71 Days until Christmas…

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We’re half way through October already, the sun sets around 6pm and I’m wearing all the winter clothes I have. It seems, almost, as though autumn never happened since the trees are already beginning to look bare. I’ve heard the snow will begin in 4 weeks and although I’m excited, I’ve been told to prepare.

Autumn is stunning here; I honestly can’t remember the trees looking this beautiful back at home. Albeit a little slippy by bike, the leaves on the ground illuminate the path and as they fall from the trees and it almost looks as though it is snowing.

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Ahh Uppsala! (Photo taken by my friend Luke Morton – he also gave me the cover photo too!)

My circadian clock is confused, to me, it feels like December. I’ve found myself listening to Christmas music, watching ‘Home Alone’ and I’ve downloaded an app that counts down the days until the big day. Yes, I know, I am disgusted in myself but I swear I’m trying to curb my Christmas cheer. It’s beyond my control, blame biology.
I have an exam next week… and I’m doing everything I can right now to study for it. I have to say, the Swedish higher education system is something I’m getting used to. Here, master’s students sit one module at a time. They receive 7/8 weeks of intensive learning, then an exam and that’s it, you do not need to revisit that subject again. I’m used to sitting 4 or 5 classes at once then 5 exams after Christmas and more in the summer. Depending on my exam result, I’ll have to get back to you on what I think about it all! Oh and I also have a Swedish presentation to give in Swedish class. We all have to pick a Swedish celebrity to discuss and, of course, I picked Alexander Skårsgard. Oh yes.

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Hey girl… (Source: tumblr)

 Here I am, sat watching episodes of ‘The Bridge’ and trying to convince myself that it classifies as ‘studying’ for Swedish class. Oh and I joined the choir, did I mention that? If one is in Sweden, one must at least attempt to integrate! Like Mr. Bean, this is me every week. I often wonder why I’m there since I understand virtually nothing the choir leader says. Swedish is difficult but at native fluency speed? Oh my goodness, it sounds like an elaborate song of jumbled up words (that sound beautiful might I add). I often have to start singing a micro-second after everyone else so that I can get the right note or just stand there looking like a plum in the hope that no one notices me. We have a concert coming up soon so no doubt they’ll stick me in the back row. I’m the only English girl who signed up and I’m not surprised to be honest.

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‘What am I doing here?’- how I often felt in the beginning but now I love it! (source: youtube)

I remember my choir back in my comprehensive school, there were four of us, and two of them were sisters that used to flick food at each other during the chorus. Being in the choir was an embarrassing thing to admit but being part of the music department in general would give the kids something to laugh about anyway. However, not here… in a country who have the highest percentage of choirs in Europe, it’s almost expected that you join and I have to say I was shocked that there were almost more than 45 people in one choir from one nation (there’s 13 in total!). The sounds are beautiful! Yet everyone in the choir is so modest like ‘yeah we’re talented, so what, let’s sing!’ The harmonies are perfect every time. Lucky for me, I met another international student who’s Dutch and just as confused. We sit right at the front but sing in completely different groups. I’m alto so that means I have a manly lady voice but she is soprano. I’m sure that I just sing everyone else’s part since I’d die if I yelled out a bum note when everyone had finished singing.

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 Engelska Parken as photographed by moi!

There comes many a time where I’m sat questioning my decision, why Sweden? Why this course? Why choir and Swedish lessons and well… why anything? Most of the time, I’m left feeling like I’m wearing a sign that says ‘going through a quarter life crisis – please show compassion’. I seem to join groups and say yes a lot without thinking of the consequences.
Answer is… I have no idea; I question my decisions every day because when times are tough and I’m just desperate for a little break, it’s very easy to consider just getting back on a plane and never coming back. However, I realise that without all these difficulties, I’d still be the same old person sat at home moaning about how boring life is. I couldn’t be in a better place right now. It often hits me when I’m on my way to class and I’m cycling by the most beautiful scenery and the air is fresh and I feel so free. Sweden is amazing, purely because I have never experienced this kind of freedom before. I am free to an education without financial restraints; I am free to ride my bike wherever I want whenever I want and I feel safer and healthier than ever before (I practically live in a forest!). Yeah, it’s not what I’m used to, and I miss my Cadbury’s chocolate and Mr. Kipling cakes like you wouldn’t believe, but once you get over the comfort zone, you realise that you’re giving yourself an opportunity to grow up and be independent but also the chance to become an open minded individual with an appreciation for diversity. When I miss home, I just remind myself of how I used to feel when sat at home feeling bored watching repeats of  ‘come dine with me’. Take that risk you’re debating on, just go for it, I promise things turn out ok in the end anyway.

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Written by Francesca

15 Oct 2014