Sunday, June 13, 2010

On leaving, Swedish Police, Flying, Nazis and South Africa in all its Glory

I left Sweden forever (perhaps) on the 8th of June. It was so hard to say goodbye to my new friends from exchange and especially my flatmates, and through the final week we had lots of "last" get togethers. Eventually we had to leave, however, and the day came before we knew it. I had my project paper due that morning, lots of packing, and also lots of cleaning to do before I left so, with the help of the 22 hours of daylight, I stayed up all night and prepared. It was exhausting but at the same time I was so excited to start my trip that I didn't even care. I ran to school, finished and emailed my paper, dropped off stuff for next years students, returned my bike, checked into flights, and ran to the bus stop with my 4 bags of luggage before 10:30. My travel friend and I took the bus to Stockholm then and officially started our adventure. First thing when we arrived in Stockholm we went to Gamla Stan to find some souvenirs for our families and to see it one last time. At one point we were sitting in a nice little cafe and Tony realized that his wallet was missing. Of course we searched the area and then began to retrace our steps. The last shop we visited was quite a walk but we got there in just a few minutes and saw through the locked door that his wallet was on the counter. Of course we were so relieved that it wasn't stolen but our bus to the airport was leaving before the store opened again in the morning. 5 helpful and kind police officers later and we had the store's hired security company opening the door and retrieving the wallet. We couldn't be luckier, haha. At least we got the freak out session over with early on...? After that we dropped our large luggage off with a friend of one of our Swedish fadders. He was a godsend because storage lockers are so expensive and actually quite far from the Central Station. We had a nice conversation with him and his girlfriend and the set out into the city again, feeling much lighter. Our bus left at 3:40 so we thought it would be stupid to get a hostel. We stayed up all night instead and wandered around trying to find open places to hang out. There was a Kebab restaurant open till 5 and so we settled there until I started falling asleep on the bench and we decided to walk around a bit more. At 3:40 we caught the bus to Skavsta and started our trip with a flight to Berlin. Remember the past few days we were deprived of a proper sleep (or any sleep) so at this point I slept so deep that the bus ride seemed like 5 minutes and the flight was maybe 10.

My first thought about Berlin was.... WOW it's really effing hot here. haha The first day was 27 C and the second was 33 C ( 91 F). We went to our hostel using the extremely cheap and convenient U Bahn  first. When we arrived we were told to come back for check in at a later time so we just left our bags and tried to make it to the meeting point in time for the Sandeman New Europe free walking tour. We were very late and so caught the metro to Sachsenhausen Concentration camp instead. I have always had an extreme interest in the history surrounding the Holocaust and I saw Anne Frank's House when I was in Amsterdam, but to stand in an actual concentration camp, where thousands of innocent people were murdered..... was completely horrifying in so many ways. We saw the barracks and the role call areas, as well as the killing trenches and the mass graves. There were also the huge furnaces. Can't say any more about it. We were there for over 3 hours and then we took the train back to our hostel. The trip back was a complete blur because we were both falling in and out of sleep. It's a wonder how we made it back. The next day we took the walking tour and saw some really interesting things like the Holocaust memorial, Museum Island, "Hitler's Car Park", and of course the Wall and the Brandenberg Gate. After that we had Schnitzel and a nice beer (so cheap!!!) with our tour group and then went to the East Side Gallery and back to Museum Island because the museums are free on Thursdays. Much or Berlin still seems to bear marks from the wars and the rise of the Wall, for example there are nicks and bruises all over the Brandenberg Gate and many landmarks are black from fire damage. The pedestrian lights in East Berlin are different from those in West Berlin... etc. Our last night we sat and talked outside with some people who were staying in our hostel and in the morning before our flight we quickly visited the Holocause Museum, Reichstag, and the Torture Chambers. I don't want to bore you with every detail... All in all, I thought it was an extremely up and coming city with an incredibly important history and will definitely want to visit it again!
Our next stop was London, and after an extremely stressful airport experience (we were almost late and the entrance into UK was lengthy) we made it to the place where we stayed in Southeast London with a CS host from South Africa..He has four flatmates, all from S.A., and lots of neighbors who are always over. We never thought it was possible to learn for much about South Africa while in London!! They are sooooo awesome and this experience has made we love CS! I think we'll definitely do it again.
OK, It's getting late and I have an early morning, so I'll write more tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

To the Ones I Love

I've never been away from my family for more than a week and now I've been away from my family for 5 months. I feel that I've learned a lot about myself in that time, and some of it I may have never known if I was at home, but mostly I've learned that I want to share everything with my family. I miss telling my Mom about my day when I come home from school or work, and talking about my newest plans, and even arguing about politics with her. I miss taking my brother to movies and to play disc golf. I miss sitting at the couch, watching TV and eating dinner at the same time with them. I will try not to take it for granted again. I wish I could see my sister and her new beautiful little daughter today.

Something about being here has really made me realize how short life is. I was thinking about my plans after college. Graduation will be here before I know it. Then I will look for a job, find one (quickly, hopefully) and then 5 years will be gone. Maybe then I will be starting a family. My 10 year highschool reunion invitation will come. etc, etc. I know I'm still young, but I think I understand how brief this life is going to seem when it's nearly over. I want to make sure that it's the best it can be.
I wish my family was here, especially my Mom. I think she would love every minute of it. I keep thinking of what her reactions would be. Amsterdam would take her breath away. It is so beautiful. Sometimes I feel guilty for coming here without seems so wrong that I can tour Europe when my parents haven't been able to. I wouldn't be here without my Mom's and my Dad's and my sister's and my brother's support. If we can't get in touch, and they read this, I want them to know that I owe them everything and I miss them and love them so much!

Anyway, I guess I'm rambling now. I have one exam next Monday where I will demonstrate how to set a semi formal table in Swedish. That should be fun... haha. Then we will have fika for our final class and then a few days later, our final written exam. As for my lab work, I'm finished taking samples, I just have to collect data for alkalinity and finish writing my paper and make a presentation. I'm soooooooooo dreading the presentation...  I really need to study more, but it's been perfect weather for a few days and spending the day studying seems like a waste. Instead, I've taken many bike rides and planned for my Europe trip, which leads to more plans and so now I'm thoroughly distracted. Hmmm, I guess I should stop blogging and start studying, eh?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Alla goda ting måste få ett slut

It's only 3 weeks until the semester ends. My goal is to see all of this town before I go. My list of sights includes: Kvarntorpshögen, an open air art exhibit set on a gigantic oil shale slag heap in Kvarntorp. It has awesome sculptures and it also just happens to be partially burning at any given time; Naturens Hus, a cafe set in a nature reserve. I really want to see the nature reserve and Lake Hjälmaren in Spring. The cafe is just a starting point; Wadköping, a picturesque example of a Swedish old town right in Örebro. It is an open air museum with cafes, markets, and theatre.
Exploring all these places is a good way to spend a day, especially now that the weather is changing. Yesterday was such a perfect day. It was 20 C, about 70 f, sunny and green. I went for a bike ride through the woods behind Brickebacken. There are trails for walking or biking and even places to have a small fire and barbecue. I love Sweden in Spring! If only every day was like yesterday. Today I planned to ride my bike down to Kvarntorpshögen, but it's cloudy and looks like it might rain. I don't really want any more pictures with a cloudy background, so I decided to wait until next weekend. I guess I'll have to fit in two trips next weekend!

The semester coming to an end is bittersweet. On one hand, all we exchange students have come to depend on one another over the past few months. We are surrogate families to each other in a lot of ways. When the semester ends, we all go back home and possibly never see each other again. People who live close may see one another again, but for the most of us, it will be goodbye forever. On the flip side, a few will become friends for life. We won't know until it happens. Also, for me and many others, the end of classes means traveling really begins! Another American guy and I have booked flights all over Europe. First, Berlin, Germany, then London, England, then Barcelona, Spain, then Paris, France, then Prague, Czech Republic, then Rome, Italy, and last Bratislava, Slovakia and possibly Vienna, Austria. It's the trip of a lifetime and I could not be more excited about it. It's my dream come true! Fingers crossed that the Icelandic volcano doesn't ruin our plans! I'll be sure to write more about this later.

3 weeks left also means that studying has became priority. My environmental science project work is finally coming to an end and then I will have to finish writing my paper. In 2 weeks I have an Oral exam in Swedish language, and just a few days later, the written exam. Words cannot express how difficult it is to get motivated for homework while on student exchange. I would rather write this blog for hours, or clean the apartment, or go to the gym, or stare out the window than study, but I have to do it... So, I better get to it :D

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shea, the Meatballs, and Dutch Dreams

Well, Shea came to visit for two weeks and we had such an awesome time!! He brought me some things that I really miss from home, like Mac and Cheese, fruit leather, ranch dressing, and even some duty free tequila!! We spent some time exploring Örebro - the castle, downtown, Svampen, went to the nightclub Satin, I showed him around the University, etc, and the first weekend we went down to Stockholm.

We were just a 15 minute walk to Gamla Stan, the old town. Our hostel was really cool because it was a boat!

I never had a chance to see Stockholm when I flew in from the U.S. so it was new to me, but Shea went there when he was a kid so he knew a few places that we should go. Gamla Stan is so beautiful and you can really see what sets Swedish architecture apart. We visited the Royal Palace, or Kungliga Slottet, there and watched the guards patroling for a while. Then we visited the Alfred Nobel museum. It was pretty interesting to learn that Alfred Nobel, who founded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Peace was also the inventor of dynamite.

I loved walking around Stockholm, but perhaps the coolest thing we saw was the Vasa. It's a ship that was built in the 1620's and sank on it's maiden voyage but was salvaged largely intact. It's huge, and covered in carvings. I think it's amazing that it has survived this long. The story behind it is kind of funny though because it sank before it even sailed 1 nautical mile. Apparently it was built a little too top heavy and a slight wind simply pushed it over. At least 15 people died and their remains were found at the bottom of the shipping lane in the 1960s when it was salvaged. It's still a great symbol of Sweden's military effort at the time, and damn impressive to look at. :D

The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano eruption in Iceland nearly ruined our trip to Amsterdam, but lucky for us, flights resumed the day before we were scheduled to fly! When we got to Amsterdam, the weather was beautiful (which was very luck for us since we left both our coats on the bus and didn't get them back until we returned to the airport) and the first glimpses of the city were more than I ever imagined. Amsterdam is breathtaking to say the least. There are picture perfect scenes in every direction. The canals, the buildings, and the flowers, everything. My roommate, who is from the Netherlands, once told me she wasn't that impressed by Stockholm and I think I know why. After seeing Amsterdam, I'm not sure if any other city can compare! We had a lot of trouble finding our hostel at first, but once we did, getting around the city was very easy. The bikers and trams are a little bit terrifying however because they don't stop for anything and they seem to come out of nowhere!

The next thing we noticed is that there are "coffee shops" everywhere you look. I use quotations because although they do serve coffee, their main menu item is marijuana. Interestingly enough, marijuana is tolerated in Amsterdam but isn't actually legal. Since the shops say they sell coffee it allows the police officers to look the other way. It's a strange reasoning, but it seems to be working out!
We were staying near the Red Light District so after we checked into the hostel, we went to look for a place to eat and ran across some of the aforementioned Red Lights. It was quite shocking at first to see girls standing in windows in their underwear winking at you. haha and it was a little surprising that they're mostly very pretty. The ext day we took a tour of the city and learned about the history, laws and customs of Amsterdam from an Australian guy who fell in love with the city. It was really interesting and afterwards we joined him for a dutch lunch in Dam Square. The meal was basically a big mound of mashed potatoes and a sausage, but it was really quite good!

Other places we visited in Amsterdam were the Heineken Brouwery, VondelPark, the Tulip Market, and Anne Frank Huis. The Anne Frank House was definitely the most amazing part of the trip. Since I read the Diary when I was a kid, I've always been very astounded by the Holocaust and I feel very strongly that all people should be educated about it. A museum is built next to her house and you are allowed to walk through it. We went in the small, dark confines that Anne, her sister, her parents and 4 others lived in for over two years before they were discovered. It's such a horrible and sad story to hear. I can't imagine having to live that way. It's just outrageous that people can treat their fellow human beings like that. I think that it's a very important place to visit if you ever travel to Amsterdam and it's so fortunate that I had the opportunity to see it with my own eyes.

I know that I will be visiting Amsterdam again because it's my new favorite place in the world. It's so progressive and welcoming. I love it!

There is so much to say about the two weeks with Shea, I can't possible relay it all to you. I had such an awesome time!! When we got back to Stockholm, we stayed one night there and then we went to the airport and Shea left back to CT. Saying goodbye was soo difficult. I'm just looking forward to seeing him again in 2 months and planning our next big adventure together!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


The temperature is rising and the flowers are blooming! It's really starting to feel like Spring and Thank God it is, because winter weather gets a little depressing after a while. The snow is almost melted, so as long as the temp stays as it is or rises, I think everything will be much greener in a week or so! Even more exciting than that is that my boyfriend is coming to visit next week!!! He will be here for 2 weeks. I am soooooo excited and actually a little nervous to see him... it seems like it's been a year since the last time we were together. The first weekend he is here, we're going to Stockholm and the second weekend we will go to Amsterdam. It's going to be amazing. I can't wait to go to Anne Frank's House, Dam Square and the churches and take a canal boat ride, and everything. Hopefully we'll be able to see some of the beautiful gardens.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ireland, Exams and Easter Weekend

Time for updates :D. It's Easter and in Sweden that means a 4 day weekend! Right after my last post I traveled to Ireland with some friends I met here. We flew into Dublin with RyanAir and then traveled to Limerick, back to Dublin, and the to Cork. Ireland is BEAUTIFUL, even at the end of winter. There was no snow and it was about 7 C there, so we were all really happy because it was sooo warm compared to Sweden. My favorite parts of the trip were 1.) Enjoying a real Guinness (or 10), 2.) Meeting new people, 3.) Visiting Blarney Castle, 4.) Eating new foods! (Irish Stew and Haggis), 5.) Taking the free Dublin Walking tour, 6.) Staying in very interesting Hostels, 7.) Taking the Jameson Whiskey Distillery tour and getting a free Whiskey tasting, 8.) Discovering my new favorite beer : Smithwicks, and 9.) going on my first Pub Crawl. As it was my first trip since I've been here, I learned a few things from it like 1.) Stay healthy: Get your rest, don't drink too much, and take lots of vitamins, 2.) Travel in small groups - like 3 or less so that everyone is sure to stick together and it's easier to compromise, 3.) Don't go to bars in touristy areas unless you want to spend twice your budget, 4.) Do NOT lose your phone... , 5.) Be thrifty and try to make your own food as much as possible, 6.) Pack wisely, and 7.) take a couple tours because they can be worth it. I would definitely go back to Ireland again. I loved the rolling hills and the cities were something out of a novel. It was just beautiful. If I could go back, I would go in Summer and see the Cliffs of Moher, Giant's Causeway, and Belfast. I would also probably go back to Limerick County. The people there are also very nice and helpful, but sometimes the bartenders and waiters aren't so sweet for some reason. I am going to assume it's just because they were overrun with St. Patrick's Day tourists.

This trip was also the first time I ever stayed in a hostel or flew with Ryan Air - that was interesting. I love hostels haha - they are so cheap and every one of them is different from the next. The first we stayed in was just a house and the second was like a huge hotel and our rooms had about 14 or more beds in them. We had to keep our luggage in a locker. haha The third hostel was like a labyrinth and it was not the cleanest by any means, and it was next to a very creepy cemetery... but I think it was my favorite haha. Ryan Air was a lot better than I expected, but one person I was with had to check her bag at the gate on our way back and it's like 30 eur. Soooo, now I know they are very strict about carry on luggage and if you want to say money you have to be very careful not to come with an oversized bag.

Last weekend I had my Swedish 1 Exam. At Örebro University, all the exams are anonymous so you go to an exam room and get a special number and a receipt at the end of the exam. Then, when the grades are posted you can pick up the exam with your receipt. This way, I guess they can ensure that everyone is graded fairly. I'm definitely anxious to see how I did!! I also started my lab work last week. I love that I finally get to do practical research, but it's really tough. I'm learning a lot about technique and standard testing procedures. I have to go to the lab everyday to take measurements. This weeked is an exception however, because of Easter!

On Sunday, a friend of mine hosted a potluck lunch at her place. There were about 20- 25 people there at one point and it was great! The weather was beautiful and so we could sit outside for the first time since we've been here. Everyone brought something and so we had tons of food. I'm still a little full from it today! Overall it was just a great time. I can't wait to do it again :D. It's going to be so hard to say goodbye to everyone in June...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Month of Marathons

So, it's been quite a while since I last wrote again. I have to say, it's been a dull month for blogging. I've been working on my project a lot. Every other day has seen me in the library for hours but I think I've finally gotten it to a point where it will be easier. My professor and the doctorate student I'm working with are so helpful and nice. I think that I'm learning a lot more than I ever could at home, although it's been tough. I don't think I would recommend to anyone to do a research project like this while studying abroad just because you will want to do so many other things instead of it. My first Swedish language course is ending in 2 weeks, so now I'm trying to study for that as well. It should be fairly easy though, as long as I really study today.
The rest of my time this month has been spent doing one of three things: running, watching t.v. on my computer, and going to parties. I finally ran 5.5 km without stopping or walking! I'm really proud of myself for that because I've never been able to go that far at once. It seems easier to run here for some reason - maybe the air or the altitude, Idk... Anyway I want to be able to run 10 km before I leave Sweden. That would be awesome. When I'm trying to procrastinate.... I've been watching How I Met Your Mother, the best show in the world (it's funny because my dutch friend convinced me to watch it and now I'm hooked!); also Lost, and before that I was watching Dexter. Haha, it's a nice way to spend a day in the warm apartment. Now about the parties... they havn't slowed down one bit since the beginning of the semester. Without a doubt, each week there is a Tybble themed party on Tuesday, a night at the club Strömpis on Wednesday, a party and/or club night on Friday, and another on Saturday. I never go to clubs at home, but I have to say that it's pretty fun. Also, I love the Tybble parties because they're themed and so everyone dresses up. The latest one was a 90's pajama party and before that was Disco. The next one is I think a "Anything but clothes" theme which means you have to construct a costume out of whatever you want. I think when I come home, I'll start throwing some parties like that!!
Tonight is a birthday party for two other exchange students, and then in the morning I am going to IRELAND! I'm SOOO excited! I'll be there for a week with 6 others. It's going to be amazing. I'll post again when I get back!!