A Week In The Life Of An Exchange Student In Sweden
No one likes Mondays, but walking to class in the fresh snow and hearing it crunch under your boots is a fairly decent start to the week. Today I have a sociology lecture about migration, and a literature class looking at the works of renowned Swedish children’s author, Astrid Lindgren. My sociology class is super interesting and it’s really great to discuss such relevant topics with people from all over the world who have different viewpoints and opinions. The literature seminar makes me feel at home again – if there’s one thing I’ve missed whilst being abroad, it’s studying literature! After classes finish for the day, we grab a fika with a friend whose exchange has come to an end and is soon heading back to Germany. It’s sad saying goodbye to her, but we hope to visit soon!
Another day, more snow! Today I only have one class: Scandinavian film. Film is my minor back home so I always look forward to these classes, especially as I haven’t had the chance to study Scandinavian film in such depth before, but today I can’t wait for it to end because afterwards I’m going to the ice hockey!
Now if you’d have told me six months ago that Sweden would make me a sports fan, I wouldn’t have believed you. Me? Sports? And of all the sports in the world: ice hockey? I even own a team shirt now, I mean… who am I? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – before there is ice hockey, there must be Max. Max is like Sweden’s equivalent of McDonald’s, except, dare I say it… even better. The fries are crispy, the shakes are divine, and the Crispy Mexican Burger? Heaven on Earth.
After devouring our Max burgers, we head over to watch the ice hockey AKA the most dramatic sport on Earth. Fireworks, indoors? Check. Explosions? Check. Fans that sing just “hej då” (goodbye) repeatedly to different tunes throughout the entire game in order to taunt the opposition? Check! The city I live in has an awesome team, and I love when I get the chance to see them play. GO LAKERS!
No classes today! I’ve decided to head to IKEA with a friend and her partner who’s visiting from abroad. Neither have ever been before, so we catch the train to Älmhult to visit the birthplace of the very first IKEA! I mean, can you really live in Sweden for six months and not go to IKEA? There’s even a IKEA museum in Älmhult, though we didn’t visit it this time around. After doing our shopping, we grab lunch in the restaurant and head to the Food Market to grab traditional Swedish foods like lingonberry jam and dammsugare kaka, which we later discover we’re not all that fond of…
Another day with no classes but this one I don’t spend shopping, unfortunately. No, today I have to do work. I (try to) get up early, and make myself a cup of tea, to which my French housemate expresses a little concern: “You drink a lot of tea… Is this a normal amount of tea for the English people?” All I know is that none of my work will get done without it. Luckily, most of the ‘work’ for the classes I’m taking is just reading, but boy is there a lot of it. As always happens when I’m sitting at home reading all day, my mind begins to wander and before you know I’m researching trips to Berlin to visit my friend. An hour later, flights are sorted and a hostel is booked – we’re going to Germany! Now I really need to get ahead on my work…
Who doesn’t love Fridays?! I have one class today and it has got to be my favourite, purely because, for some reason unbeknownst to me, this one guy in my class always plugs his laptop into the classroom speakers and plays music until our teacher shows up. The first time it happened I was, understandably, very confused, but even more confused as to why no one else seemed to think it was weird. Now, I’ve embraced it. It’s part of my Friday morning routine. Class wouldn’t be the same without it.
This week’s music of choice? The soundtrack to Mulan, obviously. After class I head to the library to make some notes on a reference book. Our library has huge, floor-to-ceiling windows, so I grab my books and find a cosy chair overlooking the quad. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any stranger, a group of runners jog past the window, chanting, and all wearing hats fashioned from tin foil… Is this day even real?!
Ah, the weekend! Tonight I’m going to a party in the city hosted by some other international students. Sounds fun, right? Well, it’s a pyjama party. It’s a thirty-minute walk to this pyjama party. And there’s still snow, everywhere. Before I think about how I’m going to get to the party without losing my extremities to frostbite, I have to make a trip to Systembolaget.
Sweden has a monopoly on alcohol sales, which means if you want to purchase alcohol over 3.5% outside of a bar or restaurant you have to buy it from the government-owned store Systembolaget, which closes at the ridiculously early time of 3pm on Saturdays. No last minute drinks-run here! On the way to the party we stop off at Hemmakväll, a sweet store that the Swedes are crazy for – so crazy in fact that it’s open for your sugar-fix pleasure until 10pm! The party is the first of the new semester, so it’s a great chance to catch up with people after the winter break, and to meet the new exchange students that have just arrived!
Sundays are for being lazy! In the morning I do any leftover reading for next week’s classes and the afternoon is spent marathoning Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. Sunday evenings I always try and Skype with my best friend from home. Like most students who study abroad, I do really miss my friends, so Sunday Skype sessions definitely help with that! Plus, most of them are also studying abroad, so we get to trade stories and embarrassing language mishaps, like the time a cashier told me to have a nice weekend (in Swedish, of course), and I responded “No, thanks!” thinking she was asking if I needed my receipt… yikes. After Skype, I get everything ready for Monday morning and wonder if Sweden has anymore weirdness left to throw at me next week!