Almost A Year in Review: Being an International Student
This is my final post of the ‘Almost A Year in Review’ series, and also my final post as digital ambassador for Study in Sweden. And I figured it’s only fitting to write about what it is like to study in Sweden and to be an international student. Spoiler alert: it is incredible. So, here we go, my honest and heartfelt review of the past months I’ve spent in Stockholm.
Everything is new
When I arrived in Stockholm, everything was new. I’d only been to the city once before, for about 20 hours. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak Swedish, did not know my way around the city. This can be a scary thing, but it can also be really exciting. You get to explore, see new places everyday, and experience things you never have before. I got to go to my first crayfish party at a cabin in Stockholm’s archipelago, celebrate Valborg in Uppsala, see the Northern lights in Kiruna, attend my first banquet. I can honestly go on for hours.
Feeling at home
Surprisingly enough, Stockholm started to feel like home really quickly. After learning a few words of Swedish, getting the hang of the metro routes, and getting settled into my studio, I already started to feel a bit like a local. Once I was able to make my way around the city without using Google Maps all the time, it was official. I’m home. People now ask me for advice on where to go for lunch, I can order my coffee in Swedish and feel a little sad every time I leave the city.
Moving to a place where I did not know anyone or anything made me realise how resilient I am. How you can learn to feel a little more comfortable in situations that are actually quite uncomfortable. How to start conversations with people you don’t know that well, or at all (Swedes love to mingle). Moving abroad teaches you how to adopt to the situation, how to let go when things don’t go as planned. At my university I learned what it is like to work in international groups of people, dealing with cultural differences. I improved my presentation skills and how to ask critical questions. And, last but not least, I got to learn some Swedish.
Friends that become like family
Being able to feel at home and grow as a person depends a bit on the people that are around you too. Being an international student often means that you’ll have to start new friendships. And to be completely honest, this was probably the scariest thing to me. Sure, I was gonna meet nice people, but was I really gonna build strong friendships? The answer is yes, big time. I feel so incredibly lucky I got to meet so many people I now call my friends. (Almost) everyone moved from far away, having to make Stockholm their new home. Coming from different places, yet starting the same adventure means that you have plenty to talk about. Building new friendships also means that those people will be around for personal moments: the birthdays, passing difficult exams, dinner parties or feeling homesick. Not having your family around all the time means that some friends will become your little Swedish family.
What I believe the most difficult thing about being an international student is, is the fact that you’re gonna have to say goodbye a number of times. The entire adventure starts with having to say goodbye to your friends and family at home. At some point you might go on exchange or your classmates might go on exchange. Second-year students graduate before you do. All goodbyes. And the final goodbye is when you actually graduate and end your time as a student. The thing is, I also realise that I would not have met all the people I’ve met and experienced what I’ve experienced if I did not decide to move to Stockholm and said goodbye to my friends and family back home. I’ll just need to make sure that it’s not gonna be ‘goodbyes’, but ‘see you soons’.
So, that’s it. That’s it for my review. For my first year as international student in Sweden. Time has flown by so incredibly fast. While I’m trying not to sound corny (again), I feel so lucky I got to experience all of this. As you’re reading this, I started my internship that will take me to Helsinki in a few weeks. Afterwards, my exchange to Vienna starts. Lots of adventures ahead, but I already can’t wait to return to Stockholm again.