Arriving in Stockholm

Submitted by Alison Giffen on the 2023 DIS spring semester program in Stockholm, Sweden…

A scenic view from the metro

What a week! Thanks to DIS, from the moment I landed in Sweden I was assisted in moving in. DIS helped me arrange transportation to my housing site where I was then met by more staff to help me move into my room. The following few days before classes started were given as time to grocery shop and attend orientation ceremonies and practice using our main source of transportation: the metro! Classes began on Thursday so we haven’t learned a lot yet but every teacher seems engaged and excited to be teaching their course. The hardest thing about the first week here in Stockholm was the adjustment to the darkness. This week the average time of sunrise is 8:10 am and sunset 3:45 pm which is around only 7.5 hours of sunlight. I highly recommend starting by taking a vitamin D supplement a few days before you arrive and continuing it to help adjust to the decreased amount of sunlight you will get in the winter months. (Submitted during Week 1)

These past two weeks have been super busy between school and trying to see more of Stockholm. Through exploring the city and meeting my visiting host family I have learned a lot more about Swedish culture. To start, in my Swedish class we had an assignment that required us to go to different locations around Stockholm. My group visited Gamla Stan which is known as Old Town. Seeing the different style of buildings and streets really showed us how far Stockholm has come. While in Gamla Stan, my group sat down to have fika. Fika is a big part of Swedish daily life. Fika is the idea of having a break throughout your day and getting coffee or, in my case, hot chocolate and a biscuit. Some workplaces even have a fika break scheduled in their workday. Fika can take 15 minutes or it can take hours if you are catching up with a friend on a weekend. This past Saturday I also had fika with my visiting host family. DIS has a program where if you are not a homestay student you can sign up for a visiting host family where you can meet with a Swedish family a few times a month. The idea of the program is that students not staying in a homestay can still be fully immersed in Swedish culture. My host family is ironically very similar to my home family, both have three kids around the same age. The mother of the host family, Sarah, was so friendly and taught me a lot about Swedish culture in just the few hours I was with her and one of her daughters, Emma. We ended up getting traditional Swedish meatballs and potatoes with Lingonberry jam. As a picky eater I was a little nervous, but keeping an open mind is very important when traveling to another country. I have made a rule to at least try everything once or twice and boy am I glad I tried one of the most traditional Swedish meals. They were delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Sweden. After eating lunch, the three of us sat and had fika where I was able to try two different Swedish pastries. One was a vanilla cookie with raspberry jam in the middle. The other was a more minty and chocolate pastry, which in English, is called “a vacuum cleaner”. The name comes from the idea that the pastry is made of leftover ingredients from cooking other meals. The vacuum cleaner was not my personal favorite but I am still glad I tried it. After fika, my visiting host family and I walked around downtown Stockholm. While walking around, they told me about Melodifestivalen, a Swedish talent competition, where the winner goes on to EuroVision to represent Sweden. Overall, the past two weeks have been full of learning and sightseeing around Stockholm. This upcoming week is my core course week where we spend 3 days in Gothenburg! (Submitted during Week 2/3)

Pastries provided by ATSUB during fika break

It’s crazy that I have been here at DIS Stockholm for a month now! This week is core course week. DIS academics are based off of one, 3 credit, core course that is your main area of study. To fill up the rest of your schedule, you take electives. This week is core course week which means that you spend 3 days of the week on a short study tour somewhere in Sweden and the other 2 days in Stockholm. My core course, Forensic Psychology, spent Monday through Wednesday in Gothenburg. Each day consisted of academic visits and free time. We visited a halfway house, CLIP (Criminal, Legal, and Investigative Psychology) Research Group, and ATSUB (a support group for family members of children who have been sexually abused). Learning about how the Swedish legal system approaches reintegration of prisoners, victims that are children, etc. was so eye opening to the ways the US differs from Sweden on a legal level. Outside academics, some of my classmates and I explored the Gothenburg Museum of Art and Slottsskogen, which is a zoo in a park. We got to see different deers, moose, sheep, seals, penguins and more! On Wednesday night, we returned to Stockholm. Thursday we visited Mansjouren, an organization focused on helping men who are in crisis. As we learned in this field study, there are countless women shelters in Sweden, but only one for men. Mansjouren helps support the men throughout Stockholm who need it the most. The organization is trying to expand nationally, but is finding it challenging due to the lack of funding the government is providing. While debriefing on Friday, we all agreed how eye opening this past week has been to some of the main legal issues facing Swedish society. (Submitted during Week 4)

A scenic view of Gothenburg!