One of the suggestions the study abroad counselor at Cornell gave to me was “Don’t compare your exchange country to the U.S. It won’t help you settle in; it’s meant to be different!” Unfortunately I don’t know any other way to make it clear just how big of an adjustment it has been these past few days! So, with the help of my wonderful camera, let me illustrate a few of the adjustments I’ve made in the past four days:
1. Language Barrier: I knew before I left home, that I did not know enough Swedish to be fluent with the native speakers. To be honest, I didn’t know enough Swedish to ask “what time is it?” Fortunately most Swedes are fairly fluent in English; unfortunately for me, most of the time, they don’t understand my accent (woohoo! for the first time in my life I have an accent!)
2. Transportation: I always lived in a rural area; it was 8 miles to my high school and 15 miles to the local grocery store. This meant that I always traveled by car (or truck) since sidewalks were scarce and “public transportation” was non-existent. In Sweden, that is not the case. Below, you’ll find what most students get when they go off to college; it serves as their main mode of transportation to go grocery shopping as well as getting to class. Bikes are everywhere, however the objective is to have an inconspicuous looking bike to avoid theft.
If you don’t like riding bikes you always have the option of taking the much more expensive route and traveling by bus. There is always the chance that the bus will have just gone by when you reach the stop or that it won’t come at all because of icy road conditions! However once you get a bus map you should be set (as long as you remember the name of the stop you want to get off at!).
3. Shopping: I love shopping as much as the next girl. I have gotten so good at grocery shopping that I know the exact route to what I need. I can do all of my grocery shopping in less than twenty minutes. Unfortunately, combine the language barrier with a new layout, and an enjoyable shopping trip becomes a test of patience and willpower. I looked in the dairy section trying to determine the probability that what I was holding was butter and not cheese for nearly ten minutes (the word “margerin” saved me!); and I could not locate jelly (or preserves) to save my life. So instead, I’ll be making peanut butter and nutella sandwiches this week (they are even tastier than PB&J!). Fortunately this was a great lesson for me! I will be looking up the swedish words for everything on my grocery list this next trip!
4. Road conditions: My father complains of road conditions quite frequently during the long New York winters. I was shocked at the difference in care and maintenance of Sweden’s roads compared to New York’s. Back home, we salt the roads; before the snow ever starts falling, you can be guaranteed that salt trucks are 1-2 tons lighter. In Sweden, the only salt you’ll find is on the main roads; and even then, its not much. Instead, they throw gravel. It’s actually a very unique and interesting system. When the snow melts in the spring, street sweepers will sweep up all the gravel and it will then be stored to use for the next winter season! As my Irish corridor mate (equivalent of a hall mate) says, “Sweden is a well-oiled machine!” It certainly is much more sustainable (and probably better for the paint on cars!)
5. Laundry: Keeping clean at college is very important. A major part of that process is doing laundry. This process is another difference between the two countries and universities I’ve lived in. Here in Sweden, everyone has a lock which you move from the “Lasparkering” board to the time boards located below it. You then place your lock in the day and the two-hour block you would like to do your laundry during. There is a blue board and a green board which correspond with the color of the washer you will use. If you don’t start doing your laundry within 15 minutes of your slot, other students have the right to take your machine.
Once you have washed your clothing, you will need to dry it of course! Back home, I would just throw it in the dryer, put the dryer on high and forget about it for the next hour. In Sweden, I will be using a drying room. The best description I can give, is it is kind of like a giant sauna with clothes lines, except its not quite that warm. From my understanding you hang your clothes up, close the door, and then a heater will heat the room until your clothes are dry!
I’ve only been here for four days now and these are just a few of the major adjustments I will be making in my life for the next five months. I know I compared everything and it may very well sound biased but I am very excited for the new experiences I will be having! I just hope my clothes come out alright on the other side!