Sunday, August 28, 2011

Backstreet Boys, Star Wars, and little Turkish Country Lovin'

Everyday I am here, I feel like I am learning something new.  During the week of introduction, I have met more people than I can count from more countries than I can remember.  There are groups from France, China, and the Netherlands, even larger groups from Germany and Lithuania.  There are single students from Singapore and Switzerland, Turkey and even Uganda.  If you had asked me a week ago if I had ever even met someone from a number of these countries, the answer probably would have been a definitive no.  Though meeting and hanging out with people from so many different cultures can definitely have it's challenges, it really is a unique experience.  You may be sitting around the dinner table hearing ten different forms of accented English, but that's part of living in a different area.  Luckily for me, the common language is English.  Though, I am almost embarrassed that I am only completely fluent in a single language when nearly everybody I meet has at least two under their belt.  I do find it interesting though that I have met people from all over the world, but the number of Swedish people I have met and really gotten to know, I can count on one hand.  Though, I'm sure this will change once I meet my Swedish  contact family and begin in the Swedish schools (tomorrow!).  

I think I am finally getting the hang of this town.  As I mentioned before, I spent much of the past week getting lost in Jönköping.  Thanks to a few tour guides (my mentor teacher, Sören and my contact person, Alicia), I think I am finally getting the hang of this place.  It's difficult because the roads are not numbered and such, but instead have extremely lengthy and hard to pronounce (for me) names.  I have also taken to exploring the small town of Tenhult, where I am living.  Though running back at home has always been something of a chore, for some reason, I have found that to be the best method of exploration in the little town of Tenhult.  That's how I discovered another grocery store, a bike path, and another small lake outside of town.  As much as I was resistant to living so far outside of the main city of Jönköping, there are some perks to this quiet residential area.  

I will expand on this later, but a few things that I have come to learn about Europeans, Swedes, and where Americans fit in are as follows: 
1. American music is VERY popular in the pubs, clubs, and life of Swedes and other Europeans much so that on my first night out, I heard Backstreet Boys (yes!), Michael Jackson, and Britney Spears, among others.  I even heard the music from Star Wars playing at a pub...yes, Star Wars! 
2. Between Europeans, there are many jokes, stereotypes, or ideas about the people from different European countries that are sort of common knowledge among the people from Europe.  It's interesting to hear the joking that goes on...mostly at the expense of Germans, as I've observed.  
3. This was just funny to me.  One of the Turkish guys I met, Berk, had heard of (and enjoyed) a song by Jason Aldean ("She's Country").  I think if I asked a majority of my (non-country lovin') friends back home, they wouldn't even have the slightest idea who that was!  Made me laugh! 
All this just really goes to show how intertwined our world has become and how mainstream American culture is around the world! 

As of now, I'm definitely still adjusting to life here.  There is a lot to get used to and a lot to take in.  I think it will still take some time before I am fully certain with how to live here! But, that's okay.  This experience is about learning, enjoying, and figuring everything out as it comes :) 

--By the way, (Sam), seems as if the weather here is quite peachy compared to your multitude of natural disasters back home....Just an observation! Wish you all well in handling the bombardment of weather that seems to be hitting you (earthquakes and hurricanes alike).  Now, I must go get ready.  I have a free afternoon, so I'm going to take the train to the last stop and go exploring in the small town of Nässjö before I have to get ready for my first day of school tomorrow.  Wish me luck! 

(Once my internet cooperates, I will work on more pictures!) 
Miss you all,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's the same, but different.


As I'm sure many of you know, it took me quite awhile to finally FINALLY make it to Sweden and my town of Jonkoping.  Thanks to a lovely and vicious thunderstorm in Philly, we missed our flight from Chicago to Copenhagen and were stranded for an entire day in Chicago.  Lucky for me, Chicago is an excellent place to be stranded--Aunt Maureen kindly picked us up at 12:30 in the morning and let us stay with her! We spent the next day booking flights, touring Naperville, and even making a quick stop at Costco before heading on our way to Europe!  It was a wonderful layover :)  Somehow, for all our troubles, we made it into Economy Extra for our seating, so needless to say, it was a pretty comfortable flight to Copenhagen, with hot towels and all!  Sadly, one of my bags did not make it on the same flight. Luckily, I packed strategically and split some of my clothes---at least the important things--between the two suitcases.  So, I was not totally out of luck.  

On our train ride from Copenhagen to Jonkoping (about a 3 hour trip), when I wasn't dozing off, I got my first glimpses of the country of Sweden.  Here's what I discovered: To the naked eye, nothing appeared all that different, on the surface, from driving through the countryside or small towns in the US.   Except for the multitude of electric wind mills (some even in the middle of the water between Copenhagen and the southern most Sweden town), the view was fairly similar.  There were farms and animals, gas stations, graffiti along the tracks...the works.  One thing I also noticed is that when you cannot understand what people are saying, you read into their more subtle cues and body language much more.  When you do that, the subject of their conversation becomes quite obvious.  You can see the couples saying goodbye on the train, the baby asking for more food, the kids watching a movie and explaining it to one another, and the old lady yelling at her husband to get off the train :) Those kinds of situations are the same everywhere! 

For now, I am just trying to get settled in.  I live in a place called Tenhult (pronounced Tea-en-halt), which is about 15 or so minutes (by train) outside of the main city of Jonkoping.  My roommates name is Zygianta (Zoo Gin tuh) and she is from Lithuania.  She is very nice and like most everybody here, she speaks English very well, though with quite an accent.  Thus far, I am trying to get acclimated with the city and have already been lost a number of times!  Swedish people are very nice, but do not necessarily come off that way.  If you ask for help or engage them in conversation, they are happy to chat with you. However, I have found that they do not start up the conversations and do not smile and say hello when walking by as we (or at least I do) do in the US.  I have so many more things to write about, but for sake of length and time, will cut my ramblings off here! Last minute things...the IKEA stores here are even bigger than the ones at home (and yes, they gladly accept gift cards to pay for my towels and bedding--thank you Beaver's :)! 

And if you all were wondering, they do sell peanut butter here.. but it is from Skippy (yuck!) and the jars are entirely too small! Miss everybody lots! 

With love, 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Hello all! 

T-minus 19 hours until my exciting study abroad adventure begins!  Somehow I have fit all my necessities into two suitcases.  Sadly, the giant jar of peanut butter had to remain at home :/  Packing for four months was much more difficult than I had anticipated.  Even for the best of packers (and trust me, I'm not one of them), this would prove to be a tricky task! As my mom keeps reminding me, they have stores in Sweden too :)  

It's weird to think that I will go to sleep Saturday night in an entirely different country.  It's a nerve-wrecking, but exhilarating prospect.  This abroad adventure will mark the start of my senior year of college; though I will not get to spend the first half of it with all the lovely people in State College, I will be having a different kind of semester to really close out my college years with a bang! This year, both in Sweden and State College will prove to be a memorable one!  I can't wait to see what kind of adventures it brings! 

Next time I sign on, it will be from Jönköping, Sweden!!! 

Förrän senare (until later),