Taking that Leap of Faith: Why you SHOULD go abroad

I was so scared to get on that plane. When we finally took off from London Heathrow and broke through the clouds on its way to Stockholm, Sweden, my heart was pounding through my chest, and my head was spinning wondering how I could possibly start all over again after all I’d been through. Edinburgh had been like a dream come true and the year I’d had before had been one of the greatest of my life. I’d had the highest highs yet, the long nights of dancing in Cowgate, the candid beach days at Portobello, the campus and lecturers I’d known so well. Memories and photos lined the walls of a life I’d finally felt comfortable in. Leaving that all behind for the vague promise of a new great start? You gotta be kidding me! I can’t live under that pressure! If you need to ask anyone how nervous I was just ask my father. Poor guy was on the plane next to me listening to it all!

When I finally saw the vast forests and glittering lakes of Sweden below and the bright blue sky above it, I felt my heart race further yet when we landed and we got through to the exit, I already knew things would be just fine. There have been many moments in my life I’ve considered a leap of faith: a moment where you put all fear aside and jump into the life you want. When I saw fellow international students waiting in the lobby, I took a deep breath and I jumped right in. Suddenly, everything I’d be blabbering about to anyone who’d listen for the last few months was rendered pointless and I’d made friends right away. From the airport, we hopped on a bus and drove past the cute red cottages, green fields and a ridiculously massive IKEA to the university town of Uppsala.

Where to begin with Uppsala? Well for starters, I think I should win the award for most environments experienced in one exchange. I mean what other place has scorching temperatures of up to 32 degrees Celsius and constant sunshine in August and then dropping to -11 with heaps of snow by December? There was always something new and exciting to do because of such an ever-changing environment. In the summer, we’d lounge by a glittering lake and then I’d try my best to catch up with my speeding Belgian and Dutch friends on bikes on the way back to our accommodations. We’d go for hikes in the forest and even stayed in a little forest cabin overnight one time. Jokes about forest-dwelling serial killers were not appreciated, you know who you are. I was soon introduced to my courses too, where I already felt my Swedish improving from the start.

In the autumn, as the wheels of my bike got covered in auburn leaves, we enjoyed the many events the nations had on display. The Nations, a collection of 13 clubhouses with every activity possible from games nights to cheesy nightclubs where they played the Swedish pop hit “Jag kommer” at least three times in one night, was the lifeline of student life in Uppsala. On Tuesdays, there was Gästrike-Hälsinge two-for-one burgers and then the famous student nightclub nicknamed Snerikes. I’ll admit it now, I loved Snerikes so much I was willing to wait in -7 degrees in December for it, so take it from me, it’s good. On Wednesdays, there was my beloved pub quiz at Östgota. On Fridays, they turned the library of Värmlands into a dance floor, which worked better than you’d think. On Saturdays, it was pancake day! There were even black-tie events called Gasques where you’d cluelessly sing along to Swedish songs, drink free schnapps and eat a homely meal with your friends.

As December loomed and a permanent blanket of snow covered the city, we did all the same things but in about three heavy layers of coats. I’ll never forget seeing my local park transform into a winter wonderland nor can I forget the infamous Gävle goat. Look it up, it’s a hilarious little tidbit of Swedish culture.

When January rolled around, I’d passed my exams and it was finally time to fly back to Heathrow after all I’d experienced, I thought back to where I was at the start. If only I knew everything was going to be just fine. As cheesy as it sounds, I just needed to take that leap of faith and believe in myself. If I’ve learned anything, besides maybe not queuing for Snerikes in -7 degrees, it’s that starting over doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Go on that exchange, find home in a new place and come back with a great story to tell. I know that I did.

Categories: ERASMUS, Europe, INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE, Sweden, UppsalaTags: , , , , , , ,

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