To the generous members and benefactors of the Swedish Council of America,
After spending the previous semester of study exploring every corner of Sweden, I would like to take the times to thank your incredible institution for their sponsorship of my time abroad. It was by far the most eye-opening experience I have had in my young life, but it also gave me a chance to connect with my lineage. Allow me to recount just how incredible this adventure was.
I landed in Sweden on January 9th—you can imagine how dark it was so far up in the northern hemisphere. I met up with my group of eleven other students from Gustavus and we stayed in Mora for three weeks touching up on the Swedish language. I spent that time doing some literature analysis of a theme known as “Godhet”, or what it is to be a good person. After Mora, our group headed fifteen hours north to Jokkmokk for the 412th annual Winter Market. There we met a number of Sami people and immersed ourselves in their culture. One evening we all went dogsledding! Another day we went three hours further north to the iron mine in Kiruna for a tour, and a quick visit to the world-renowned ice hotel nearby. After Jokkmokk, the group studied more of the Sami culture at the university for ten days in Umeå. Turns out there is a great guitar museum and plenty of wonderful music in the city. Then came a week stay at the Birka folk school in Östersund where we learned all about folk music and handcraft. We even spent a day up in the mountains
with a Sami family and their reindeer. I distinctly remember a snowstorm and the ensuing snowball fight we all had together. The last place we stayed before spring break was Växjö, a city known for its green initiatives. We spent time at Linnaeus University and toured the city. We even saw one of the semi-professional Innebandy matches—basically floor hockey with a wiffleball.
Then came spring break. I spent time with a high school exchange student friend of mine who lived in Oskarshamn, then with my father’s cousin who lives in Stockholm. The weather was pretty crummy that week, but since she was a retired literature/Scandinavian studies professor, I learned all about the city of Stockholm and its relics.
After spring break we learned about politics in Mora for three more weeks. All I will say is that it is a very different system. From Mora we headed down to Gothenburg for ten days to learn about the rich history of the city. We met up with a former Gustavus geology professor and spent five days on excursions throughout southwest Sweden learning about the geological history of the region. My most memorable part of the trip was when we spent three days on a rocky island near Kungshamn. The weather had just turned nice and the island was an explorer’s paradise.
After this we trekked across Sweden and ferried to the island of Gotland in the medieval city of Visby. All I can say is that the architecture there was astounding! So much history! After Visby we spent a week in Uppsala for the annual celebration of Valborg. There was something about so many silly traditions in such an old college town that made the experience so remarkable. Not to mention, we got to see the beautiful old church in Uppsala and all of the famous historical figures buried there.
Finally we spent our last two weeks in Sweden in Stockholm. With such big city there wasn’t a dull moment. We toured the royal palace, St. Göran’s church, had a boat tour of the archipelago, attended several lectures at Stockholm University, and even toured the Nobel museum guided by none other than the former Marshall of the Realm. Not to mention, we spent plenty of time lounging in the beautiful city parks. Then came the day to fly home—international travel was a whole other experience in and of itself! But that’s all just a (little) about what I got to do for the past four months in Sweden.
I would like to reiterate one last time my gratitude for the generosity you all put in each year to perpetuate the Swedish culture, whether that be through a connection by heritage or simply appreciate of the traditions. Because of this, I have been able to make a dream come true and connect with my roots. Without a doubt, I will return to Sweden and show my family just how special of a place it is that I visited in college.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do,
Physics and Scandinavian Studies
Gustavus Adolphus College Class of 2019