Monday, January 13, 2014

I have ARRIVED :)

So, I have been here a whole 48 hours and I can already tell you..I already love it here! Despite the horrific process of the actual traveling to get here, things have gone pretty smoothly. Chloe and I have been really lucky (maybe so because the Swedes tend to like us Americans ;) ). Oh man, so much has happened, so many details to fill in, where do I even start?

About the whole actually getting here thing- our initial flight was cancelled. Yep, cancelled. I was at my sister's place in Fargo, luggage in tow, about to walk out the door, when I got that horrible news via text from Chloe. She was at the mall with her family, also ready to go. We met at the airport to see what they could do for us, but we ended up having to rebook for the next day. It is torture when you have this date set in your mind and this picture of how it is going to be when you leave, and then you are sent back in the direction you came from. But, weather can be unpredictable and we ended up staying at my sister's one more night and making the most of it.

The next morning, we got on the plane as planned (thank goodness) with only minor delay, and let me tell you, it is by far the smallest commercial plane I have ever seen. But, we got to Chicago safely and by some odd miracle, made it to our terminal just in time to receive more bad news. We had been unknowingly put on standby for our connecting flight to Stockholm. At this point, we would have done anything just to get to Sweden, so we both crossed our fingers, went to our gate, and sat in seats right by the boarding pass desk and practically stared them down. We must have done something right, because a half hour after the plane started boarding, we were given tickets. We honestly felt like we had won the lottery. 

Getting on the plane was our first dose of culture shock. We flew with Scandinavian Airlines, and Swedish was the first language used by the airline staff. Not only that, but we did not hear any other passengers speak english either. The food was definitely different too, in a good way. Unfortunately, between the malfunctioning movie screens, screaming Eurobabies, and rock hard seats, we were not able to sleep much. But that is okay, because our excitement alone was probably enough to keep us awake. 

When we arrived in Stockholm after what felt like 100 hours on a plane, we were in absolute awe of how gorgeous the landscape was. The first snow had occurred just a few days before, and yet the many waterways remained flowing and unfrozen. I kept saying "It looks like a Christmas movie!" When we got off the plane, the next order of business was figuring out how to get to Karlstad, about 4 hours from Stockholm by bus. We were able to get bus tickets with the help of the info desk there and we were on our way. 

The bus ride to our school was nothing short of majestic, especially with all the beautiful buildings, charming towns, forests, and waterways, all things that we don't get to see much of at home. We were on opposite sides of the bus and were consantly getting each others' attention to point out a cool building or a beautiful stream surrounded by rocky cliff. When we arrived in Karlstad, my fantastic hosts were nice enough to take both Chloe and I to our apartments. We drove by the university, and I could not believe how high tech and modern it looks! There is this really cool suspended structure in a glass building called "The Egg" that is actually a classroom (pictured below)! 

When I walked into my room for the first time, my jaw dropped over how huge and nice it was. At UND, I felt cramped in my dorm, but being here, I was almost stressed about how bare the walls are and how empty my bookcase would be since there was far more storage than what was required for what I packed. Once the basics were explained and I got a brief tour, I was left alone in my echo-ey huge room. I didn't even think to Skype or text anyone, all I wanted to do was unpack and make it my own. I put everything away, put pictures on the walls, and decorated. I got everything else I needed the next day at IKEA (yes, in Sweden! :D ) and finished the process. I have to say, I am quite pleased with how home-y I was able to make it. Here is a link to a 360 view of it here:

Today, Chloe and I completed our next major order of business: grocery shopping. Let me tell you, it was no easy task. Actually, it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life to be quite honest. Not only are the prices in SEK (1 SEK=roughly .15 USD), but there is rarely any english on the packaging of the food. So, on top of deciding what to buy, you have to figure out how much it is, and then figure out what it is and if you can make several meals from it before the expiration date. Groceries are very expensive here, so it has to be gone about carefully in order to not waste any of it. To make matters worse, every employee we asked for help did not know english. This was the first time since we have been here that this was the case. It isn't that we are mad that they don't know our language, it is just frustrating when there is such a lack in understanding from both sides. I guess it was a good reminder in the importance of effective communicating. Who knew buying carrots could be so complicated? We were there for literally 4 hours and by the end of it, we were very ready to just go to bed (this was around 5pm-ha!). By the way, how funny are these wagon-carts?!

Overall, I am really content here and proud of how Chloe and I have been able to put our heads together and figure out how to make things work. Tomorrow is the first day of orientation and I could not be more excited to meet my fellow international students, tour the university more in depth, and begin establishing a routine here. Feel free to contact me via Skype/Facetime/iMessage or any other social media. I may not reply right away since I don't have internet 100% of the time, just so you know :)

And so it begins!

PS: My blog is now locatable here--->

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