Would you believe me…

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.

I can’t lie to you. This process has been tough and time-consuming, and I’m somewhat surprised that I made it this far. Visions of applications, financial aid forms, course approvals, and phone plans have consumed my brain for months. There was more than one occasion when I thought that this just wasn’t meant to be. But, in less than one week, I’ll be living in Sweden, attending DIS classes in Stockholm, and living out a dream that I’ve had since for as long as I can remember.

I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. My mom was a teacher, my dad a journalist, and my older brother a nuisance. I devoured books and information, and I loved maps. For most of my childhood, I had a 46″ x 80″ world map up on my bedroom wall. Yes, it was unnecessarily massive. I would just stare at it, memorizing capital cities and thinking about what it would feel like to be in those places — what I would do, who I would meet, what I would learn. But, for all my life, they were not much more than little black dots on a map. No matter how many people I talked to, how much food I tried, or how many pictures and videos I gazed at in wonderment, I could never truly conceptualize what it would be like to experience a new culture.

My brother, Max, and me outside of the Jefferson Memorial circa 2008. I was really bold with my color choices back then. Note the pink Crocs.

When I questioned my sanity or felt like giving up during these last few months, I thought of the little kid in that picture. She watched from Virginia as her classmates and cousins went to the places she had circled on her map in Expo marker, gradually giving up hope that she would get to experience them too. So, I can bear the anxiety, stress, and red tape that comes with moving to a new country. My dream is worth it.

Looking forward

I’ll be studying psychology and public health in Stockholm with DIS. Why Sweden, out of all countries, and why DIS, out of all programs? Well, the latter question is easier to answer. DIS has a reputation of being both academically rigorous and supportive. I knew that I needed a program that I could rely on.

Choosing Sweden boiled down to coffee. Just kidding, although that was a factor. It actually came down to soccer, or—as I will have to call it in Sweden to avoid getting laughed at—football. I played soccer for most of my life and began following the Damallsvenskan, the Swedish top-flight women’s league, when I was a teenager. I also liked the Swedish women’s national team, although I couldn’t bring myself to root for them over the U.S. despite their admittedly better play at times. Following the Damallsvenskan was how I became familiar with Sweden; I learned about cities like Linköping, Malmö, and Örebro, and about customs like fika and Midsommar.

It was a lucky coincidence that Sweden is a leader in public health, my field of study at the College of William & Mary. When I saw that DIS offered a program in Stockholm, where I would get to learn from people at the forefront of public health policy, I knew that I had found the right fit.

Now, it’s time to get packing!

One thought on “Would you believe me…

  1. Maggie is going to make the biggest difference in this world. Reading her work is an absolute pleasure, and she is going to leave her mark WHEREVER she goes. Knowing Maggie from a young age, all of this stands true. She has always been the best at identifying places- and knowing all about them. Best of luck.


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