Sweden | Final Reflections



Final Reflections


Well, that time is here. I’m leaving Sweden. I sit here writing this as I should be packing. But, then again, I’ve never been one for packing. It’s a little odd still being here because practically all of the international students and many of the Swedish students have returned home for the summer, and the new incoming UCEAP class isn’t here yet. While it is a little lonely without so many of the friends I’ve made during my time here, I don’t regret taking the opportunity to stay here, even if its just a few days longer. Honestly, even though I do miss my friends back in the states, I don’t want to leave Europe. I love it here.

I know when I get back home the first thing people are going to ask me was what was my favorite part. It’s an answer you are expected to have. However, I have no idea how to answer that question. I’m not saying that every moment was picture perfect. It certainly was not, and you shouldn’t pressure yourself to have every moment go right while here (especially when it comes to exams in Sweden). That being said, the whole experience seems like a blur. I can barely remember what it was like before coming here. Prior to this, I had never lived on my own, never been to Europe, never planned my own flights, never wrote in-depth research papers, never set up an EEG, never lived in a community where I didn’t know the dominant language… there were so many “never”s. Being abroad has made me realize how many “never”s I still had that I wanted to experience. Perhaps my favorite part of being abroad was learning that want to come back. Not to Sweden in particular, but I do know that I want to live back abroad in as many countries as I can.

While I loved my time abroad, I had friends that were as anxious to go home as I was to stay abroad. I think we too frequently believe that studying abroad is going to be the epitome of our college experience. At this point, it is for me; however, I know it wasn’t for many others. I’m not saying that to scare you away from studying abroad. I definitely think moving to a place that is out of your comfort zone is necessary to better understand the lives of those around you. But you will face struggles if you choose to come abroad. I don’t want to sugar coat it and have you be surprised when you are thousands of miles away from the place you previously considered home.

Classes will be tough. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since you go to such a world renowned college system  that the classes will be easy—they aren’t. Each college has a different way of presenting material, studying, and examining, so expect to be inexperienced in the classroom. It’s kind of like being a freshman again in a course filled with upperclassmen. The people around you are used to the system whereas you are just getting your feet wet.

Also, being away from relatives is tough. If you have a close knit family, it will be even tougher. I was fortunate enough to have some of my relatives visit me, but not everyone will have this opportunity. I suggest Facetime, Skype, iMessage, and WhatsApp to help stay in touch with your family and friends while abroad. Being in contact definitely helps ease any homesickness. I Facetimed my parents once a week to get an update on things back home, which definitely helped me (and helped them stop worrying about me so much).

Perhaps the toughest thing, depending on what country you choose, will be not knowing the dominate language. Having to constantly attempt to use the limited phrases you know, and then pulling out the translator when all else fails can get frustrating and be humbling. To me, it was difficult to learn the language. I would try to get through the entire checkout process using only Swedish, so I could improve my skills, but the second they have to match my credit card to my ID (my passport), they would automatically switch to English and not another word would be in Swedish. Though it was done for my comfort and convience, it made learning to speak the language difficult and made it super easy to be lazy in learning Swedish.

Well now that I’ve addressed some of the difficulties of studying abroad, I want to move to a more positive note—travel. My previous blogs have focused exclusively on Sweden and briefly on Copenhagen. However, to not speak about travel would be to exclude a major part of the study abroad experience, especially since it is a main reason why people chose to take their studies to another country.

While abroad,  I traveled to England, Scotland, Germany, Denmark, Vatican City, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Italy, Belgium, and of course Sweden. Practically every weekend during my time here, I was in a new country. All my free time was devoted to scanning travel websites to see which countries were the cheapest for each weekend and then convincing a group of my friends to go with me both to have company and to save money on Airbnb costs. Traveling in Europe is cheap if you get down a system. The cheapest flight I had was only $6! Many of museums offer student discounts, and with your residence permit, you get into the Louvre in Paris for free! Travel smart, but don’t let it distract you from your studies too much. I know some people here who have failed their classes, partially because they were too distracted by traveling. Definitely spend a good portion of your time traveling the country you are staying abroad in. That doesn’t mean just the capital—find the small cities too in order to better understand what it truly means to live there.



I have so much more to say about my time in Sweden, but this blog is getting long. I don’t quite have down my elevator speech for talking about my time abroad. My final piece of advice would be if you are on the fence about study abroad, do it. Like me, you might end up never wanting to leave.

Christine Pahel studied abroad in Lund, Sweden, in Spring 2017:

Sweden | Eight Things to Know About Food in Lund, Sweden

  1.  Fika is a must.

Sweden is known for their love of fika. Fika is a break during the day when you enjoy a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and a small pastry. Swedes have fika sometimes two to three times a day. Fika is usually offered at most club events, and even a lot of Swedish people take a break during the business day to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and dessert. I personally recommend a hot chocolate and a warm cinnamon bun. (Cinnamon buns are so popular that they even have a day—October 4th—dedicated to celebrating them!)

2. For Cheap Food, Go to The Nations

The nations are student organizations that run bars, clubs, sittnings (3 course meals), brunches, and lunches. These meals are open to all students who have joined a nation, which most students do within their first few weeks in Lund. There, you can get lunch starting at 30SEK, a brunch buffet starting at 40SEK, and a three course meal for about 120SEK. They have all sorts of food including: falafel, soup, Swedish desserts, waffles, burgers, and shakes. Practically every day, the nations have some event running where you can grab a bite to eat. You’re bound to find a nation that has food you love!

3. Swedish Cuisine Is Hard to Find

I have been in Sweden for about 3 weeks and have only seen one place that serves traditional Swedish food—Ikea. In Lund, I’ve seen American food, Italian food, Mediterranean food, Japanese food, and even Bulgarian food, but no Swedish food. So unless you want to travel to Malmö, don’t expect to be eating too much Swedish food, unless you want to make it yourself. While Swedish desserts are easy to find, actual Swedish meals are quite rare here.

4. Go To A Taste of Sweden

If you want to try Swedish food and don’t want to make it yourself or travel to Malmö, definitely go to A Taste of Sweden during orientation. You can try everything from caviar from a tube to sour milk to pickled herring. While not all the food may not be to your liking, you should definitely step out of your comfort zone and try all the dishes they offer at the event. Where else are you going to try reindeer meat cheese from a tube? The sweet potato mash and a ground beef dish resembling meatloaf with cabbage were two of my favorites. The sour milk, on the other hand, is definitely an acquired taste. It’s a small creamy side resembling yogurt, except its not sweet, so it’s like a blend between sour cream and yogurt. Even if you don’t think you’ll like a dish, I recommend trying it because you don’t know when you’ll have another chance.

5. You Don’t Look Far For Great Restaurants

Burgers, falafel, and pizza places are on every corner here in Lund. Often, you don’t even have to go to a separate restaurant to find these. There are shops that sell both falafel and burgers and pizza shops that serve pizza and burgers. It’s great for friends with different food preferences! I recommend trying Lundafalafel. They serve kebabs, falafel, and burgers, and they are open until 4am on the weekends. It’s a must have late night snack for people in Lund.

6. Not All Restaurants Have English Menus

While most people in Lund speak English, very few restaurants have English menus. It is not unusual to see menus entirely in Swedish. This leaves you with four options. One: learn Swedish, or at least basic Swedish food items. Two: ask the staff. The people working at the restaurant are usually more than happy to translate the menu for you, but I wouldn’t ask them to translate every item on the menu to you—that could get awkward. Three (my favorite!): use a translation app. These can usually translate the bulk of the words, but it isn’t perfect. There will still be some things that you have zero idea what they are—even Google can’t always save you. Four: be adventurous and just try something! All the food I’ve had at restaurants in Lund so far have been amazing. You can’t really go wrong with anything you choose!

7. American Food Is Easy to Find

If you are homesick—don’t worry—you can find American food here. Lund has a Burger King, a McDonalds, and lots of Subways. If you are craving some fried chicken, Malmö is home to a KFC. Malmö also has a Pizza Hut and Dominos. If your map app tells you that there is a Pizza Hut in Lund, don’t believe it. I walked across town while craving Pizza Hut, but there was no Pizza Hut there, just another pizzeria in its place. The pizza was absolutely amazing, but it was still disappointing not to have found Pizza Hut. Unfortunately, if you are missing Americanized Mexican food, you’re out of luck. There are no Taco Bells, Qdobas, Chipotles, or Del Taco, so fill up before you come. Even Mexican food ingredients are hard to find. It took days of searching to find black beans, and the Mexican cheese blends do not taste the same as back in the States.

8. Candy Stores Have An American Section

Missing Reese’s or Snapple Tea? You won’t have to go too far to find them in Lund. Most candy shops feature an American section that lets you find most of your favorites. Half of the display is usually devoted to different kinds of Reese’s products, which I am grateful for. The most entertaining thing of the America section is definitely some of the names. Want Cool Ranch Doritos? You won’t find them here—they are called “Cool American Flavour.” I highly recommend visiting the candy shops here whether it is to stock up on your favorite Swedish and American snacks or even if its just to see what Swedish people think of American junk food.

Christine Pahel studied abroad in Lund, Sweden, in Spring 2017:

Sweden | Orientation Weeks


Beep! Beep! Beep! I heard my alarm energetically call to me. Battling jet lag, I was not as enthusiastic to get up early in the morning. However, it was Wednesday—time to meet the faculty. It was the second day of welcome week, where department coordinators introduced students to their departments, and students finished registering for classes. Do not skip these meetings—no matter how tempting sleep may be—because they are essential to finish formally enrolling in your classes. Each major department holds their own meeting, so if you are taking multiple disciplines while abroad, you’ll have to go to more than one meeting. Since I am taking Political Science and Psychology while here, I attended both the Faculty of Social Science’s registration meeting and the Department of Political Science’s meeting. Below is a picture of one of the buildings in Paradise (Paradis), which is where the majority of the social science buildings are located.

That night was the Welcome Reception in the University Main Building (Universitetshuset). Located in the center of town, the cream exterior of the building contrasted with the black night’s sky. The top of the building has two gargoyles with human faces on either side. A large fountain sits directly center of the front of the building. Even though it was turned off because of the chilling weather, it still had a commanding presence. Nearly every day, I pass this building during my journey through town, and every day I am stunned by how gorgeous it is. I cannot wait to finally see the fountain turned on in front of it, and the plants on either side of it blooming in the springtime weather. Below I attached a picture of it in the daylight. While it is gorgeous at night, it is difficult to make out the finer details of the building in a photograph.

The inside of the building was equally impressive. Chandeliers lined the main room from the entrance to the stage. If you looked up, you could see the artfully crafted ceiling, which was painted in a pattern of beige, tan, and blue. The night started with a selection of traditional songs from Lund University’s Male Choir (Lunds Studentsångförening). According to the conductor, this choir is the oldest in Sweden, and their talent certainly spoke to that honor. While it is difficult to understand the lyrics, since most of the songs were purely in Swedish, the choir’s tones melded together in a beautiful arrangement of music. After a great round of applause from the audience, the host, the Vice Chancellor, welcomed the exchange students to Lund University. A university, he stated, that was created after the conquest of Skåne from Denmark. Skåne, the county Lund resides in, was given a university in order to aid in making the newly acquired territory loyal to the Swedish Crown. After the Vice Chancellor’s speech, we retired into the grand entrance room for some small desserts, sparkling cider, and light beer. There, exchange students had a chance to mingle with each other. When it seemed like the evening was almost over, a student joke band burst in and entertained us, giving us one last taste of Swedish student life before heading back home.