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 alike...so 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,