Just Keep Swimming…
Although it’s good to study, sometimes you need to follow other pursuits in order to prevent yourself from going insane. Last week, I volunteered to help in an event called TEDx Uppsala University. For those of you who aren’t familiar with TED talks, you only have to type it into YouTube to understand what it’s all about. The event’s slogan is ‘ideas worth spreading’ and that’s exactly what it’s about. Speakers stand before an audience and present their ideas in less than 18 minutes. At the Uppsala event, these topics ranged from gender equality in the work place to the antibiotic resistance. Listening to professionals discuss topics of global concern certainly inspired me. Being able to volunteer at the event not only allowed me to see the talks for free, but to also take part and meet new people at the same time.
The event logo – ‘who cares?’
Even though I was a little humble cloakroom/door assistant, I still got to see the majority of talks oh and I was also fed all day too! They say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch but I was also offered unlimited Kanelbullar. However, I did drop the tastiest bit on the floor (the doughy middle!) so I guess it was absolutely necessary to eat 3 more in order to make up for it. The event attracted people from all over the area. Scientists, Authors, Actors and Musicians flocked to watch so it was really interesting to see the collection of people who found this event appealing. Little old student-y me felt a little star struck in the presence of people who were quite clearly giants in their field. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to experience and talk with professionals who are more than happy to give advice to the next generation.
After that weekend, I was back to class and for some reason, I began doubting myself. I felt myself sinking deeper into thoughts that maybe things weren’t quite right. I had gone from being relatively happy and satisfied with my life in Sweden to completely turning the tables and believing it was time to go home. I guess it was a mixture of not knowing how I was truly doing in my course so I felt like there was no motivation to keep going. I was 12 weeks into a difficult course with no idea if I had passed or not yet. Looking at it now, I just needed to remind myself why I came in the first place. I also needed to remember to take care of myself more. I was clearly feeling the effects of a dark November. News reports claim it’s been the worst Swedish November in a long time and considering I don’t cope well with a lack of sunlight, it’s crazy how much it can change you (I know, you’re thinking ‘what did you expect, you moved to Sweden you idiot’). To make it quite clear how serious about leaving I was, I had even drafted out my last ever potential blog but the more I thought about it, the more my heart was breaking when I thought about leaving everything behind. The most endearing part about those days were how many people appeared to be upset that I may have been leaving. I had told everyone, offered my furniture to friends, I was 99.99% sure I would leave, but something was holding me back and I knew I couldn’t ignore it.
After a long coffee shop conversation with my friends and an evening walk along the Fyrisån River, I knew this place was too impossibly beautiful to leave. The Christmas lights were already up twinkling in the trees above the students whizzing past on their bicycles. I could see the cathedral in the distance all lit up and the sky was illuminated with lights from the Uppsala light festival (photos will follow in another post!). After a cup of tea, I changed my mind just like that. I would be staying and I would get through a Swedish winter no matter what. I would learn to appreciate my own company whilst at the same time appreciating how amazing my new friends were. Even though you’re far from home, I can assure you, you’ll make yourself a new family here in Sweden. I told myself that regardless of my exam result, I would persist and carry on, I don’t give up.
So I had a concert with the choir that Saturday and it was lovely singing in the church with those kinds of acoustics. Unfortunately, I speak very little Swedish but I am still taking classes and trying my best, so remembering the Swedish songs can be challenging. Anyway, I thought I’d dodged a bullet by standing at the back so that no one could watch my mouth when I obviously made up random Swedish sounding words. However, luckily for me, I was placed in the front row right in the middle – the worst possible place to hide. Safe to say I certainly felt that I made a fool of myself in front of a Swedish audience but I guess it all goes towards character building and experience.
Two days after my decision to stay, I received an email telling me that I had passed my exam – Relief!