As of the time I’m writing this, I have about a month left in Sweden. I can see on my calendar that my departure date looms closer, and I can’t help but feel sad about leaving behind the life I have made for myself here.
From the very start of coming to Sweden, it was hard to believe this was my life. The life I had always known was in the U.S.; my semester in Sweden couldn’t help but feel like a break in reality. An escape, a dream, an alternate universe. I had to remind myself often in the beginning that while I would return to my “normal” life in the States, this was my real life. The life I was living was now in Sweden, and I had to be as present as I could in this chapter.
Looking back on my semester here, I am happy with everything I did. I traveled to more places than I could have imagined, experienced the joys that Sweden has to offer, and made some great friendships and memories along the way. But now that returning home is no longer a distant thought, I seem to be having the opposite problem I faced when first arriving.
It has become a bit difficult to imagine my life outside of Sweden. Of course, I am excited to see
my friends and family at home and return to some familiar aspects of my life. But in the same breath, so many things in Sweden have become just as familiar. It feels strange to think I won’t live with ten other people in a corridor where we are often laughing in the kitchen and singing loudly to nostalgic hits from the 2000s and 2010s.
I forget what it was like to drive a car or not be within walking distance of the grocery store. The sound of people speaking in Swedish has become comforting to me, even if I don’t understand a significant amount more of the language than I did to begin with. I will miss the way the sky just seems to be a lighter, more pure shade of blue or marveling at how short and long the days can be as the seasons change. I have made a life for myself here, and as strange as it sounds, I wonder how it will be to adjust back to the only life I had previously known.
I know I have changed., whether it be in subtle ways like changes in music taste or the foods I eat to more drastic things like feeling more confident in who I am or how I see the world. I knew that this experience would change me and that I would grow a lot from it, but it’s only now, nearing the end of my time abroad, that I’m seeing how these changes will fit into my life back at UT.
I know that, for better or worse, there are things that will not transfer from Sweden back to the States. In a way, this was an escape from my reality, and more will be expected of me when I return. But knowing what I have experienced, I hope I can make a new reality for myself when I return to Austin. To go for a walk and appreciate nature or bring back the tradition of “Fika” and share it with my friends. To remember how much there is to see and explore without having to go very far. To give me more grace, take time to slow down, and find joy in the present.
Studying abroad is one of the best experiences I could have asked for. It allowed me to live a life that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to experience. At times, it can feel like your time abroad is a fantasy and that you will go back to normal once you go home. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Your life at home and abroad are both your reality, and whether it’s arriving at or leaving your host country, you will be tasked with finding the balance in both environments.
Find ways to make the experience feel like your own and know that life back home may not be the same as you left it. You will not be the same as when you left, and that is more than okay. I’m excited to see what my new reality will look like, but it is bittersweet to see this one go.
Tack så mycket, Sweden! I’m already counting down the days until I can come back, and I am forever grateful for all the memories I’ll carry with me.
This post was contributed by Anjali Senthilnathan, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Anjali is a third-year neuroscience major studying abroad in Uppsala, Sweden. Read Anjali’s first post here.
Stephanie Bishop says
It’s amazing how adaptable we are! In just a few weeks/months, things that were once like something out of a dream become our new normal. I love your insight about both experiences being fully your reality, and finding the balance between the two. Thank you for sharing, Anjali!