Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thank You & Goodbye

I couldn't be more thankful for the experience I have gained from this semester. I never could have imagined how much I would grow and how much love I could feel for my new friends and new favorite places. 

Please, if there is anything inside you that is inspired, GO! Go now, see the world, there is never going to be a better time. Worry about money and future plans later. This is something you will never regret, I promise. Your life could change in the most unexpected and amazing ways. Why not find out how? The world is waiting, so get out there! 

If you have any questions about anything travel/study abroad related, please don't hesitate to contact me at

This is my last post. I hope you have enjoyed following my journey and are maybe even inspired to begin your own adventure. If nothing else, I hope you were entertained. For whatever reason you read this, thank you. It's been fun to open up during this exciting time in my life and I'm flattered you took time out of your day to join me on this crazy ride. 

Xoxo, Lynsi

Things I didn't think were possible

(.....but apparently are.)

This is a list of things that (especially now that I am home) are crazy to think that I was able to do.

Survive without a phone for 6 months: I bought a 4th generation iPod touch and deactivated my iPhone 5 before I came, with the logic that my iPod could do exactly what my phone could do with wifi. I figured I might as well not even risk bringing a phone since affordable service there was not even a guarantee. Wifi is definitely more sparse than at home, but I usually figured out a solution when absolutely necessary. There were a couple of moments when I wished I had it, but 99.8% of the time it was no problem. I highly suggest the apps Magic Jack (free unlimited calls to the US!), textfree (free unlimited texts to US numbers), and duh, FaceTime and Skype. Honestly, being unplugged is kind of nice. I've never been a big texter anyways.

Sleep in an airport: The key is to find a booth and lay down...not half bad. Don't forget to snuggle with your purse and luggage, which is very important.

Communicate without speaking: There was a couple of times where the language barrier made for an opportunity to use hand gestures and carefully pronounce location names. I was shocked every time just how well it worked out with just a little extra effort from both sides. 

Appreciate peanut butter more than ever before: good source of protein with no refrigeration required...a travelers dream. 

Plan trips last second: there were some close calls (like not having a place to sleep 6 hours before the fact) but by some odd miracle it always worked out

Figure out how to read a map: there was a couple of times where I had turned myself around, but for the most part, I was a pretty darn good navigator. Especially those tourist maps with the monuments on them...what a great idea. 

Ask for help in another language: So high school French and one semester of Norwegian weren't a total waste of time? Cool. 

Pass 4 classes while barely attending class: Only in Sweden...

Learn how to navigate public transport: Probably won't use this new knowledge until I cross the pond again, but at least I know it's there.

Feel homesick for a country I have never lived: do you do this to me? 

Couchsurf: For those of you who don't know, it is a free online system where you find a good match in the city of choice where they have an open place to sleep for travelers. The trade-off is to spend time with the host and to talk about your travels. Sometimes they even show you around their city. It is a way for them to travel without leaving their house, so to speak. I did it on 3 occasions, and had nothing but awesome experiences. I would highly recommend it, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make sure to read the hosts' profiles carefully and to not do it alone, just to be safe.

Become more bold with my style: I am a lot less afraid to dress "weird"...if I feel good, I am wearing it! Fashion is just another way to express yourself...and it is okay for people to know you are a little weird and rocking it :)

Get by in a country with not only a different language...but alphabet!: The key is trusting your eyes to decide what you want...and pointing...and hoping for the best. Whew.

Learn more from other people than any class I could ever take: I cherish all of those conversations about how different all of our countries are, yet being aware of how alike we are as people. That is so incredible and amazing to me. I have never appreciated my fellow humans more in my life. If everyone could have an experience like that, I'm confident that we would have so much more peace in the world.

Feel like I could be happy living anywhere: Now that I know that I can be content as long as I am in good company, I will be much more open minded as to where life takes me. 

Feel as if I can do anything: This crazy decision sure turned out great, so why wouldn't the next one? 

The Journey Home

Traveling home alone was honestly so relaxing. For as much as I love talking and being around people, I also love living inside my own head, listening to music, and not feeling obligated to fill the minutes with words. Thanks to my (newly) ample experience with airports, it was a very smooth trip home. I took a train to Stockholm, a plane from Stockholm to Reykjavik, and another flight Reykjavik to Minneapolis. It wasn't ideal, but for a one way flight it was by far the cheapest option (buy round trip...don't be like me!).

In Minneapolis, I remember this very distinct moment. I was directed to customs in the "US citizens only" area. I was looking around, noticing the northern accent stronger than ever before, and had a very depressing but true thought: "I'm no longer special for being American". It really sunk in that I was just another face in the crowd again. Nobody was going to tell me they loved my accent,  be surprised by my passport, ask if I knew a celebrity, or if cheerleaders were real, or where North Dakota was. It felt so final that I was home, and the place I had just lived for 6 months was all too far away. Seeing my family, I was happy, but it was so different than the straight-out-of-a-movie-scene I had imagined on those gray days in march when I was missing home. 

Aren't they cute?

You see, there is one thing I have a love/hate relationship with about home: it's so easy. Easy. I never get lost, I know who to call if I need anything and they can be there in 10 minutes, I can get in my car and go anywhere anytime, I understand the currency, I can read every sign, I never have to wonder if someone speaks English, everything is so much cheaper, and life is just kind if predictable. Buying a plane ticket to Brussels 5 days before takeoff is simply not an option (yeah, I did that). Easy is nice, convenient, and requires so little effort. But, easy is exactly the thing I was trying to get away from when I made the decision to study abroad. I was born and raised in Grand Forks, and while I do think it's a great place, I'm not too naive to know that the world has so much more to offer. And I was curious as to what I could find that to mean. And I knew it wouldn't be easy, and that those daily challenges would make me a stronger, more confident me. And even if I had been wrong about every other expectation, I was spot on about that one: the fact that I have changed is undeniable. The most obvious being that it is easier for me to be more direct with people. It's so much more effective to communicate that way than the tiptoeing on eggshells thing I used to do. 

When I first got home I was soooo overwhelmed. I had to make appointments with my dentist, optometrist, and doctor, get a (much needed) haircut, figure out my work schedule, and decide who and what to see first. Not to mention where to eat. These all sound like petty things, but it all adds up to feel like a lot to deal with. It is also a bit weird to know that every time you go in public, you will see someone you know and they may or may not ask about the "trip" as many call it (kind of annoying but whatever, I would never call a 6 month relocation a trip, personally). I have been used to literally never knowing a single person when going in public so that's taking some time to get adjusted to.

It's been a couple of weeks and I am so torn about how I feel about this transition. There are so many things/people I missed and I have really enjoyed catching up on that. It is nice to have so much space, but it feels somewhat lonely compared to where I was living in Sweden, with the bustling campus full of life and people shouting being my norm. I go between feeling so happy to see people and go places I had missed and finding myself thinking about how much I miss my friends and life back in Sweden. It's especially hard to accept that even if I went back, it would never be the same. All of them are home, and while the location of where we met is nice, what really mattered is that it is what brought us together. 

Everyone always says "You must be so happy to be home!" But, honestly, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have to say though, it feels good to work and contribute to society again. And I know I will feel better when school starts since I will have so many exciting things going on. But right now, I'm not quite sure what to think of it all. Reverse culture shock is definitely real, believe me. 

Family's visit/The end of the adventure

So I know it's been forever since I last wrote, but honestly, I put it off simply because 1) I wanted to enjoy my last days in Sweden/first days at home and 2) there is SO much to say I wasn't sure how to be concise about it. Either way, I feel like this blog lacks closure and if I had stopped at my last post, a piece of the journey would have been missing. I will be as brief as possible, but bear with me!

Well, my family came to visit me during my last month abroad. I met my younger sister and my parents in Oslo. From there, we took the train to Bergen, and then a plane to Copenhagen, and then took the train to Karlstad and a final train to Stockholm where they flew home. If it sounds like a lot (for 10 days), you're absolutely right. Seeing and hugging them for the first time in 6 months was really amazing. But, to be honest, it was such a different experience than what I pictured.

See, no matter how close you are with someone, it doesn't mean that you travel well together. I was expected to be the leader, even though I had only been to 2 of the places. This was quite a strange turning of tables, as it has never been anyone's role besides my parents' on every other trip we have taken. I have travelled fast and in an organized way on my many trips and it felt strange to have to change that. We were in bed at around 9 every night and there was not much research done beforehand as to what we had planned to do, so I was a bit frustrated that there seemed to be too much wasted time. At the end of the day though, we all got to spend those days together and I am thankful they got a first glimpse of how amazing and different from home Europe is. I think they realized too that traveling isn't always so easy and the fact I've been able to figure out so much on my own indicates my determination and how much my self assurance has grown.

But, overall, it was an incredible time and we were able to do a lot of things despite being in transit so often. Highlights include the Opera house, the Parliament, the palace, the ski jump, and the fortress in Oslo, the incredible view of the mountains and fjords on the train from Oslo to Bergen, the view at the top of a mountain, a fjord tour, and the fish market in Bergen, Nyhavn, the royal palace, the little mermaid, and the marble church in Copenhagen, a boat tour of Karlstad and one last night out there, and exploring Gamla Stan and Skansen in Stockholm. 

all of us together :)

In Stockholm, my older sister met us (she couldn't come with the others due to work). It was so nice, if only for one night, that we all could be together in Sweden. We had a nice dinner and walked the streets of Gamla was amazing. The next day, the parents and younger sister flew home while Chelsi (my older sister) and I took the train to Oslo.

Due to the train delay, we ended up taking a replacement bus and it took us almost twice as long to get there than planned. So, we spent the night walking around the city center and relaxing by the water, which was really nice. The next day, we did a Norway in a Nutshell tour, which is a 14 hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of Norway. You take trains, a bus, and a boat (through the fjords). While it was beautiful, we were disappointed that it wasn't much of a tour at all. There was no guide, it was all public transport, and you pretty much had to figure out all the changes on your own (if you missed any, you would have been totally screwed). I know it was an effective use of our time and that we got to see a lot, but, given the opportunity, I would have planned it myself and likely saved a good chunk of change.

The next day, we got on a flight to.....(wait for it) Paris! It was quite a trip figuring out where our accommodation was, and the train strikes did not simplify this (how typical). We hit the highlights in our 3 1/2 days there (I swear it could never be long enough) including a boat tour, Versailles, top of Arc de Triomphe, top of Eiffel Tower, ate macaroons and drank cider, took touristy pictures at the Louvre, put a lock on the love lock bridge, went to Montmartre, and, of course, went in the Notre Dame. Paris with your sister truly is nothing short of a dream come true and I wouldn't trade that time with her for the world. 

After, we headed to Karlstad to (finally) relax. We got to spend time with some of my friends, go on a boat tour, walk around town, and even go out to eat (which I never did in Karlstad...and once the bill came I remembered why). And then she headed back to Stockholm to fly back.

My friend Moni (from Germany) and I went on a last second trip to Gothenburg (Sweden's 2nd largest city) before she left to spend Midsummer, Sweden's biggest holiday. We spend the day in a couple of parks in the city, having picnics, some drinks, and enjoying music and sunshine under a maypole. It was an experience I really enjoyed and it was so nice to have time to enjoy our last time together and relax. Highlights include attempting to make flower crowns, visiting an island, and tackling Hagabullen (gigantic cinnamon rolls that the Haga section of Gothenburg is famous for). When in Rome, right? 

I had about a week left in Karlstad after that, which I spent saying goodbye to friends, exploring the city I had called home, buying last minute presents, and, of course, packing and cleaning. By the time I had left Karlstad, all but one of my good friends was already home so I felt pretty much at peace with the fact that I was doing the same.

Bye Karlstad....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I will miss...

There is no denying that I have loved (almost) every minute of this experience, start to finish. With only a few weeks to go (and classes already being over), I have started to truly reflect on my experience and can feel myself getting more and more sentimental about how little time there is left. Here is a list of things that have become norms in my life this semester. This was tricky to compile since there are so many things I have had the chance to truly appreciate...

I will miss....

getting lost/exploring in cities that I have no previous knowledge about (ex. Tallinn, Estonia)

campus parties 

sitting and appreciating moments when I realized my wildest dreams were coming true (ex. London, England underneath the London Eye and facing Big Ben)  

Thursdays at Koriander with white wine and mirror selfies 

International Dinners with my awesome floor mates

freaking out whenever I see a castle

this...(abundance of unique? people)

my choir girls

getting creative with our costumes before campus parties

riding the bus (so easy- always warm in winter, cool in summer)

audio guides. So many audio guides.

being a complete tourist and feeling 100% shameless about it

receiving care packages/actual mail

being a master of public transport

FOOD, especially trying region specific food.. ( ex. Fish and chips in London, pizza in Rome)

experiencing crappy weather and thinking, "Oh well. At least I am in (insert cool country)." (Oslo)

legal drinking, especially where wine juice boxes are available (so convenient!).

churches like this....

seeing proof of royalty

spending time with these amazing friends that I will have for life. 

being in absolute disbelief of being somewhere I have thought about going forever and feeling like "Someone pinch me.." (Colosseum in Rome)

visiting a totally awesome place without even planning to (Rotterdam, Netherlands)

not knowing the language (or alphabet) and still managing to communicate just fine (challenge accepted!) (St. Petersburg)

love lock bridges...never gets old <3 (Helsinki)

I could probably think of a million more, but I will stop there. I am unbelievably lucky to have so many things worth missing :)

My family is coming on friday and I will be traveling with them until the middle of June, so that is why there won't be any posts until then. I can't wait to share my last adventure with you! Until next time xoxo