So today was the big day! I stuffed a suitcase that weighs half as much as I do with enough jeans, sweaters, long sleeves, scarves, and boots to clothe an army (I forgot sheets and a pillow and other essentials like that but I digress). I bought an obligatory “I’m going abroad my life is about to change forever” leather bound notebook. Of course bought a travel guide, because everyone knows anything there is to learn you can learn from a book (I’m only half kidding). Grabbed my passport, kissed my parents goodbye at the airport, promised to put my “soldier rag” on (a term used in my family that roughly translates to: walk and act like you know what you’re doing so you don’t get broke off), and boarded the plane.
My seat partner on the plane was very nice. Her daughter is studying abroad too so she showed me pictures from her daughter’s blog and told me about some European music festivals that I’ll definitely try to attend. Watched The Intern, which is a great movie, highly recommend. Fell asleep, and when I woke up we were over Sweden.
Of course I got horribly lost. I met another student from my exchange university on the express train into Stockholm and he helped me get a metro card and told me which route to take to get to my hostel. I then proceeded to board the subway on the right route…going the wrong direction. After I got that all sorted out and managed to reach the island my hostel is on (Stockholm is actually comprised of small islands linked together by bridges), I again started walking in the wrong direction. I didn’t have google maps, as I had not yet set up my Swedish data plan, and was going off of a map I’d screenshotted at my last wifi hotspot. Eventually I found a Hilton and called a taxi to take me to my hostel, which happened to only be 2 blocks away from where I was. I’d nearly made it. While a seemingly traumatizing experience, it wasn’t at all. I stayed calm and patient, checked in with my parents regularly, and eventually made it where I needed to go. God’s got my back.
Details About The Journey:
- Everyone I have met so far is incredibly nice, from the customs officer wishing me well with classes this semester, to the grad student who helped me get a subway card, to the two men who saw me struggling to carry my luggage up flights of stairs and carried it for me (I have no idea what disabled people do in Sweden, this particular part of the city is very steep, and there are flights of stairs and sloping hills connecting everything), to the lady at 7-eleven who explained the phone plan to me. Just nice people.
- It is breathtakingly beautiful. And that’s not an exaggeration. When I stepped off the tram I literally gasped. The whole city looks like a postcard, from the winding cobblestone streets, to the gaslight lanterns, to the dusting of snow on everything. All of the buildings are these cute oranges and browns and pinks, and the water has a layer of ice over it which I’ve never seen in real life. It’s gorgeous. I love it already.
- THERE ARE PEOPLE OF COLOR HERE. I was honestly terrified that I was about to enter a country where everyone has blonde hair and blue eyes and not a single solitary person looks like me, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve seen lots of black people already, middle eastern people, asian people, and even the Swedes are more ethnic than I realized (I guess because this is Scandinavia and not straight up western Europe). And what’s most exciting is that nobody seems confused or awed by my being here. No staring on the subway, no weird looks when I walk into places, everyone is just helpful and friendly. It’s very nice; and refreshing considering I don’t always get this kind of treatment back in Austin. Again I digress.
- It’s cold. Like three pairs of socks cold. Like 5 shirts cold. Like nearly lost three fingers and a toe while walking to my hostel cold. I will not be underestimating the weather any more while I am here. Once you’re dressed appropriately though it’s fine. The cold is brisk not humid, so it doesn’t seep into your bones, just slaps you in the face and bites at your extremities a bit.
I’m really excited about orientation tomorrow and hopefully making new friends. It gets dark at 15:30 here (working on my international time) and I’m not about that “wandering around a foreign country by myself after dark” life, so if I ever want to be out past lunch time I need to make friends ASAP. I’m a little nervous but not really. It’s been great so far, and if God got me then I’m gone be alright.
*Check back later for pictures of the city, I didn’t get many good ones today, what with trying to gather my life while not looking like a doe-eyed tourist, but I’ll try to take some soon