If I could go back to August the 19th 2018, the day before I boarded a plane to study in Stockholm for a year I would tell my past self to relax. To swap the chaotic butterflies in her stomach for excitement because everything is going to work out. She is about to embark on the most amazing adventure of her life so far and come out of it a stronger person with a plethora of happy memories.
Not that the nerves were not valid. Despite being an incredibly fulfilling experience, there were difficult times. In a completely unfamiliar environment, with few hours daylight and a foreign language, homesickness became a frequent emotion. I could see the beauty of the city and observe the amazing culture but I felt excluded. It wasn’t home. I longed for the familiarity of the UK from Cadbury’s chocolate to a good cup of tea.
This resulted in a few difficult weeks. But in time and with the help of the some of the amazing people I met out there it soon passed. I fell in love with the Stockholm and all Sweden had to offer. All that was unfamiliar became exciting and I was filled with a new desire to explore and learn all I could. I saw how the Swedes were reserved yet friendly and maintained an air of optimism despite the freezing temperatures and short days. I experienced traditional Swedish practises such as Fika and partook in Valborg which celebrated the beginning of spring. This provided me with a deep understanding of Swedish culture, making Stockholm feel like a second home.
I also embarked on multiple trips around Scandinavia and its neighbouring countries including Oslo, Copenhagen, Inari in the Finnish Lapland and Tallinn. These were places I would have been unlikely to have visited otherwise. The trips created life long memories, from karaoke on a cruise ship, to attempting to build a snowman in -20 degrees and searching the streets of Oslo for the perfect pancake.
My year abroad has ensured I have grown in confidence, independence, resilience, and have a newfound enthusiasm for travel. Stepping on a plane back to the UK with the knowledge that my time in Stockholm was over, and the belief I would not get an opportunity like it again, filled me with sadness. However, after attending a weekend organised by the network EuroPeers, I became informed of volunteering opportunities around Europe open to all young people, ones I would love to be a part of. For anyone considering volunteering or working abroad, I view the experience as invaluable and highly recommend it.