Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter Vacation and Upcoming Travels!

Classes and final exams are coming to a close. This I could not be more excited about. and Thanks to me being able to double up on some classes last module, my winter break become 10 times better!

So, I am very excited to announce my amazing winter vacation travel/adventure plans!! I hope you're ready for this. Because its pretty intense!

December 11th-15th: Lapland

During this 5 day outting, I will be headed toward the northern most points of Sweden. Along the way I will be "chilling" in the ice hotel, sipping drinks at the Absolut(swedish vodka brand) bar, gazing at the northern lights, and dogsledding thru the wilderness.

December 18th-24th: London, England

For this solid week, I will be traveling to London, England. Here I will be doing the most exciting touristy stuff like exploring knotting hill, checking the time at Big Ben, annoying the palace guards in funny hats, and of course getting my Shakespeare on at the Globe Theatre. I also plan on leaving London for a bit to see Stonehenge, time and money permitting of course.

December 24th-31st: Dublin, Ireland

In Dublin, I plan on wandering around, checking out some authentic irish pubs, hitting the dublin zoo(they have penguins, so it was a given), and of course visiting the Guiness Storehouse. Also time and money permitting, I plan to head north west to see the beautiful Cliffs of Moher. Enough said.

December 31st-January 9th: Various cities in Italy

While in Italy, I will be spending about 3 days in each city I travel to. These cities consist of Venice, Florence, Rome, and Milan. I'm beyond excited to ride a gondola, explore the tuscan countryside, see the colosseum, and check out the fashion capital of the country.

January 9th-15th: Major Swedish Cities
During this time I will be seeing 3 of Sweden's largest cities including Stockholm(the capital), Uppsala, and Gothenburg.

So wish me luck on my month of traveling the wonder that is Europe! I'll be sure to post pics and stories as soon as I return!

In the mean time, Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Year!

Cheers!! :)

Winter not so wonderland

If I remember correctly, the last time I posted on here was in the begining of November. At that time, it was a quite strange for my little city in northern Sweden to still be without snow. But now, its December 1st and the ground is as bare as when I arrived here in August!

A few weeks ago, we got this little teaser....

But now nothing. Of course the one winter I spend in Umea, we get no snow....

Alright, I majorly needed to get that outta my system.

More to come soon!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

So its definitely November 3rd, and I've realized that I haven't posted on here in over a month. For that, I apologize. To be honest, things have been pretty chill here in Umea, Sweden. But by chill, I dont mean boring in the least. Something has happened here that I never in a million years would have though could happen? "What has happened?", you may ask....Well, I will try and explain it as best as I can.

In the first month or so of moving to Sweden, every little thing was new and exciting. From going on trips with groups at school to grocery shopping. The first bit of time living in a new country(or any new place for that matter) is nothing less then exciting, but eventually that excitment wears off. But this is NOT a negative thing at all. Its actually one of the most amazing things I've experienced.

This being the fact that I feel completely comfortable and normal living here in Sweden. I'd even go as far as saying this place officially feels like home. I know that this concept is super hard to understand unless you've been in a situation like mine before. It may even seem kind of stupid and pointless for me to dedicate an entire post to this concept. But, at least to me, its completely mind-blowing. Just getting used to the campus layout, class scheduling, making it downtown without getting lost, mastering taking the bus, etc. Its the little things. Things we take for granted back where we grew up or have been living for many many years. All I'm saying is, the feeling of having a place that was expected to be, and seemed so strange for so long, become "normal" and "homey" is phenominal. I wish everyone could experience this. Even just a little bit.

More to come soon :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Elk Farm

So this past Saturday I took part in the absolutle best thing Umea has offered me so far. Taking a trip to the elk farm!! These animals are not only HUGE but so adorable and truely sweet as pie....or cake....or anything sweet you can think of. Anyway, our day went a little something like this....

After about an hour long bus ride, we arrived at the elk farm! yaaaaayy! Then we went inside and had a delicious elk lunch! I think it was incredibley smart for us to eat the elk before we met them. I personally would not have been able to eat my new friends after making their aquantence.

Then we were brought in here for a very educational slide show about the history and life of the elk.

After that we got a tour of the elk museum. Also very educational.

Finally we got to the best part! Meeting the elk! We got to chill with a couple baby bulls(that means boy elk)...

 and one adult cow(that means girl elk).

All of this was happening while being surrounded by some gorgeous Swedish landscape....

It was a great day :)

More to come soon!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

America the Beautiful?

So today I'd like to discuss something on a bit of a serious note. I was planning on keeping this blog light and positive, but do to recent events I think its important to share.

Its important to know that when studying abroad, your experiences will most likely be about 95% amazing. But sometimes, things can get a little heavy.

Without going into too much detail, I was at a party this weekend and the subject of politics came up. Life lesson #1 since I've been here, DO NOT TALK ABOUT POLITICS AT A PARTY. Especially if any amout of alcohol has been consumed. Anyway, I was having a discussion with a french friend of mine and he mentioned something about Americans not liking the french. I responded by saying, at least in my opinion and my experiences, its not the U.S that doesnt like France, it's France as well as most of Europe that doesnt like the U.S. Now I've been thinking about this topic for a really long time. I've always knows and been told that most of Europe doesnt like America for a bunch of reasons, but it was all just specualtion on our part. I wanted to hear it from some real live Europeans. So my biggest mistake of the evening, I asked a few. Lets just say it didn't end well. One specific Swedish guy was brutally honest. and I'm not going to lie, it truely hurt my feelings.

For the most part, I completely understand(and almost agree) with most people's complaints about the U.S. Our country is no where near perfect, even thought some citizens like to believe so. But its completey unfair to judge every citizen of the U.S for decisions or actions that have taken place. I, in my opinion, am not a "typical american", or fit the stereotype we currently have. But its a harsh reality that no matter what I do or say, some people will still think of me as "that american". and like I said, it truely hurts. I would never judge someone because of where they come from. But then again, this opened my eyes to understand what the muslim community in the U.S has gone threw since 9/11.

What I'm really trying to say is that no individual should be judged because of the country they come from. Every muslim or middle eastern person is not going to bomb our country, and every american is not going to walk around on their high horse thinking everyone in the world in beneathe them. It's hard to fully understand this stuff unless you've experience it first hand. But trust me when I say, its a truely sad and hurtfull reality of life.

More to come soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back to school time!

So this week was my 1st week of classes! Super exciting! But before I get into the classes I'm taking, let me explain the completely different education system that is Sweden.

As far as I know, most colleges/universities in the USA function on a two semester a year basis. I know some schools work with quarters, but we're gonna go with the general majority here. Now this, as you know, means that you take between 4 and 8ish classes at once which last the entire semester and then end with exams in december/may. Here in Sweden, it DOES NOT work like that. We do have two semesters per year, but the likeness ends there. Each semester is separated into 4 modules, and you take one course within each module. This means only having one class at a time for about 5 or 6 weeks, taking an exam and then moving onto the next class. Personally, I think this system is FANTASTIC! It allows you to focus on one class at a time, and learn a lot more in the process. This is compared to trying to study for and cram 4-8 classes worth on info into your brain all at once. Since I opted to take the Swedish Language course I will have 2 classes during each module, which is still better then 4-8!! Currently, I have class Tuesday and Thursday from 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm.

At this point most people are probably saying "Wow Ashley, you sure have a lot of free time! You're so lucky!". Well that isnt necessarily true. There is a huge emphasis on studying independently or in groups here. You're expected to be working a full 30-40 hour week, with approx. 25% of that being spent in class. Very rarely will you walk out of class without a reading, homework, or group project assignment. It never feels like you're working as much as you really are though, because you only have one(or two maximum) classes at one time. Oh and another awesome perk, if you fail an exam you can retake it again and again until you pass. Not that I condone failing your classes, but if you happen to have a bad module or exam day, you have a second chance to make it right!

This module, my classes consist of Comparative Social Policy and the Swedish Language course. This whole first semester, I will have two classes at once because the Swedish course runs the whole semester(very uncommon). This only happens because its impossible to learn a language(especially Swedish) in 5 weeks. Trust me, its just not happening. I've had one class so far and I can already tell its going to be a challenge. But at the same time, I'm super excited for it! Its really a fun and interesting language. Its just so different from english that I will have to work extra hard to pick it up. As for my Comparative Social Policy class, its your typical sociology class that focuses on social policies in different contries and compares their pros and cons. I love it so far. But we've only had two classes so we'll see how it goes from here. Also this semester, in later modules, I will be taking an english literature course, social psychology and social work in sweden. More to come on those as they get closer!

Stay tuned for more soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

20 Things I would like to do while in Sweden

1. See a polar bear
2. Steal a reighdeer crossing sign
3. Dogsled
4. Go snowmobiling
5. Go skiing
6. Visit and spend a night in the ice hotel
7. Make friends
8. Carry on a conversation with a native swedish
9. Shop at IKEA and H&M
10. Travel to all of the scandinavian countries
11. Visit Stockholm
12. Get good grades in ALL of my classes
13. Fika regularly
14. See the northern lights
15. Go to the elk farm
16. Walk across a frozen lake, and survive to tell the tale
17. Pick berries in the forest, eat them, and live
18. Go Kayaking
19. Ride my bike to class in the middle of winter
20. Have the time of my life and make the most of ever minute I spend here.