Hi everyone! My name is Darby Anson, and I’m a junior studying abroad at IAU in Aix-en-Provence, France! The first couple of weeks have been full of excitement, joy and new beginnings. Upon arrival in Aix, I was full of nerves, seeing as I was about to face so many new things. My host mom greeted me at the bus station, and she is the sweetest. I live with a housemate from Penn State about twenty minutes outside of the city center. The walk to the university is beautiful. In the evening you can even watch the sunset over the mountains. There are so many museums to visit here as well, including Musée Granet, which has so many incredible pieces of art. This city is beautiful, and I cannot wait to explore it more!
I am a part of the French Honors Program here at IAU, so all five of my courses are in French. The teachers here are great and the courses are challenging but interesting. In addition, my language skills have improved greatly since I am speaking French at school and at my homestay. Since French is also my major at DU, I am beyond excited I got this opportunity to live here for 4 months, and this journey is just beginning!!
It may seem like all I am doing currently is traveling around Sweden, so I want to preface my second ‘travel’ post in a row by mentioning that I am currently taking an intensive full-time masters course titled Applied Ecotoxicology. This course meets every day M-F from 9-12 and a couple days from 1-4 as well, so I am not getting much time to go out and do fun things in Lund this period. I am really enjoying this course, however, as it is a great way to meet people who I now spend every single day with. I am also learning a ton and am super excited to take a course related to my major that DU doesn’t offer. However, its high time commitment means that I need to plan out any proper trips and make the most of my weekends.
After my trip up to Abisko, I had two days left of my Eurail Sweden ticket to use within one month. That ticket would run out on February 8th, so I decided to plan a fun weekend trip over February 3rd through 5th. I asked a lot of people where they recommended going, and the only places that people thought would be nice during early February were Stockholm and Göteborg (Gothenburg). There are a lot of small towns that are only a couple hours by train from Lund, but all of those will be better to see in the spring and summer, when I can hike and be outside without it being slightly miserable. Göteborg is only 2.5 hours away by train whereas Stockholm is 4 hours away, so I decided to go with the shorter distance and plan an actual trip to Stockholm at a later date. One person who gave me plenty of suggestions and ideas was my friend Sebastian, so I invited him to join me if he was free that weekend. I was quite impressed that he said yes, considering how I only invited him three days before we left. It was very spontaneous for a Swede.
We took an afternoon train on Friday, as I had to work with both of my group projects in class and had a fika with my friend Anna already scheduled. When we got into Göteborg, it was dark and a bit cold, but we still took a nice evening walk to the hostel (about 30 minutes away). Once we had settled in, we went and had dinner at an Indian restaurant. It has been a while since I last had Indian food, and I haven’t tried it in Sweden, so I was glad we did. I always enjoy trying other culture’s foods when I am different countries, because they tend to do it very differently. For instance, Chinese food in Japan was vastly different from Chinese food in the US. In Sweden, they make kebab pizza, where they put normal kebab meat and falafel toppings onto a pizza. It’s very strange but also extremely tasty. Interestingly, the Indian food seemed to be the same as the Indian food in the US. I guess that our cultures haven’t adapted it as much (or they’ve adapted it in the same ways).
The next morning, we enjoyed a really nice breakfast buffet at a cafe. Swedish breakfasts are a lot heartier than what I am used to, and that is reflected in their breakfast buffets. There was yoghurt and toast, but also a whole set up with sandwich toppings. Swedish sandwiches tend to be open faced (just one slice), and they sometimes chose to add it to their breakfast mix. I really enjoy that system, but it is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it is a ‘sandwich’ when I would just call it bread with cheese and salami on top. The cafe also offered shots of ginger, which I think was for some sort of health benefit, but that was a bit rough to get down.
After that, we went to walk around Slottskogen, which is a large park in the center of town. The sky was clear blue on Saturday, which was especially nice after thick snow and sleet in Lund the day before. The park had a section that was a free open-air zoo highlighting lots of native Scandinavian animals. The highlights for me were the moose, Skåne goose, and penguin. There was also a lot of other people out and about (again, soaking up the sun), so I was also quite excited by the amount of cute dogs at the park. The other end of the park homed the Göteborgs naturhistoriska museum (Gothenburg Museum of Natural History), where we spent the afternoon. We finished our day of appreciating the weather by walking up to the Skansen Kronan. It was an old tower situated on a high point near the park, and provided a really lovely view of the skyline. We got a bit lost trying to get up there, which resulted in us taking a route off-path. An old man had doubted we could make it with our shoes (I was prepared with my Blundstones, but Sebastian had worn the worst pair of sneakers), but we proved him wrong after a bit of sliding in the snow and mud. The sun was close to setting when we made it to the top, so we got a great view of the red buildings covered in snow under a pink and blue sky.
As I am now fully addicted to coffee, we then went for a fika at a random cafe in town, where we tried a piece of pie and a meringue cookie. It was past 5 when we finished, so we walked along Haga (a street famous for it’s cafes and boutiques) before going and getting a couple beers and dinner. We finished out our evening by going to a karaoke club, which was really enjoyable. Most of the songs were from the 80s and 90s, which is a bit older than I am used to Swedes playing, but it was still fun. The Swedish Melodifestivalen (Swedish song competition where they decide who represents them in Eurovision) started on the 4th, so there were also some Swedish songs that were highlighted specifically as Eurovision songs (mainly ones that had competed in the past few years).
The next morning, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hostel (again the complete Swedish breakfast) before making our way to Universeum, which was a large museum/aquarium/indoor garden in Göteborg. The entire center was a multi-story climate controlled ‘rainforest’, complete with waterfalls, tropical birds, and monkeys. I thought it was an extremely neat concept to bring together so many different exhibits into one place, and I really enjoyed the amount of interactive aspects. Sebastian said that he had gone as a child, so I was especially glad I had gotten recommendations for places to visit from him. In the afternoon, we went to Göteborgs konstmuseum (Gothenburg Museum of Art) and enjoyed the variety of artwork. I am trying very hard to get better at interpreting artwork and appreciating art museums, as they are a really neat concept. However, I just enjoy looking at landscape paintings and sculptures. There is no deeper meaning to me.
We finished out our weekend by going and watching a film being hosted by the Göteborg Film Festival. We watched “Bong Thom (the brother)”, which was a documentary about a Cambodian family. I don’t know what I had expected going in to the film, but I certainly enjoyed watching it. We had dinner at a British pub before we planned to get on the final train to Lund that evening at 8:40pm. However, we looked at the Skånetrafiken app (the train app for our region) at 8:15 and it said our train was canceled. We still went to the train station and made a backup plan to take a bus at 4am. Thankfully, the app was wrong in what it defined as the problem, and our train did run. The train we were taking only went halfway (before going a repair shop), so everyone transferred to another train to finish out the journey home.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend trip to another Swedish city, and I enjoyed it a lot more than my first time in Göteborg (the day trip I made in August to get my photo ID taken when their system crashed). I also appreciated traveling in Sweden with a Swede, as Sebastian understood more of the subtle Swedish cues (such as train/tram ticket apps and social rules) and was able to actually speak/order in Swedish. Traveling alone can be fun, but I am glad I had another person around.
If you decide to study abroad in Sweden, or are looking for a short weekend trip from another European study abroad, Göteborg has a lot to offer for a small amount of time. Also, a lot of the great places to go visit are either free or heavily discounted for students! I definitely recommend taking the time to find the hidden gems and enjoy the random events happening in the city if you ever find yourself there.