Sunday, January 27, 2013

Snow & Cold: A Bonding Experience

Hej Hej! (the general Swedish greeting, pronounced "hey hey.")

So here I am after the first full week in Sweden of what I consider a great way to start five months in Scandinavia. In my last post I talked about having a hard time getting accustomed to the culture, and I still am, but because of my experiences this week my attitude has completely changed. Why the complete turnaround in attitude?

Well, the beginning of the week cued the onset of classes, something I've been looking forward to. My one engineering class for this quarter is going to be very interesting; Aircraft Engine Systems. The only other class for the quarter, then, in Swedish for Beginners (or Swedish I). I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous about the class. I hadn't started learning another language since taking Spanish in high school, over six years ago, and so I thought it may be a challenge compared to my usual curriculum of engineering and math classes. Ten minutes into the lecture and those feelings were sapped away. The instructor made the class very inclusive with both her and the other students. Unlike Spanish in high school, this language class was, dare I say, fun and enjoyable. But the best facet of this class is the fact that everyone in the class is an exchange student. It's culturally intriguing when the instructor asks the class to repeat phrases to practice diction. Everyone, including myself, is attempting to speak Swedish, and since there is such a difference in culture found throughout the class, you hear dialects upon dialects, some French here, a little Spanish there, perhaps some Korean, and the list goes on. It's truly cultural nirvana.

Perhaps now you're wondering why I chose the title of this entry. It's because of everyone I've met in these past seven days and the events that proved to be the catalysts for these social epiphanies, with most of the activities outside. As I write this, there were so many events that I have to jog my memory from the schedule that is buried in all my paperwork. Bare with me for a moment...

Ok, here we are. So, on Tuesday we had the information session that kick started the orientation events. There we played name games and such to break the ice within our respective groups we were broken into. In my group I came to realize that I was the most western exchange student (geographically speaking), although there was one girl from Montreal (not too far from Clarkson, eh).

In my engineering class I met Thomas from Germany. We hit it off immediately because of our common thread of both being exchange students in such a predominantly Swedish class. I'm beyond thankful for meeting him since he was a segway to meeting several other students from Germany. One of them being Julian, whom I met when I went to the exchange students' hockey practice at the town arena. Julian and I hit it off immediately, and for the rest of the week we have perused the sporting goods store for hockey equipment, attended orientation events together, and have just hung out getting to know each other and our cultures. Jack from Singapore (home country of China) was also at hockey practice that Tuesday night. He has been a huge help and support since I met him early on upon arrical. The hockey practice, although I did not practice since I hadn't purchased equipment in time, was a great experience meeting everyone. I feel bad since I have such a hard time remembering everyone's names but I learned one thing while I was watching everyone practice and play; whether you're playing at Clarkson or Luleå, there is a common hockey culture wherever you travel to. In that regard, for the first time while being here, there wasn't an ounce of culture shock or homesickness. It was a huge relief and eye opener to the potential of what I will experience in Sweden, and who I'll experience it with.

On Wednesday I attended a campus tour, in which I now fully understand this campus is completely different than Clarkson's. Afterwards, I accompanied the rest of the exchange students to fika. This is where I met some friends from Mexico, including Ulises, whom I connected with before arriving in Luleå via Facebook. It was a pleasant coincidence to randomly sit beside him and connect in person rather than through social media.

Thursday I was on my butt a lot, literally. The orientation team, LURC (Luleå University Reception Committee), and the Phösare (Swedish welcoming party/helpers) gathered the exchange students on the local ski training hill for snow sliding. We used saucers (the plastic disks one usually purchases for sledding) to go steaming down the hill on our backsides. It was a blast! Unfortunately I forgot to take my GoPro camera, so no pictures or videos (sorry). Afterwards we were provided a BBQ and hot beverages (the latter being a necessity).

Friday was a fantastic time in the city. LURC took us through the town and down onto the harbor ice (as I mentioned in my previous post, picture below). We ended the tour at City Hall where we met the mayor, Karl Petersen.  We went to the roof of the building to look out over the city, which is the tallest point in Luleå. I didn't take my camera that day because I didn't want it to get too cold while being outside for a couple hours in near zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. However, I did manage a few shots with my phone's camera (I apologize in advance for the quality).

Saturday was the capstone to the orientation week with the Welcome dinner. There I met several more people from France, Finland, and finally a student (doctorate) from Ohio! The dinner was fantastic, although the portions were small and didn't seem enough to fill my American appetite. Nonetheless, the food, every course, was exceptionally delicious. The first course was toast skagen, followed by elk roast and potato gratin (yes, you read that right, elk), and finally a scrumptious blueberry pie with custard. The elk was not what I expected but I absolutely loved it! That's something I never thought I would say. If you're wondering, it was a very mild meat, tender, and wasn't gamey at all.

These weren't the only things I did this past week, but these were the highlights and this post is more than long enough. Besides, I know why you're all here... for the pictures. Enjoy!

Ice road prepared on the harbor. Everyone pictured here is an exchange student.

The city center (centrum).

Panorama of the entire city.

And last, but not least, you're truly atop City Hall.

If you have any questions, like what you see, or have any suggestions for Swedish adventures, don't hesitate to leave a comment. I love hearing from back home. Thanks for reading!

- Jonathan

No comments:

Post a Comment