A few months ago, I wrote a letter to myself with my plans, my goals, and my worries for the semester. Now that it’s over I’m writing back: to myself, to all of you, and to the place I’ve come to know and love.
This semester was a plan years in the making. Before I even which college I wanted to go to, I was already firmly decided that I would be spending at least a semester in another country, and during my first year I set my sights on Sweden and started putting in the work to make it happen. I also had a plan to stick to once I got there, which I laid out in my letter: don’t convince myself that I already know it all, keep myself open to new things, and experience as much as i can without burning myself out by pushing too hard. I can’t say I stuck to the plan 100%, especially when it came to pushing myself. Can’t say I’m surprised that that was the hardest part for me, either. But as for being open and trying new things, I did better than ever before.
Even with so much preparation and support, being in a new country means being out of your comfort zone constantly. There were times I struggled with not fitting in as well as I’d hoped, or with making good impressions on the people that I would be around almost all the time, or with figuring out how things work in this new place the hard way. I had a few reminders to keep me on the right track: do something that scares you every day, and if things go wrong, you won’t be around forever. Despite the ups and downs, I think I’ve developed a lot as a person.
I can’t state enough how important the people around me were in all of this. Living on a hall with other DIS and international students was challenging sometimes, but it was worth it for all the friends I made and the good times I had there. The same goes for my classes and activities I tried, where I had to navigate building good relationships and getting things done. Finally, I made great connections with my visiting hosts and people at DIS, who showed me some of the ins and outs of life in Sweden. I am so grateful that all of these people were there to make my time abroad so meaningful.
I’m leaving a lot in Sweden, but I’ve taken back experiences and memories that I’ll use for the rest of my life. (And also some delicious food.)
Tusen tack för allt, Stockholm. /Olivia