Need to Know: Study Abroad (Part 2)

From Celine Chen

 

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my semester abroad was the best time of my life. I studied abroad in Stockholm, Sweden from January to May 2018 through DIS. I knew I wanted to study abroad in Europe since I had never been and it’s a great opportunity to have easy access to travel to other European countries.

Stortorget — the famous square in the middle of Old Town, Stockholm.

Now, I’m sure many of you are asking “what’s the benefit of study abroad?

  1. Independence. Not only did I gain independence being so far from home, but I also learned to navigate a new country and explore landmarks, local treasures, and other countries on my own. When I first arrived in Sweden, I was so nervous about figuring out the train system (since it’s really extensive and my route to school involved a transfer at the central station). But by the end of my semester, I was taking the train by myself and checking out local cafes and museums based on recommendations I found online.
  2. Cultural knowledge and understanding. We live in a global world and I think it’s so valuable to gain a new perspective on not only the country you study abroad in but also of the United States. You learn so much being immersed in a new culture and participating in local activities. You also learn a lot about the worldview of where you are and how they view the United States and American society.
  3. Perspective. Sweden really values the idea of lagom roughly translated to “just enough; not too much, and not too little.” I really loved this concept, especially when you compare it to life in America that is so focused on over-consumption and making everything grand. Swedes apply lagom to all aspects of life: fashion, food, decorating a home, the way you spend your time, and more!
  4. Personal growth. (read on!)

With friends at a lookout point in central Stockholm.

The subway station near campus. The Stockholm subway system is the world’s longest art exhibit (110 km long!)

I feel that study abroad was truly a life-changing experience. I gained so much perspective on life by immersing myself in Swedish culture. It also helped me open up to the world around me and encouraged me to disregard hesitation and, instead, make the most of each moment and experience.

I explored Stockholm so much more than I’ve explored Philly. Your study abroad GPA does not transfer back to Bryn Mawr, just the credit. So while I was taking a full course load of five courses, essentially my classes were pass/fail which allowed me to focus on personal growth, and taking the time to explore my surroundings instead of perfecting every piece of work that I was turning in. Let me share some of my favorite personal growth moments.

  • Most Spontaneous Moment: As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, I ended up hopping on a last-minute trip to Copenhagen in the middle of the semester; something that I would have shied away from previously by worrying about all the logistics. Two of my friends had already booked their plane tickets and an Airbnb and asked if anyone was interested in joining them. Three days before the trip, I bought my plane ticket and decided to join them, having no official plan for the three days we were spending there. It ended up being so cold in Copenhagen, but I had so much fun exploring Nyhavn and The Little Mermaid, and eating one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

Twilight view of Arkosund.

Arkosund

  • Favorite Cultural Experience: I knew I really wanted to meet locals, but it was going to be a challenge because I’m a shy person who doesn’t like to “make the first move” and Swedes are known for being reserved. I ended up befriending a local by joining a local soccer club and we became close friends. I went over to her house all the time and basically got the experience of living in a homestay and observing Swedish family roles even though I was living in an apartment with other American students from the program. My friend was even nice enough to take me to her family’s summer house!  I figured I’d never have the opportunity to see a Swede’s summer house, so I took her up on her offer. Since I didn’t have class one Wednesday, we took off in the middle of the week to the “countryside,” two hours from Stockholm, and stayed the night before returning for my Thursday class!
  • Best Travel Story: My program offered pre-arranged trips where you pay an additional fixed price that covers housing, flights, and most meals for a variety of travel tours. I participated in a culinary tour of Southern France and had so much fun! The trip was also available to the DIS students who were studying abroad in Copenhagen, so I was basically going on a trip with complete strangers since only three other students from Stockholm went. I was a bit nervous about trying to make friends and spending so much time with people I barely knew for five days straight. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone was so nice. I became even closer to the Stockholm students, and made many friends from the Copenhagen program. The trip involved lots of bonding over delicious food, wine tastings, and us breaking off into our own groups to explore Nice!

Hanging out in Nice, France.

 

I could write about study abroad forever. A lot of the experiences I had while abroad helped me come out of my shell and open myself up to being more outgoing and not worrying over uncontrollable elements of my life. It really changed my perspective and attitude coming back to Bryn Mawr too! In previous years, I would stress out over school work and would spend more and more weekends on campus rather than taking a break and exploring Philly. This year, I’m trying to go into Philly more and take advantage of my time on the East Coast to discover all it has to offer. I also decided to take a class at UPenn now that I’m somewhat used to commuting to get to class. It’s also another great opportunity to take some time away from campus and put myself into new and potentially uncomfortable situations.

I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone who even has the slightest interest in it! I’ve also attached some honorable-mention pictures of my adventures abroad 🙂

One weekend I went to an art museum outside of Stockhom that was on its own island!

 

We went to Geneva on a class trip to visit public health organizations like WHO.

Went to see a free Macklemore performance at Stockholm’s amusement park, Grona Lund.

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