Week Four – Core Course Week

It’s Core Course Week at DIS which means that each Core Course class travels to a different city in Sweden to attend activities, lectures, tours, etc. relating to their Core Course. For Affective Neuroscience, we traveled to Gothenburg or Göteborg (“yeh-teh-BOR-ee”) in Swedish, but for that reason I will be calling it Gothenburg 🙂

This week includes:

Day 25: Improvising and Escaping | Day 26: Zebrafish & Heights | Day 27: Archipelago | Day 28: Brains & Beats | Day 29: PTSD & Internet Therapy | Day 30: Solo Shopping | Day 31: Sätra

Also, check out my Instagram takeover on the DIS Stockholm Instagram and click the “Allison’s Day” story to see the highlights from the next couple of days!

Day 25: Improvising and Escaping

September 12

Picture this: mobs of students with sleepy eyes and carry-on bags, clutching to-go cups of coffee and huddled in groups at Stockholm Central Station at 6:45 in the morning. This was how Core Course Week started for the classes traveling to Gothenburg, the largest non-capital city in Scandinavia that is situated on the West coast of Sweden and a lovely 3-hour train ride away from Stockholm. The journey consisted of sleeping, chatting, and jumping in our seats at the loud, ominous noises the top of the train was periodically making.

We finally arrived and lugged our baggage for a short jaunt from the train station to the hotel. A group of us took a little late-morning walk around central Gothenburg and decided to stop for brunch a.k.a. heaping piles of food from a kebab place — Sannegårdens Kebab Avenyn. The glass windows were a perfect people-watching spot which revealed Gothenburg to be a highly multicultural and diverse city! There were also, of course, tons of cute dogs. After lunch we found the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve seen (there were velvet ropes and stanchions at the entrance) which should have been a warning sign that we would have to pay for access to the bathroom inside 😦 After looking around a couple of cute shops, we stopped and had gelato at Gelateria Positano, at which I got a scoop of coffee-flavored and a scoop of their specialty Nougat which were divine.

Realizing we were running late to our first activity, an improvisation class (!!!!!), we hurried to the tram which was chaotic because there were so many stations concentrated in one area that Google Maps couldn’t really differentiate. After jaywalking (jayrunning?) and getting unsolicited but appreciated help from a little old lady at one of those stops (bless her for trying to help stupid Americans), we eventually made it on the correct tram.

I was highly skeptical of enjoying the improv class to be honest — I was scared it would be awkward or we would be asked to come up with specific dialogue on the spot (flashbacks to theater camps of yore). But it was actually really fun! It was emotions-themed due to the nature of our course, and we did little group exercises with expressing anger, joy, etc via fun games and low-stakes performances. It was a cute ~bonding~ experience to be out of our comfort zones, but once we see we’re all out of our comfort zones, then we’re in the same zone 😎

Later that evening we walked around Gothenburg some more on our way to meet up for group dinner at Nonna where we had yummy pasta dishes and tiramisu. Once done with dinner, we finally embarked for the long-awaited Gothenburg Escape Game activity. Randomly divided into teams, my group had to make it to a command room in a bunker to defuse a bomb before it was too late!!! Successfully completing it with 10 minutes left, we emerged victorious to see the other groups had pulled off their respective bank heists. Exploring Gothenburg the rest of the night, we came across an Irish pub (Irish Embassy Pub Downtown) and had a chill night watching some German soccer and talking with friends.

Day 26: Zebrafish & Heights

September 13

Wind and rain accompanied our Tuesday morning trip to Gothenburg University where we met with Lars Westberg, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, who lectured on the genetic underpinnings of Autism Spectrum Disorder and the social behaviors in humans and zebrafish! We got to see the wet lab in which the zebrafish were kept and met with some other researchers working there. It was cool to hear about the upkeep and responsibility it takes to have animal subjects in a lab, particularly with something so small as these fish.

After the academic visit, we braved the rain on the walk to Gothenburg Botanical Garden for lunch at their cafe, Botaniska Paviljongen. There was a sort of nervous excitement in the air as we mentally prepared for our afternoon activity, treetop climbing, while the fickle weather was sunny one minute and the next minute pouring. On the hour-long bus ride to Upzone Adventure Park, I was silently praying for strength and a cease to the downpour.

My prayers were half-answered as it was merely drizzling, but, don’t be fooled, the ropes course was still SO SLIPPERY. The courses were comprised of the most random “obstacles” — they had suspended wooden planks, blocks, different configurations of ropes, nets, ziplines, literal oars and a whole canoe. The hardest course they had was, fittingly, one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done. To get up to the course in the first place was the hardest obstacle — a free-hanging rope ladder — as a test to see if you could do the rest of the course. I tried to get up that thing twice before finally being told how to climb a ladder (???) because, surprise, I’m not an acrobat. I was using all my arm strength instead of my legs, so my grip was giving out. It was all mental — I knew my body knew how to ~reallocate strength~ but when one is swinging in the wind and rain, one is clutching onto that rung for dear life, and one’s legs have become dead weight. I finally got up there, collapsed onto the platform, and faced the rest of the course with a few classmates several obstacles ahead of me. Long story short, I finished it, partly because of pure willpower and partly because you literally couldn’t get down without making it to the end 😃.

Bruised and sweaty we walked back to the bus station and rested at the hotel for a sec before heading out to dinner at Silvis Restaurang, a Palestinian mezze place with the most divine hummus. I kid you not, it was the best food I’ve had in months — I highly recommend if you’re ever in Gothenburg! We ate that UP after our arduous afternoon. Later we met up with some other DIS students at Zamenhof, a self-proclaimed “fancy dive bar,” where we played ping pong and had a lot of fun.

Day 27: Archipelago

September 14

Wednesday morning was ROUGH — I woke up to sore limbs and skin littered with bruises from the ropes course. Despite my battle scars, I arose from bed at 7 am to get ready for our archipelago tour! We took a long bus ride out to Saltholmen where we waited to board the pedestrian ferry. As the ferry docked, it was weird to see how many people were boarding/de-boarding until I remembered that there are literal islands so cars aren’t a plausible mode of transport. Once aboard we made our way to the upper deck to have a gorgeous view of the islands and basked in the wind and morning sun. It was rejuvenating. I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.

The ferry took us to Vrångö where we hopped off and followed our guide to a lookout spot. It was so windy I thought I would be physically blown away. Thankfully, I was only metaphorically blown away by the view from the top! After fighting gusts of wind to take pictures and videos (which had deafening roars of wind for sound), we walked through the little town or, should I say, ghost town. I did not see a single soul out and about, but that was most likely because the island has lots summer homes, and any permanent residents were probably at work on the mainland (or didn’t appear so as not to be gawked at by a group of American students).

Later that day, we had a little bit more time in Gothenburg, so we walked around more and tried to get the famous, extra large kanelbulle (called Hagabullen) at Café Husaren, but they were sold out 💔 Instead, I got a cookie that tasted like hot chocolate mix and called it a day. We got back to Stockholm that night and got good sleep for the rest of Core Course Week: academic visits!

Day 28: Brains & Beats

September 15

Our first academic visit on Thursday was a trip to Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset (or University Hospital) to tour Kristiina Tammimies’ lab where she gave a lecture and discussed the genetics of affective disorders. It was super interesting to see the research on the genetic correlation between brain disorders and some behavioral-cognitive phenotypes: for example, there is a strong negative correlation between college attainment and intracerebral brain hemorrhage!

After lunch at Ino Izakaya, where I got some delicious ramen, we headed to DIS and played around with some anatomical MRI images on our computers which was more entertaining than I thought it would be, perhaps because it was our teacher’s brain scan (cool brain, Elodie!). For our last activity of the day, we kicked off our shoes and experienced music therapy: a cathartic jam sesh via banging on drums as hard as we could (which I didn’t know I needed). It was certainly a bonding experience to say the least.

Day 29: PTSD & Internet Therapy

September 16

Friday’s lecture at DIS was from PhD student Lisa Espinosa whose work looks into links between memory processes and the development of PTSD! It was interesting to hear about her experimental process and all that goes into a scientific study. After a quick yet scrumptious meal at Oktav, we traveled back to Karolinska Institutet, but this time for a lecture from Jens Högström, an associate professor and clinical psychologist. He talked about Cognitive Behavior Therapy for children/adolescents specifically delivered through the Internet which increases accessibility to mental health treatment! After a longggg week, I had a chill night in with some friends and watched some bad reality TV.

Day 30: Solo Shopping

September 17

On Saturday, I took a solo shopping trip to T-Centralen/Norrmalm. It was really nice to just be able to walk around and listen to some music without any plans or people. Norrmalm is definitely the more metropolitan part of Stockholm with lots of pedestrians and tourists, which makes it a perfect place for people-watching, one of my favorite pastimes. I treated myself to a lazy Saturday afternoon — I’ve found that it’s super important to listen to your body and quite simply do what you feel like doing. It can be tempting to go go go all the time, but appreciate slowing down and have some time to yourself 🙂 After resting, though, I was ready to go out to Aifur with some friends where we were surrounded by a group of guys in crayfish costumes and then talked to another guy dressed like a viking who wasn’t even employed by the establishment…so that was strange but a fun time. 

Day 31: Sätra

September 18

Sunday was Part 2 for the Swedish class project where we travel to suburbs outside of Stockholm and document what we see and do! I first got lunch with a friend at Matsu Sushi Bar where we ordered and promptly devoured the bibimbap (honorable mention to the complimentary miso soup). Afterwards, my group traveled out to Sätra, a residential, family-friendly suburb with playgrounds everywhere, so, of course, we could not resist. Presenting this project later, our teacher thought we took pictures of large children, but it’s just us. 😌

That’s it for Core Course Week! If you made it this far, thanks for reading 🙂

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