Meatballs. Ikea. Snow. These three words are what first came to mind when my sister Hayley handed me a flyer advertising a study abroad program in Jönköping, Sweden.
“Let’s go together,” she said, excitement building in her chest.
Located in southern Sweden, Jönköping is considered the 10th largest municipality in the county and it situated conveniently between Gothenburg and Stockholm. I had never heard of it before I saw that purple flyer in my sister’s hand.
“It’s pronounced ‘young-shopping,” our academic advisor Rebecca informs us. She rattles down a list of requirements: housing, visas, scholarships, health insurance, flights. Our heads are dizzy with strange new information and excitement. Is this really happening? Will I finally get the chance to explore a foreign land and learn a completely new culture and language?
After picking out an array of classes, deciding on a place to lay my tired head each night, and researching billions of flight options, my acceptance letter finally announced that I was accepted to study abroad in Sweden.
Before deciding to study in Sweden, I couldn’t tell you anything about the country. However, I have since found that there are thousands of stories to be told by the culture in a way I can understand with gusto: food.
Before deciding to study in Sweden, I couldn’t tell you anything about the country. I knew it was cold and that the Disney movie, Frozen, was based on Scandinavian culture. It’s the birthplace of ABBA (Mamma Mia is my all-time favorite musical) and the Nobel Prize. However, upon researching the country, I have found troves of adventures waiting to be had. Thousands of stories to be told by the culture in a way I can understand with gusto: food.
As a foodie, I hope to learn about the Swedish people through their food. While the first food that comes to mind is “Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs,” Sweden is much more than that. I hope to befriend locals and partake in traditional Swedish customs such as kräftskivor (crayfish parties), which take place in the month of August.
I sometimes dream of finding a sweet, older woman to take me in her care and teach me the basics of Swedish cooking; just as she was taught as a child, the wrinkles on her forehead telling a story of tradition and happiness. We would forage the woods for the perfect chanterelle mushroom and pick fresh lingonberries off the bush, the juice dripping in between our stained fingers. I want to learn how to prepare a traditional smorgasbord and taste the foul-smelling surströmming, a fermented Baltic herring. I don’t want to watch the culture from the sidelines. I want to be engulfed.
My main objective of studying abroad in Sweden is to learn the lifestyle and customs. I want to bring home with me the slower lifestyle of the Nordic Countries. The essence of the land and finding peace in nature. The perfect recipe for Swedish Pancakes and Pea Soup. I’ll bring home a better understanding of the culture, the people and the language. All I need to do is pack my bags to begin.
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