‘Stockholm – city of wellington boots, drinking bottles, real books in hotel rooms and IKEAs where it’s almost impossible to find the way out’. That was the first sentence on my Stockholm blog – who would have known a whole Scandinavian world of trust, sincerity and calmness would open up to me. I have never been to a city I fell in love with faster than Stockholm. Even though I had an unlucky start because of the bad housing situation for international students, I knew this place would be worth the fight. As I was sleeping in front of university to be on top of the waiting list, me and some other students got a very special bond straight away: we were stuck with each other all night! My home for the rest of my stay became ‘Lappis’, the university’s best student area. Every Wednesday night at 10pm something magical happened here… people opened their windows and started screaming! For best result: check it out during the exam period =)
Stockholm is an enchanting capital. I know of no other with equal beauty, big forests within ten minutes walk from anywhere in the centre, stunning lakes covered by a mysterious fog, amazing views from wherever you are. The university was surrounded by nature, the library has sofa’s facing the window and occasionally, you could see a hare hop by. How I loved my morning walks to uni! However, apart from the magic Stockholm spreads as a city, also the people living in it are extraordinary. Swedes have the reputation of being introvert and too serious, but I dare you to stand on any busy square: you will be inspired. They are not introvert, but modest; not serious but focused. They walk with a purpose, they know where to go and what to do, they have a vision. Ask any Swede for help or start a conversation, and you might be surprised: you will encounter a big smile and a warm welcome together with all the help one might need. As a nice surplus: one of our Swedish JEF-colleagues was first in line to help me look for a room!
City of lights
One thing I had to get used to, was the darkness. Suddenly, the sun was setting at 3pm and there we were, watching a beautiful view from the Statshuset with the sun going down on Gamla Stan: one of my favourite places in town. As a consequence, there was a complete change of atmosphere in the city.
Outside there were lights everywhere, Christmas seemed to be starting on the 15th of November and in every bar people would be huddled together over a hot chocolate or country’s most loved drink: coffee. Another great experience: try visiting Kiruna, Lappland in that one week each year the sun doesn’t rise at all. I can tell you: polar lights are fascinating! However, the most amazing thing I saw in this darkness, was Skogskyrkogården on the 1st of November: Alla Helgons Dag or All Saints. To give you an idea: on this UNESCO world heritage cemetery with over 90.000 graves and surrounded by a 4km wall, there were candles burning at every single grave. I have never seen anything like that – the dedication, love and respect being exposed there is unparalleled.
I’ve had the best times in Debaser (free concerts if you got in before 10pm, even for the famous bands), Wirströms (weekly jazz nights) and Herman’s (delicious veggie-buffet restaurant with amazing view on Gamla Stan). The rhythm of the night is very different from Belgium: parties start a lot earlier and end at 3am: most clubs close their doors at that time! That probably also has something to do with early sunset…
The promised land
The prejudice that is actually true about Sweden, is that Scandinavian society is very different. It is true that you see men with baby carriages in supermarkets all over the city, all the streets are clean, vegetarians and gay people are welcomed everywhere. Except for housing, each problem has a solution and public services are impeccable. Every restaurant offers water for free, kötbullar (Swedish meat balls) is really everyone’s favourite dish and disabled people would have to search for places they can’t enter. You can definitely see this country has been ruled by socialists for so many years. Maybe surprising: even though fashion is a big deal here, when it comes to shoes, people go for comfort: you see more running shoes and rain boots under fancy outfits than anywhere else in the world.
How Erasmus changed me
I love the Erasmus project – it undoubtedly changed my life. There are so many shared memories with the friends I met there, we created a relationship that will not fade easily. Even though it’s only been eight months since I returned, we’ve already had several reunions and the next one will be back in our good old ‘city of lights’. When I think of Sweden and the time I experienced there, I calm down, I feel happy, I have faith in the world. I can’t imagine not having lived those six months.
I will end the way I started, with the last sentence of my first blog post from Stockholm: ‘Undoubtedly I will be able to tell you some downsides as well very soon, but for now I catch myself walking the streets with a smile on my face. I think I could live here…’
The European Movement Belgium, JEF Belgium and JEF Brussels do organise an event on Wednesday the 10th of October to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus program. The registration for the visit to the European Parliament is already closed, but you are still more than welcome at the apero (from 18h30) and some informal Erasmus activities at Ralph’s Bar at Place de Luxembourg/Luxemburgplein. The first drinks are for free if you know the password which you can find here! For more info, please contact JEF Brussels.
We will publish Erasmus stories on our website till the end of the year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Erasmus program. If you want to share your Erasmus experience as well, don’t hesitate to send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org! You’ll get eternal gratitude, a huge smile and a lot of readers in return. Let’s explore Europe!