Going into my time abroad, I set several goals for myself. I want to make meaningful connections with people I would not usually have the chance to interact with, gain learning experience that I would not have been able to gain at UT and approach the challenges of moving to a new country with an open mind. Achieving all these goals, especially while ensuring that I am doing so safely and following all the recommendations regarding COVID-19, is daunting.
Making Meaningful Connections
The first of my goals, I anticipate, will be more difficult than usual, but I am determined to see it through. Social life for a student in Sweden usually includes fika, a time to take a break from studying to socialize with peers, perhaps get a coffee and attend events put on by the nations, student organizations that are the lifeblood of student activity in Uppsala University. Each nation maintains a different student-run restaurant, library, or similar place to study and meet other students. Of course, due to COVID-19, many of these activities are limited. That is not to say they are non-existent, but safety comes first, and most of my interactions thus far have been virtual. Despite this, I have still managed to meet people from around the world through class and virtual meet-ups. In times when everything is virtual, it takes more effort to find friends and develop new relationships. Potential friends can quickly get lost behind the screen of the computer leaving one with a series of superficial meetings that lack the foundation of lasting relationships. This means that extra effort must go into these social interactions, and while I have begun to make progress, it is still too early in my journey to see where my efforts will lead.
Gaining New Learning Experiences
My second goal has been successful thus far. Uppsala University approaches class in a completely different way to most American universities. The semester is broken into several sections, and one usually takes only one class at a time. For me, this has meant that I’m only taking three separate classes this semester, but they offer the chance to go into the subject in more depth than a typical class at UT. I am currently taking a class that focuses on developmental biology, but rather than only learning through lectures, I have the chance to apply my learning in the lab as well. The combination of lecture and laboratory work makes the information I’m learning much more relevant, and I am grateful for the chance to dive deeper into the field.
Approaching Challenges with an Open Mind
During my first week in Sweden, my third goal was put to the test. While I thought myself well prepared to begin my journey, I don’t think anything can prepare one for the reality of moving off to a completely new place. While navigating through the challenges that come with adjusting to a new language (most people in Sweden speak English, but not everything is written in English), climate, culture, and area, I had some difficulties (I pulled on a few more push doors than I care to admit), but I got through it with some planning, advice from my corridor mates and a lot of simply deciding that I would get through it. After all, I was living out one of my dreams, and I was not about to let a little challenge get in the way.
Studying abroad has been both exciting and challenging so far. While planning and setting goals certainly help, new and unanticipated obstacles arise every day. Learning to handle challenges as they come and find value in the experiences that they bring has been one of the most useful skills I have begun developing since the start of my journey. As I begin getting more acquainted with my surroundings, I look forward to accomplishing my goals and the experiences that will follow. Until next time!
This post was contributed by Aliya Boisselle, a Global Ambassador for spring 2021. Boisselle is a neuroscience major from Dallas, Texas studying abroad in Uppsala, Sweden. Follow Global Ambassador takeovers on our Instagram Stories @texasglobalabroad!