The Study Abroad Newsletter

Connecting with Swedes

Amy Odaira

Biology major
Uppsala University, Sweden

Hejsan from the land of snowy Sweden! As I reflect back on the previous semester, I was surprised at how many great things have happened and how fast five and a half months passed by! That’s an unexpected statement considering how my semester started off with a series of unhappy and stressful events. For instance, (almost) losing my luggages on the bus, waiting on a 3-hours queue to get residence permit (twice!), cooking in a completely trashed kitchen, getting a barely- usable bike, battling homesickness, etc. But within all that sadness, there was a silver lining—I was able to bond with other international students who were going through similar things. That social aspect has definitely helped with my away- from-home coping process, but it also removed me from interacting more with the Swedes. When I realized that I haven’t befriended any Swedes, two months had already passed! Less than a third of my classmates are Swedish, I hardly ever go out to Student Nation events, and the only Swede in my corridor rarely ever comes out of her room. It became a dilemma of how and where should I start meeting Swedes this late into the semester.

A train station in Sweden

I’d lost almost all my hopes of forming friendship with the Swedes until one evening when I made a spontaneous decision. I was invited by my Swedish classmate to join his two Swedish friends to attend a Food & Wine tasting event in Stockholm. Normally I would have refused because one, I’m not fond of alcohol, and two, the event takes place late into the evening which is when I usually cozy up to my warm bed watching Netflix movies. But, in the spirit on trying new things, I decided to go. Though I did not taste any wine or ate much of the food, that evening became one of the most memorable event during my time abroad (so far). I was able to connect with my classmate and his friends—we even found a common interest! Truth be told, I was not expecting Japanese animation shows to be our common ground of interest. I had expected majority of the conversation to be about something out of my range like wine, politics, or European vs American culture. Nonetheless we had a nice long conversation on the train back to Uppsala about our favorite shows, characters, and scenes. That event was the start of a snowball effect—I even met Swedes in communities outside the university! Though the struggles were many and expectations were few, many good memories were made and I grew to love the country, its people, and the culture that encompass the snowy Sweden.

An animated food vendor