From Nairobi Warmth to Swedish Winters: My First Months!


Written by Brian

17 Oct 2023

Greetings from your Kenyan pal in snowy Sweden! If you imagined that transitioning from Nairobi to Sweden was all about trading sunshine for snowflakes, let me share some unexpected surprises from my initial months studying abroad.

Journey to Sweden: Scholarships, Flights, and New Beginnings

Ah, the journey of a lifetime! Thanks to the Swedish Institute Scholarship, my long-held dream of studying abroad, especially in Sweden, was coming true. Pairing my love for tech with management seemed like the perfect blend for an IT enthusiast who’s naturally introverted but surprisingly sociable at work.

Flight Chronicles: Nairobi to Gothenburg via Amsterdam

My overnight journey began, and… was it an eye-opener! Even though it was my first super long flight, sleep seemed the least appealing option. With WiFi on board, a vast array of TV shows at my fingertips, and a live map showcasing our plane’s path – who could even think of sleeping? Insomnia come back; I was wrong.
An Amsterdam layover added a surprise twist when a chat about Robert Greene’s “Laws of Nature” with security personnel ensued. (Pro tip for fellow international students: Books make excellent travel companions!)

Trollhättan: Sweden’s Gem for International Students

Fun fact: Did you know Trollhättan is often called “Trollywood” because of its prominent film studios? Talk about going from a safari star to a movie star locale!
My final flight leg started with an eco-friendly touch – a solar-powered bus transfer. How cool is that! But the real show-stealer was when my alarm went off mid-flight. Instead of the regular beeping, the entire cabin was entertained by ABBA’s “Chiquitita.” (That music makes me happy in the morning, no judgment ;)). The ensuing laughter led to my new nickname, “The Flight DJ.” And the cherry on top? Realizing ABBA, the legends behind the song, were Swedish. Add that to my growing list of reasons to love Sweden.

As I transitioned from air to land, the journey was marked by breathtaking views. There were more green trees than tall buildings. And then came the destination, University West, Trolhattan…. Scratch that “Jag välkomnades till Högskolan Väst”, for I was welcomed to Högskolan Väst. I still have no idea how to pronounce what I have just written, but c’mon.

University West, with a brick tower overlooking a cobbled courtyard.
Photo: Brian

Navigating Swedish Public Transport: A Rookie’s Tale

You know, they say every journey begins with a single step. Well, mine began with a series of missteps and a misheard bus number. Fresh off the plane, the remnants of jet lag clouding my judgment, and armed with an address I could neither pronounce nor remember correctly, I found myself at the mercy of the Swedish public transport system.

“Bus 24,” they said. My jet-lagged brain registered “54.” And like any reasonable person with a touch of sleep deprivation, I enthusiastically boarded bus 54. Ding! Score 30 points for sheer optimism and deduct a hundred for accuracy. Look, You might hop on the wrong bus when you can’t pronounce where you’re staying.

Three hours later – after an unexpected tour of parts of Trolhattan I hadn’t planned on seeing and a pricey taxi ride – I finally reached my apartment. My roommate’s bewildered expression said it all. How does a simple 10-minute bus ride and a potential 20-minute walk morph into a 3-hour epic journey? I’ll let you know once I figure that out myself!

But every cloud has its silver lining. My street name, which I’ve since learned translates to “Land of the Farmers”, became one of my first Swedish phrases. Genius, right? And, speaking of bright sides, that unintentional detour unveiled the beauty of Trolhattan in ways I hadn’t imagined. Now, evening strolls are a cherished routine, a gentle reminder of my initial misadventures.

A modern electric bus driving down a street in Sweden.
Photo: Sofia Sabel/

Embracing Swedish Traditions: The Fika Affair

The universe must’ve known how much I adore coffee because the fika revelation came sooner than I had expected. It was during my first class. We were diving into the subject’s introductions when suddenly, a magical phrase interrupted the lesson: “Let’s take a Fika Break!” I kid you not; my ears perked up like a meerkat sensing a distant sound.

Okay, for those not in the loop, ‘fika’ is like a coffee break. But saying that is like saying a Ferrari is just another car. Fika is an institution here; it’s a coffee break but multiplied by, oh, a gazillion! What makes it so special? The pastries, my friend! 🍰. The kanelbullar (that’s cinnamon buns for us non-Swedes).

A close-up of a person holding a Swedish cinnamon bun.
Photo: Simon Paulin/

The IKEA Saga: A Kenyan in Sweden’s Iconic Store

Ah, IKEA! The land of endless possibilities, flat-packed dreams, and mysterious item names that sound like magic spells. As soon as I stepped into this Swedish haven, it felt like stepping into an adult playground. Aisles of furniture and home decor stretched before me, and I felt like a kid lost in a gigantic toy store. I often daydreamed, “Hey, that could be my future office!” 🤔

But, hold on, it wasn’t all daydreams and cart-filling. The most peculiar (and somewhat funny) experience was at the self-service machine. In Kenya, the idea of self-checkout at a massive store like this is unheard of. So, there I was, scanning items with the enthusiasm of someone who discovered fire, only to accidentally summon an attendant with a misplaced click. Talk about being tech-savvy, huh?

And yes, those blankets for every season, labelled in colours? It’s still a highlight! Who knew adulting could feel like a mix of fun, confusion, and a slight touch of nostalgia for the simplicity of Kenyan supermarkets?

Shoppers exit an IKEA store in Sweden.
Photo: Simon Paulin/

Stockholm Diaries: SI Scholarship Orientation & Explorations

We finally got the SI Scholarship Kick-Off invite to the heart of Sweden, Stockholm. Filled with excitement and anxiety, I am about to embark on an overnight journey to Stockholm. My ride? A luxurious double-decker bus, which, at first glance, seemed like a techie’s dream. Wifi? Check. Charging port? Check. Comfort? Debatable. As time ticked on (let’s say 40% into the 8-hour journey), the allure faded and the reality of an extended bus journey set in. It wasn’t long before I jotted a mental note: “Never take the bus to Stockholm. Like, ever.”

A group selfie of people smiling as they enjoy a morning coffee in Stockholm.
Photo: Simon

The heart of the kick-off was a hall buzzing with international students. And there I was, amidst this electric atmosphere, with amazing people with great dreams and aspirations. As we munched on the Swedish knäckebröd, Did I pronounce that right? 🙂

But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games. We delved deep into understanding life in Sweden, the intricacies of our courses, and extracting the most value from our scholarships. Think of it as an orientation but with a Swedish twist. A starter pack, if you will, for enthusiastic international scholars like us. Hold on… It was actually all fun and games…

With limited time, I made a quick dash to the Nobel Prize Museum and strolled into Stockholm’s oldest neighbourhood, Gamla Stan. Oh, someone might’ve pronounced it as “Gangnam Style.” (Tip of the hat to PSY). But jokes aside, the quaint alleys, the historic ambience, and the sheer aura of Gamla Stan beckon me for a more extended visit next time.

Two people beaming with joy in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's historic old town.
Photo: Firas and Brian

The Digital Ambassador Swag

Boom! Guess who’s donning the Digital Ambassador hat for SI? That’s right, yours truly. If you’d told me a while back that I’d be dishing out my Swedish sagas for everyone to read, I’d have laughed in your face. But life’s full of surprises. And so, keyboard in hand, here I type and jest. 🎩💻😄

These months have been a journey, and this is just the beginning. And I haven’t even started on the exciting facilities here. From Kenyan warmth to Swedish chills, from IKEA’s Daydreaming to Fika delights, life’s never been more of an adventure. Stay tuned for more tales, tips, and (hopefully fewer) travel mishaps!

Till then, keep exploring and stay caffeinated, fellow globe-trotters! 🌍


Written by Brian

17 Oct 2023