A long-time favorite song of mine has been “Bucket List” by Mitchell Tenpenny. The 2021 hit from the rising country artist stands out to me because of its catchy melody and lyrical meaning of living life to its fullest and appreciating the beauty of the world and those around you. Not only was “Bucket List” a song that I listened to on my commute to class every day but more importantly was one in which its message resonated with me and best represented my semester abroad in Stockholm.
There were many reasons why I decided to study abroad, from the desire to explore a new city and experience different cultures to meeting other students from different universities. I loved my home university but was ready to leave its bubble and the monotonous routine I had developed and challenge myself to live and study halfway around the world. Back in January as time got closer to actually leaving for Sweden, I made an agenda of things I wanted to do and accomplish during my time abroad, my personal study abroad “bucket list” if you will, and I am happy to say that I was able to do just that.
Establishing and growing meaningful friendships was at the top of my bucket list. Perhaps the biggest reason why I asked to switch from the Copenhagen program to Stockholm was that I wanted the smaller student population and to not know anyone in the program prior to coming. While studying abroad with friends and classmates from home sounded like fun, I wanted to have a break from my home university and be fully present in Scandinavia. However, not knowing anyone in an entire program came with the anxiety of having to make new friends and arriving in Sweden not knowing anybody. I knew deep down that I was going to make friends, but I couldn’t help but feel nervous about being alone in Stockholm and thousands of miles away from everyone I knew. The day I arrived in Stockholm, I ended up at Paddy’s Pub with a group of DIS students from my student housing. I was nervous and still overwhelmed by all the traveling and moving in but figured that it would be good to socialize with the kids I would be living with for the next four months. That first night at Paddy’s was so much fun and I distinctly remember thinking to myself that this was going to be ok and that I made the right decision to go to Stockholm.
Since that first night, my friendships with those DIS students, as well as other friends I have made along the way, have only grown and truly made my study abroad experience so much more fun. It is cool to think that we all came from the United States, but it took being in Stockholm at the same time for us to meet and become as close as we did. Like me, because a lot of us came in not knowing anyone, all we knew about and how we perceived each other were what we were like right then and there in Stockholm and how we treated others, which I actually really enjoyed because it allowed us to be ourselves. It was special living next to your best friends abroad and people who you share so many fun and unique memories with. From riding the pendeltåg to DIS together to dancing all night together in the clubs on the weekend to the weekday nights in the common room when we all said we would be productive and do homework together but ended up just talking and laughing together for hours, time with these special people is what I will always first think about when reflecting on my time abroad. I met some of the most down-to-earth, adventurous, and genuine people, and I am so glad that DIS brought us together.
Taking challenging and interesting classes was the next item on my bucket list. The study tour trips to Gothenburg and Athens for my Positive Psychology core course were my favorite academic memories. From performing forum theatre in Gothenburg to Greek dancing in Athens at the foot of The Acropolis all while growing closer with my core course, our study tour trips consisted of memorable moments that I will remember for a very long time.
My other classes were Swedish Language & Culture, Power of the Mind: Psychology of Performance, Psychology of Emerging Adulthood, and Public Health Emergencies and Health Crisis Management (DIS sure likes to make their course names as long as possible!). These classes not only challenged me to think critically about topics I had not learned about before but also piqued new academic and potential career interests. My favorite aspect of the classes I took at DIS was the professors and how personable they were. Not only were they truly accomplished teachers and individuals in their fields, but they were also super enthusiastic about our learning and genuinely cared about our well-being both as students and as individuals. I got to know all my professors really well this semester, and I enjoyed being able to talk to them about not just the course material but also their career paths and personal lives. They were a big reason why I enjoyed coming to class every day.
Immersing myself in Swedish culture was an item on my bucket list I wasn’t quite sure how to go about accomplishing. Because DIS is only made up of students from the United States, I was afraid that I wouldn’t meet any Swedes and just be stuck in an American bubble the entire time. However, DIS provided many opportunities for students to get involved around Stockholm, including being an English Language Mentor at Jensen Gymnasium, a local charter secondary school. Being an English Language Mentor was a lot of fun, and I really valued my time spent with the students and seeing first-hand what a school in Sweden looked like. I truly got to know these students through conversations about their school and their hopes and dreams after they graduate from secondary school. I also enjoyed answering their questions about American culture and what living in the United States was like. It was fun being able to compare our respective experiences and upbringing.
I also immersed myself in Swedish culture through navigating Stockholm’s metro system and can confidently say that I can get to anywhere in the Stockholm area by public transportation. I feel comfortable in my ability to get around Stockholm, and it is neat seeing how things that seemed so foreign in the beginning have become such a consistent and natural part of my daily routine.
Cherishing the little things was the last thing on my bucket list. There are so many parts of my study abroad experience that are not seen on social media or even on this blog but are what I will miss the most. All those mornings when I walked to SATS gym in the cold bundled up in layers asking myself why I chose to study abroad in Stockholm when I could have literally gone anywhere else in a warmer climate. Running into other DIS friends at SATS gym. The pendeltåg rides to class every day and having to run through Stockholm City Station from the pendeltåg to T-Centralen to not miss the next train and avoid being late for class. The time between my Swedish class and Power of the Mind class when I would hang out in the DIS kitchen warming up my leftovers for lunch in the microwave while socializing with friends. My afternoon walks around Sollentuna when it got nicer out enjoying the fresh air and catching up with friends. The night after going to Gröna Lund (Stockholm’s amusement park) when a group of us ate dinner at MAX at 11 pm and just sat and talked. Jumping into Edsviken, the body of water in Sollentuna at sunset on our last day. All the time spent in hostels, planes, and trains on weekend trips. The sushi restaurant on the first floor of my student housing that I ate at so often that when I walked in, they immediately knew my order. My daily snack of the ICA blueberry or chocolate muffins. All these memories are things not captured by photos and on social media but are the little things unique to my time in Stockholm and the people around me.
My time in Stockholm was nothing short of special. I am so grateful for the opportunity to study abroad and to have found a new community of people in Sweden. As sad as I am to be leaving, in a way I am happy that I feel this way because it is indicative of how special my time in Stockholm was and how much of an impact it had on me and my growth as an individual. Taking out everyone’s Swedish phone number from my contacts and replacing it with their American number shows that it’s not hejdå but vi ses. To my friends and all the special people I met through DIS, thank you for making the past few months a bucket list semester and Stockholm my new home. Until next time.