So, I sit here on a three and a half hour train ride back from Stockholm to my new little town of Karlstad. Obviously there’s really not much to do. I realize however that I haven’t been updating as often as I should, or had planned, but, I’d like to do this now sitting here on the internet-free (And therefore distraction free) SJ Intercity 7:15 Sthlm - Karlstad. It’s been just around five months now, I do indeed speak Swedish, I have a large amount of Swedish friends in my first school, I have a great relationship with my second host family, and things seem to be going rather well with the new family. Now I’m going to answer a few questions I had that were never really answered by any of the AFS information or volunteers, returnees or else wise.
What’s it like to go on exchange with AFS?
Well, I wouldn’t trade this year for much in the world, but there are some downfalls and peaks this year. Things have seemed to gone atypically for me. I’ve had to change families twice (maybe three) times, change towns twice and schools twice. I can’t express how angry I felt about AFS at the time when all of this was going on. Volunteers didn’t have anything planned ahead of time, I was left hanging as one of the last people to know things, and I found the families through the help of some teachers and people at the school instead of having one from AFS. So, I guess I can say everything is a bit last minute and…and I don’t know, this year my life seems to be out of my hands. Overall though it’s fantastic if you look at it as such. I’ve learned a new language in the span of three months, and now speak it well too! (So say those who have heard me, disagree I might) I have lifelong friends around the world, I’ve learned to live (basically) on my own, and I’ve realized a few things about myself on the way. I think each country can help you to learn things differently, so I can’t promise they’ll always be the best, but, for now it’s good.
What would you suggest bringing?
Laptop. No really, I think it’s something really important to have with you for the purposes of long journeys like this one. Music, games, internet if you’re traveling by bus. I suggest installing MSN, Skype and a browser better than IE before you go. If you haven’t already. CLOTHES. There was a 20kg limit on our baggage, and the usual two carry on bag limit. So I brought clothes I liked, wore a lot, and was still under the limit. However, as soon as I got here I realized that I’d brought the wrong type ending up where I was! Not fun. Research the climate of the country if you’re not so sure where you’ll end up. It’s better to have a vague idea and cover all the basics then end up having to buy new clothes/having some sent from home.
Can you take off school?
Yes and no. If you go to Europe, there a lot more lax about being absent or being tardy. So Yes you could Probably get away with missing one or two days because you’re sick or feeling miserable (Unless your homesick, then you Need to go to school and get yourself involved in the community and family, it’s the Only thing that makes you feel better.) It IS okay to get sick though. And it’s Okay to feel a little lost, but as an exchange student, as a person that wants to get along, you Have to still give it your best and Go to school and GET INVOLVED! You get into this what you put into it, AFS or Rotary or EF or any other programme. If you stay home, stay on the computer talking to those back home, don’t try to get along with your family, don’t put the effort into the language No, you’re not going to fit in, No, it’s not going to be cool at home, No, you’re Not going to have a good time.
That being said…
You don’t have to spend every waking minute with someone/the family. Yes, it’s an exchange year, yes, you should want to fit in, but it’s also a Year of your life, you Have to have Some time to yourself!
How is it when you arrive with your family? (Last minute or not)
Awkward. I’ve been welcomed warmly, shown my room, and told to unpack before we had dinner/lunch three times, they’ve all been awkward. It’ll be this way for a week or so until you start falling into the routine.
I can’t really think of any more advice off hand right now, I have a list at home somewhere specifically for Sweden…. I’ll (possibly) Put it in another post. For now this’ll just continue to be an update.
Five months, I speak Swedish, I understand most, I’m confident that studying in university here would indeed be a good idea. I moved families in October to Ingela and Staffan and their dog Alva in Sunne, continued to go to Broby Grafiska, they were fantastic, and I’m pretty positive we got along well. But they were going on a long holiday in March and the volunteers figured it’d be best to find me a new family early so I could adjust better. So, now in February (last weekend (6th/7th) actually) I moved into another family, Mama Ulrike, Pappa Bola, Older brother Erik and younger brother Filip. As well as two others I haven’t met. They’re really really nice and have already done everything they can to help me adjust to a new house, town and school. They even understood when I was having issues with the town I was placed in, offering more help and endless support. I’m not quite sure how long I’ll be staying there, but at least I bought paints and am starting to get some done!
I’ve (obviously) started a different school, this time in the art and sculpture line instead of graphic media production. Decent people, reminds me a lot more like a normal public school though. I already miss Broby and Sunne even though it’s only a 45 minute train away. I now take the bus to school every day, changing at the centrum. I can manage to get To school without any issues, but it’s always on the way back home that I’m not sure… The first day of school I got off two km or so away from where I was supposed to and had to walk in the freezing cold xD. Yes I know it’s not a big deal, just shows my lovely navigational skills (I was able to find my way back!)
Why oh why was I in Stockholm? Most of you know, but not all, that I have a lovely lovely boyfriend studying there. No, he’s not an exchange student, he’s Swedish, from the Stockholm area. Thanks to AFS I ended up having to meet his family this weekend, Not an unreasonable request, just a little awkward. His mom was lovely, and I didn’t quite meet most of his family since the two youngest boys were busy playing computer games. My battery is dying though, so I’m going to end this here since there’s not all that much going on at the moment anyhow that I haven’t already covered.
Hej då! Jag saknar er!!!
Bye! I miss you guys!!! (not too much of course)
Thursday, March 4th, 2010
So! Even though I haven’t gotten the post I’d written on the train up before now, I wanted to write something again. Some advice, Some news, Some something. Not quite sure how well written this will be though!
Questions questions questions! ASK QUESTIONS!
When you arrive at your new country (I’m going to be writing about how we arrived in Sweden) You’ll be a mixture of exhausted and over the moon! You get off the plane, walk into the unfamiliar airport and suddenly you hear a new language, and even though you left in the early afternoon, it’s 9am here and people are ready to start the day! Walking through customs to claim the baggage was the easy part, you can stay relatively calm. However, the moment you’re through the door and you see the AFS volunteers there to pick you up there’s nothing more that I can say. It’s really “Wow, I’m Here. It wasn’t a scam, it was a dream, I’m here” And you can start worrying about the language, school and your host family! That being said, before you Get to all those things, you get a nifty little arrival camp. For the US students, the Swedish arrival camp was infinitely better than the departure orientation. You get a book which.. Well, honestly didn’t have so many useful tips. Partially because there were things that really Weren’t useful, or seemed outdated, and partially because once fed up with reading six giant blocks of text with nothing useful, you don’t continue reading! You probably should. You’ll most likely have plenty of time on the way to your new family! They also play games, do a (very) small but useful language orientation, and they sit you down in a group and try and talk and orient you with how Swedish life is. They also feed you. A lot. No seriously. Waaay too much. Good food though, and very Swedish. But that was a sidetrack, anyway… This orientation on Swedish youth and culture, DON’T SIT THERE SILENTLY AND AWKWARDLY ASK THE QUESTIONS!!! The volunteers are open, and even if it seems like a stupid question, it’s really important to find these things out anyway!
I guess that’s really all I had to say for today in the way of suggestions. I Will get that list out sometime soon … Maybe it’ll be used in the orientation book when you guys come :D
Oh well, So, there’s this thing called Sportslov here in Sweden. We get a week off to well, play sports. It’s nice. I ended up here in Stockholm for the week. It’s nice J I know I haven’t been taking many pictures recently, but I’ll take and upload some soon! For now there’s a couple on face book :P
PS. Send me some questions future Swedish AFSers!