Jarrett Lee is studying Economics and Math at Hamilton College. He is spending the Fall 2019 semester in Stockholm with The Swedish Program.
When I applied to The Swedish Program back in October of last year, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I knew that The Swedish Program was the perfect fit for me. SSE provided rigorous academics; it allowed me to further my passion for economics, and it was a prime location for exploring other parts of the world. However, at the time, I honestly didn’t put too much thought into it, considering the departure date wasn’t for another ten months. Throughout the summer, and as the departure date quickly approached, I kept asking myself when it was going to hit me that I was just inserting myself into another world for almost four months. I wasn’t going to be on Hamilton’s campus. I wasn’t going to see my family. But even after walking through the tunnel to my flight at the Logan airport, it still hadn’t hit me.
It finally hit me when I stepped out of the taxi from Arlanda airport and stood right in front of my apartment. I grabbed my bags and walked up to the door. I turned around, and the taxi was already gone. It was at this moment that I realized that there was really no going back, but I was up for the challenge and knew an amazing opportunity was on the horizon.
Orientation week was an unforgettable experience. This wasn’t your classic ice breakers. There was no “My name is Jarrett, and one fun fact about myself is blah blah blah.” You know exactly what I’m talking about; we’ve all been there before. I have never gotten so close to a group of people in such a short amount of time in my life. A short weekend getaway to an island called Sandhamn to close out orientation allowed us to laugh and bond over our initial awkwardness and discomfort.
However, throughout orientation and even to this day, there’s the inevitable stress of unfamiliar situations. I’ve learned to laugh it off and just embrace everything. For example, a bunch of us took the train the wrong way the first time we used it. I tried using my food subsidy card to buy body soap at the local pharmacy during the first week, and it took me awhile to realize that soap is not food, and therefore, it can’t be paid for with a food subsidy card.
I’ve never used Google translate more in life. The phone app allows you to turn your camera on text, and it’ll translate it for you. I feel like a clown holding my phone up to cheese in the local market as I try to figure out what type of cheese it is…but I have learned that the Swedes are super friendly, and all I need to do is ask for help!
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been walking in the bike path unknowingly and been very close to getting run over by a biker. However, I can use the bike lane with Stockholm’s awesome scooter system! They have electric scooters that are cheap and easy to use, and you can zoom around the city. Sweden is super environmentally friendly, so they use public transportation and scooters while also being very conscious of recycling.
My academic experience at SSE has been extremely rewarding thus far. I am directly enrolled in Finance, so my class takes place in a giant auditorium with about 280 Swedish students. At Hamilton, my classes are no larger than 35 students, so I am seeing a vastly different educational perspective. On Fridays my art and architecture class tours the city for three hours, observing buildings, parks, and historical sites. What more could I ask for?! I have also joined the Student Association’s basketball team. This has been a great way to get to know other students outside of the classroom setting, and I have had a blast.
I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me!