You may have noticed that I haven't blogged in a while. Most of my time has been occupied by school work, and I'm in the midst of finals as I write this (instead of the three papers I have due next week). But while the workload at DIS is heavy, even compared to William & Mary, I don't mind putting in the effort.
The advent of spring aligned nicely with the arrival of my friend and roommate, Elizabeth, who visited last week from her study abroad program in southern Spain. I was a little concerned that she would be scared away by sub-optimal temperatures and the looming threat of snow, but there was, thankfully, no need to be concerned.
Edinburgh, my Long Study Tour destination, reminded me more of the U.S. than any place I've visited in Sweden. The city was lively, the people loud, and the drivers undeterred by pedestrians (we quickly learned to obey crosswalk signals). Nonetheless, I felt like an outsider. Jarring as it was, though, I think that feeling helped me appreciate both Scotland and Sweden all the more.
After my roommate and I took our seats on the bus, we were met with a sea of green and white. Swedes of all ages donned scarves, shirts, and hats with the classic colors of Hammarby, a major football club founded in Södermalm. Along with our fellow green-clad bus riders, we made our way to the semifinals of the Svenska Cupen Damer, a preseason tournament. The Hammarby women were set to play BK Häcken, a strong team based in Gothenburg, and I was beyond excited to attend my first Damallsvenskan match after years of following the league.
When we stepped off the bus, I thought I was dreaming. It was as if we had strolled into the pages of a storybook, or a movie set — cobblestone streets and quaint cottages, deserted and lit by moonlight. With our suitcases in tow, we made our way to City Hostel Bergen, which was just a short walk down the street.
I have been coming to terms with an important realization: despite the novelty surrounding me, I'm still the same person I was before I arrived in Stockholm, and that's okay. I think the notion of studying abroad in college, especially as an American in Europe, is so intensely glorified that we expect a transformational experience within weeks of being here, but that's often far from reality. It's okay to feel anxious or depressed, and it's okay to stay in all day or sleep past noon. As one of my friends put it, there's no right way to study abroad.
On Monday, I hopped on a long-distance train with my Forensic Psychology core course and headed to Gothenburg, Sweden's famous port city on the western coast. Our trip was only three days long, but it was jam-packed with good food, fun activities, learning experiences, and — get ready for this — the sun! No shade to Stockholm, of course.
Although it would be cool to play fetch with a T-Rex, I think I would be hard-pressed to find a museum open that late — I just felt like this post called for an ABBA-centric title.
In my public health classes, we learn about the distinction between cultural competence and cultural humility, mostly in regard to community-based research. Cultural competence, the older idea of the two, describes the process of understanding another culture in order to be sensitive and informed when interacting with its people.
If I told you that I've never been out of the country? That my first trip outside of the United States will be when I live in Sweden for an entire semester? Sometimes I don't believe it myself — but I think my blank, five-month-old passport is evidence enough.