Welcome to my first official blog post as a Student Blogger for DIS Stockholm. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve been here an entire week, and needless to say, it’s been incredible/overwhelming/exciting/unexpected. My hope for this blog is to sort of sum up my life here in weekly increments of time to show what I’ve been doing and experiencing day to day, not only to update those at home but to give a glimpse to prospective students. To do this, I will be posting lots and lots of pictures because they are the world through my eyes, even if just for that second of time 🙂 Follow along for a picture of what day-to-day life is like as a DIS student in Stockholm!
Day 1 – Travel Day
On Friday I said goodbye to my parents at the airport, only to sit at my gate for an extra hour and a half as my flight to Chicago was delayed thanks to the air and water show they were having. So, not a cute start, but I eventually made it to the SAS gate with 5 minutes to spare and some burning shin splints due to speed walking from security (where I also chugged my $6 airport bottle of water). Red in the face from my involuntary exercise for the day, I essentially fell into my seat and avoided eye contact with other passengers. For the next 8 hours, I read my book (The Secret History), listened to ABBA, and played Flow on my phone because I am entertained by the simplest of things — I should have slept, but considering it was like, 5 pm, my body was not in the mood for a nap.
Day 2 – Moving In
Unfortunately, no sleep meant that I arrived in Stockholm around 7 in the morning, midnight at home. I waited for my bags, sped through border patrol, lugged my (oversized, oops) bags onto a cart, and rolled on over to the DIS welcome table. They said “välkommen!” and shipped me off in a taxi to my housing called Högalidsgatan* (of whose pronunciation I absolutely butchered). My 30-minute taxi ride alone had me feeling like Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap, but also like I was arriving in a Scandinavian true crime drama with drizzly skies, dewy trees, and nondescript outer-city building complexes. Please enjoy my moving-car photography skills below.
After hauling my suitcases into the building and profusely sweating, I met my first roommate (I’m in a triple), unpacked a little bit, and left to get fika** with her and some hallmates. We walked around a little bit and shopped in Norrmalm which is the area around the T-Centralen metro (or tunnelbana) stop. Don’t worry — none of this made sense to me either. A rainy Saturday afternoon did not deter the Swedes from being outside as it was crowded everywhere we went. The rumors, albeit exaggerated, were true: there were lots of tall, blonde people. We headed back for a little orientation at our housing (yay laundry schedules!), met some more people, and got dinner at Barrels in Gamla Stan — the Eiffel burger was incredible.
* Högalidsgatan is a Studentboende which means there are Swedish and international students (which includes us!) living there. Technically, I’m in the Outdoor Living & Learning Community (LLC), but the ten of us just take up half a hallway, so we’re right next door and a floor above other students.
** fika: a super important part of Swedish culture where people get together to chat, drink coffee, eat pastries, and pretty much do anything but work (because ✨work life balance✨)
Day 3 – Exploring
The next morning we met some other people on our hall, got more fika, and headed out for a grocery store trip. The local ICA Supermarket is a 5-minute walk, and we get a $600 stipend for the semester. It was a little challenging figuring out what things were (being essentially illiterate in Swedish), but I just stuck to the basics which included “yoghurt,” “granola,” “bröd,” and “mjölk” for the time being.
After shopping, the Outdoor LLC met up with our coordinator, Cat, who took us on a beautiful Sunday afternoon walk around the islands closest to us. They told us about Sweden’s Allemansrätten which is the freedom to roam or “everyman’s right.” This means the general public can have access to public or privately owned lands, rivers, or lakes for recreation such as hiking, biking, or picking wild berries.
The Sunday afternoon walk helped us get to know one another and was a great way to see locals enjoying the unusually warm weather. Unlike a lot of big cities, nature is right outside the door in Stockholm with swimming spots, parks, and more right in the area, and I feel very lucky to have access to it all. Stockholm is made up of 14 islands, so it’s 30% waterways and 30% green spaces!
Day 4 – Orientation
On Monday we were up bright and early for orientation at DIS. The walk to the tunnelbana is only about 5 minutes, and the ride to DIS takes only about 20-25 minutes. The metro is eerily quiet in the morning, so it was glaringly obvious that the loud American students were new to the city. We arrived at the opening ceremony which consisted of a warm welcome and group singing to Dancing Queen. We got a tour of the classrooms (which are in the Royal College of Music) where we had information sessions and time to meet other students! Afterward, we got packed lunches and made our way to Humlegården for a picnic, more information sessions about diversity and outdoor spaces, and Kubb which is a super fun Swedish lawn game. Then a few of us explored the area around DIS, walking through Östermalm, Norrmalm, and Kungsträdgården. We found stuff like name-brand face wash and curling irons in a drug store in T-Centralen as well as dinner from a grocery store buffet (we were hungry, ok). Later we enjoyed the sunset from our room before going out in Hornstull.
Day 5 – Orientation (cont.)
The next morning we were to meet at DIS to board buses to the migration agency to get our resident permits. After the chaos of the early morning start and while already on the metro to DIS, I realized I forgot my passport (which was absolutely required, thank you). Feeling stupid, flustered, irresponsible, etc, I rushed back to my housing to grab it (thankfully a friend came with me). We ended up having to miss the buses as they had already left DIS, but with some communication and navigation skills getting to the Pendeltåg (the commuter rail), we were able to make it to the agency in time! I was hesitant to include this part of my day, but I think it’s important to show that not everything is perfect, you’re in a new city with new responsibilities, and you’re going to mess up!!! Thankfully everything worked out, and I got the opportunity to ~figure things out~. After the migration agency appointment, we took the tunnelbana to Gamla Stan a.k.a. the Old Town and where Stockholm was founded in the 13th century. This area is pretty touristy but for good reason — there are cobblestone streets, churches, the Nobel Prize museum, and so many shops. After grabbing lunch at a cafe called Panem, we walked to Swedish Parliament and the Royal Palace, and we went inside a few shops. Then we headed back to DIS for some more info sessions. We had a chill night-in and enjoyed another sunset.
Day 6 – Core Course Field Study
On Wednesday I finally got to meet my core course class, Affective Neuroscience, at DIS where we had an introduction and then set off for Fotografiska, a contemporary photography museum/exhibit, for our first Field Study*. Our task was to find a piece of work that displayed emotion and a piece of work that made you feel emotion. The exhibitions were incredible — one was Terry O’Neill and his photographs of pretty much every famous person you could name, and the other was The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. I’ll let the photos (of the photos) speak for themselves. Afterwards, we ate at the bistro inside Fotografiska and had fika with our professor while we discussed the emotions and photos. We went home, and I took a nap (jetlag catching up with me) until dinner with friends at Därmedpasta.
* Field Studies at DIS are a special trip or get-together for one (or more) of your classes only on Wednesdays — you have these instead of normal classes, or sometimes if no trip is scheduled, you get the day off!
Day 7 – Chaos & Colors
On Thursday I had my first Nordic Contemporary Art class where we walked through the Sven-Harrys Konstmuseum in Vasastaden. The main exhibition was called “Humanity — the power of art in difficult times” which centered on the art of four Swedish artists in the 1930s as well as their illustrations in the publication “Humanitet” that were in direct response to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and a warning call for the rise of fascism/Nazism. The art was impactful even without its message, and it’s a gallery I highly recommend. After, we made a pitstop for something to eat at the cafe next door and then ran to the metro to get back to our next class at DIS, mine being my first Swedish Language and Culture class. My sandwich was delicious but, unfortunately, there were bus and train delays so we got to our classes late 🤡 . Thankfully, my professor was very kind and forgiving (tack så mycket, Maria), so it was not the end of the world. After classes, some friends and I went swimming at a little beach in Långholmen (10-15 min walk) which was BEAUTIFUL with lots of dogs to make various “aww” noises at and be entertained by games of fetch.
Day 8: Views at Skinnarviksberget
On Friday I had my first Medical Ethics class where we had introductions to one another and the class content, and then we had fika — coffee with two types of milk and some Singoalla biscuits that our professor brought :’) I grabbed lunch with a friend at Thelins konditori which is a pastry shop near DIS. The food was really nice, and they had some cute cakes and pastries. Later, I had my Affective Neuroscience lab where we played with Legos to construct a story about what makes a good researcher.
On the subway home, some thirteen-year-old hooligans were messing with my shoe. Long story short, I discovered there are some exceptions to the notions that the Swedes are “reserved” and “mind their own business,” and apparently I am an easy target for tomfoolery (but, don’t worry, I got my revenge 😈).
Anyways, later that day, DIS organized a meetup at Skinnarviksberget which is a lookout point in Södermalm. It was a beautiful, breezy day and we played 20 Questions, talked, and people-watched. Later, we walked through Hornstull until we found a restaurant that could seat 10 of us on a Friday night (honestly a miracle) and had a good time!
That’s it for the first week — if you made it this far, thanks for reading!!! ❤