It’s been four months now.
I’ve seen so much of this place. Made a lot of friends, a lot of memories, seen and done things I would never ever have imagined.
This is much like the story of every exchange student, I would imagine, but to me, it feels special.
As I find myself nearing the end of my stay here in Umeå, Sweden, I feel like a little reflection is in order:
Actually, I’ve spent more time on my various trips around Europe than here in Umeå. Just got back from a trip further north at 1am today. I’m writing this blog now rather than later since I’m leaving again for another trip around Europe in a couple of days. Tiredness is no longer a problem, just a fact of life.
So far I have visited a whole lot of Sweden, plus bits of other countries like Poland, Finland (twice), Norway (thrice), Russia, Italy, Switzerland, France and Monaco, with plans to see Spain and Germany as well as Italy and France again before I leave – in a month.
I’ve been roaming around with friends I made here, friends from just about every country in the world (in fact I’m convinced Sweden has more Germans than Swedes). I have a bunch of Swedish friends as well, of course, but they are not so interested in such touristy activities…
One thing that you notice when travelling with non-native English speakers is that many will call just about anywhere “home”. Instead of “let’s go back to the hotel where we are staying for one night”, it’s “let’s go home”. Of course I don’t feel at home in that hotel, it’s just the place we sleep. In this case I usually try to correct people (which some really appreciate, more than others).
There is one case, though, when I don’t feel that this is a mistake; When people say we are going “home” as we return to Umeå, then I am inclined to agree with them. I do feel like I’m coming home. This feels like home.
The snow; the cold; the sun that we never see, and the beautiful skies by which we know it is still there; this tiny little room; my curtains that I found in a dumpster – held open by a coathanger; riding my bike across the frozen lake; cooking my own food in my own shared kitchen; my housemates, about whom I know nothing, not even their names (as is the Swedish way); the times when I find myself thinking “$5 Australian, what’s that in crowns?”; the big dirty factory next door, whose smoky beacon guides me safely home from any place in town at any hour of night…
All of it. It’s home.
Loved the photos, loved the emotions. One of the fascinating things about exchange is the point you made about meeting more international students than Swedes- you went expecting to embrace Swedish culture and here you are, to your surprise perhaps, totally global. I think this is amazing. I used to worry about US students coming to Australia who didnt meet enough Australians – but now I don’t, because he international students they hang out with are such a rich cultural smorgasbord. Not what they expected to find – but that’s life.
I hope you will stay on the blog after you get back and share your experience of your return – in fact I might say that to everyone…
December 17, 2010 at 1:26 am