As much as I wanted to study abroad, it would have been a lot easier not to. Arranging my housing leases, taking the most insane semester of courses before this one, and leaving behind an entire life of people and things I loved dearly was not easy. While I was doing it, I always wondered if it’d be worth it.
Now I think about that time, and I wish I could shake the version of me that thought it may not be worth the trouble. Few things are so universally loved as studying abroad (I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy it), which is why it feels insane to say that it has been even better than anyone made it out to be.
I have gotten to do and see the most insane things these past six months. I’ve stood in front of paintings I’d only seen in textbooks, visited monuments and buildings older than time spans I can comprehend, viewed landscapes I didn’t even know existed. And I am so, so grateful.
Life feels absurd most days. And not just on the days that I’m in Amsterdam or Madrid, but all the days in between, spent watching terrible movies with my best friends, searching every secondhand shop for the perfect room decorations, singing Swedish songs in saunas, and jumping into the lakes we used to ice skate on.
Now, with the semester coming to an end (although I try not to think about it often), I always find myself having conversations with my friends about what this semester has meant to us. Despite sharing the same campus and experience, it seems like everyone has gotten something different out of this. Whether it’s the newfound confidence of living alone, the courage to travel and try new things, or finding a way to make a home so far from home, this semester has been full of learning and sadness and growth and loneliness, and so, so much more.
And more than Sweden or KTH, there’s the shared experience of taking a step out of the life you’ve always known and starting again. I find myself thinking about my life at home and wondering why I do certain things; sometimes I can’t think of a better reason than that I’ve always done it. It’s hard to leave behind your entire life, but there’s also this insane freedom in doing so. I found myself trying things I’d never thought I was interested in and saying yes to things I never thought I’d enjoy.
Writing this is bordering on every cliché associated with studying abroad—it reframed my perspective, it opened new doors, it changed my life—but I can’t figure out how to say it any other way. Quite frankly, it did change my perspective and life, and not in any of the ways I thought it would. It’s hard to say cleanly and concretely what this semester has been like or what it’s meant to me. (And this is far from the first time I’ve tried writing this.)
I think I could write forever about the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met. But maybe the thought I keep coming back to is how easy this has been. Of course, it wasn’t always easy, but a part of me didn’t know if I was capable of such a drastic change. Moving here and adjusting so easily makes me wonder what other things aren’t as hard as I think.
Coming to Sweden, I didn’t know anybody. I went to events and meetings completely alone, and it made my heart rate spike to ask people if I could sit with them. But I did it, and I made friends—by debating the best chocolate milk powder in the world, getting killed in a brutal game of Assassin, learning about their homes, and telling them about mine.
Five months later, I feel like I can’t step foot on campus without seeing a familiar face. Maybe even more than that, showing up to events completely alone doesn’t feel so scary anymore. A lot of things don’t seem so scary anymore.
This post was contributed by Suneri Patel, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Suneri is a third-year chemical engineering major studying abroad in Stockholm, Sweden. Read Suneri’s first post here.