The Stockhome diaries – Homelessness

Somehow it’s been a little harder to come back to Sweden after the Christmas break. Since being home for such a long time with total freedom to spend the time, it was rough to get back into the usual student life. After a few days of feeling a bit down and opening up about it to friends I realised this wasn’t just me. All my international student friends who went back home had a bit of a downer coming back.

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(This was winter back home)

When we first got here in September we had no idea what to expect, who we were going to meet and what we would be doing. After one semester of studies however, you kind of know what the deal is. And even though I enjoyed my time here a lot, it’s just not as new and I am not really good in dealing with routines. Plus, did anyone mention it gets pretty dark and cold out here? :p

So I decided to bring some new stories, new people and new dreams into my life. Here ares some tips that I have applied to get some sass into the long winter days:
(Note that the photos have nothing to do with the text really. I just like photos, and especially snowy photos, so there you go 🙂 )

  • Try something new! The gym is completely undiscovered territory for me and after contemplating about it for a few months, I finally (!!) got a subscription. I still have no idea how many of these machines work (tip: apparently you don’t need to turn them on, they just start once you use them. It took me 10 minutes of touching every single button and a friendly Swede to figure this one out.), but I’m learning by watching other people (read: staring while hoping to avoid a restraining order). So I was thrilled when I found the treadmill and could get normal again. (Apart from the moment where I dropped my water bottle and bent over to pick it up while still running, a plan doomed to fail because that thing slid of faster than the wind and dragged me with it, making me fall onto a poor guy who was so kind to pick it up in the meantime. This also includes the 30 minutes following this event when I had to keep running to get my guts together and turn around again to face all the people who lived this glorious moment with me. Sometimes I wonder if I was born in a failvideo.. )

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  • Clean and reorganise your house/room! Head out to the closest second hand store and give some stuff back that you don’t need anymore, return with some new goods. If you’re household doesn’t contain any second hand merchandise it just can’t be Swedish anyway.

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  • Stockholm is full of corners yet to be discovered. I’ve met new people who took me to new places, and that of course comes with many new stories to tell 😉

(Note that his photo has especially nothing to do with the text above ;p)
Photo credits to Julius Fröhlich.

  • Be like a Swede, and GET OUT! I learned that the little people of Sweden really get a different cultural education than me. Packed in layers of down they head outside and learn to ice skate on the basketball fields that become temporary ice ranks, they are taught how to survive when falling through the ice cracks while walking on a lake, they can (cross-country) ski like real champs and slide down every hill in Stockholm even if it’s just on a garbage bag. Nothing to do with the successtory of the gym of course, or the fact that I’m a champ at breaking bones on ice skates (proven twice), but so far i’ve kept it to kicking my butt outside for a run. With -11 degrees and piles of snow I can tell you this is a whole new experience! Getting out of the doorstep was probably never a bigger challenge. But once you’re out, there is something truly liberating about biting the cold in the ass and exchanging some smiles with the few other crazy souls crossing your path.

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(snowball fight on Brunnsviken lake after class.)
Photo credits to Rodrigo Martinez.

  • Plan a trip! It doesn’t have to be far away at all, but it’s so nice to have a new getaway in the future. I’m heading to Gotland and Tallinn soon! Stay tuned if you want to hear about that 🙂

And by the way, while thinking this through in the past weeks, I have come to realise that I don’t need to chose where my home is, or where I want it to be. It’s a bit weird when you live so close to home, Belgium really is only a short flight away, but once you’re back you are eventually just as far away from home as someone from Argentina for that matter.
Every aspect of your life happens here. Your daily conversations, the groceries, the dishes, the parties and the laundry, are all here. So when I’m here I need to be here, and when I’m there, I’m just there. I know this sounds too easy for words, but it took me some time to realise this. Where I am really doesn’t matter, life goes on in all places. It has made me set a step back to realise I’m not indispensable in any place, but wherever I am I have a chance to make a meaningful contribution to whatever is going on. It’s not the easiest insight to put into words, I hope you get what I’m saying. And hopefully no one gets offended by the title of this post, because international students are not at all homeless. In the end we just have several homes, and I’m content to know now that this nothing but an enrichment. 

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Elke

A Belgian student at Stockholm University, studying a Msc in Social-Ecological Resilience for Sustainable Development. Contact me at elke.studyinsweden(at)gmail.com
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