As I wake up at 8:45 a.m. for a 9 a.m. class, I’m suddenly thankful for the Swedish ‘academic quarter,’ which grants students 15 minutes after the turn of the hour to get to class before the lecture actually begins. So much for Swedish punctuality, I think as I throw together a quick breakfast and hop on my second-hand silver Neptune bike.
I have noticed the distinct changing of the seasons here in Uppsala, Sweden. A week ago it was the city’s 25th annual kulturnatten (culture night), aimed to bring out the importance of culture in everybody’s life and to the city itself. The manifestation of local vendors, institutions, citizens, and their organizations produced a truly electric vibe. It seemed as though the entire city was out on the streets enjoying the end of the summer. It was quite the experience being involved in such an event, as small town life is all I have known.
Now the leaves have begun to loosen their grips on branches and litter the bicycle paths, thus providing a natural soundtrack of crackle and crunch as I pedal to the city center.
The biting wind has people exchanging their flashy and bright summer colors for neutrals, or darker tones of grey and black. Even the number of people on the streets is dwindling, as they retreat indoors for their meals instead of sitting out. One thing is on everyone’s mind: winter is coming.
Why, then, of all the places in the world, would I choose to come to a country that resembles home so closely? Maybe it’s my Swedish heritage. It could be the language, which gives the impression that I am surrounded by constant song. Perhaps its fika, a social time traditionally accompanied by coffee and desserts. It most certainly could be the cozy cafes and shops that line the narrow, pedestrian-filled, cobblestone streets.
To be completely honest, I don’t know exactly why I feel such a connection to this country. As I sit and test my coffee to make sure that it is lagom (just right), I realize that many may interpret my choice of Sweden as boring and synonymous to life at home. However, I see it not as a chance to escape and get away from home, but instead an opportunity to draw closer to it.
I’ve seen a button on somebody’s backpack at Gustavus that reads: “I’m not Swedish but I hear it’s fabulous.” Speaking as an honorary Swede for the next three months, I can say without a doubt that it is, in fact, fabulous. It’s more than just blonde hair, a sea of blue and gold IKEA bags, or glowing neon red H&M signs; it’s home.