Sweden | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

January 2017, and so it begins.

I made it to Sweden! The journey was insane, I flew directly to Frankfurt and after a lengthy layover I headed to Göteborg, where I spent the night, and then took a bus to Jönköping the next morning. I, to say the least, was a mess upon arrival and it was for that reason that I learned how reserved the Swedes are. Although they seem anti-social compared to our friendly Texas-culture they are quite nice and open. I sincerely would have never made it to Jönköping if it weren’t for the Swedish that helped me along the way.

On another note, it is cold…shocker, but I was quite prepared which was favorable since Sweden is a very expensive country. I had a lot of expectations when coming to Sweden and in many cases they differed from reality.

Although there were a lot of things I expected and had thought about when coming to Sweden a lot of things escaped my mind. For example, I didn’t think about not having a car! In the states I used my car for everything and anything but moving here has made me depend on public transportation,  adapting has been a challenge but I’m slowly but surely overcoming it.

I thought adjusting overall would take much longer than it actually did, but Sweden has become my home. Our first two weeks we had a mini kick-off, mainly for the international students, and then the official Kick-Off week! Its like fish camp and Gig’em week all packed into one and it was extremely fun. I’ve made so many friends from all over the world and even been to the HV71 hockey game! The atmosphere at hockey games definitely resembles a Saturday at Kyle Field, the Swedish definitely love their hockey team and their fika (coffee breaks). If you want a Swede to go anywhere just include a fika! They are truly obsessed with coffee, there are at least double the number of coffeeshops in comparison to restaurants in the city. But hey, who can blame them? It keeps you warm!

Jönköping International Business School

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

March 2017, a month filled with travels and all of my favorite people.

Well I’ll first begin with classes. How the courses work here is that the semester is broken down into two parts: Jan-March, where you take two courses, and March-June, where you take your other two courses. This means your projects/finals are in March. Luckily, one of my classes had no final and the other was on the last day of the week of finals which gave me ample time to travel! It was a little hectic to plan in advance since JIBS has a quirky way of handling the finals schedule. We have a very structured way of handling courses back home, usually you get the schedule for the semester the first week of classes but at JIBS its very different. First I had to register for my final (which was on a Saturday at 8 am !!) and I didn’t find out the date until a month before the final. So as I said, an obstacle when planning, but in the end it all works out. I also found out the Swedish have a much more relaxed way of approaching school, as there are re-examinations here. At first I thought it was a bit strange since we are so used to getting the grade you get, but I realized it is a great way to hand more control to the students. For example, many students approach the first half of the semester more leisurely and instead focus on other things, such as work, and then plan to shift their focus toward their classes the second half or vice versa. As for me, I focused on my courses first semester and fit in some traveling and plan to do the same the second half of the semester. Although it was very strange watching all my friends back home enjoy spring break while I studied for finals! It was also so weird to be done with my courses one day and two days later start right back up.

WARNING: This was a month full of photographs and memories. Shameless plug for all of the places I visited.

Oslo, Norway

I got to visit Maddie, my best friend who is also on exchange, in Norway! It was so nice to see a familiar face from back home and I truly had a blast. I got to explore the beautiful nature that Norway has, as well as visit the Viking Ship Museum, and see one of my favorite artists, Drake, with fellow friends from Jönköping. It amazing how fast I felt right at home in Oslo, I even joked about being a local once I figured out the layout of the city, which I had down by the second day. On my first day I got to meet several of Maddie’s new exchange friends and we even went out to the Ice Bar that night (which is as cold as it looks). This was definitely a highlight in my month, but after returning to Jönköping I had my final presentation for my Project Management class which reminded me of the study part of being abroad.

Spain: The Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, and Toledo Edition

My favorite people in the world made the trip across the Atlantic! My godparents are from Spain and they took my parents and I to all the tourist hotspots plus gave us the local tour. One thing to note about Spain is that they love to sit in restaurant patios and drink cañas. So we did as the locals do! I swear Gaudí singlehandedly made Barcelona one of my favorite places, his architecture is like no other. Sweden is so reserved, and more specifically Jönköping is such a small town that the city vibe of Madrid and Barcelona were much welcomed (also the sunshine).
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain is beautiful but it is incredible how different the hustle and bustle of the major cities differs from cities a bit further south. Toledo was hands down my favorite of the places we went, specifically the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Sevilla is a close second with the Alcázar of Seville, although we waited an hour to enter it was an amazing experience. My favorite part of these cities was that they were cities impacted by so many cultures that you see all of the different influences everywhere. You could have Christian influences in a mosque and Islam influence in a synagogue, within a couple hundred feet of each other. Spain was definitely one for the books, and definitely one my favorite experiences while abroad because its something my parents would have never done if I wasn’t studying in Europe.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

As I said, March was a month filled with travel so naturally I ended the month in another country. The Netherlands was a country that wasn’t high on my list until I came to Jönköping and met all of the amazing Dutch. I got to meet up with Maddie again and we had an unforgettable time. While being known as a strange city, Amsterdam still has the incredible quaintness of the Netherlands. Visiting the Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Cheese Museum we got a taste of the incredible culture in Amsterdam. Bonus points if you find me in the Iamsterdam sign.

 

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

February 2017, one month down!

Its begun to hit me that I miss home, with the Superbowl happening in my hometown, missing my anniversary with my boyfriend, missing his 21st, as well as my best friend’s birthday. Being in Sweden has been hitting me economically and emotionally, so naturally I did what anyone does studying abroad, I traveled. I had the list of places I wanted to go, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the usual. Its crazy how less than 30 days from knowing my new friends I embarked on a spontaneous trip to a place I hadn’t even thought of going: Budapest.

 

Budapest, Hungary

 Sweden is amazing, but there is nothing I love more than the warmth of the sun (which is greatly under appreciated in Texas). First things first, the Swedish have few authentic food (as they focus on fika) that are actual meals. My diet (when eating out) has consisted of burgers and pizza, an unexpected twist to my life abroad but Hungary was another story when it came to traditional meals. I’m a picky eater but it all looked way too good to pass up, so I tried lagos and goulash and strawberry beer. I was in food heaven and it was noteworthily less expensive. Sweden has a lot of amazing things, but the architecture in Budapest is another story. There was a such a history and everything didn’t feel as sleek and modern, it was such a difference. While there we took a free walking tour that turned out to be about the communism in Hungary and I learned more than I would have ever learned from a book. Technically when I’m traveling I’m not in the classroom but I’m still learning so much, a perk of studying abroad. Remember how I said I was missing the Superbowl? Well we found a bar that was broadcasting it…..in Hungarian….at 3 am (because of the time difference). Call us crazy, but we watched it until the unpredictable ending with our new Hungarian friends.

Vienna, Austria

Our day trip to Vienna was stunning! Vienna is a pristine city where it seems all the building are white and impeccable while be historic. My favorite part was the all the quirky things we stumbled upon, it reminded me of Austin where things are just a little weird! I also had an amazing schnitzel at Figmueller, that claims to have the best one in Vienna.

Living abroad is amazing and its brought so many extraordinary memories I can’t wait to find out what in store these next couple of months.

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

April 2017, it’s been a real rollercoaster.

Riga, Latvia

                                          I started this month in Amsterdam and took a spontaneous trip to Latvia. My class got cancelled and I figured I’d take a cruise instead of heading back to school. Riga was a place I would never have gone out of my way to visit but Im glad got to explore it. There is an organization at JIBS called ESNJönköping and each university in Sweden has it as well. They are the group that made this trip possible and they have several events throughout the semester which are super fun (I’d recommend checking it out). Anyways as you will see there is a pattern of spontaneity in April, because the thing is that I love April. My favorite activities of the year are in April, which includes my birthday, my best friends birthdays, and Easter. I wouldn’t say its my favorite holiday but I love being able to spend it with my family, something I’m not able to do while abroad. One of my friends in Jönköping suggested visiting Copenhagen for the weekend and so we went. Her favorite place is Copenhagen and I really couldn’t have asked for better people to go with.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark is nothing like what I expected, I kept forgetting it was Scandinavia and then I was reminded with the cold rainy weather we got the first day. Its a beautiful city filled with so much color! We ended up spending Easter at Tivoli, a beautiful amusement park in the middle of the capital. I would never have thought to go to an amusement park while abroad but it was the perfect way to spend Easter, its one of those unexpected things that you didn’t know you missed until you do (like Mac and Cheese). Copenhagen certainly has some cool places, one of them being a building full if street food!

Classes are very different this semester, there is a lot more group work which is difficult to coordinate with everyones schedules. Especially since the school plans trips throughout the semester and in April is the Russia trip! I personally, had no interest in going to Russia but since it was visa-free many of my fellow exchange friends jumped on the opportunity. It kept me back home exploring Jönköping and I was blessed with some nice sunny weather! The small town has so much to offer and I finally got to visit all the places I was told to “visit when it was warmer”, I even wore sandals! We have delightful parks and hiking, and theres a beach by the lake. Honestly, it felt good to be home, although I did travel pretty much every week. Towards the end of the month I headed to Croatia which is gorgeous (and got lots of passport stamps!).

 Croatia: Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar Edition

One of the greatest perks of studying in Europe is that sometimes you look at cheap flight deals and they are to incredible places you would have never imagined going. That is the exact case with my trip to Croatia, I saw, I booked, I conquered. I’ve made incredible friends while at Jönköping and we had an unbelievable time in Croatia. Even the view from our Airbnb was worth the mountain of stairs we had to climb to make it to. A couple of great friends I’ve made are actually from Texas and go to the University of Oklahoma, and they were on this trip! One of the nice things about being abroad is that you meet from everywhere, but having someone from home that reminds you that you’re not that weird for saying y’all is awesome too. You would think I’d be tired of traveling, but theres nothing like stumbling on a wine festival and a local jazz band. Croatia definitely made me go out of my comfort zone since all the Old Towns were a maze and you could get lost for hours without a map, but talking to the locals and going to all of their recommendations definitely paid off.

Categories: 2017, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

In Sweden, the semester is divided into two quarters. Today, I sit quite pleased with myself, because I have finished the first quarter classes. Here are a few of the things I learned.

  • Dead days, or the glorious reprieve of classes before finals, are not universal.
  • Everything, including actual test taking, is done in an orderly manner in Sweden.
  • The standard question to gauge success is ‘do you think you passed?’

It’s amazing to me that passing is considered a success in Sweden. However, the stress of international members in group projects, unfamiliarity with Swedish professor’s standards, and 8 weeks of an intense pace curriculum have helped me understand this passing mentality

One week we were in first quarter classes, the next we were taking finals and the following week we will start new classes. I’m not used to the successive progression of academic events. America has conditioned me to think of finals as the end all be all, necessitating a month long break after successful completion.

Here’s how my first quarter classes went:

  1. Entrepreneuring. This course completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. The whole course investigated the process of entrepreneurship. So accordingly my classmates and I had to create a venture idea, interview a Swedish entrepreneur, and create lectures to cover various entrepreneuring topics.
  2. Industrial Distribution and Retailing. Supply chain management with a dash of marketing. We looked at how to evaluate a supply chain’s efficiency and understand channel member’s perspectives. Highlight: guest lecturer from IKEA.
  3. Consumer Behavior. This was my favorite class. We examined the motivations for consumer choices in the marketplace. That means we looked at everything from classical conditioning, theories of planned behavior and tons of advertisements.

These were not the traditional classes I would have taken if I had completed my final semester at A&M. However, I appreciate the fact that every day I had the chance to see a world beyond my perspective.

img_1612

Swedish monument

Jonkoping University

img_1597

Beautiful autumn leaves!

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

It’s the middle of my sixth week in Sweden and I love it! I am an exchange student studying at Jönköping University in Jönköping, Sweden. The week before classes started, all the new students participated in an orientation program complete with overalls (uniforms that specify what students are studying based on color), games, and groups. Think Fish Camp minus the Texas standard of appropriateness. The week was a well planned sequence of events that helped me meet people and learn about Swedish culture.

The second week I started my classes at the business school called JIBS or Jonkoping International Business School. There are a few blatant differences between JIBS and Mays:

1. We call our professors by their first name
2. Classes are at least 2 hours long
3. There’s a 15 minute coffee break in the middle of class
4. Class times are different every week
5. Courses are taught by a team of professors

Things that are still the same:
1. Tons of group projects
2. The professors are knowledgeable and excited about their subject matter

The semester is broken into quarters here. People typically take two classes each quarter. I’ve chosen pain and enrolled in three so that I can graduate on time. I appreciate that the classes here are focused on practical knowledge. In my entrepreneuring class we simulate the process of launching a business by creating a product, a pitch and lots of feedback sessions. In consumer behavior my incredibly enthusiastic South African professor does an excellent job of introducing new, controversial, topics. She never reveals her opinion, so we are free to explore and critically evaluate the new material. Finally my industrial distribution class keeps me on my toes. I hear everything from the “evils” of Walmart to the strategy behind Swedish grocery stores.
My favorite part about attending JIBS is that every day I interact with people from all over the world. My dorm of approximately 24 people houses over 10 nationalities, and classes are just as diverse. Seeing the world through another country’s perspective is a privilege more powerful than a textbook. Two weeks ago I grew frustrated when my international teammate did not seem to listen or participate in a group discussion. A few minutes after the event, he asked me what life was like in Texas. I was caught off-guard but I explained the incredible glory that is life in Texas. Then I asked about his home. As I explained and listened, my frustration faded. The event was not any less aggravating, but in that moment my teammate’s curiosity and willingness to share reminded me of his humanity. It reminded me of the capacity for humans to care about and appreciate others as an individual. We have more in common with our global peers and our neighbors than we realize.
My time in Sweden has made me desire that my American peers would take time to remember that we do have more in common with each other than we have different. I wish everyone in America would intentionally consider one another first as people with meaningful lives. I wish that we could shirk the fear of the differences that our global neighbors or our nation has. It breaks my heart to read the New York Times every morning and see the strife of race relations as headlines day after day. Yet it scares me even more to think that we might be waiting for the government or legislation to take care of a sensitive issue that neighbors can fix.
My classes here have given me the freedom to explore new subjects and the privilege to learn from global peers.

 

Jönköping Business School

Jönköping Business School

First day of school at Jönköping University.

First day of school at Jönköping University.

My Swedish family!

My Swedish family!

Jönköping University in the fall.

Jönköping University in the fall.

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

Well, I am officially done with my exchange in Jönköping, Sweden. It has been an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. The friends and memories I have made here are so invaluable. Before I get into summing up my trip as a whole, I want to talk about my final month here.

For the first week of May, I went on a Cruise from Stockholm, to Helsinki, to St. Petersburg, back to Helsinki, then finally back to Stockholm. It was a total of four nights on the boat and two nights in St. Petersburg. We left from Stockholm on an overnight trip to Helsinki, stayed in Helsinki for a day, took an overnight trip to St. Petersburg, stayed in St. Petersburg for two nights, took an overnight trip back to Helsinki, then took a final overnight trip to Stockholm. The cruise ship was so much fun. Everything was extremely cheap in the duty free store, there was a casino, live music, and the ship had everything that a normal big tropical cruise liner would have.

Finnish Cannon                  Russian Castle

St. Petersburg Squad

The rest of May consisted of me working on group projects and studying for finals. The typical end of the semester stuff that every student dreads. Although it was a bit stressful, I still always get the same feeling of relief when it is all said and done and I realize that I am free!

After I finished finals, it really hit me that my exchange was over. I had everything packed up and was on my way to the airport to hop on my flight home. There are so many people I have met that helped make my exchange amazing and I cannot believe it is actually over. However, on a more positive note, there are so many awesome things you can take away from going on a semester exchange:

  • You get to get to say you have actually lived in another country and fully invested yourself in the culture and way of life.
  • You will most likely have had the opportunity to travel to many other countries and can now say you are sooooo well cultured and traveled.
  • You will probably have picked up a bit on a new language and can engage in basic conversations with that language.
  • You can put on your resume that you have attended a university in another country. Employers really like this because it really shows that you are able to adapt to completely new situations and are not scared to move outside your comfort zone. It also shows employers that you are diversified in your life and cultural experiences (see bullets one and two).
  • You will have friends all over the world. So if you do decide to travel to somewhere where you have friends that you met on exchange, you will be able to see a familiar face.
  • You will make memories that will last a lifetime and that you will be able to tell your kids and grandkids.

If you are thinking of doing an exchange in Sweden, here is my list of the main things that you should be aware of:

  • Yes, it is true that all of the women are blonde, blue-eyed beauties.
  • Yes, it is true that they listen to a lot of electronic music
  • Yes, it is true that they dress up for everything and are very fashionable. You will get weird looks if you come to class in sweats and a t-shirt.
  • Yes, it is very cold. You will be wearing a jacket until at least May. However, when it is blistering hot back home in Texas during May, a hot day in Sweden will be 75 degrees.
  • Yes, during the winter, the sun sets really early. When I arrived in January, the sun was completely down by about 4:15 in the afternoon. By the end of May, it would not be completely dark until 11:45 pm and the sun would rise around 3:15 am.
  • SWEDEN IS EXPENSIVE.
  • Common things like going out to eat, alcohol, transportation, and normal everyday items are more expensive than compare to the US because of the high tax rates that Swedish citizens pay. However, if you are able to budget your money correctly, these increases in price are really not going to make you go broke.

Sweden was an amazing place to do my exchange. A lot of my friends have gone to places such as Spain, Austria, Germany, etc. Although those places were so amazing when I visited them, Sweden seemed an atypical place to do an exchange and it seemed like a country that I would not think to travel to. However, I am 100% glad I chose to come. I am so happy to have been able to call Jönköping, Sweden my home for 5 months, and I am going to miss it dearly. Until next time…

Sweden Squad

 

Categories: 2016, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

March has been a great month for me in Sweden! Because school is divided into quarters here, I am now finishing up my first 2 classes. School here is so different from A&M in a lot of ways, the main one being the lack of structure here. There are no set class times such as “Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 2:00”. It is more like “how about we just meet next week sometime to finish up this chapter, how does that sound with everybody?”. The 2 classes of my first quarter were “Business Ethics” and “Project Management”. Both of these classes were actually really interesting and consisted almost completely of group projects and papers, no exams.

These classes have really taught me a lot about working on projects with people from all parts of the world, which is definitely going to be useful in my life. I have also learned that I have a huge advantage over other students here for 2 reason. First because I am a native English speaker, so I automatically have a much easier job of writing papers and reading textbooks compared to most of the other students! Second, A&M seems to be more rigorous than other universities here, so I am used to spending a lot more time on school than others. The university itself is located right on the shore of Lake Vattern, the second biggest lake in Sweden, so that campus is really beautiful. Here is a picture below!

jibs_building

The on campus culture is also very much different from A&M. Everyone is really well dressed all the time, and there is even a pub on campus! The university’s student organization also owns a nightclub in the city center which is open for JU students only every Wednesday. After this first quarter is over, I have about 10 days off before I start my next round of classes! I am really settling into the Swedish life now, and I cant wait see what else I will experience here!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

Hello from Jönköping, Sweden! I have been in this amazing city in the central part of Sweden for about 7 weeks now. I have been so busy with exploring the city, making new friends, and keeping up with classes, that blogging totally slipped my mind! My journey to Sweden was very long, but so stress-free! I flew out of the DFW airport, had about an 11 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and from there flew to Gothenburg, Sweden. Once I was in Gothenburg, I took a bus to Jönköping.

My first impression of this country was something along the lines of, “Wow, this is really cold”, but I have adapted to the weather and really enjoy the change! Before I came to Sweden, I heard a lot of stereotypes about this country, and so far I have to say that all of them are true… Everyone is tall, blonde, and beautiful. People here really like their techno and house music. And like I just said, its cold all the time.

My first week in school was one of the most fun of my life, and was filled with different events to meet other students and learn more about Sweden and Jönköping University. Imagine a week long Fish Camp, minus the piercings, but with hundreds of students from all around the world! After that week, classes officially started, but I will talk more about the schoolwork in my next post!

DSCN0029

I live in a student dorm which is about 3 miles from campus, and is right next to Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden. I live with about 60 other international students, which has been amazing because I now I have friends from all over the world! My favorite part about living here is shown in the picture above, which is about a 5 minute walk from my dorm. The nature here is incredible, and it has been so fun to explore it.

All in all, Swedish life is very different from Texas. The Swedish people are friendly, but not exactly open. In Texas I would say hello to strangers or give them a smile, but if I did that in Sweden people would think I’m crazy. One thing that has been really different for me has been relying on public transportation! I use my car for everything in the US, so having to rely on someone else’s schedule has been a big change.

I am so glad that I chose to study abroad in Sweden, and I am really excited to spend 3 more months here!

Categories: 2015, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden

I’ve been in the moderately sized town of Jonkoping, Sweden for about two weeks now. I honestly cannot describe how amazing, beautiful, exciting, and fun it has been. I had heard many stereotypes of Sweden before my journey, and I was hesitant to believe them. “Sweden is just freezing cold and the sun sets at 3:30 PM.” “Everyone in Sweden is tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and beautiful.” “Swedish people just club all of the time and listen to DJ’s play House music.” Well I hate to say this but all of those stereotypes are so true. The weather started off in the 40’s but the temperature is dropping and snow is starting to fall. I can’t complain though. I love the snow and cold especially coming from Texas where it snows like once a year. And the people are all beautiful, dressed well, and fit (and blonde). And I have been in new student orientation (like Fish Camp) for the past two weeks and our group leaders have taken us to a different club every night. Yes they play house music everywhere.

My backyard!!!

My backyard!!!

Anyway I live in a dorm overlooking Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden. I live with 60 international students, only 3 of which have grown up speaking English. The language barrier is sometimes an issue but it is mostly just humorous. Living with people from other countries is actually my favorite part. The Italians are teaching me how to cook and the Mexicans are helping me with my spanish. The multitude of other nationalities are influencing me as well but in other ways.

some new friends downtown!

some new friends downtown!

 

welcome dinner

welcome dinner!

I must say that the Swedish lifestyle is very different from that of a Texan. Everything here is so clean, simple, environmentally friendly, and safe. Everyone rides bikes, but no one locks them because the crime rate is so low. The Swedish standard of living is very high so every establishment is nice, clean, and sophisticated – even gas stations. You get money from recycling bottles and cans, and the printer at school prints on both sides of the paper (resourceful). I would never eat at a 7/11 or a McDonalds in America, but I would go there whenever here! All 7/11’s have bakeries and gourmet food.  Coffee shops are very prominent because Swedes spend time in the afternoon to meet friends and eat coffee and pastries. This time is also known as “fika.” No one needs to worry about the calories though because we walk everywhere! Now I just need to figure out how I can spend the rest of my life in this country… next time you hear from me I may be married to a Swedish boy. Fingers crossed!

Thanks and Gig’Em,

Bronwyn

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, Sweden