Amelia Poole completed her semester with The Swedish Program in Spring 2017 and graduated from Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2018. She now lives in Boston, where she works for Educatius Group, an international education organization.
I will never forget booking a fabled “Swedish massage” for myself during the second week-long break of the Swedish Program. I had decided to stay in Stockholm for this break to enjoy some relaxed wandering around the city in the absence of classes. I was excited for my appointment at the spa, as this had been one of my Swedish bucket list items and I had managed to find a cheap appointment at a place in the Mall of Scandinavia. Upon reviewing final booking details on my way out the door, I was distraught to find that I had failed to Google Translate one unfamiliar word in my haste to schedule my massage several days earlier. I had, without knowing, reserved the “Pregnancy Massage Special.”
This was one of many moments during my time in Sweden when I had to laugh at myself, at my foreign-ness, at my terrible pronunciation of everything (I could never roll my R’s). As the first non-English speaking country that I had ever visited and only my second experience out of the U.S., Sweden was a massive learning experience in terms of my cultural awareness and how I thought of myself in the world. I was learning to get comfortable with not being so comfortable – to enjoy feeling a bit “out of place.” I was fascinated by the way that I perceived the distance between Sweden and my home country, as this seemed to shrink and grow by the minute. While our differences seemed vast at times – social policies, healthcare, ketchup on spaghetti – little experiences every once in a while reminded me that the world wasn’t so big after all. I helped tutor a nine-year-old Swedish boy in English during the semester, and though we could barely communicate at first given our language barrier, we found common ground through popular music, movies that we had both seen, and Facebook memes.
When I returned from the Swedish Program, I admittedly felt a little bit claustrophobic back on my 2,800 student campus in central New York. I started working in the Colgate Office of Admission and was given the opportunity to Skype interview international applicants, which was one of my favorite responsibilities and helped me hone in on what I truly wanted to do after graduation. Through Emily Bliss, a wonderful friend and Spring 2013 Swedish Program alum, I found my current role at Educatius Group. As a member of the Client Experience team, I am fortunate to work with international high school students as they decide on and apply to high schools in the U.S. and Canada. While our team helps prepare students for arrival, it is hard to avoid feeling nostalgic for the same excitement – being accepted to the program, receiving housing and roommate details, purchasing flights, and feeling the experience finally materialize into something “real.” I am particularly in awe of the students that I work with, as many of them bravely dive into the experience of studying in another country, culture, and language a whole seven years younger than most American students do.
My job has given me the chance to work and travel throughout my region, Asia, as well. Each time I am lucky enough to travel somewhere new, I am reminded of the same sense of wonder and the best kind of unfamiliarity that I felt upon landing in Stockholm. On a trip to Tokyo, I was even able to visit with one of my greatest Swedish Program friends and “upstairs neighbor” in our Sundbyberg apartment building, Mari Tanioka.
My time in Stockholm was undoubtedly the pivotal experience that led me to where I am now in my life. As I have spoken about before, the city has a special friendliness and sense of security that made my semester one of tremendous growth, confidence, and excitement about being a bit out of place. It was the experience that now makes the work I do now so rewarding. And, what might be considered the icing on the cake is that Educatius is a Swedish company, meaning that bowls of varied godis, Daim, and salted licorice are never too far out of reach – only a short walk to the office kitchen.