Ok, this is going to be a honker of a post, so I’m just going to go in chronological order.
I’ve been in Linköping for about 2 days now and man, has it been quite the couple of days! I got here Thursday around 8pm, or about 2pm for all you people in the Eastern Time Zone in the US. I had been travelling for over 24 hours, had gotten little sleep and was accordingly emotionally and mentally exhausted. Lugging my ~150 lbs of luggage through Stockholm Arlanda Airport for 5 hours (I had to wait for my train) and through 2 train stations had made me physically exhausted too. Jaclyn and Ida (our peer student here) picked me up from the Linköping train station and took me right to my room, where I almost immediately started crying. Embarrassing! I was just so tired! I wanted to unpack some things and go to bed, and lemme tell you: arriving somewhere you’re going to be living for a while at night when you’re exhausted in every sense isn’t the best idea. I couldn’t see anything on the way home and it felt like we were living about 20 minutes drive outside the city. In my disgusting, exhausted state, this was a BIG. DEAL. So we got to my room and I cried a few whiny, lonesome tears and then 2 other people in my corridor, Max and Tobias (sidenote, they pronounce their names Mahks and Toe-bee-ahs) made me tea and Max got my internet set up. I was planning on paying 120sek / month for internet (~$17), but because my corridor shares wireless and Max bought the router, it costs about 30sek /month and Max let me pay all of it up front. So I ended up paying 100sek (~$15) total for 3 months of internet! After all that, I put some stuff away, put sheets on my bed and immediately fell asleep.
Unsurprisingly, waking up after a full night’s sleep and a shower gave me a completely new outlook! I made some (delicious!) French Press coffee and ate me some breakfast and I was in a delightful mood. Being able to see my surroundings helped too. Jaclyn and I had a full day planned today; Ida took Jaclyn and me to IKEA and to a grocery store and we had our program / exchange student orientation. I got the stuff I needed at IKEA (shower curtain, hanging shower rack, lamp) and a few groceries and after we put our stuff away, Ida walked us to campus. Jaclyn and I live about a 20 minute walk from Linköping Valla (our campus). We live at the back of a university housing area called Rydsvägen, or Ryd (pronounced “reed” with a rolled “r”) for short. You can see where I live (Ryd 260, the black square), where Jaclyn lives (Ryd 252, the orange square) and an arrow pointing to campus on this map (also note how close I am to FREE laundry!):
Ryd Centrum, the blue circle on the map, is a kind of mall in the middle of the Ryd. There’s a grocery store, a pharmacy and some other little shops in there. It’s very convenient. I didn’t outline it on here, but there’s a bus stop in the Ryd that is right by my building. I’ll be using it every day when I’m at Anders Ljungstedts.
Jaclyn and I learned a few Swedish words today! It turns out that Swedish is a very hard language to pronounce … there are all kinds of “h” and soft “g” sounds in words. “Ursäkta”, for instance, is pronounced “euh-shahk-tah”, and means “excuse me”. We have been using the word “fika” rather liberally — it refers to a kind of institution or tradition instead of a typical noun. It means coffee break! Everyone seems to pronounce it a little differently, some people say “fee-KAH”, some say “FEE-kah” and some add a very soft “g” at the end so it’s “fee-KAGH”. When we went to our orientation on campus yesterday, we were told not to go by people’s offices since it was very likely they would be on Fika when we stopped by. Our other peer student, Robin, told us that Fika is usually a “girl’s thing” but he was ok having a Fika with Jaclyn and me.
Along with learning more about Fika, we learned some very interesting things at the exchange student orientation yesterday. Among them, that student life seems to center around having fun and partying. It’s quite different from schools in the US in that they openly talk about drinking and have student organizations that seem devoted to organizing parties for the student body. In fact, the more parties you go to, the more patches you get for your coveralls. What coveralls, you say? Well each college within the university has a different color (education is red with a black stripe down the legs) when you go to a party, or Kravall, you receive a patch signifying that you were there. You then sew the patch onto your coveralls, and they become the “most expensive souvenir” of your time here. Here’s an example:
Jaclyn and I were a little surprised to hear a university affiliated organization talk about university traditions that have to do with partying or drinking alcohol, since it’s so uncommon in the US. There, it’s more something that is talked about on a student-to-student level; there wouldn’t be a presentation talking about it. And while things like going to Hilton Head during Memorial Day Weekend were huge at OU, it was private trips but hundreds would go. Here, they do things like arrange a SeaBattle: thousands of students from several countries and universities all go on a several-day cruise in the Baltic Sea. When they were talking about it with us, the representative from the student organization said you “drink all the way there and all the way back.” (Note to parents: don’t worry, I know I’m not here to party and will behave accordingly.) They make it very easy to get involved in other ways too, though. There are opportunities to go to the Lapplands and stay in the Ice Hotel or go to Russia for a few days or learn Swedish Folkdance or even stay overnight in the Katedral in the city.
During the orientation, I heard what has quickly become one of my favorite phrases: “take a Friday.” It means to, like, go relax. I’m not sure if it’s a Swedish thing or if it was a misspeak; either way, I love it.
After the orientation, we went to what I assume is the housing office and signed our room contracts, got information about rent, and picked up our SIM cards for our phones. So not only have I paid all my internet for the 3 months, I’ve also paid all 4 months rent and bought plenty of minutes for my phone. Ida and her friend each had older phones they weren’t using anymore, and were kind enough to allow Jaclyn and me to borrow them for our time here, and we didn’t have to buy a SIM because it was provided for us, so all we had to pay for were the minutes, which was awesome.
Today (Saturday), Jaclyn and I met Robin around 10am to go walk into the city together. I mentioned earlier that we’re about a 20 minute drive from the city, but when we walked it took about 30 minutes. It’s about 3.5 km (a little over 2 miles). It was a beautiful walk, and totally worth the 30 minutes. The city is lovely; we got to see the cathedral, the library and a few Gallerien (malls). It sounds dull but it was really delightful. It’s a nicely sized city: very walkable and accessible.
So here’s what I’ve observed about the Swedes so far:
They enjoy their rules. The police man who came to our orientation yesterday even began his presentation with “We like to have rules and we like to follow them.”
They are ON TIME. We were told to expect this before we came, but I wasn’t expecting it to be like universal and prevalent among people our age. But again, during the orientation yesterday, one of the presenters said “We must start now; we must stick to the schedule.” This is great because I hate running late, but it might create some problems because we’re about 20 minutes from the campus.
They are helpful. You usually have to ask for exactly what you want, but overall every single person I have asked for help has helped me willingly. When I was trying to board the train from Stockholm to Linköping on Thursday, a man had his son help me with my bags so I didn’t have to carry them both.
They bundle up. Tell you what, peeps: it is COLD here. I decided today during our walk into the city that it’s time for me to start wearing leggings under my jeans. When I said that, Robin pulled up his pant leg and said “Yes, even boys wear leggings here.” I’m going to have to get some Vaseline or something so my cheeks don’t get chapped and I’m going to try to remember a hat or an ear warmer when I leave my room.
I feel like I haven’t done my experience here justice. It has been great so far, and I’m starting to get oriented to the Ryd, Campus Valla and Linköping city. Now I just can’t wait to start teaching!