Amanda Goes to Sweden: Thoughts on Estonia, plasma physics, and glorious sunshine

04/29/2014

This semester is going so incredibly fast. For once I don’t have a lot of terribly exciting things to talk about, and it’s just really weird to think about the fact that in a month most of my classes will be over and in two months I will be back in the U.S. At the beginning of the semester it seemed like the strangest thing that I had to take a bus or walk to a train station and take the subway for a couple stops to get to class every day. It seemed unnatural after living in Chambana where you are rarely more than a 10-minute walk away, let alone a 10-minute subway ride. Now? I’m finding it hard to imagine being back in a situation where I’m not going to school in a city and hopping on the subway every day. I know I still have plenty of time but I’m not ready to go back to reality. It’s been so amazing being here.

I guess we’ve been really lucky since we have been here because the weather has cooperated wonderfully. It wasn’t the regular Swedish winter this year and although we had a lot of snow, apparently it wasn’t as much or as cold as they normally experience, which means early spring for us! It’s still pretty cool; it’s only in the 40s or 50s during the day and it can be really windy, very… brisk. But oh-my-gosh does the sun feel amazing. It’s only really started to come out full-force in the past two weeks or so and it feels so wonderful. Everywhere you see people just stepping outside and standing in the sun like Oh my god warmth from the sun actually still exists? There’s a lot of people just standing outside of buildings with their eyes closed towards the sun. I’m assuming they are likely exchange students not Swedes, but nonetheless it feels amazing.

Daylight has finally returned to us as well. It’s actually pretty intense. We’re up to probably 13 or 14 hours of daylight now. Sweden does their daylight savings time two weeks later than the U.S. does, so for a while there it was getting bright at 5:30 am. Now it’s been pushed back to 6:30 but the sun is setting after 8:00 pm now. It’s just funny because when I got here, 3:30 pm was the beginning of sunset—it would look like it does outside now as I write this at 6:45 pm and the sun is creeping down—and when you went to your classes at 8:00 or 9:00 am, it was still dark. Daylight man, it changes so much here, it’s really throwing me off.

I know I promised last time that I would let you know how the plasma physics and fusion research class is going, and, well… it’s definitely way over my head but in the best possible way. It’s actually really interesting. I’m thoroughly enjoying the class even though the physics involved would be absolutely terrifying if I actually had to solve problems with it and not just understand the general concepts. At times it’s a little intimidating, but not everyone is a master’s student in electrophysics. I’ve found a couple other mechanicals that are on my level, so that makes me feel much better. But it’s really awesome just because it’s a class that I would never have the chance to take otherwise, so I’m enjoying the change of pace.

Other than that, not much exciting is really going on. It’s a weird balance. At first you feel like you need to make sure you do everything and all things since you’re only studying abroad for a short time, but at the same time you can only do that for so long without exhausting yourself. The corridor I live in has such an awesome group of people that it’s nice to also just stay in and hang out. We’re watching House of Cards and the Cosmos together, and pretty much every other night if it’s not one of those shows it’s a documentary or a movie. I know it’s lame to study abroad for a semester and have that same semester be the one in which I’ve probably watched the most Netflix of my life, but we’re having fun so that’s okay, right?

And as always, of course, a blog post wouldn’t be complete without stories of my travels. Last weekend we took an impromptu cruise to Estonia with a group of friends of ours (some of the same crew we saw the Northern Lights with), and that was a blast. It was considered a ferry ride, but wow, I did not expect the ferry to be a full-blown cruise ship. You leave Stockholm on Friday evening and arrive in Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) around 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. You have all day to explore the city and then you get back on the boat around 5:00 pm and arrive back in Stockholm the next morning at 10:00. We had enough time to do one of those free city tours and wander around and then back on the boat we went. You can stay for some time in Estonia if you’d like, but since we all had class on Monday, we just made it a quick weekend trip.

Estonia was definitely never a country I thought I’d go to. To be honest, I probably didn’t completely know it existed before coming here. I’m sure I would have recognized the name, maybe, but I wouldn’t have been able to list it off the top of my head. Tallinn is a really old city so we got to see some awesome architecture from the 14th century and we learned a lot on that tour about the country and its history. The boat itself was also a lot of fun. There were restaurants and night clubs on the ship. When you’re dancing in a disco on a boat at 2:00 am, it’s a strange sensation not being able to tell if people around you are drunk or if the boat just hit a wave… when the whole dance floor starts throwing their hands in the air towards one side, then you know for sure it’s a wave. It was definitely an awesome weekend trip, and was quite the experience. Now we’re thinking of going to Helsinki, Finland, sometime soon with people from our corridor, so hopefully that works out.

This week I learned: how to make my own croutons and salad dressing from scratch. I’ve been doing a lot of that while I’m here. Cakes, cookies, brownies, mac & cheese, chicken strips, alfredo sauce... It’s not always easy (or cheap) to buy things in a box here, so I’ve been learning to cook a lot from scratch and I’ve been having a lot of fun with that. I feel so much more accomplished.

A view of Tallinn, Estonia.
A view of Tallinn, Estonia.

Overlooking Tallinn, Estonia.
Overlooking Tallinn, Estonia.

Uriksdal Palace in Stockholm. It's close enough to our student housing that we can go on walks through the gardens and along the water in the afternoons.
Uriksdal Palace in Stockholm. It's close enough to our student housing that we can go on walks through the gardens and along the water in the afternoons.

 

On the ferry to Estonia.
On the ferry to Estonia.

Riksdagen, a Parliament building in Gamla Stan in Stockholm. Now that the weather is nice, we can actually spend our afternoons exploring without freezing!
Riksdagen, a Parliament building in Gamla Stan in Stockholm. Now that the weather is nice, we can actually spend our afternoons exploring without freezing!