The easiest thing to write about is the weather, as it is the thing that I complain about the most these days. I always joked that my Lund year would be the test to see if I could live in the Pacific North West, as the weather is very similar. I have ultimately decided that it is not for me.

Lund weather isn’t inherently bad. In the autumn, it was gorgeous. We experienced a long fall with many changing colors and slightly chilly evenings. It was a happy relief after it had been extremely hot in August when I first arrived (the area was experiencing a large heatwave my first week). There were a couple moody days with rain, which I used as an excuse to enjoy reading inside and drinking coffee. However, the weather started to turn bad in December. It is now to the worst of it (according to people I complain about the weather with), which I had anticipated. I told my family and friends back home that January and February were going to be the worst months for me, as I am currently taking a very intense masters course, all of my one semester abroad friends went home, and Lund has been covered in a damp grey blanket. 

The weather wouldn’t be too bad if it were just cold. In fact, it has been colder in Colorado practically every day that I have been in Sweden since the break (even when I was above the Arctic Circle). As a proper Colorado kid, I am ready for the cold. What I was not ready for was the rain, wind, and clouds. Every morning of the week, I bike to my applied ecotoxicology course that starts at 9:15. Because it is on the opposite side of Lund, I have a 4.4km uphill ride at 8:30. Mind you, the sun ‘rises’ right around 8:00 right now, so the sky is lit up when I am biking. However, there has always been a heavy sheet of grey that feels as though it is right above the buildings. Somehow, being closer to sea level makes me feel like the sky is closer to the ground (yet it still feels so far away when I am on the top of a Fourteener). My weather app always says that it is just ‘cloudy’ but as soon as I start biking, there is water hanging in the air that sticks to me and soaks my clothes through. I still get just as wet if I wear my rain gear, because then I just sweat as I bike uphill. Add to this the wind (which just makes me feel even slower), and you will find me slowly pedaling up the cobblestone path cursing the Swedish weather every single morning. 

The only thing that makes me feel a bit better about my hatred of the Lund dampness is the fact that everyone else hates it too. In the US, talking about the weather is small talk when there is nothing better to discuss. In Sweden, people love to chat about the weather and how it is impacting everything. The weather is so integral to Sweden that they name their streets after it. The street I live on, Blidvädersvägen, means “mild weather road”. The Swedes have the saying “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga klädder” (There is no such thing as bad weather, there are only bad clothes), which is very accurate for how they seem to handle the gloom and rain. While I convinced myself that the problem is that I don’t have the right clothes, Friday proved to me that the Swedes are actually lying to themselves (and me). 

Friday was the most gorgeous day I have experienced in Lund this semester. There was not a cloud in the sky as I biked to class, and it stayed clear all day. At one point, I was remorseful that I had buried my sunglasses deep in a drawer in the apartment, as I felt blinded by the sun while biking. I appreciated so much just getting to see the blue sky again, and I was not alone. It was still chilly (right around freezing all day), but my classmates all wanted to sit outside for our lunch break. During this, the BeReal time happened (I don’t know if that is the correct terminology) and everyone who had it took a photo of the sky. Throughout our hour-long lunch, some people would break away from the conversation to just close their eyes and face the sun. I met a friend for our weekly fika (coffee and pastry break), and we purposefully repeated a cafe with outdoor seating. I have not seen so many people out and about in Lund since September, but they were all outside on Friday. Another friend mentioned that he had slowed down while biking to purposely miss a green light and get to sit in the sun a bit. I have ultimately decided that the Swedes are just little lizard people, soaking up all of the sunlight and Vitamin D that they can on the one good day they get all month. I think it’s really cute that they all make sure to appreciate the little bit of sun that they have.

The good weather held up through the night, and I biked East of town with three friends in hope of getting to see Comet ZTF (a supposedly green comet that hasn’t been by Earth in 50,000 years). We had tried on Tuesday, when we were supposed to have a clear night. However, Tuesday had been clouded over and we were unsuccessful. On Friday, we could see the stars and we convinced ourselves that we saw the comet because we were looking in the right place (so then we must’ve seen it, obviously). Even if the comet was a bit of a letdown, having a clear night was almost as nice as having a clear day. I miss the blue sky and stars I see at home, so it was good to get it for one day here in Lund. 

I do have high hopes as time progresses, because everyone tells me that the spring in Lund is gorgeous. I don’t know how nice it’ll actually be, but I’m certain I will be happy enough if it simply better than the current conditions. Even if I am not loving the weather, I do appreciate how different it is from Colorado. Getting to experience something different is why I studied abroad, so different weather is okay. And, let’s be real, home has the best weather ever, so it really could only be worse no matter where I went. 😉


Alone or Lonely?

One of the aspects of doing a longer study abroad term means that I had to find my own housing in Lund. While housing and renting is very competitive, I was lucky and found a room in a two bedroom apartment that I could sublet for the year. My flatmate is a 24 year old named Mo, and he’s been living in Sweden for the past 8 years. When I first arrived, I was very nervous about moving in with a man I had never met before. However, Mo ended up being one of the best aspects of my time abroad. He has been extremely kind, and took time off to show me around Lund and Malmö. On top of this, he helped me get my coordination number in order to open a bank account to pay rent, and has tried to help me learn Swedish.

Two months ago, Mo left on a long trip back to his home country to visit his family. I am very excited for him, as he hasn’t seen them since he left as a teenager. In his absence, he had a cousin coming and visiting the apartment a couple nights a week to pick up mail and collect my rent. In some ways, this is an amazing set up, where I practically have my own apartment for half the cost. For most of the time this has been the situation, I have really enjoyed it. Even when Mo is here, we have very different schedules and I am alone in the apartment majority of the time. Having my own room and restroom, and a kitchen where we rarely overlap, has been amazing.

However, I am starting to realize some of the downsides to living alone during my time abroad. During the first couple months I was here, I would tell my parents that this was the most social I had ever been in my life. From multiple fika meet-ups a week to salsa classes to random Nation events to cultural events to Swedish language cafes, my introverted self was very much in a growth zone. However, these past couple of weeks have made me realize that part of the reason why I’ve been able to be so social is due to the fact that I am spending more time alone than I ever have. I knew going in that studying abroad would be a lot of time alone, and I have cherished getting to do what I want in my free time and exploring by myself. Yet I have never been this alone before. I am a middle child, which means that I was never truly alone growing up. Last year, I was in a 6-person apartment style dorm room in Nelson. While sharing one bathroom with 5 other girls wasn’t the best situation, there was always someone else around for me to spend time with. I spent my whole life knowing that going home meant going to a place filled with my favorite people.

Now, every time I go home, I am completely and utterly alone. Like I said, part of this has been wonderful. I get to relax and recharge without the stresses of other people. But as the holidays are quickly approaching, I believe I finally crossed the fine line from alone to lonely. All of my friends who are in corridor rooms (the same style as single freshman dorms) are enjoying Christmas dinners and international food nights before the one semester students go home. That living situation, where you get close to the people who you were randomly assigned to live with, is one of the quintessential study abroad experiences. It’s hard to not have that, especially as my halfway point approaches.

I know that after I go home for the holidays and travel up to northern Sweden with a friend I made here, I will be ready for my quiet and spacious apartment. I will be more than ready to be alone once more, and prepared to take measures to avoid feeling lonely again. This will include taking a much more demanding course, finding more volunteer opportunities, and developing a better schedule where I force myself to leave the apartment during the dark and short days. It will also include making efforts to build on the friendships with people I met this first semester, as well as reach out to the new semester exchange students that will be arriving. I made so many wonderful friendships during this first semester that I know I am capable of doing it again next semester, I just have the added hurdle of living alone.

While this post can come across as very sad and homesick, I do think that there is some wisdom and advice within it. While there are a lot of factors associated with choosing where to study abroad, I believe that the living situation should be one of them. No matter if you are homestaying, or living with local students, or other international students, or just DU students, or even with a random person who you found through a rental website, this shapes part of your time abroad. A large portion of study abroad is pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and trying new things. The place you go back to every night to unwind matters. I have loved having this apartment to call home. It’s in a residential area and the situation has forced me to make better efforts to participate in social events and activities. On that note, the social life of the university/city you go to also matters. I know that being lonely is okay because Lund has a ton of events that are open to international students. There are things to do every night of the week if I so wanted to. I found a fun group this semester within the Latin American community here, and I am going to begin volunteering at more Nation events next semester. I strongly recommend taking this into account when thinking about what you want to get out of your time abroad. For me, getting to know parts of the community and being fulfilled while in Sweden was one of my main goals. While it’s not always easy, I have no regrets about choosing this program for a year.