Belen’s story of mastering Sweden with a broken ankle

In a plot twist worthy of a Nordic noir novel, meet Belen Aranibar, a Bolivian girl who took a daring trip this August to move to Sweden and pursue a master’s degree. As if it’s not challenging enough, an unexpected thing happened just right before her travels –she got into an accident and broke her ankle real bad. Talking with Belen, she shared her wild story, mixing courage with a good dose of funny.


Hi, Beleeen! Tell everyone about your story please!
“Hi Nana! What story? Ah, yes, the broken ankle,” Belen chuckled. “It was my ‘Welcome to Sweden’ greeting card. I suppose fate wanted me to embrace the concept of ‘lagom’ or not doing too much from the get-go.”

How did it happen?
“It was just right before coming to Sweden, and yeah I just had an accident when I was walking down some stairs. That twisted my ankle severely. It was when I was still in Bolivia, just around a week before my flight to Jönköping.” (Yes, she’s studying in Jönköping University)

A group of five international students posing together in 'ovve' or overalls for a kickoff event to welcome new students. The student in the middle is holding a sign that reads "DUO MANIA Kick Off 2023 - Winning Team Buzz & Woody."
Belen’s team won the Kick-off! //Photo: Belen Aranibar

How has studying in Sweden been with a broken ankle, and how have you managed challenges in a new country?
“Because my hometown is far away, to recover in a foreign place, without your family or knowing how my life’s gonna be, was quite scary and challenging. But I have had a lot of help. I have met wonderful people, friends, who helped me in the beginning, like carrying my bag and opening a door for me. Until now of course they still help me, they’re lovely. Also, I think that Sweden is a very welcoming country for people with disabilities, I could navigate pretty easily everywhere.”

What support systems have you found within the Swedish environment for students with disabilities?
“I think Sweden in general is a country that is designed for disability. The uni and other public buildings are easily accessible, they have ramps, elevators, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, and wide doorways and alleyways. Also in public transportation, in Jönköping I mostly use buses, they also have ramps between the ground and buses, and priority seatings for disabled people and wheelchairs.”

A selfie of international students hanging out in the city center in Jönköping, Sweden.
Hanging out in the city center. //Photo: Belen Aranibar

Have you discovered any unique perspectives or insights into disability rights or accessibility in Sweden compared to Bolivia?
“Yes, in my home country there are not many facilities that can ease access for people who cannot walk, for example. Access to wheelchairs is limited. In comparison, not just the facilities, in Sweden people in general are really patient and understanding with all kinds of conditions.”

Any moments that were particularly challenging or rewarding during your time as an international student with a broken ankle?
“The first week was quite challenging for me, mainly because I am a very social person. So I was not able to participate in many of the Kick-off activities for example, as much as I’d like to. But I always stayed positive. And for something rewarding, experiencing everything here is already very rewarding to me, the broken ankles made it more special honestly.”

How do you balance academics, social life, and recovery?
“Just like any other student basically, I think nothing’s particularly really different. I still go out with my friends, I go to uni and the library normally. For recovery, I brought all of the meds I needed back home and I always have check ups with my doctor in Bolivia regularly online.” 

A group of friends posing for a farewell photo while embracing each other.
Ain’t no crutches gonna stop Belen. //Photo: Belen Aranibar

What advice would you give to others facing similar challenges?
“I would advise everyone to be very patient, to take good care of themselves, and there are always opportunities to live incredible moments. To greatly value people who help you and to still enjoy every single second.”

And how’s your ankle now?
“My recovery has been going smoothly, right now I don’t need crutches anymore, but I am still wearing ankle support, so it’s good!”

A student party in Sweden with a LGBTQ flag in the background.
Having fun! //Photo: Belen Aranibar

As we finished our talk, I was just stunned at how Belen’s journey reminds us that courage and not giving up can turn any tough situation into a victory dance. Cheers to Belen—Bolivian, student extraordinaire, and the champ of turning hiccups into victories!

Resources for more details about accessibility in Sweden:
Study with disability↗️
Disability policy in Sweden↗️


Written by Nana

06 Dec 2023