This Sunday I will be heading back to Colby and beginning my spring semester of my junior year. Overall, I’m bummed that I won’t be going back to Stockholm. Oddly enough, it feels a lot like I’m headed back for a fall semester after a long summer. I expect to see “back-to-school” sections in stores and fall football games to be starting up. This could partially be due to the fact that my “Colorado Christmas” was a relaxing 50 degrees and I’ve been driving around with the windows down, but it really feels like last semester wasn’t school at all. It all went by so fast, and I’m really going to miss it!
However, I am glad to be back in the United States. The very first thing that I did was go to Chick-fil-A. We stopped by on the way home from the airport, and I have to say it was definitely one of the things that I was most looking forward to. Eating Swedish meatballs was a blast, but having all of the (junk) food that I missed so much back at my fingertips really was the icing on the cake.
However, the initial letdown was really hard to get over. All I could think about when I got back was how much I wished that I were still in Sweden. I missed the ocean view from my apartment, the colorful subways, and the friends that I had made abroad. I missed the Swedish style of conversation (or lack thereof) and the lack of small talk. Suddenly I had Americans (we really are loud) left and right asking me how it was and asking me questions, when in Sweden I was so used to people avoiding small “polite” conversation, something that the introvert in me really enjoys.
In fact, there was a notable difference when coming from the Stockholm airport to airports with international travelers. Swedes are very respectful of a person’s space and attention, so small talk is avoided and making eye contact or gestures of acknowledgement are discouraged. This was clearly reflected in the airport in Sweden. The other travelers talked among themselves quietly but did not disturb those around them. Given that this was what I was around for the past months, I was comfortable with the environment. However, the second I entered the airport in Iceland (where I had a layover) it was noticeably different. Iceland often serves as a popular layover point for many travelers in Europe and it has many flights to all places in the United States. Because of this, the airport was full of Americans. Suddenly (and sadly if I’m being honest), people started talking to me. While I was in line to board the plane, one lady (an American) was complaining loudly about how long the line was taking. Another man (also American) was playing with another family’s child (American). Both of these things were very un-Swedish, and it took me by surprise. All I wanted at that point was to be surrounded by Swedes again, even if I could never understand a word they were saying.
When I got back to Colorado, all I could do was compare everything around me with Sweden. I noticed how much people complain, how weird peoples’ cars look (an oddly specific thing, I know), and how dirty and bland everything was. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how much I wanted to get back on the plane. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited to see my family (I was excited) and my dog (I was VERY excited), I just wished that I could take them with me back to Stockholm.
As time went on and my jet lag started to fade away (I would go to bed at 7 pm every night and then I would wake up at 4 am), my “post study abroad depression” also started to fade. I forced myself to stop commenting on comparisons and think more critically about why things are different. I also started to get my ‘Murica spirit back and remember why I loved my home.
That being said, I still really miss Sweden. As I get ready to go back to Colby, I’m making sure to bring pictures and souvenirs with me to remember the great times that I had. My goal is to integrate the amazing experience that I had with the amazing experiences that I’ve had at Colby. It’s going to be hard going back to “real” school (as I’ve begun to call it) with the challenging classes and assignments. Instead of being in a bustling city where I get to take field trips every day, I’ll back in little Waterville where the most adventurous thing I get to do is go to Walmart. However, these experiences help me remember everyday how fortunate I am to call Colby College “boring”. My study abroad experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I will be forever grateful that Colby helped me achieve it. Now, I am excited to get back to business and finish out a great junior year. 🙂
Tack så mycket!
(Thank you so much!)
p.s. I apologize for how late this post is, I just saw your email 🙂