An excerpt from my final journal entry abroad:
“From the Departures Gate of Arlanda Airport, May 6th
The scariest thing that had happened to me five months ago was first arriving to my apartment in Sundbyberg to find that I had forgotten—of all things—a toothbrush. My roommate’s flight was delayed, I couldn’t figure out how to find my way to a drugstore alone through endless streets of yellow buildings, and the families I passed pushing baby strollers and walking dogs looked extremely concerned when I tried to say hello to them—or hej, as I had coolly picked up from Google Translate.
And now I’m sitting on an expertly designed and abstractly shaped couch in Arlanda Terminal 2 and I feel downright triumphant. I just overheard the sheer panic of a British wife emerging from the bathroom to tell her husband that she couldn’t figure out how to lock the stall doors, as the directions to do so were in Swedish. Lucky for her, I happen to be quite skilled at understanding Swedish bathroom locks at this point and was able to help. I’ve become skilled at other things, too—being able to place my morning coffee order in Swedish with no hesitation, finding the best meatballs in the entire city (at a restaurant called Pelikan, for anyone curious), and exploring via foot, bus, and tunnelbanna to the point where I hardly need navigational assistance. And I even found that toothbrush that caused me so much initial stress.”
I’ve revisited this journal many times in the four months that I’ve been home in America, hoping to always cling to how I felt during my time in Stockholm: immensely independent, welcome, supported, and respected. There is an attitude to the city that’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced—a sort of regard for others, their comfort, and their personal space that left me feeling consistently safe and well taken care of. This unique dynamic was the best that I could have ever wished for for my first real “far from home” experience.
I came away from my semester abroad feeling more self-reliant and confident than ever, and I am endlessly grateful that Stockholm was an environment in which I could learn about its vastly different culture and myself all at once.
I miss Stockholm all the time, and I have an ongoing list of my happiest memories (ice skating on a frozen lake in Danderyd with my contact family, meeting reindeer on the program’s Northern Lights Trip, and watching the Stockholm Mean Machines play “American Football,” to name a few) that I’ve reflected on throughout the summer. If it’s not already abundantly obvious, The Swedish Program was the perfect abroad experience for me, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a truly immersive trip. The expert organization of the program allowed me to focus on making the absolute most out of my time in Stockholm, and the small group dynamic has left me with some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I came away from my experience abroad having gained a whole lot more than just a solid Swedish vocabulary and about five pounds from fika breaks. I consider the four months I spent in Stockholm to be perhaps the most predominant source of independence, happiness, and learning of my young adult life, and I could not be more thankful to have found a place and program that gave me this experience.