Settling down in Stockholm

Hi, I’m Morgan! I’m a neuroscience student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When I first applied to DIS, I had doubts about what traveling abroad would teach me about my discipline, because scientific concepts are largely the same all around the world. I knew that I wanted to travel to Sweden because of the gorgeous architecture, delicious food, and sustainable culture, but I expected that the academics would be secondary to all of the other new experiences I would have.

Immediately, I realized my initial impression was incorrect. My Neuroscience of Emotion classmates and I traveled to the Fotografiska Museum, a photography museum highlighting the work of Swedish artists. Our task was to identify emotions both represented in the art and evoked in ourselves, and it helped me learn that art was a universal language. I can already tell that having so many new perspectives, not only Swedish but from other DIS students, will enhance my neuroscience education as well as my personal experiences. 

At my home university, a study abroad program to Copenhagen I was accepted to was canceled due to lack of participants, and since then I was determined to visit Scandinavia before my college career ended. A summer in Scandinavia with DIS offered to help me realize this dream, along with taking me to Stockholm and Edinburgh in six weeks. Now that I have this opportunity to travel and learn abroad, I plan on taking advantage of every day here!

I’ve already eaten many different cuisines (Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Chinese, American, Swedish fika…) and watched a Formula One race surrounded by other fans and it’s only been one week. Throughout the rest of the summer I want to explore vegetarianism in Scandinavia, learn history through architecture and museums, take photos of beautiful landscapes around the city, and make connections with classmates that will continue after our flights back home.

I’m used to being surrounded by big-city lights and skyscrapers, riding a packed train during rush hour, and being unfazed by a 45-minute walk to go to a restaurant or grocery store. Because of this, a lot of things in Stockholm seem already familiar to me, but blindly encountering some of the cultural differences between Stockholm and Chicago has made common experiences become totally new.

Firstly, public transportation is almost eerily quiet. The trains make very little noise when moving, and the stations are surprisingly clean and regularly maintained. A lot of people rely on public transport, so the trains can be standing room only during rush hour. Most people keep to themselves during their commute, and are either on their phones, reading a book, or doing their makeup on the train, which makes keeping a conversation seem extremely loud in comparison. I learned quickly that if you want to talk on the train, do it quietly.

Another thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to is how constantly bright it is in Stockholm. The sun rises around 4:00 in the morning and sets around 9:30 at night, but the lighter dusk colors last until almost midnight. Restaurants here close later at night than in the U.S., and people walk around the most populated areas of the city well into the night. I still don’t think my internal clock is set to Central European Time, but only because of how the sun is always out here! Thank you to DIS for providing me with blackout curtains. This is the view from my housing at 10:00 at night.

My group climbed to the tallest point in Stockholm to watch the sunset as we reflected on our trip so far: the stressful flights, jet-lagged classes, the delicious food, and most importantly, our next steps to fully explore Stockholm during our short stay here. A group of Swedish teenagers sat beside us and played music over a portable speaker, and we shared a moment of international connection as we danced to Nicki Minaj together. As we danced on the rocky cliff, I realized that after just a week in Stockholm, I made the right choice on how to spend my summer.

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