I’d only been 22 for three days when I moved to Uppsala. I came with my parents and three huge suitcases full of clothing, bedding and everything one would bring on moving to a new country. I arrived in the height of summer where the need for shade was a must and a dash to the supermarket for water was a common occurrence. It turns out that swedes don’t tend to buy very much STILL bottled water hence the abundance of carbonated drinks on sale. I’ll tell you now, when you take a refreshing sip of your bottled water, only to realise it’s carbonated with an 3 second aftertaste of bland citrus fruit, then you know the real meaning of disappointment. Apparently the tap water is so good here in Sweden, no one considers buying still water, hence the lack of demand. Or maybe, like me, the British are so obsessed with buying bottled versions of what we have falling out of the sky 365 days of the year, that we expect that the rest of Europe to also do the same. I wandered through August in a dream-like phase where I wanted to experience my new picturesque little city as much as possible, not caring too much about my rapidly shrinking bank account or the fact that I should have been doing Swedish homework for the next day’s class. I was on a high with everything that was happening at once and it felt like one big holiday. That is, until the reality set in of knowing that I was actually going to have to stay here for a long time, there was no going home from this holiday, not at least for a good few months. This was an investment in my future so I had to make sure I gave it my very best whether I enjoyed it or not.
Where it all began – the first train to Uppsala
As the semester began, classes seemed ok, despite not fully enjoying that particular module. I gradually got to know various classmates more and more and realised that this was a truly international class, feeling like the minority was not something I was used to but magical all at the same time. Meeting people with different stories to tell can really open your eyes but it also makes you overly aware of your own language. If, like me, your first language is English, then be prepared to question your own grammar. Since people around you are most likely not native English speakers, they will ask you why your language has funny grammar rules and why you say certain sentences in a particular way. The truth is that you have no idea why the language is structured like that but that’s how you were told to speak as a child and that is that, period. Oh and you may find yourself losing your regional dialect since absolutely no one would understand what a ‘Geordie’ is. Despite a lot of sadness during September regarding the loss of loved ones back home, my family were still able to pull me through and keep me going. There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re miles away from those you love the most at the worst possible time. However, life isn’t that straightforward and sometimes all you can do is to keep on going.
Claire and I at the International Gasque
October was the month I became a digital ambassador! As the weather began to chill considerably, little orange leaves began to dominate the cycle paths. Autumn was here and the quote ‘winter is coming’ used to echo from almost everyone’s mouth. Although I had exams, I began to feel more comfortable in my surroundings, having weekly ‘fika’ in quaint little coffee shops by the river or taking the ‘pendeltag’ train down to Stockholm for a spot of retail therapy. Me and my group of friends had claimed ‘engelskaparken’ (or ‘shminglishparken’ as we call it) as our place of study, usually heading to ICA and stocking up on Kanelbullar, apple donuts and custard pastries before heading to the library. As the nights drew in closer, it was clear that a Swedish winter was a dark time for all with the sun setting around 3.30pm at this time of year. Before I knew it, Halloween parties had passed and I was back at home visiting my parents after over 3 months apart.
Maybe the visit home was a bad thing, maybe it made me realise all the more that I missed my family and boyfriend too much. It was November and despite the attempts to stay positive as the dark nights approached, I almost considered leaving all together. Now that I think about this, I was probably a victim to a lack of sunlight! Don’t underestimate vitamin D; you need it more than you think! Despite my ‘episode’, this made me realise how much my friends actually cared, it was heart-warming to see their concern when they heard that I’d been unhappy. After a walk through beautiful Uppsala at night, I realised that I’d be a fool to leave such a beautiful place and so I continued, I could make it through the winter!
Me and Claire doing a spot of Christmas shopping in Stockholm (Gamla stan)
Christmas is all around in December and absolutely beautiful, the city goes all out to make sure Christmas lights fill the streets. On December 13, swedes celebrate a mythical saint known as Lucia and choirs are often heard singing the famous ‘Sankta Lucia’ whilst wearing white gowns and holding candles. A ‘Lucia’ is always chosen to wear the candles on her head and funnily enough that was me in my choir as part of ‘Snerikes Nation’. Safe to say, I wasn’t hurt despite a huge glob of candle wax falling directly between both eyes and dripping down my nose. I also had plenty in my hair which required a lot of washing and brushing. December was pretty amazing since I also went to Umeå with the digital ambassadors (which was fantastic!).
‘Sankta Lucia, Ljus Klara Hagring…’ or something like that. There’s me! The one with the candles on her head! – (Image taken by Annika Kronberg)
I type this from the comfort of my own bed, the place that I’d longed for so badly during the low times I’d had in Sweden. However, there were also plenty of times where I’d realise this was the best decision of my life and even though moving abroad can be difficult, it’s also super exciting and incredibly rewarding. So take the chance to study abroad! No one gets much done by staying at home in the comfort of their own bed anyway… however, I did just type out over 1,000 words for this blog post and I’m wearing my pyjamas…
Here’s to 2015!