So here I am, back in England. The past 3 weeks have been so manically busy that I’ve barely had a chance to sit down until now. I haven’t written a blog post since either (which I feel terrible for!) but I’d like to write a rather long one now, you know, since it’s most probably my last ever one!
So where do we start? The weather in Sweden has been glorious; I’m wearing trashy temporary tattoos and a blue festival wristband around my right arm. I have a throbbing head and I can’t decide on whether it’s the alcohol, exhaustion, too much sun or a combination of all three.
Bit by bit, I packed and sold my items in preparation to leave Sweden, not to mention the bag full of clothes I gave to charity. Giving away clothes simply because you can’t carry it rather than because you don’t want it is a little disheartening. I also had to say a lot of goodbyes which hasn’t been easy to say the least, I tell myself not to get sad because I promise to see these people again but this is the price you pay for wanting to travel – everyone goes their own way at the end of the day.
My case was quite heavy and I knew that I’d have to pay extra charges, it could be justified since I was moving home. When I looked at the screen at the check-in desk, I didn’t expect to see 31kg nor did I expect to hear that it was too heavy to be accepted… A quick shuffle around and finally, I’d lost a kilo. My arms still ache now from lugging that beast from plane to train.
It’s been pretty hectic in these last few days since my exams and I really haven’t stopped but the weather has been gorgeous and it totally makes up for the long cold dark Swedish winter. Lucky for the Prince of Sweden, he married in gorgeous heat in Stockholm last week. Already, I saw the camera crews setting up days before in preparation for the big day… there goes another eligible prince to marry; well I guess there’s still Harry…
10.5 months ago, I arrived in Uppsala completely unaware of what to expect from Sweden. I’d never even visited Scandinavia before so to move somewhere with only vague ideas was a huge gamble. Safe to say, expectation and reality were rather different, some worse but some better also. The entire experience of moving abroad will put you through a roller coaster of emotions but it’s totally worth it in the end – 100% – and it’s also completely ok to express how you feel because chances are there’s so many more feeling the same.
This was my first ever experience in living abroad and I experienced the full range of emotions whilst here. I went from homesickness to complete excitement and joy slowly turning into despair and doubt but finally becoming hope and determination. I encountered many obstacles along the way but carried on in the hope it would all work out and I sit here now being completely thankful that I did hold on. I often think where I’d be if I had just left Sweden and thrown in the towel back in November and I highly doubt I’d be happier or in a better place than I am now. Sometimes you have to endure the tough times to truly appreciate when things are good and in all honesty I think it makes you a better person in the end.
Studying abroad taught me to cope with being completely independent in every aspect. I had to settle, get organised, open a bank account, attempt to learn the language, move house, work towards a science master’s degree and just generally survive without anyone to fall back on financially or emotionally. It’s a tough thing to do when you’re still naïve and relatively young but it makes you grow up really fast. Despite the tough aspects, it’s also incredibly liberating knowing you have complete freedom to study, learn and travel at your own will and Sweden provides the opportunity to do so.
I had to make friends from scratch without knowing a single soul when I came here. I was terrified since being naturally introverted at first can be a curse in these situations. Gradually you build friendships with people who you truly click with which makes it so much harder to say goodbye when you move on at the end of the year. This kind of experience should really be considered by everyone regardless of whether they’re scared or not. Don’t let the fear keep you from trying such an experience, you have no idea how much you could change for the better. Don’t wonder ‘what if’, just do it anyway.
I look back on my time here and I think about all the things I’ve done: I’ve travelled to the north of Sweden during winter and the south during spring. I’ve had candle wax drip down my face as Lucia in the choir at Christmas, walked in deep snow, cycled on ice, fell off my bike to the point where my head bounced down the street *bom bom bom*. I’ve danced in the crowd to Avicii and Axwell /Ingrosso live wearing blue and yellow streamers that covered me like a fork in spaghetti. I’ve eaten herring for breakfast and meatballs for dinner, I’ve glugged down glögg and gobbled up kanelbullar. I’ve developed an obsession with chokladbollar and an even bigger taste for pickles. I’ve cycled almost everywhere to the point where I’ve grown attached to my faithful little bicycle – having to leave him behind was rather sad!
And then there are the people… I’ve made friends from all over the world and it makes me so sad that I don’t know when we’ll meet again. I’ve been invited to see them and I have taken up the offer but money has a say unfortunately. I’m missing them already and I hope they know how fantastic they’ve been to me this year, they’ve literally kept me afloat and given me so many incredible memories.
Within days of arriving home, I found out that I’d passed all of my exams – success! It’s official that my first year is truly over already. Now I prepare to move to Lisbon to begin my research training and master’s thesis, I have no idea what to expect but I’ve learned that it’s wise to have no expectations at all – the best experiences are those that come unexpectedly. As I leave behind the small colourful houses and vast gorgeous nature of Sweden behind, I have to admit, there are many aspects I’ll miss and there’s no regretting a single thing. A master’s degree is tough, there’s no denying that, but with persistence and hard work, there is light at the end of tunnel. Now that the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders, I am finally free to think back on my time abroad and to be thankful for what the experience has done for me.
I don’t really know how to end my final blog post, I wanted to write something witty, maybe even inspirational but I don’t think I’ll ever have the right words to say. I’m am ever so grateful to have been given the opportunity to blog for the Swedish institute, not only because I have the chance to write again (which I love), but I also now have an online diary of memories to read, something to look back on and be proud of.
Here’s a couple of my fave photos:
: That time I was chosen to be Lucia. This is a tradition in which one girl is chosen to wear a crown of candles at christmas whilst the choir sings. I was warned that things may get a bit warm and that should I need to faint, I should notify someone immediately since I was singing in a wooden room with flames on my head.
Singing with the choir in the university main hall
An afternoon sunset during the winter
Freshly made kanelbullar!
Gorgeous cakes in Lund – ‘fika-time’
A visit from home!
Springtime in Stockholm – notice the cute couple kissing!
SUMMERBURST (photo credits to Leo Stockford for these awesome images!): This was a great way to end the year with a bang. In 23 degree heat, we all headed south to Stockholm to see various artists such as Afrojack and Avicii, it was quite incredible to be surrounded by my favourites in such an amazing atmosphere! The pyrotechnics literally melted your face!
‘you guyssssss <3’
‘dancing on my own’
^^ ‘Batacha crew’ – they love shrek so much: These people are incredible, seriously. They were there right from the beginning when we met in Swedish class. Laurence became obsessed with drawing cats on various things, including our name cards, then this evolved into a discussion about sloths and just absolute ridiculous topics which anyone else would find weird as hell – and they do, but these people are incredible and I’m going to miss them so so so sooo much.
^^ The Bio lot – they stuck by me, believed in me even when I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. We all passed! We did it!
Me and Dena had a Swedish visitor – he was insistent on joining us for a sleepover so we had to oblige. Going to miss this girl!
There are plenty more pictures to add but I think I’ll stop there. Thank you Sweden for being my home for the past year and for giving me all of these incredible opportunities. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed but most of all, I’m walking away proud as I see how far me and my friends have come. It hasn’t always been easy but we’ve shown that with hope and hard work, anything is possible.