To borrow Alan Carr’s iconic phrase: “What a week it’s been”. Contrary to my expectations, the culture shock has actually been fairly mild, so the past week has just been pretty awesome.
I flew into Stockholm on the 19th of January, the day before key-collection for my new apartment, and stayed at the airport hotel. This proved to be the best antidote to jet lag, and doubled as the perfect recovery from a phenomenal but tiring ski holiday. In the morning, while pouring myself an orange juice at breakfast, I looked down to see a girl of about my age passed out on the floor with hotel staff crowded around. I asked if she was ok and was assured she would be, so I vacated the area to avoid crowding her too much. I finished up my breakfast, checked out, and headed downstairs to meet the Stockholm University welcoming party.
I had planned to arrive at the welcoming party nice and early, but as it turned out, there was already a large number of students there who had all made their introductions and were chatting away loudly. Of all the moments in the past week, that was probably the most confronting – and the one I was most afraid of heading into this journey. I stood on the edge of the group for a few minutes feeling extremely awkward and intrusive, but also knowing that it was ‘now or never’ – that if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone and actually make an effort to make some friends, I was going to end up very alone, on the other side of the world.
It was then that I recognised a face in the crowd. It took me a moment to place her… I didn’t know anyone else coming to Stockholm, did I? And then it clicked; I was looking at the girl from upstairs. I swallowed my pride and politely asked if she had just been upstairs – in response to which she laughed and said yes, she was the girl who had passed out on the floor. And that’s how I made my first friend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue our conversation on the bus to campus because there was limited luggage space and my bags ended up on the seat next to me, but I felt much better having broken the ice with at least one person. Once at the campus, we had a bit of a wait until we could catch the shuttle to our accommodation areas. In that time, I made 3 more friends (two of which happened to be living in my building), and it was at that point I truly relaxed and felt this exchange would, for the most part, run smoothly.
Shortly before the accommodation shuttle was supposed to arrive, a very friendly lady from the university approached us and asked if she could take photos of us for an article on the university website. She wanted ‘candid’ photos, so we all had a laugh while trying to act natural – something I’ve never been good at. Amazingly, the photo she picked did look quite candid. I also happened to be wearing my University of Auckland jumper – you’re welcome UoA #plugplugplug.
The next mission was to obtain some linen. It’s no secret that winter clothes are heeeavy. Add to that the challenge of packing enough for 6 months into a bag with a 23kg weight limit, and you’ll find you reach the answer “I don’t have enough room for anything to sleep on/under”. At the time of packing, I didn’t think that would be an issue because I was set to arrive in the early afternoon and the stores didn’t close until 7pm… WRONG. The shuttles from campus to our accommodation were tiny and had to literally ‘shuttle’ small groups at a time, which meant I didn’t get to my apartment until 6pm. My new friends and I raced into the city, but unfortunately arrived at the store too late. Thankfully the shop staff, despite not being able to help us themselves, told us that the Mall of Scandinavia closed at 9pm, so eventually we were able to get our hands on the basics.
Since then, I have:
- Begun my first law course (they teach them one at a time/consecutively here), and am set to start a beginners’ Swedish course tomorrow!
- Been interviewed LIVE on Swedish public radio – random, I know, but a presenter from “Sveriges Radio” jumped on our bus to IKEA and got excited when he found out I was from New Zealand.
- Experienced a stunningly beautiful snow-day on campus – and I’m talking BIG flakes.
- Booked a trip to Lapland – Northern Lights, come through *fingers crossed*.
- Been on a pub crawl through central Stockholm.
- Met and bonded with TWO sets of local Swedish mentors (both through the Stockholm Student Union and the law school).
- Had a movie night with some really nice people in my building.
- …aaand many bits and pieces in between.
One thing that has surprised me the most about Sweden is the behaviour of the daylight hours. I knew before coming here that I was going to be walking into some serious darkness (at least to begin with) – and I was not wrong. The day I arrived, the sun rose at 8.30am and set at 3.30pm, providing a whopping total of 7 hours of daylight. Though not ideal, I was quite prepared for that. What I didn’t realise was how quickly that would change. Checking my phone as I write this, the current sunrise time is 8.02am and sunset time is 3.55pm – that change has happened within a WEEK! Nearly an entire extra hour of daylight! Incredible. And despite loving the winter wonderland that is Stockholm city, I’m equally excited to experience Stockholm in the spring when all the snow melts, the vibrant colours come out, and the sun stays up for hours.
Until next time,