I am writing this post under a little ounce of pressure, the pressure of taking the time to process life amongst living it.
These past few months living abroad in Sweden have been abundant with miracles that I have been eager to share. Amidst the wonders of traveling around Europe, some of the most precious moments these past 10 months have been the local ones – the moments that I’ve enjoyed as a common resident of Sweden itself. Specifically, as a resident and student of Lund.
Lund is a quaint university town full of life and character, on the southern border of Sweden and Denmark. Friendship, fun, and laughter is present everywhere, and Copenhagen is 30 minutes away by train.The people here are spectacular, the environment of life and culture both content and calm, and the pace of each day much easier to enjoy than in many other places I have been. Living here has been a dream come true, every moment deserving of reflection and appreciation.
The idea of Sweden itself, which one usually regards with ambiguity, yet a general sense of wholesomeness and happiness, is almost as accurately constructed in reality as it is in fantasy.
For it has truly been that: wholesome and happy.
In an attempt to summarize these past few months, I sacrifice some eloquence. Many photos will follow, with babbled memories and short-handed insight.
Let’s start with the beginning of April. After traveling to Iceland, my friends and I returned to Lund in hopes of restoring ourselves after a long (but amazing) trip. However, too many things were going on, and rest was out of the question. That’s the beauty of living in a university town that resides nearby one of the largest cities in Europe (Copenhagen).
After 21 years of life, I realize that busy makes the rest worthwhile. And participating in the events, people, and places around you is rarely something that you regret. More often it becomes something that you wish you had done if you didn’t.
The day after I got home from Iceland, I joined some of my friends from the cognitive neuropsychology course I took this past semester, and spent a day and night in Copenhagen. We went to witness the shenanigans of “national pillow fight day”, a public pillow fight in the central square of the city, grabbed lunch and drinks at the meat packing district, made dinner at our friend Selma’s apartment, and went out clubbing late at night. We ended up back in Lund around 5:00AM. The night was long and tiring, but good company and good spirits made for a fun and hilarious experience altogether.
Copenhagen is an amazing city, full of diversity – people from all over the world, culture – fantastic food in every direction, and life – even the buildings seemed to dance in the sunlight.
A couple weeks later, after a jam-packed trip to Scotland, Hannah, Ben and I surprised our two best friends Jack and Olivia for an early 21st birthday celebration. We planned a “birthday fika” which then led to a bus to Gothenburg, one of Sweden’s largest cities, and many people’s overall favorite (often surpassing the more well-known city of Stockholm).
Hannah and I purchased some birthday decor for the b-day boy and b-day girl, as well as some necessary mustaches for the entire group. We spent the weekend exploring the city, checking out various bars, wandering around the central park that Jack, Hannah, and I went to for Way Out West back in August (major nostalgia), and having our first real and successful club night out.
The club was crazy fun, and made me realize how much I enjoy banging my head to electronic music. Who knew (I kind of always knew).
The Wednesday after returning from Gothenburg, my course-mates and I celebrated the end of an exam (that I didn’t take) with a traditional Swedish dinner party known as a “sittning”. There were some complications with the table and venue that we ended up fixing ourselves; essentially, there was a bigger party of business students (dressed in coats) and then there was us (dressed in 80’s clothes). They didn’t want us to mix, but we made sure to do so. We had a table on the side of their entire sittning, and it was a blast. After many bottles of wine and a ridiculous dinner, we danced the night away. The next morning a few of us had breakfast, including my good friends Klara, Juan, and Selma. After some work and rest we headed to Malmo to play some board games with the rest of the crew.
The love I have for the people I have met is inexplicable.
The following weekend was one of Sweden’s largest events: Valborg. It is essentially a major celebration of spring and the summer months to come. Every city in Sweden celebrates with large gatherings in the public parks, a large bonfire on the night of Valborg, and various parties and events. Living in a university town, it follows that Valborg is celebrated all week, beginning with Kvalborg (day before), and continuing on with Finalborg (day after) and Katastrofalborg (two days after).
Our student corridor, Parran (or better known as Parentesen), hosted a large party on the day and night of Kvalborg. Living in Parentesen deserves its own separate essay-lengthed blog entry, but I’ll simplify the details into a few words: living here has been utterly amazing. At night the entire dormitory turned into what is best described as a music festival. Music was blasting on each floor, as well outside, and people were dancing everywhere. Full of life, love, and the Swedish pursuit of happiness.
On Valborg my corridor and I headed to Stadsparken, the main public park in Lund, which legitimately looked like a full-fledged music festival. Everyone crowded on blankets, chairs, and hills, with wine bags in hand and beers at their feet. There was even a DJ on stage in the center of it all. After spending the day at the park, we returned home for a bit, eventually heading back for the bonfire. The rest of the night was spent with my best friends Jack, Olivia, and Ben, a classic do-relatively-nothing-but-in-the-craziest-ways-possible night.
It was a weekend full of shenanigans and Swedish celebrations.
The weekend after, my friends Klara, Juan, and I visited Selma in Copenhagen for a rooftop barbecue with the rest of our class. The day featured grilled halloumi (the best cheese in Europe), a five liter box of wine, climbing atop the roofs of one of my favorite cities in Europe, and heading to the meat packing district for a night full of 80’s-themed dancing.
The day after the barbecue, the four of us explored Copenhagen with our personal tour guide (Selma). We ventured around her old neighborhood, as well as Christiania, Nyhaven, and the “creative island” that our research project was based off of (I’ll spare the details, but the students there turned out to be no more creative than non-creative educations, wow! School! Amazing!). It was a magical two days spent in one of my favorite cities, with outstanding views and unreal friends.
After visiting Copenhagen on several different occasions, I can confidently say that I could see myself living there. Alongside Edinburgh (Scotland, U.K.) and British Columbia (Canada), Denmark got itself on my list of places that I could and would live in other than California.
Click here to watch a video that sums up the Valborg celebrations and our weekend in Copenhagen.
The weekend after our ventures in Copenhagen, my friends Hannah, Jack, Ben, Sunna, Halley, and I made use of the increasingly sunny weather with a trip to Lomma beach. Amidst getting our tans on, a small marching band came through out of nowhere and started playing ABBA while dancing in the water. A Swedish miracle.
The days continued to grow warmer, and my love for the people around me almost uncOntRollable (gy?). Spring vibes gave rise to fort making in the corridor, plenty of walks around gardens and parks, and dinners outside.
Spring and summer in Scandinavia are simply breathtaking. The country is full to the brim with joy, and leaves you smiling 24/7. It honestly seems as though the sky is bluer, the sun is brighter, and the plants are greener here than anywhere else in the world. The people come to life and rejoice in constant celebration of good weather and good health.
On one of the warmer days Halley and I decided to bike to Bjarred, where she had been living and working since August. The bike ride was unbelievable, and the fields of poppy flowers yellow-er than the Pikachu stuffed animal I used to talk to as a kid (kidding, I did have friends back then too).
It is moments like these that have made me fall utterly in love with Sweden, and with the people that give this country its culture. There are always things to dislike about places, but in face of the wonders that I have experienced while living here, I will forever be grateful to the blue and yellow flag that waves so modestly in the air.
Amidst all of the spring celebrations and daily outings, Parentesen partook in its yearly corridor competition known as Brannboll. Brannboll, essentially, is a Swedish version of baseball, and ridiculously fun to play. The tournament follows that the winning team receives a large jackpot of kroner (Swedish money), and takes the responsibility of organizing the next tournament and end-celebrations; at the end of each tournament the entire building parties together. The losing team, however, has to clean up all of the trash after the final game. And because of that fate, lots of trash is thrown from each balcony during that final game.
The two week tournament consisted of getting way-too pumped up over our games, engaging in water balloon wars with other halls, and partying a bit too much during the end of it all. At one point I thought it was a good idea to take over the mic during the winning team’s speech, and give a shoutout to my own corridor (D2).
“Good” ideas make for some of the best memories.
The final Brannboll celebrations started with a hall breakfast (note to self: I love Swedish pancakes), and then some party within our corridor. We all went to a sittning held for Parentesen, and then continued the parties back at home. A bonfire also somehow made its way into the night.
The next morning Ben’s corridor held a makeshift Midsummer (another huge Swedish celebration of the summer month), with lots of traditional Swedish food, games, and schnapps. We even tried the fermented fish known as surströmming
The people we have all become friends with here are genuinely amazing, each and every one of them.
With one week left in Sweden (and my time at Swedish University already over), we continued the celebrations on Monday with a “Swedish loop”: a bar crawl across Lund. Many beers later and many people less, Halley, Sunna, my Swedish friend Henrik, and I ended up at a graduation barbecue, where we ate all the food and then left… Henrik just finished his bachelor’s thesis for criminality studies, and I am beyond glad (because that means more partying with us). The night ended with my corridor mates throwing water balloons at my face. Solid day, solid night.
On Wednesday my Swedish friend Maya, Henrik, Halley, and I biked to Dalby, a lake area with cliffs for jumping and diving. Right after that I met up with Ben to make some pizzas for our Swedish friend Arvid, and in return we got to party in one of the nicest rooftop flats I have ever laid foot in. We could see everything, including the outline of Copenhagen in the distance.
Which, crazily, bittersweetly, and unmistakably brings us to today: Thursday. We’ll be having a crayfish dinner party and dancing the night away. Tomorrow I will finish packing up and giving away everything that I cannot carry. And then the date I have been keeping at a distance in my head takes center stage: May 28.
Saturday I leave to Thailand, and will be forced to wave my final goodbyes to Lund.
Everything I have experienced this past semester has been unreal. Every moment I have spent here with my amazing friends: Jack, Ben, Hannah, Olivia, Maya, Henrik, Alex, Mahmud, Emil, Selma, Klara, Halley, Silly, Rebecca, Johanna, Nils, Anton, and so many more (you know who you are, this post is long enough)… Will be moments that I cherish forever.
Sweden has made me immeasurably happy, and has taught me so much more than I can express in words.
I hope these moments that I have recounted communicate the wonders and joys I have felt this past semester, and more broadly, this past year.
Sweden is a special place. Lund is a special place.
To anyone with the opportunity of studying here: do it.
Do it, love it, cherish it, and remember it.
Because it is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.