It has been just over two years since my feet first touched the luscious green grounds of Sweden, but it feels like yesterday. Little did I know that on the 18th of August 2013, I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, involving new friends, new sites and new foreign delicacies (Swedish meatballs, anyone?).
To start at the beginning, going on exchange was a rather spontaneous decision for me. Aside from perusing Lund’s course offerings, I had conducted limited research about my Swedish destination. Upon arrival, I caught onto some things pretty quickly, including:
- Sweden experiences a Summer. Southern Sweden is actually warm in the Summer. My heinous puffy jacket and thermals were a bad choice.
- Turns out cheap adaptors purchased via Ebay work just as well as could be expected, which is not at all.
- Cinnamon rolls are a really big thing here. All purchases of cinnamon rolls are henceforth justified, as I am indulging in the local cuisine.
- Lund is not on a grid, so it is really easy to get lost. Also, I am not using my iPhone ‘Maps’ app in the correct manner.
- Ikea, the home of Swedish meatballs and cheap minimalist furniture, is just a 10 minute train ride away! I am surprised it took me more than a couple of days to make the trip.
- Swedish supermarkets cater to a variety of tastes. Stay cautious, as the mjolk (translation=milk) section includes a variety of weird liquid-y yoghurt type substances.
- Swedish people are slightly more reserved that Australians. It is socially unacceptable to force your friendship onto strangers. Time to stop creeping about and be ‘cool.’
A month in and I had managed to conquer these hurdles and adapt! Locals even mistook me for a Swede (granted, they swiftly walked away from me the second I spoke in my occa accent). I had adjusted to the Swedish way of life and made a variety of friends who hailed from all corners of the globe. Throughout a period of three months I immersed myself in the Swedish social life and experienced Swedish student nations, an American Thanksgiving, a Swedish Halloween, the joys of bike-riding, treasure hunts, several international potluck dinners, a Swedish ball, independent travel with foreign friends, snowball fights and even a CREPE PARTY (translation= a party where we sit around someone’s apartment and eat crepes with an assortment of toppings).
So how has the experience changed me, you ask? Well, I think it is safe to say that this experience irreversibly altered my life for the better. In a short period, I became a much more independent, sociable and adventurous person. Here’s a quick snapshot of all the ways that my exchange has facilitated my personal growth:
- Prior to my overseas experience, I was horrendous at striking up conversations with people I didn’t know and spent an absurd amount of time within my comfort zone (translation=bedroom confinement). Now, I have an assortment of friends from all walks of life and find no difficulty in chatting to strangers.
- I now have something in common with all the other travel-minded students. Since returning from exchange, I have become a member of the Exchange Student Network, a student-run club that allows me to hang out with fellow former exchangers and befriend Adelaide’s international students.
- I have experienced countless career benefits. If you hadn’t guessed, I am now working for the Global Learning Office. My entire job revolves around helping others go on exchange!
- I am more confident in living independently and throwing myself into challenging environments. I have built up an insatiable appetite for independent travel!
- I figured out how to work the ‘Maps’ app on my iPhone.
I wish you all the very best with your own overseas journeys and I am sure you will come back with a similar assortment of stories to tell! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you would like any tips about how to navigate the foreign terrain of Lund or the franticly busy aisles of Ikea. Lycka till!