Amanda Goes to Sweden: Winding down but not slowing down

05/16/2014

Well, my taste of Stockholm summer was short-lived. After about a week of absolutely amazing weather over the Easter break, May made its arrival with heaps of rain and threats of snow (seriously, it snowed on May 1; no accumulation though, luckily). It’s getting warmer slowly, but it’s still not quite time yet to leave your jacket at home. I guess that’s really not much different than Illinois right now but it’s still frustrating. The sun is now officially up until 10:00 pm. It starts setting around 8:30 and it’s pretty much dusk up until 10:00. It’s super strange. Our schedule starts to get so thrown off, we’re all eating dinner almost two hours later than we did before, just because we think it’s more like 7:00 pm outside than 9:00 pm.

Amanda and fellow MechSE student Andrew Widlacki enjoy the cherry blossoms and the start of spring in Stockholm.
Amanda and fellow MechSE student Andrew Widlacki enjoy the cherry blossoms and the start of spring in Stockholm.
I’m guessing finals are happening now for U of I, and school is starting to wind down here as well. I don’t have any final exams to worry about but I do have a project and a paper to write before the end of the semester. The paper is for my science fiction class, so that should be pretty fun, and the project is modeling our student union building here and suggesting energy saving methods—a little less fun, but still. It’s actually really nice to not have to worry about taking any exams, especially after how painfully long that first exam was last period. I’d much rather be in the position I'm in now, thinking about papers and projects and counting up homework assignment points for my fusion class than studying for a four-hour exam.

To be perfectly honest, it’s really depressing to realize that this is my last month here. I’m only now starting to find my way through the city and feel like I can handle my own wandering around town. I’ve got an awesome group of friends here and I really enjoy where I’m living. It’s so weird to think that soon we will all be in different countries again. There’s so much I still want to do in Stockholm. It’s reaching panic time to make sure I hit all the sites in time before we leave.

The entertaining boat race in Uppsala for the Valborg celebration.
The entertaining boat race in Uppsala for the Valborg celebration.
There’s also this fear that I’m not taking advantage of being in Europe as well as I should be. I see the other exchange students here and U of I students in other countries traveling all over the continent almost every weekend and I’m wondering if maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I haven’t seen enough things while I’m here… but I just really love Stockholm life. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying spending the spring days playing football or sitting by the beach. (I even stood in the water and gahhh... my legs below the knees went numb immediately.) There’s so much to see and do in the city that I’m okay with not traveling all over. It gets exhausting after a while. I guess not having a solid spring break to plan just one big trip made a difference.

As a corridor, we are going to Finland next weekend, so that should be exciting. We’ll be in Helsinki for the same amount of time as Tallinn—just a couple of hours. I also just finished planning a weeklong trip through Italy! It will be our last hurrah before we come back to the U.S., and I’m really excited. We’ll be taking the train from Milan to Venice, then Florence, then Rome! We get kicked out of our student housing here at the end of May but our flight doesn’t leave until after school officially ends, so I figured I might as well spend my homeless time traveling, though I will get to enjoy two nights of homelessness, sleeping on the floor of my corridor-mates’ rooms. Woohoo!

My most recent adventure was traveling to another university town on April 30 to celebrate Valborg, which is essentially like a celebration of the welcoming of spring, if I understand correctly. We took a train to another city about an hour away, Uppsala, and watched some crazy people race boats down a river through the center of the city. It was cool to be in a university town again. The weather had been absolutely amazing up until this all-day festival. Of course, that’s when it dropped back down to coat-and-mitten weather. From what I understand, everyone essentially just finds a spot to lay down their picnic stuff and you hang out with friends and drink and eat all day long. There are stages with concerts, drum lines that just walk through crowds and people dance as they go by, and there are parks full of people, college students, and families all simply enjoying the day. At night there are bonfires and more parties. Unfortunately we were too exhausted and the weather threatened too much rain for us to stay that late. It helps if you have friends who actually live there so you don’t have to crawl onto the last train home.

For her energy and fusion resarch course, Amanda visited a reverse pinch fusion reactor on campus - the only fusion reactor in Scandinavia.
For her energy and fusion resarch course, Amanda visited a reverse pinch fusion reactor on campus - the only fusion reactor in Scandinavia.
The boat race was pretty intense—I don’t know how they survived when their boats crumbled and they fell into the water! We had a pretty sweet spot near some rapids so we got to see a lot of boats get stuck on the rocks. That was highly entertaining. Otherwise, we found a nice spot in the sun with about 1,000 of our closest friends and just hung out. My corridor went as well as some other friends, so we had a nice huge group of people sitting around.

Other than that, I’m just trying to soak up as much of being here as I can. I went for a walk in the forest right by our housing today, just because I could. I’m trying to take as many pictures as possible and enjoy! Sweden does so many things right; there are a lot of reasons I’m going to miss living here. But, at the same time, I really am excited to get back to the U.S. and start my summer internship and finish up my last year of school… but then that’s my last year of school. And that’s a whole new can of worms I’m not quite ready to think about yet. Anyway, I digress!

Good luck to everyone on your finals, and congratulations to all of the seniors! You made it!

Today I learned: It can still threaten to snow in Stockholm in May. I’m starting to worry that the nicest weather I’m going to experience here already happened when I went to the beach almost two weeks ago… but I guess that’s OK.