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Life In Sweden

From January 13th, 2017 until June 10th, 2017 I will be studying abroad in Luleå, Sweden. I wanted to document my journey, so if you want to read posts about my life here; you’ve come to the right spot.

Life in Sweden: Barcelona!?

I’ve said this so many times before, and I will continue to say it. If you have the opportunity to travel, take it. Grab it and run. Do NOT let that opportunity slip away because that would be the worse mistake you could probably make. There are so many reasons why you should study abroad; heck, I even made a list about them here.

The most important reason to go abroad is that you will get so many opportunities to travel around! Traveling is such an amazing thing, and without choosing to study abroad, I probably wouldn’t have the chance to go to all these places.

At the beginning of March, I realized that the first half of my semester at Luleå Tekniska Universitet ended on March 24th; and I was finally free from the clutches of university. At least for a few days. Classes wouldn’t start up again until March 31st. So, that meant that I had six days to go on an adventure. I sat down, and all I could think about was how I NEEDED to do something big. Something fun. But what should I do? Luckily for me, my friend Mary sent a text in this group chat asking if anyone wanted to go someplace warm after the term ended. Obviously, I said yes.

Mary and I sat down and began to brainstorm possible destinations for our adventure. In the end, we finally settled on going to Barcelona, Spain. I was ecstatic to be going to Spain. Sweden was the first European country I have ever been too, and Spain was going to be the second.

On that day, if done right traveling around Europe could be very cheap. We got our plane tickets for an excellent price because SAS offers youth tickets for people under 26 years old. Then, while staying in Barcelona, we stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn for around $70 for four nights!

Fast forward to the end of the exams, and it was finally time to leave Sweden! We were leaving on the 26th, and we would return on the 30th.

The 26th was an absolute insane travel day. We had to take a total of three flights to Barcelona, and for someone who doesn’t enjoy planes that much, three planes were way too many. Our first flight was 1 hour from Lulea to Stockholm. Our second flight was around 50 minutes to Stockholm to Copenhagen, and finally, our last flight was around 2 hours and 30 minutes from Copenhagen to Barcelona.

Our plane landed in Barcelona around 16:10. We grabbed our stuff, hustled off the plane, and caught a taxi to our hostel. As we were riding in the taxi to St. Christopher’s, I was in complete awe as I looked out the window. I was in Spain, and I couldn’t believe it. As we arrived at the hostel, check in was quick, and we dropped off our bags. We spent the rest of the night walking around and exploring until we found a little sandwich shop where we decided to eat dinner. My whole meal came out to around 5 euros, and I was in love with this city already because in Sweden, eating out is so much more expensive.

 


On March 27th, we woke up and met downstairs for breakfast at 8:00 sharp. We had a big day ahead of us and wanted to get started early. After eating a bunch of bread with ham and cheese, we set off for our bus tour of Barcelona! Yes, we decided to be the biggest tourists ever. This bus was exciting because was a guided audio tour talking about the history of each stop and we were able to get off at any stop, and just hop back on another bus whenever we pleased because there were buses every 10 minutes. Before we knew it, we spend a total of eight hours on this bus tour, exploring Barcelona. We finished up the tour at 19:00 and got dinner. If you ever go to Barcelona, go to some restaurant that does tapas. You won’t regret it! Needless to say, we had an early night because we were completely exhausted from all the exploring we did that day.

 


On March 28th, we had a bit later start to our day. We woke up a bit later and took our time with our morning. This morning we decided to head to the aquarium and spend our morning there. It didn’t open until 10:00, and it was only a 25-minute walk from our hostel. After admiring all the fish and sea animals, we spent a bit of time exploring the mall that was right next door. There, I found a person selling Turkish delight and bought some. They were amazing, and I now understand why that kid from Narina sold out his siblings for some Turkish delight! Around 13:30, Mary and I split up, and she went to explore on her own while I met up with on of my friends, James. James and I happened to be in Barcelona around the same time, so we decided to meet up and catch up! We met up at the Soho House and spent time talking, hanging out, and walking around Barcelona! It was such a great time. Around 19:00, Mary came over to the Soho House and the three of us enjoyed some amazing pizza from Cecconi’s.

 


March 29th rolled around so fast; I couldn’t believe it. It was our final day in Barcelona, and I wasn’t ready to leave! In these couple days, I had completely fallen in love with this city and everything it had to offer. I wish I could’ve stayed longer! However, I knew I had to make the most of my day. Mary and I spent the morning walking to Sagrada Familia, only to find out that tickets wouldn’t go on sale again for 4 hours. We didn’t plan that one out too well, but that’s okay. We spent time taking pictures from the outside, which was just as beautiful. Sadly for me, I ended up getting a massive headache. I think I was a bit dehydrated, so I left Mary to enjoy the last day, while I rested up back at the hostel. After resting up, I got an amazing falafel salad and walked around La Rambla street. It was a relaxing way to spend my last day in Barcelona, and I enjoyed it. At the end of the day, Mary and I met up at 20:30 to get dinner and I finally got to check off my bucket list, “drink sangria while in Spain.” You can see my excitement in the picture below. Sangria is great, but drinking it while in Spain makes it a lot better.

 


March 30th came quickly, and we were getting ready to leave for the airport early in the morning. This time we only had two flights back, and it went by pretty quickly, maybe too quickly. Soon enough, I was back in Lulea, Sweden, where as I exited the airport, all there was around me was a bunch of snow and ice. I felt a bit sad to be back because I’ve had enough of the snow and cold weather, but part of me was glad to be back.

I am so pleased that I was able to travel and spend some time in Spain. To this day, as I’m writing this, it doesn’t feel real. None of this feels real. It all still seems like a dream; a big crazy one that I will wake up from soon enough. I can’t wait for more adventures because I have a ton planned!

Life In Sweden: Two Months Later

I know, I’m a day late with this post. But, I can’t believe how FAST time just flew by. It literally seems like yesterday that I was writing my “Life in Sweden: One Month Later” post; and now I have reached the two month mark. 

I was going to continue the trend of listing certain differences that I’ve noticed between America and Sweden, but I don’t feel like doing that anymore; because in reality, my first post contained the most “shocking” differences for me. Now, if I notice anything different it’s not as shocking or it’s not a big different. So, instead, I will give you an update on my life at this point. I’ll tell you what I’ve been up too, what’s going on, how life is, etc. Basically, I’ll give you all the “juicy” gossip (not really that juicy). 

However, I’ve decided to break this post into different categories, instead of me just rambling on and on about certain things. Keeping it more organized that way. I’ve spilt my life into different categories to talk about and they are; personal, university, and adventures. I’m sure that over time, this list will grow or change but, for now, these are the major categories in my life. 

Personal Life: 
Don’t worry, nothing too personal is going to be shared here. When I talk about “personal”, I just mean stuff like health, my thoughts, etc. 

The longest amount of time that I have been away from home is probably when I’m at my university in Rhode Island. Even then, it’s not that long because I can easily hop into my car and drive home for a weekend. Which, I do quite a bit. So, in reality, I’m always really close to home. Now, I’m about a 9 hour plane ride from home and I’m 6 hours ahead in time. At first, I didn’t really miss home at all. I was living my dream and enjoying life in Sweden. Then, a little bit over a month, home sickness really started to kick in. It was like a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m okay now though. Home sickness didn’t last too long, but it was one heck of a ride when it did arrive. 

I’m an introvert. I enjoy having my alone time. I was always the kid who would rather sit alone reading a book, then go out to a huge party. Nothing wrong with it, but coming here was a major change. I made a great group of friends who have really taken me out of my comfort zone (whether they know it or not). Even though I still enjoy my alone time, I love going out with friends and going on our crazy adventures. Most of the time now, I find myself craving the company of others rather than just being alone all the time.

Before starting university, I was never able to tell if I was a morning or night person. After a year of university, I figured out I was definitely a morning person. Being in Sweden for two months, I have taken being a morning person to a whole new level. I’ve developed a bit of a morning routine, and my day usually starts with me waking up around 5am every day. I find that I’m much more productive in the morning then at night. 

My tastebuds have also been changing a lot while being here. One of the biggest changes is with coffee. I’m on a tight budget here and I try not to go over it when possible; especially with food. Back home, I would love to get the most sugary coffee possible at my campus Starbucks. I use to HATE the idea of drinking black coffee and never knew how people could do it. However, I didn’t have money all the time to go out and grab a coffee and it’s really out of the way especially since I have to take public transportation. I started using instant coffee and then eventually invested in a French press and somehow I drink my coffee black now??? It took a bit to adjust too but it’s actually good. It’s simple, fast and I don’t have to worry about buying extra stuff like creamer, or milk or sugar. 

University Life: 
Here at LTU, the semester is split into two quarters. The quarter we are currently in (quarter 3) is almost over. It ends on March 16th and it’s crazy that I’m done with my first set of classes here. 

During quarter 3, I was taking Computer Aided Industrial Design and Intro to Swedish I and II. Both classes have been wonderful. I learnt a lot from both of these classes. 

In my computer aided industrial design class, we focused on using a software called “Alias AutoStudio”. It was a bit confusing at first and this course DEFINITELY requires a lot of patiences, I’m really glad that I was able to take a class like this! As a software engineering major, I think it’s a great course to add to my life and skill set as a developer. And after this course is over, I can continue to learn how to use the program and get better at it. Below is a picture of a remote that I designed and created in the program. Not the best, but I think I did a pretty good job for someone who has NEVER touched this program before this course. 

As for my intro to Swedish courses…all I have to say is learning a language is really difficult. After having these courses since January 16th, I probably speak at the level of a 6 year old (maybe) which is very frustrating at times. I don’t know what I was expecting though. It’s not like I was going to become fluent in such a short amount of time. If anything, my top tip for learning a language is speaking as much as you can. That’s where I fell short. I’m pretty decent at reading and writing (at times) but my pronunciation on certain words is horrible. Certain words in Swedish are really hard to say haha. Make friends with a bunch of Swedish people and. try to talk to them the best that you can in Swedish. Or, just talk to yourself in Swedish. I’ve been doing this a lot more now. For example, when I have to go grocery shopping, I make a mental list of the stuff I need and then when I’m writing the stuff I need down, I say those items out loud. Basically, just find anyway to practice speaking.

Adventures:
I find that studying abroad is a great opportunity to travel around because it’s usually very cheap…if you do it correctly. 

My first adventure took place with five of my friends on March 2nd. We rented a car and drove three hours to visit Ranua Zoo in Finland! Yes, we drove all that way to just visit a zoo. I found that it was extremely worth being cramped in a car for three hours because the zoo was a lot of fun; and my friends and I made a lot of memories together. My two favorite animals at the zoo was Harry the otter and all of the owls there. 

It’s very snowy in Luleå. It’s March and there is still snow EVERYWHERE and it still snows some days. As much as I love the snow, I need a break from it. So, my friend and I planned a trip to Barcelona! On March 26th, we will be starting our journey to Barcelona, Spain and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a well deserved break from the cold and snow! 

Finally, the last trip that I have planned (don’t worry, we are in the process of planning more, but this is the one that’s already set in stone) is Norway. A bunch of my friends and I will be heading to Lofoten, Norway on April 28th! I’m super excited for this trip because I’ve seen pictures already and the area looks absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to take pictures with my Canon 80D.

Again, I can’t believe that I have already been living in Luleå, Sweden. It feels like just yesterday I was packing my bags last minute and getting ready for my flight here! I can’t wait to see what my last two months here have to offer! 

Life in Sweden: One Month Later

Wow, it has officially been one month since I arrived in Sweden. Can you believe it? I know I can’t. I have been here for a full month, and it STILL doesn’t feel real. It seems like a dream, and sooner or later I will be woken up.

 

Since living in Sweden for a month, I have learned many different things. The majority of the things I have learned have been cultural differences between life here in Europe and life back home in America. I didn’t think there were going to be so many differences, but there are a good amount so far. Some of the differences are minor, while some came to a shock to me.

 

Here are the top 10 things I’ve noticed while living here in Sweden.

 

  1. Students bring their lunch in university. While there are places on campus to buy lunch, I’ve found that the majority of students here prep their meals at home and bring them to school with them. At university here, there is no meal plan. You either bring your lunch from home, or you can buy something from one of the restaurants or supermarkets that’s on campus. Except, don’t purchase the food on campus. It can be pretty expensive.

 

  1. Public transportation is nice. I’m from New York. Not the city, though. We don’t have public transportation unless you’re catching a bus or train into New York City. Otherwise, you’re either walking everywhere, biking, or driving. I’ve found that public transportation here is friendly and easy to use. I got my bus pass, and I can practically go anywhere I need to with the bus.

 

  1. Classes are not on a set schedule. Maybe I’m missing something here, or I did something wrong while setting up my timetable. But, I’ve noticed that my classes are not on a set schedule. Back at my home university, I would have two classes on Monday’s and Wednesday’s and then two on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. They would always be at the same time as well. It’s nothing like that here. I’m taking two classes this quarter, and they almost always start at a different time every day. Makes it a bit hard to plan your week, but I’ve been managing.

 

  1. Fikapaus är mycket populära. I threw in a bit of Swedish here for you (also because I need to practice, haha). Coffee breaks are very popular here. People drink a ton of coffee here, and it’s pretty common to go out with some of your friends during the day to grab some fika (coffee) and talk with each other. It’s an excellent time, and I thoroughly enjoy this a lot. It’s not like back in America where everything’s rushed, and you don’t get to enjoy your time with your friends. Here you sit down with your friends and just have a great time enjoying each others company.

 

  1. “You’re Welcome.” This phrase isn’t one I hear a lot here. After purchasing something, like coffee, I usually tend to say “thank you, ” and the barista would say “you’re welcome.” Well, while living here, I’ve noticed that when I say “thank you,” I usually get a “thank you” back. This confuses me a lot if I’m honest. I don’t know why it’s said back like this. I’ll have to ask my language professor this question, next class.

 

  1. Joggers/sweatpants ARE NOT for public. Alrighty, this one was probably the biggest shock for me. Back in America, it’s okay to go out to a store or classes in sweatpants or joggers. I would do it all the time if I didn’t feel like wearing jeans. That’s not the case here in Sweden (or most parts of Europe). People almost never go out in sweatpants or joggers. Those clothing items are for lounging around your house. You hardly ever see people wearing them out in public. I learned that lesson by attending class in joggers, and my friend (who lives in Europe) gives me a look and saying “you do know that in Europe, most people don’t wear joggers in public, right? They are only actually worn when you’re at home or going to the gym, etc.”. And since that day, I only actually wear my joggers in public when I’m heading to the gym.

 

  1. Drinking. We all know that America has a pretty high drinking age compared to most other countries. Like, Sweden for example. You can be 18 and order a drink from a restaurant or bar. I’ve never seen a university have a pub/night club on campus, though. At LTU (Luleå Tekniska Universitet) we have a place called STUK. It’s a student ran bar, pub, restaurant and nightclub. I don’t know if other universities in America have something like this on campus, but I know my home university doesn’t. Which is why I found this so interesting because I haven’t seen anything like this back in America.

 

  1. Grocery shopping is surprisingly cheap. Overall, living in Sweden can be cheap if you know how to manage your money (that’s something I’m still working on). There is a grocery store here called “Willy:s.” It’s the best place to grocery shop because it’s so cheap. I tend to buy the majority of my groceries for a month at a time, and it’s easy to do that there without spending a lot of money. This month I spent about $60 (about 535 KR) for a month of food. If I did a month of grocery shopping back in the US, with the amount of food I bought, it probably would have come out to over $100.

 

  1. Coffee shops have a more “homey” vibe to them. Back in America, I started drinking coffee once I got to college. Once I got to Sweden, I started drinking like twice the amount I use to because 1. It tastes good here, 2. It’s cheaper than America, and 3. Fikapuas with friends. Whether I’m enjoying a matcha latte at Wayne’s Coffee or a vanilla latte at the Espresso House, they have such a friendly and welcoming vibe to them. In America you order your coffee, get it in a to-go cup and leave. Here, if you stay you’re staying there to drink your coffee, they give you a real cup, and you can sit on the couch and enjoy your coffee peacefully. I tend to go to the Espresso House or Wayne’s Coffee when I want a change of scenery while doing homework. It’s wonderful!

 

  1. Winter here is a different type of cold. I was always the person who loved the cold back home. I never minded the cold back home because it wasn’t that bad. When I got to Sweden (during January), I experienced a new type of cold. It’s FREEZING here. I see people wearing ski pants while walking outside and now I understand why. Temperatures are supposed to drop to -15 F this week. Send help.

 

However, I am so glad that I pushed myself to study abroad because it has been on of the best decisions of my life so far. I’m so happy I picked Sweden as my destination, and I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store for me!