As you could already guessed, I am starting my Erasmus adventure in Lund, Southern Sweden, together with other 2,000 international exchange and degree students from all around the world. It is going to be and already is an amazing experience, so I would like to share all my passions, struggles, information I will gather, sorrows and happy moments with You ! Enjoy reading !
If you want to see the photos also, don’t be shy to click here and surf the blog !
(The latest posts can be found at the end)
So an amazing adventure has begun for me, my family and friends all together. I only realised that I am going away from home to foreign country to study for a half a year maybe two days before my actual departure – when my best friends drove to my house shouting : “You, moron ! Why haven’t you told us? How we will survive without you?”. And that was a crach in my concious that really told me : “Hun, you are leaving”.
And still, no matter what, I did not realised it completely until my first night at the place. But first things first.
We were going three girls by ferry from the port in my home country, to the closest port in Sweden. Yes, we did know that we will be traviling through the see for 13 hours. Were we ready? Definitely not. The last view of your own land just took your heart to the slowest beeting and to the hidden tears in your eyes. That was it. Leaving your family, parents, friends, beloved ones for a half a year. It sounds like not such a big deal at all. Oh, wait until you feel it in the deepest corners of your heart.
And then there was the trip by the ferry. It was a one of those transportation companies, that combines transporting passengers, vehicles and loadings all at the same time, causing huge queues for the vehicles and drivers. The idea of buying a ticket with a provided seat was non for consideration at all – 13 hours, what else could be the option. Of course, the sea lines do not mention, that all the seats are in one classroom size cabin with all around 60 seats facing a geographical map of Europe and with a bar behind the carton wall with all possible smells, sounds and atributes, that could ever define a bar in a ferry. Or any other small bar. Most of the passengers were traveling for working purposes – it is not a secret, that salaries in Sweden, even for the dirtiest and most common jobs are significanlty higher than in our country, so it was not a surprise to face that contingent in a ferry to Sweden. What surprised us the most, was that nobody cares, were is their place, if it is free, it is mine and nobody’s else. If you find yourself comfortable in a seat, that can bend a little bit more horizontally than vertically, I congratulate You, my fellow human-from-out-of-this-planet. Because that’s simply impossible. If being sober. In any other cases exceptions may apply. In this scenario won those, who brought pillows, pleds or even sleeping-bags and slept on the floor or on the sofas near the cafeteria (there were few of those lucky ones). I don’t know for sure, how it was for other passengers, but for us, travelling for the first time so long on the ferry and few other students with parents. it was quite a challenge. I have slept that night maybe 1-1,5 hour per 12 hours journey. How it works? Well, you find yourself comfortable enough to lie your head on somehow spined off hand, having your legs crossed and bent under yourself so it won’t be cold and then you snooze for a 5-15 minutes until your hand, leg, back or neck becomes dead and you have to move it to avoid pain, because all the medicine are in the luggage, luggage is in the car, car is in the 3rd deck, that is under 4th deck, that is under 5th deck (the only one you can walk in). Or, if you are lucky enough to find a proper position in the seat, there FOR SURE will be people sleeping or trying to get comfy around you and they will FOR SURE touch, accidentally push, poke you, say sorry and turn over to another side, but already lost your semi-sleep state and have to start counting sheep or stars or cars or camels or whatever you were counting to get yourself to sleep. Yup, that’s going by ferry during the night for 14 hours streight with a room full of 20-40 years older people, who assume, that you have seen nothing in life like they did and few foreigners.
So the night had somehow passed and you are really hungry from all of the sleepless night, acking head, back, shoulders, stomack and realising you have more muscles than you thought you could ever spread, you are really lucking forward to breakfast. And then – surprise ! Pay single amount and eat as much as you can. You are not really into eating after this night and only would like to grab a cup of coffee? Well, to bad for you, price stays the same, grab everything you like !
Business everywhere !
As you finaly can see the shore of the Sweden, you are feeling like in the middle of nowhere. But because we were driving by car, so it was great experiencing the Swedish environment for real, in real conditions and with a help with GPS Navigation system, we saw more of nature than we could have seen driving through normal main roads ! But it was quite fun and adorable to see the country side.
After going there and here, we have finally arrived to Lund.
We had read about the amount of international students in Lund, we did know that there will be around 2,000 students, but we still have not realised how many of them will be in the same hall at the same time. The registration and getting main information about possible Orientation Weeks events took around 2,5 hour to get. Yeah, a lot of random international people who are lost, have no clue what to do next, where to go, etc. Oh, but I skiped the best part. During the arrival day (the main day set for registration and arrival for all international students – both, exchange and degree), there was held a lottery – yeah, a real lottery – where people could WIN a room in a dormitory. Getting a dormitory room in Lund is the hardest part of all the Erasmus period – I am not even talking about trying to rent something. The demand for accommodation greatly surpasses the supply. And if you do get a room from university, then you are freaking lucky ! Because the amount of scammers using naive silly trustfull international students professionally is pretty high.
How do I know that? I have got scammed twice. My advice – if the place and the renting conditions are looking perfect and just like the place you would like to live for the rest of your life and the owner – oh my god, how unexpected ! -is working abroad for i-don’t-know-how-many years, well I have a news for you. You not just won’t be getting that place, but you will be lucky if you will have all your money in the bank account. If not – you have been warned !
So yeah, a lot of international people, circus around them, completely lost mentors and chaos everywhere.
When we finally managed to leave the place, I moved in my place, that I will be willing to call my home for a whole semester until the middle of January or, if I will be lucky enough, until the late December.
And this is where the fun begins.
I have the culture of my studies right beside of my room wall. A complete stranger, who is really keen to be BFF’s from the second we met. Am, this is not how it works with me. It was awkward, freaky misleading. And the feeling, I know for sure, that you’re not home. You’re at the place of someone’s, a stranger, you’re a guest who’s staying there for a half a year. Not at home, at the guest’s. At this point, I would like to do a commercial time out and talk about dormitories. Yeah, they some times are nasty, noisy, unbearable and the roomates, ah, I won’t even start talking about this point, but dorm is what really students life is all about – a comunity, always in contact, knowing everything and everybody. This is what you should feel during your degree or exchange studies. You will never feel that living at someone’s place, or renting the place. It’s good, comfortable, you have your own space and you can use kitchen and shower whenever you want, but you’re a temporary guest. Nothing else. This is not your home and will never be like one, and you have to be always in a good mood, pleased with everything and happy about every single day in your life. And that, actually, completely turns all your international experience down. You are in a constant worry of being “impolite guest” in a place you are renting.
I won’t touch any culture-related topics, sorry, if you were looking forward to it, not today, huns !
So after I packed out my bags, set everything into places and started to think about usual depressive-for-being-away-from-home stuff, I was really looking forward to see the city, know the main places and I was really pleased that my landlord volunteered to show me around. It was strange, but I still got to know the streets and the main routes home, which was nice.
But after getting home, the reall home-sickness came and the few sleepless night before, trip by the ferry and by car, unknown places, people, language you cannot understand or speak, a lot of stress and waiting did its impact. And I was just sitting there, writting a long message for my parents and friends about how awesome everything is, and how good people are to me, and all the cheary blossom stuff everybody want to hear, but your eyes were full of tears and you could not even think about sleeping in a unknown place in a city in somewhere. I have never been so home-sick before. I was lying in my bed with a toy in my hands and just simply trying my best not to shed a tear, but they were running in streams from my eyes and all I could do is not to cry out loud. I felt terrible. Still feeling that way, but just with a spice of everyday spent here in company of great interesting people and positive emotions.
The second day was when all the fun begun – meeting new people, first Swedish lectures and some fun things wondering around. I won’t go into details about everyday, just talk a little about few interesting things.
Nations. Every students best wish and worst nightmare in one. Of course, we do understand that nation is an unavoidable part of being in Lund community, but the idea is – they have nothing more to offer apart from never ending party, baking, making dishes for other students and maybe sometimes organising one or two concerts, inviting few unknown (or only locally known) musicians to perform and that’s it. Nothing more. There are also unions – people, who are dealing with all the politics, academic affairs in the faculty and in university and they are open to grab a cup of coffee or to chit-chat during your brake. And that’s it. I was comming to Lund hearing all about how is important to be a part of any nation, to feel the real student life and everything, and I have already been to some of the events held by them – it is not what you would expect from any student organisation. At home, we just do not do things like this, and if you do, you do not publish it university-wide that you are one of the best organised nations ever. No. Just don’t. And the thing that you have to be in any of them in order to participate in one or another event of theirs, well, I would say, there is nothing much impressive about it. It is a great variaty in the supply, but, come on, if you are not of party-animal-beer-lover type, you are just spending 275 SEK for nothing. Oh wait, for a card with your name on it. Well, but a man gotta do what he’s gotta do.
I cannot even remember all the great and in the same time awkward or weird things that happened during this week – and I do regret of not doing my best to write this earlier. I do my best not to do it again !
Oh, getting a bike here is essencial ! It is a first thing in your list even if you were not riding a bike for 10 years at least. It is a top priority. Nothing else. A bike.
Yeah, I did get one, not new, a little bit used, old, squeeky bike, but it’s fun and fast (of course, because it is heavy, but I am not feeling harmed or anything). It is cool to be able to move whenever you want and where ever you need. Until the first drops of rain. And I hope they will come really really late this year, because I am not a fan of riding around in heavy rain. Not at all, trust me. But we’ll see what happens.
And on the last day of this week I am writting this first time about, we went to Malmo ! Amazing city, port, with a seacoast (with no sand), a lot of sweet narrow streets and strange interesting architecture and statues. It was actually great deal – walking around amazing city, seeing the monuments and knowing, that you will be able to come back here once in a while.
Am, maybe I will stop here for now.
Feeling lack of inspiration to write about all the amazing and weird things happening.
One for sure – I will have something to tell You guys about !
I can’t even believe, how many days have already passed here.
And I don’t even know, I should be sad or happy about that?
But first things first.
What happened during that month of silence in my Erasmus life?
Hm, probably a lot !
As far as I remember, I left You, guys, reading about our Lithuanian trip to Malmo and our adventures there.
So, from where I should begin the story of my September.
Studies. And the begining of them. Am, no such thing found here. Comming from an academical culture, where every period of studies starts with somekind of exclamation, celebration, showing, how everybody is enjoying and can’t wait for their new begining. I really missed that “September 1st” thing here. It just, happened. Normal day, nothing special. Maybe because study year here starts in the middle of August without any proclamation about it, or maybe it just because, well, people see it as unavoidable part of life so there is nothing to celebrate. Well, I wouldn’t agree with that, but well, again, different academical culture. And when from one point it really disappointed me – from the another one I was completely amazed. Here is no lecturer-student kind of relationship. No standing in front of the class for 1,5 hour and trying to prove that if students will not be listening, they will definitely fail the exam. No ! What I was astonished by is the academical freedom of discussion and making the way to the truth together. Of course, I am speaking from Humanities and Culture perspective, I cannot imagine a discussion type lecture about the spliting of atomical particals or solving cryptographical equations, but still, I hope, You get the picture. Different structure of the lecture it self makes you think a bit differently and easily flowing conversation helps you to understand the subject in different ways than you would have understood it only listening to the lecturer or read it in one of the books. But here is another thing – objectivity is not enforced. This is what I missed studying my field, especially when you’re sitting in the lecture about the conflict and you can clearly see the biased opinions and even a victim syndrome, but nobody tries to argue or to show different kind of perspectives – everybody just nooding their heads and silently smiling. Maybe I was not correctly understood sometimes with my a bit streight-forward talks, but all in all I have brought more from it, even if it was a bit biased and lacking of objectiveness opinion. Another thing what surprised me (of course, after the most popular around the globe decision of Sweden to shorten the working day to 6 hours) that here academical hour is taken as academical hour, after which you have to have a brake, as in after 45 minutes you have a 15 minute brake and then the lecture continues. It is strange and your time spent in university prolongs from 3,5 hours to half a day (especially if you have your lectures around the lunch time). And after the announcement of 6-hour-day, well, I am not surprised anymore – Swedes are doing their best to have as much personal time as they can and they make the best of it !
Nations. And as I already stated in my previous writting, I had many doubts about joining any of those. So I simply didn’t. And, I can say, I lost nothing ! I have enough time for myself and the activities I love, I have enough time to study, not really enough time to sleep, but this is a different topic. Yes, I did brake the system of “student life in Lund” and I’m perfectly happy about it. My friends joined, people I know joined and I didn’t. And it’s OK ! (It’s just for those people, who are struggling with their first Erasmus experiences and are feeling pushed to do something and accidenty reached this blog). I found my way of doing things – and Sweden is best place for it, for sure ! And here are so many things you can do for free that you even start wondering – people need to use Google even more than they do now. Why I’m so positive about not joining the nation? Because I have a band and I joined (for completely free) one of the best basketball clubs in Sweden. No bragging. And I’m doing what I love ! And if you are like : oh, but I want to learn something new, blah blah blah. Well, you’re in university. You’re learning smth new every god damn minute of your life. If that is not enough – Google “Folksuniversitet”. Yup, you read it right. (A bit of promotion here, if you are not interested in it, just skip to the next paragraph). Appearently, Sweden has a decades of history in education of community and of people, wanting to learn and teach, share their knowledge without getting anything in return. Yeah, it surprised me also. You have amazing talent and have 2-3 people who are willing to learn from you? Go there, ask for help, and those people will give you a place, a timetable and even a bit of funding – just do what you love !
Amazing, isn’t it? And we’re sitting here, struggling with tutorials and everything.
One more thing about education – oh Swedes sure know how to make international students useful. I am participating in a project called Language Cafe in one of the schools here. All you, as a student, need to do is come few times per semester and talk to children, hold a conversation, and that’s it. Of course, you’ll get FIKA (amazing word, meaning free coffee with cake or smth sweet) and amazing time with school children – and you’ll get a feel of completely different school system. It is not about modernisation, technologies or some not understandable methods of teaching and learning – it’s all about international and multicultural community. And then we start asking ourselves – how do they manage to get along with everybody? Well, it’s easy – if you’re in Sweden, finish your school in Swedish. If you’re in the country, learn its language. That’s it. Simple as that. Because even if every person you meet in street, even homeless people, speak English, it doesn’t matter that you’ll be able to find the information you need in English.
For the first 3 weeks I was so annoyed about everything as it seemed wrong and definitely not logical. But now I can see clearly – I am in a society of perfect consumerism. And you, small unimportant human, can’t do anything about it. Consumerism at its best. Similar or even the same houses. The same buildings and interiors. Same furnitures and dishes. Even same sheets. Everything is the same going from house to house. A dog or a cat in every house. 3 bikes and daily bag of groceries with few meals to heat up. That’s it. People here are not even picking berries or mushrooms. Nothing. Why should they? There are plenty of stuff in the markets and shops, so why bother? Even if there is not a lot of to choose from. A society of perfect consumerism with a camouflage of healthy and happy nation. No it’s not. Of course, when you think about it, they are able to buy a thing in place of repairing it. They can do that. But we don’t.
I had so much in my mind to write about. But now I will stop. Don’t want to get into deeper thoughts about image and reality, and stuff like that.
And I will definitely try to post more often !
To be continued soon !
Well that was unexpected coincidence. I haven’t counted, for sure. Well, I am counting, but only the days left, not the days passed (a bit pessimistic point of view, isn’t it?)
In place of studying for tomorrows exam (4 will be down and 3 to go) I was just sitting there with nothing to do and thinking – well, I did promise to write more frequently. Well, it’s way better than jumping 40 days ahead, isn’t it? 😀
Autumn. A wonderful way of summer’s goodbye and welcoming winter that I’m waiting for so much – it’s strange how strongly I miss the winter this year. Maybe because there was no “normal-around-minus-20” winter last year? Might be the case.
Yes, I do wonder, why I hadn’t born in the Syberia or northern Finland. Keep asking my former myself every night.
Back to the topic. My Erasmus ! Yeah, I’m still not crazy about it, but when it comes closer to the end, you find things you will be definitely missing.
What I forgot to tell is our ladies-only trip to Kullaberg – photos you can see, but not the story.
How can one stay still in the foreign country? One cannot. This is how simply it goes. Unless one has deadly exams or something, but this wasn’t the case.
So one Sunday our ladies-only company decided to go on a trip to Kullaberg naturreservat, to look around, to take a glance on illegal art sculpture called Nimis and just to have a day trip to the coast of Northern sea. And it was completely awesome !
Of course, Swedish weather was still Swedish, especially when it was heavy raining for 5 minutes and suddenly stopped to give a 16 degrees heat and then again starting to rain. Swedish nature is beautiful. Repetitive, but beautiful and unique. Of course, girls won’t be girls if we hadn’t decided to walk on a coast instead of taking tourist route. Funny thing – there are no sandy coasts we are used to. There are stones and rocks, rocks everywhere, slippery and nasty ones, with sharp edges and suddenly turning into rocky mounts and huge pieces of rock that one could not climb up without equipment. And we were with sneakers, jeans, cameras and backpacks. Did we took our phones? No, why would we, it’s just an hour walk. So after walking the rocky coast we found our selves not capable to walk any more without taking high risk so we decided not to get back to the route we took to come there, but to climb up the hill and get back to rout somewhere in between. It was hell of the fun, I can say that for sure. Especially when I was already lost in the mountains this summer (you can read all about it here ) and I already knew that we won’t get dry out of this. But it was still fun. After and hour or more walking around in misty foggy Swedish forests and trying not to get on shore again, we managed to find the right route and started to look for Nimis – wonderful yet illegal piece of artwork that was first built in 1982 by artists Lars Vilks. That object should have been amazing at it’s greatest years, unfortunately, because the building is illegal and administration of reservatum cannot really fund its repair, it was not completely, but ruined after the storms of this summer. I hope we weren’t the last ones to see and feel the breathtaking experience of Nimis (I don’t want to spoil anything, so feel free to use Google to completely understand about what I am talking about)
And then the October came and took me with him without asking and look it’s almost over now. Maybe because I was waiting for it so much?
Yes, You got it right, I was waiting for October because a single reason – I had a visitor. I could forget all the troubles, sorrows, home-sickness and Swedish language around me for the whole weekend and it was awesome. For me. I don’t know about him, but I hope it was the same 😀
Yeah, I was a bit selfish, eventough it was his birthday, but he came to visit me. And I was extremely happy, even if it felt like only few weeks, but when you get to see your beloved, then the reality hits you and hits you even harder when he’s gone. And I can’t still get myself together after that. So yeah, was it really a good idea to come for a visit? I don’t know. It felt great. But it gets even harder after that.
Ok, that was a bit depressive part, now what was going on next.
I was spending my weekends in the sport hall, writing statistics, having fun and taking best out of the possibilities. A bit calmer month, I could say. Because now the studies hit you and I perfectly know that it is going to get worse, because I took one more additional course (now I’m waaaaaay ahead of my must-to-gather credits count) and on the one hand I’m really excited about that, but on the other – well, goodbye my social life. If I ever had one 😀
During this month I understood, that with all that relaxation and calmness Swedes have, there is some kind of warm and lightness coming out of them also. Maybe it’s just people who surround me. But it is how it works – I haven’t met a single person here who refused to help me or couldn’t do anything.
For example today. The most random and the best moment I had in Sweden so far.
Today was a very beautiful, sunny day, like my landlord said – go outside because you won’t see weather this good for a month at least – so I took my camera and went around the city for few hours.
And here I am, lying on a pavement for an amazing shot (because nobody cleans the streets from fallen leaves on weekends), doing my best. And as I stood up, this older man rushes towards me on his bike and says : You know, you could take even more amazing shot if you’re camera was in the shadow because now, I think, the sun was beaming directly to the camera… And he was just spilling out those advices and I was standing there speachless and somekind of happy, I just managed to tell him: Yeah, thanks, everything’s fine, the sun was from the right so no direct sunlight… And he just smiled widely, shouted : Oh, that’s great then, great, amazing ! Jumped back on his bike and cycled away. And I was just standing there without any understanding what just happened. But my smile was so big that probably passers by could take me for a crazy. It was such a random act of kindness or mentorship or I don’t know what. It was just so heartwarming that I cannot even express my feelings about it correctly. You won’t ever get this feeling back at home. Even at the trips and travels I had, I had never had an experience as this. I just couldn’t believe that some random person could possibly come to you and give you random advice for making the best out of your shot. It just so simply amazing that I still cannot believe it happened.
And it’s crazy !
Now I can really say that Sweden is crazy !
(I’m still not in love with this country, but it has its perks)
I cannot remember anything else fun or worth to mention at the moment. I am sure that I will be busy studying as hell, but I will try to write anything fun. Few big trips ahead of me !
I will upload the photos soon – stay tuned !