landscape; the buses and trains can only show you so much. Above all, though, I was excited to be travelling with some of my best friends. We went a bit west to Örebro, Sweden's sixth largest city at 140,000 inhabitants.

I'm not entirely convinced there are 140,000 people in Örebro, though. I might believe you if you told me that 10,000 people live there. It really felt like a small town, but it's entirely possible that could because I've grown so used to big, boisterous Stockholm. I can't help but wonder how I will feel
when I return to Windthorst, Texas, population 409, this summer. I'll probably feel like I'm living in a ghost town.

Despite its size, though, Örebro is a nice little place. I described it as quaint as we walked through the city. In terms of actual attractions, Örebro doesn't really have much to offer. Like any good Swedish city, it has a castle and church, both of which were beautiful. However, they can only keep you occupied for so long, which isn't a very large amount of time at all. After marveling at the castle and church, we walked down the city's main streets, which was full of shopping outlets but still charming at the same time. I can't help but compare it to the main street of a small town you'd see in TV or in the movies, even though Örebro technically isn't a small town.
Cutest filter ever

To summarise: Örebro is nice, but only as a weekend trip. I don't know what I'd do if I spent more than a few days there.

Also they have a nice Snapchat filter.

Unfortunately, I somehow got a sinus infection while in Örebro, so right now I'm dealing with that on top of finishing up my political science class, which, like I said, ends next week. Then next Thursday, I'll be off to Finland to visit Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. I'm quite excited to go back to Lapland because, according to my friend that lives there, it's still snowing and wintry. The snow is all gone in Stockholm, and I don't think it will be returning any time soon, so going to Rovaniemi means getting to experience just a bit more winter before accepting the fact that spring is upon us.

Springtime, though, hopefully means seeing to sun again for the first time since September (alright, that's a lie, I saw the sun when we were in London), so I guess saying goodbye to winter isn't all bad.

In any case, I'll keep you all updated!

- Lee

Happy birthday to meeee :)