Jessica‘s blog

My winter survival guide

My winter survival guide

Hey guys,

So, to follow-up with the article previously posted where I told you a little bit about my first Swedish winter, here are 10 tips that will probably be helpful for you.

Enjoy!

1.

Pack loads of sweaters, but also under-clothes.
Layering will be your best-friend.

Big luggage

2.

But don’t pack too much. You probably can’t bring a thousand suitcases with you,
and you will find good and warm clothes in stores here.

3.

Have one really good pair of boots that will get you through rain, snow, mud , etc..

4.

Buy some hot water bags. Hopefully the place you stay in will be properly isolated and heated,
but just in case, have these to place in your bed before you go to sleep,
or in your sofa when you want to be comfortable.

5.

Take vitamins ! You might want to prepare for the winter by getting a cure of multivitamins,
and then follow up with a cure of vitamin C and vitamin D during the winter.
Believe me, this winter will have a toll on your body ( and undoubtedly your mood ) if not. You don’t want to end up weeping and exhausted.

6.

Have loads of fika ! It might not be the best to stay in shape, but a warm cup of coffee and a bulle is always comforting !

7.

GO OUT ! It is very very tempting to stay at home all day long, when its cold outside.
Especially if you don’t have too much lectures and seminars in your schedule. But try to go out as much as possible.
It will be good for your moral and your social life. Fight the hibernating bear inside of your as much as you can !

8.

Travel. Especially by train if you can. The snowy landscapes are really beautiful, and Scandinavian cities wear snow like no one else!
Do not hesitate to take a quick trip to Norway. You can also cross the waters and visit Helsinki or St petersburg.
It will definitely cheer you up, and you’ll be able to meet some cool people. You can find cheap group trips through Scanbalt Experience for instance ( http://www.scanbaltexperience.com ).

9.

Try not to be in a rush on icy days. You’ll probably end up looking silly ( or fall ) trying to walk fast on slippery floors.
Take your time, and just keep in mind that you’ll have to add a little bit of ‘walking-time’ in your travel plan.

10.

Overall, be patient! The winter will not go away fast, and when the rest of Europeans will be enjoying their first warm days,
you will most likely still be wearing your winter jacket. But be patient, sooner or later it will end.

 

Until next time, take care !

Jessica

My first winter in Sweden: A few lessons…

My first winter in Sweden: A few lessons…

Picture : Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Winter

If you are planning on moving to Sweden, this is probably a word that most likely frightens or fascinates you. Either way, you’ve been thinking about it, and you tried to prepare yourself to the best of your abilities ( and if you haven’t been doing so… trust me, you should have ).Of course, before moving here I was no exception to that rule.

Before arriving in Stockholm 7 months ago, I was really apprehending the winter time. As you guys already know by know, I grew up in Cameroon. This meant no winter, and temperatures above 20 degrees celsius all year long. Then I moved to France, but French winter was okay. It really wasn’t  bad, especially in the Paris region. Needless to say that, at 19 years-old, I had never experienced something even close to a Scandinavian winter. And I was quite apprehensive. The fact that every time I mentioned to someone I was moving to Sweden the first response was « oh, but its super cold there ! » obviously didn’t help.

So while I was packing my belongings to move, the only thing that I could think of was : winter, winter, winter. I packed loads of sweaters, jackets, boots, gloves, hats… hoping that it would be enough to keep me warm and going during those challenging months. Looking back on everything, the amount of clothes I took with me was definitely excessive ! But you know how the saying goes : its better to be safe than sorry.

On the other hand, and despite the fear and anxiety that invaded my mind, I was also fascinated and thrilled by the idea of living such a unique experience. After all, one of the reasons I wanted  to move to Sweden, was to experience all of that. I wanted to see for myself the snowy landscapes, the frozen lakes, the ‘snowstorms’… yeah I know, very cliché ! But still. As crazy as it did sound to most of my relatives, I wanted that.

Being the adventurous person that I am, I somehow convinced myself that if I could make it through a Scandinavian winter, I would be extremely proud of it, and that my self-esteem would be unmeasurably pumped. Maybe others would even admire me for it ! I imagined myself coming home, and telling my friends and relatives stories about me, defeating the monstrous Swedish winter in an epic battle ( yeah… that’s not really how thins go but whatever ). I could at least definitely add that to my list of accomplishments.

Bearing all of that in mind, when I arrived in Stockholm during the summer time, I enjoyed every tiny ray of sun, and soaked up every bit of warmth that I could get. And I’m glad I did !

Around October, the days started to get colder, and shorter. But at a very slow pace ( at least that’s how it felt ). So I eased into those colder days, and didn’t even really see the change happening. At least ( at first ) it wasn’t a drastic change.  I even remember thinking to myself, sometime around the end of October  : «Well, it’s not that bad ! I could get used to this.».

Well, I guess I completely jinxed my luck !

Is coming

I woke up one day, in the beginning of November to a huge snowfall. The amount of snow falling and accumulating outside was impressive. And I remember opening my shutters in the morning, and standing in front of my window in shock. I was unable to leave the area where I lived to go to university, because the roads and certain bus lines were completely shut. Students in my housing area were sending messages on Facebook, reaching for advice on how to get home, since they had already left and were stuck in town.

After hesitating for a while, I still decided to pop up my boots, my warmest jacket, a pair of gloves and a beanie. I wanted to have a walk around my neighborhood. Honestly, I was just curious to see how the swedes would behave in such circumstances. After all, this is what I came for. I wanted to discover their ways. People were playing outside in the snow, kids were sledging, throwing snowballs and building a few snowmen. I remember seeing some people still trying to go to work by bike (which wasn’t really successful but I salute the effort and the tenacity).

I went home that day, feeling  cold, but excited as well. There was no turning back possible. I was in it for the whole ride. Winter had come. (If you want to read more about that crazy snow day, here’s a link to an article that was published by the local: https://www.thelocal.se/20161110/stockholm-just-set-a-new-snow-record)

After that episode, I started being more careful of what was happening around me. Being more aware in a sense. I really started noticing the shortening of the days for instance. It struck me once, when I got out of a lecture at university around 4pm,  that the night had already hugged the city. The sky was dark, the  street lights were on, and the buildings stood out from a distance with their yellowy windows projecting the inside lights out on their facades. I got used to it, but it was quite weird in the beginning.

I also started noticing the more regular snow days, and the cold settling in. On weeks when it wasn’t snowing, I remember getting really pissed at the brown mud accumulating on the sidewalks, and the little rocks (placed on the ground to avoid slipping I guess) getting stuck in my boots. I even remember calling a friend one day, and complaining about the snow and the aftermath of it. She pointed out to me how ‘Swedish’ that probably was, since in France, whenever we got snow we would be really happy and excited about it. I guess that was part of the process of getting used to things. I wasn’t really amazed at the city’s white coat anymore, but really bothered by the unwanted side-effects of it.

One thing that I would also say, about winter in Sweden, is that the temperatures (in the Stockholm area at least) didn’t drop as low as I though they would. But the wind is crazy here. I think that was really the most difficult thing to deal with during the winter. The strong and cold wind, that gets under your clothes and under your skin, freezes your ears, your nose, and makes your eyes tear-up. That was a hard battle. Especially since no matter how layered-up you were, that breeze would still  make its way to your skin. Ugh…

Short days

Another thing that I didn’t anticipate, was the effect of the shorter days, and the lack of light, on me.  They really took a toll on my body at some point, and I had to make some lifestyle changes. I’m usually not someone who likes to wake up early. So in the beginning, I kept my rhythm and woke up quite late. But by doing that, I only had between 2 to 3 hours of daylight before the sun vanished and the night took over again. It didn’t bother me at first, but I quickly started to feel more tired, lazy, and found it hard to be motivated. Needless to say I had to do some changes! I tried waking up earlier (which was more or less a success) or going out during the day, even if it was just for a walk or to the grocery store. I tried going to the gym more and more, to keep myself active. A friend also recommended taking Vitamins, which was a life savior honestly! I think overall, the best way to get through all of this, is to constantly find ways to fight the desire to hibernate…

As I am finishing this article, it is the end of April. The winter is not far behind us, but I think I can finally say that sunnier and warmer days are coming. I wish I could say it is completely over, but temperatures do not really rise above 10 degrees right now (at least not often) and Sweden also taught me not to have any certainty about the weather (I woke up on Easter Day this year, to snow falling on my balcony so… I won’t take anything for granted).

Despite all the tough times, and the techniques I had to develop to make it through the winter, I would say that it was still a great time. It sounds weird to say this, but I almost miss it. Stockholm especially is a very beautiful city during the winter. The look of Gamla Stan (the old town) on a freezing day is so precious. And there’s nothing like walking around Slussen, where the boats are usually departing for archipelago tours, and see the frozen water just being so quiet and peaceful.

Around Christmas time, the city gets so lively and fun! All the lights, activities, foods… all bring something special to the scenery. I do understand why tourists from across Europe often rush to spend their Christmas Time here in Sweden. I did not miss on the Christmas markets, the glogg and the pepparkakor of course!

I also did an amazing trip to Lapland for my birthday in February. I will talk about in a separate article, and include some pictures, but it was definitely the highlight of my winter. It’s such a unique experience. I’ll end up this article by saying that if you are anxious about moving here because of the winter time, don’t be. Of course prepare for it, because you want it do be as easy as possible. But don’t stress out too much ! You’ll be just fine.

In my next article, you’ll be able to read a list of tips that I’ve combined to help you prepare and go through your first Swedish winter. I hope it’s helpful!

Until next time, take care !

Jessica

A glimpse into my journey… so far!

A glimpse into my journey… so far!

Hey guys !  Let me start this post by wishing you all a Happy New Year ( even though i’m a little bit late ). I hope you all spent amazing holidays, and that you enjoyed and cherished the time spent with your loved ones. I’m coming back today, with a slightly different type of content for you. I compiled images and videos from the past 5 months into a video, showing you what my stay in Stockholm has been so far ( kind of ).

As I explained before, it has been quite a challenge for me, to move here. It was the first time for me living by myself, in a completely new environment. I had moved before, for sure, but always in places that I had already visited or where I knew someone. After settling in my new apartment and getting to know the city a little bit more as well as the little particularities of the «  Swedish ways »,   I had to keep myself motivated and active in order to make my stay here as productive as possible.

Indeed, during the summer and fall days, it was easy to go around the city for a walk, visit a museum or grab a coffee with a friend. But as soon as winter arrived, and as the days shortened, it was definitely more challenging to keep doing a lot of activities ! Despite all of that, I managed to make each of the 5 months spent here worth it, and full of discoveries. I’ll be back soon with a more detailed article summing-up my overall feeling about those first months and my expectations for the upcoming ones.

As I write this article, I am back home, in Cameroon. I’m enjoying the sun as much as I can, making a great stock of Vitamin D and lounging around in 30 plus degrees. I know for a fact that going back to Stockholm will be challenging, but I can’t wait to finally experience the real Scandinavian winter for myself !

For now, I will keep this post short and simple, and let you watch the video ! I hope you enjoy it.

See you soon, take care !

Jessica

Stockholm University

Stockholm University

Top image Source : http://www.icra.it/mg/mg13/plenary_location3.htm

First impressions:

The first time I set foot at Stockholm University was two weeks before the beginning of  the Autumn Semester. I had been offered an apartment by the housing office of Stockholm University, and had to pick up the keys at a Student Union’s desk set in Södra Huset.

I have to admit that the surroundings didn’t make a very good impression on me that particular day. The Campus was empty, quite lifeless, and the clouds accentuated the coldness of the buildings that are visible from the metro’s exit to Campus Frescati.

I guess the anxiety and the nervousness of discovering what would be my study space for a year ( and therefore a big part of my life in Sweden ), did not really help. I could not really picture myself enjoying a day there : going to the library, meeting friends, having lunch…

When I got to Södra Huset, I thought that the building once again, was quite sad and monotonous. The camaïeu of green and grey that was unraveling in front of me was very disturbing. I really struggled getting around the ‘architectural idea’ of the Campus I have to say. I also have to admit that I was very used to my home university’s campus and its style. Being located in the heart of the seventh arrondissement in Paris, in the neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés, and near the Seine, the Louvre museum and other impressive historical sites, it didn’t prepare me to an easy transition to Campus Frescati.

I left university that day, with a lot of questions, and thoughts about how I would be able to grow in love with this place.

Reflecting back on all of this now, I realize that my thoughts during that first encounter weren’t quite rational. Södra Huset and its architecture is still not the most beautiful place to my eye, but it is very lovely and warm to me now. I have learned to appreciate its secrets, got myself a favorite spot to chill with my friends, and had quite some fun scrutinizing the change in colors from houses A to F as well as the art scattered on the walls as I navigated through the corridors.

Moreover, as the days went by, I had the curiosity to go further in exploring campus  and discovered the various buildings that compose the location. I fell in love with Aula Magna on orientation day, but also with the style of one of the most recent building on campus : Studenthuset.

Mainly, I grew out of the apprehension of not being able to feel comfortable, and got at ease. In fact, it didn’t take me a long time to realize that a lot of amazing people actually wandered the alleys of Campus Frescati.

Orientation week ( exchange students ):

On the 24th of August, when I got to Universitetet train station, I did not really know what to expect. I was still a bit worried, and unsure of my liking of the place. However,  I was quite surprised to see how full and noisy the Tunnelbana was on that day.  Of course, I could’ve expected that, but for some reason, my first experience at university made me think otherwise.

I made my way through the crowd, and arrived at Aula Magna, where the presentations for orientation day took place. The auditorium where we spent the afternoon, was the second very good surprise of the day.

From the outside, Aula Magna is already a very pretty building. It’s a touch of life.  With its wooden coat, and its glass windows it stands out in the middle of a the more neutral colors present on campus. Unfortunately, it is not the first thing that you see when arriving at university, since it is quite covered by vegetation and is located on a mound.  You get  a better view of the building, from the South end of campus. The auditorium inside, was an amazingly pleasant sight as well ! ( see picture illustrating the article ).

I stepped into the room, sat down, and relaxed for the first time that day.

The orientation session went very well, and a lot of useful informations were delivered to us. Overall, I would say that this day changed my perspective on Stockholm University a lot ! The intervenants were very friendly and open to discussion, and I got around the fact that I was far from being  the only exchange student in Stockholm University ! Even if I already knew that,  it made it very comforting for me to visually realize what it meant. I knew that many more students from all over the world were probably having the same thoughts, and facing the same challenges as I was.

Video

To resume my first impressions and feelings, here is a link to an interview that was realized right outside of Aula Magna after the welcome session ended ! You’ll see me, and other exchange students sharing their impressions and expectations on the upcoming year at university and in Stockholm !

—> Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqYc6-i0mY8

The rest of the week, was full of activities organized by the Student Union. They really took care of our ‘newly arrived selves’, showed us around campus, took us to different places, and made sure that we met each other and started to build our own social network at university.

Even though I did not participate in all activities, I enjoyed the time that I spent with other exchange students taking their first steps in Stockholm as well as the warm attitude expressed by the whole Student Union’s staff.

Political Science I

Despite the truly exciting moments that I spent in Stockholm these past months, wandering into the city and discovering the nordic treasure that Sweden is, I often have to remind myself that I got here to spend a year studying !

As an exchange student, I am enrolled in the department of Political Science. Therefore, I started this school year with the classes from « Political Science I » programme, and will follow with « Political Science II » next semester.

So far, I have had three classes out of the four that i’m taking this semester : Political Theory, Swedish Politics, and Comparative Politics.

Having already studied the basis of Political Science, and Political Theory, I though that the first module would be the easiest for me, and would even be a little boring. However, I really appreciated the approach and the educational method that the teachers used for this course. Unlike at university in France, a lot of the work we had to do was based on readings, very well suited to the subjects, and very relevant to the discussions that we had. The classes were also here to guide our reflexions, explain certain notions but mostly participate in debates. I found it very interesting to exchange with my classmates, and put in perspective my understanding of the texts, with theirs.  Overall, I would say Political Theory was my favorite course so far.

The second module was « Swedish Politics ». I found the class pretty interesting, since I came here not knowing much about Swedish Politics.  However, the class tended to shift a lot on European Politics, and European Union problematics, which is not my favorite subject ( even though I understand the necessity to talk about those issues ). Also, the seminars were not as interesting as the ones during the first period. But I was lucky enough to be in a seminar group with very dynamic people, who made good presentations and brought some useful questions to the forefront of our discussions.

Finally, the course that I am following right now is comparative Politics. I have to say that I am quite uncertain about my liking of this class. The lectures are very interesting, and the teacher know’s how to get and keep our attention. The American presidential elections also added a little spice to the course, and we had a lot to talk about and to discuss in class. Also, I find it very interesting to approach politics not only from a very Eurocentric point of view, but trying to find different indicators and criteria to do so. The teacher really succeeded in bringing that out during his lectures.

Nevertheless, the seminars are a little less lively than the ones we had in the first period and I wish we would have more space for debate, since the subject is so interesting ! Especially since I realized how international our seminar groups were, I think it would’ve been very nourishing for all of us to be able to exchange on our different experiences.

To resume, I still feel like those three first modules were pretty interesting, and will serve as a good introduction to the subjects that I have to study next ! I really got the time to get around the study system, grading system, and teacher’s expectations ( which are quite different from the ones in France ).

If I had to rank the classes so far, from my most favorite to my least favorite it would be :

  1. Political Theory
  2. Comparative Politics
  3. Swedish Politics

For period four, I registered  in the department of Anthropological studies, for the course « Gender and sexuality ». I am quite curious to discover classes at another department, and especially to have a class on gender. In my home university, I never really had a chance to study such a topic. I can’t wait to see what it will be like, and I feel ready to dig into that subject !

Life at Stockholm University :

Overall, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of student-life in Stockholm University.

First of all, the program that i’m following is designed in a way that allows students to have a lot of free time and take care of themselves. Keeping in mind that at my home university, I had approximatively 25 to 30 hours of classes every week, in addition to the load of homework, presentations, and exams that we had.

My two first years at university were therefore quite intense, and I didn’t have much time to exercise, have extra-scholar activities, (or even sleep) that much !

I was quite surprised then, when I realized that my school schedule here at Stockholm University was composed of 6 to 8 hours of classes a week. And even though we have quite a lot of readings to do, it’s easy to keep organized and to work at your own rhythm.

Moreover, the campus is very well equipped, and the atmosphere is very well-suited to studying. You’ll find everything you need to spend a day on campus working. Several places to eat, sit, relax, and work are available around campus Frescati.

This was also a change for me, since in France, our campus didn’t have much provisions for us to go and shop for food for instance. We only had one cafeteria, that wasn’t open at all time. Of course, there were facilities around campus where we could go and buy some food, or coffees, but it is way easier to have everything on campus !

I was also very happy to see that a gym was available on campus, with quite affordable prices for students and very good gym classes !

For 299 sek a month ( similar price to a gym membership in Paris ), I’ve been able to go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week for a group class or just working out by myself. My favorite classes are probably Bodypump and Bodyattack. The first one being a bodybuilding class mostly, and the second one a cardio class based on martial arts moves  !

I also have to say that having such  facilities on campus, is very encouraging. I can simply go to school, and stop by the gym before going home, without having to hop on the Tunnelbana or go far from home for that.

Given that the days are  becoming shorter, and that it gets colder, I have to admit that this saves me quite some time ! And it also keeps me motivated to go to the gym.

To conclude on what student life is in Stockholm university, I would also want to mention the great work that is put in by school staff and administration. The international student coordinators are always very available. They answer your e-mails very fast, and if you go and visit their office, your problems will be solved almost immediately.

Even before moving to Stockholm, I was very happy to be able to count on them, and to rely on the administration, especially through the arrival process.  It was very comforting to meet such a friendly staff, always ready to help with everything.

I will probably be dedicating another article to my school mates, and the different people that I came across while studying at Stockholm University ! I feel like the social encounters that I made here, and the connections that I am making with them, deserve a whole post for themselves.

I hope this article was useful to some of you guys. I’ll be back soon with more news.

Until then, take care !

Jessica

My first month in Stockholm (August-September 2016)

My first month in Stockholm (August-September 2016)

My first month in Stockholm was by far, the most exciting moment of my stay here ( until now ). The excitement of discovering a new city, melted with the adrenaline of experiencing life  in a completely new environment, and topped up with great weather and sunny day has been the perfect recipe for a thrilling end of summer.

As I now collect the ( still fresh ) memories of my first steps here in Stockholm to share them with you, I realize how much I learned in only a few weeks. If I had to describe my first month in Stockholm in a few words, they would be : « Oh, wow ! ». Not very chic I know, but those words have crossed my mind so many times during my first weeks here that they feel appropriate.

First impressions

The contrast was quite evident to me when I got out of the plane, that Arlanda Airport was no way comparable to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, from where I had departed a few hours earlier. I had left a very busy, noisy, and chaotic airport in the morning, and arrived in a smaller and quieter airport in the afternoon. The transition was quite pleasant, I have to say.

The international Airport of Paris Charles de Gaulle, ( which can receive up to 63,8 millions passengers a year ), tends to be very overwhelming. Even though I am now used to the whole process of checking-in, and boarding in that airport (from traveling many times from and to France), there is no doubt that the French airport could learn a few tips or more from its Swedish counterpart.

I am well aware that the two airports are way different in sizes. However, Arlanda airport remains the biggest airport in Sweden. I was impressed by the very well-organized setting, as well as the infrastructures connecting the airport to Stockholm. Being located 42 km north of Stockholm, it would be easy to think that connecting to the city would be quite complicated, but the local companies  made it very easy. One can easily hop onto a bus, or on the Arlanda Express ( which will take you directly to T-Centralen, the City’s central station ). In a more traditional ( but also more expensive ) way, taxis also make the trip from the airport to the city all day.

Reflecting on it now, I feel like a few hours of flight had already taught me one of the major differences between France and Sweden.

France, and especially Paris tends to be very busy and unorganized. You’ll often find yourself caught in traffic, or in perturbations in the metro. You’ll bump into people in stores to get in line and get cashed out, or often be ran into by men and women in suit running to get to work. Overall, a pretty stressful and chaotic  environment ( not really what you would expect  in the « city of love » right ? ).

In Stockholm however, since the day I arrived, I have found myself being very peaceful and relaxed in my daily routine. Even though Stockholm just like Paris is a very big city, and a capital first of all, things seem to be very organized. People don’t seem to be in such a rush, and it might sound very cliché, but most of them are very nice and polite. Talking to random people has never seemed so easy to me, and has definitely made my first days here easier.

As the rest of my stay here, the arrival at Arlanda airport  was a very smooth one. No rush, no hurry, my luggages arrived on time, and I got in a cab pretty easily and cruised to the City.

The city

On the way to Stockholm, I had my nose collapsed on the car’s window, and my eyes wide open to try and get a first impression of the country. Which was pretty unsuccessful, since you can’t  see much from a highway ! However, arriving into Stockholm’s inner city, I was pretty amazed by the cohabitation of tortuous and modern roads, with very ancient buildings. I had read a few articles talking about how bothering it was, for people with some sense of architectural harmony ( and honestly I understand how it could be ). But it didn’t bother me at all. I was simply quite surprised.

As I later walked through the streets of the city, I really got to appreciate the untouched architectural effort that is so characteristic of the Stockholm. It is so easy to cruise from very industrial buildings, to Hausmanian-inspired avenues and more Gustavian buildings. I still find it amazing, to be able to literally walk through such a beautiful city, almost unattained by the wars and massive destructions of our recent tumultuous history.

The transition from the very neutral landscapes we came across on the highway to the city of Stockholm was a very exciting moment. I was looking at everything and anything with a new eye, and was so happy when we arrived to Stockholm’s waterfront. Everything seemed exactly like in the pictures I had seen before, only with more dimensions. I could finally put colors, lights, textures, smells and feelings to those colorful buildings.

Also, if there’s something that I immediately liked about Stockholm, it’s being close and surrounded by water. Of course I knew, before getting here, about the fourteen islands composing the city that had gotten it the nickname of «  Venise of the North » ; but it still struck me. Still now, I love going from bridge to bridge on a daily basis, taking a walk near the lake or simply admiring the reflection of a sunset on the water when i’m coming home after a day out. To me, in order to enjoy the beauty of Stockholm, you have to embrace  Lake Mälaren , and the way it can often unexpectedly break through the lands and the coasts of the city quarters.

Growing up mainly in coastal cities, I personally always feel a special bond with cities that I’ve visited where I had the chance to be so close to a lake or the sea. And Stockholm isn’t going to be an exception, I can already tell !

Added to the omnipresence of water, being surrounded by a lot of vegetation has also played a major role in my liking of the city. Stockholm is way different from any European Metropolis that i’ve visited before. There is a little something about it, its green areas maybe, that makes it a place where you can still feel at peace no matter what. There is something very picturesque and inspiring  about this city.

Stockholm is said to be 1/3 urban, 1/3 water, 1/3 green space. And I’ve learned to appreciate all of it.

Stockholmers:

If there is one more preconceived idea that I think might be true about Stockholm, it is the one about its inhabitants. People in the Scandinavian countries in general,  have the reputation to be very polite and friendly at first, but very difficult to get friends ( close friends ) with ! And Swedes are no exception to the rule.

Before meeting the other international students from my class, I have to say that my first days at the University were quite lonely. It was pretty hard to create an opportunity to talk with people. And even when that first step was done, keeping in touch was very difficult. I found myself having a lot of random talks, and chats with a lot of people ( which was nice ), but only keeping contact with a few !

Fortunately, as the days went by, I met many more people, and started constituting myself a very nice network here in Stockholm. Within a month spent here, i’ve surrounded myself with people from Ivory Coast, Gambia, Bosnia, Brazil, Turkey.… and mostly Sweden ! Which I think is a great achievement.

I was also very surprised to see such a diversity, and people from different origins going around the city ! I spotted mainly people from West Africa, which is interesting to me, since in France, people from East Africa tend to be more present. According to Statistics Sweden, the government agency responsible for producing official statistics here, the largest groups of African-born Swedish residents are currently from : Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and lastly Morocco. I’m very interested in getting to know more about the journeys and stories of these particular groups, and what specifically through different times have led them to Sweden. But that is  maybe for another post here on my blog !

Nevertheless, it is always very soothing for me ( I have to admit ) to come across a pretty brown face, or a fro fearlessly floating in the air, and being able to share my experience as a student here with other African students living in Stockholm.

Daily life and favorite places:

My first month in Stockholm was also filled with a lot of lively experiences overall. My appreciation for coffee has grown a little more, I’ve been to concerts, parties, tried nice ( or less nice ) bars and clubs, walked around the city, went thrift shopping, got back to the gym, visited museums, got ecstatic in Gröna Lund, ate tons of Kanellbulle, studied a little bit… and so much more !

Before ending this article, here is a non-exhaustive list of my favorite places so far in Stockholm just in case you end up spending some time here and you need recommendations on where to go and what to do  :

  1. Café 60 :

Located very close to Radmansgatan T-Bana, in the area of Norrmalm, it is a very nice Café in which you will easily find a spot to hang out and relax with friends. You can also  bring your computer and work there when you’re tired of studying in the school’s library ! The Café remains in dim light most of the time, and when the night comes, the waiters go around the place to light candles in the stairs and on every table. Added to the large comfy sofas, and heavy wooden tables, it creates a very  home-like, warm and cozy atmosphere.

My favorite things to get there are warmed-up Kanellbulle and a hot chocolate. It’s perfect after a day out shopping and running errands. However, I have to admit that my guilty pleasure is to go there and get a piece of Quiche ! It’s deliciously made, and takes me back to France for a little bit !

  1. Cozy Café :

Cozy Café is located in Gamla Stan, a much more touristic area of Stockholm. The surroundings are very charming, since it is the old town , and the Café itself is located in a very cute paved street. This Café is much smaller, but if you manage to get a spot, and go there outside  of a rush hour you’ll have a great time !

What I like the most about this Café, is probably the ambiance and the music. It is very cozy as well, and the radio plays piano or guitar covers of hit songs such as : Someone like you and Rolling in the deep by Adele, or other songs by Alicia Keys, The Weeknd , etc.. They also have amazing chocolate cakes and apple pie.

  1. Lion’s Bar :

They have a few locations around the city, and as for nightlife, it is often mentioned in students conversations. The place is also usually filled with young people like myself. It is not the most glamorous place, but the music is good and the drinks are quite cheap compared to other places in Stockholm where drinks can get very expensive.

  1. Bara Enkelt :

Bara Enkelt is located close to Medborgarplatsen T-Bana. However, it’s a pretty nice walk from Slussen to the Bar, if you have time to walk around and enjoy the city’s ambiance. It  is a very fun place to go with friends ! The decor is very fun and colorful, made of neon lights and vibrant colors. The prices are not too high as well, and you can get good food there. I love to get some nachos and quesadillas, with a glass of wine or some beer when I go there.

  1. Burgers and Beer :

As for food, I haven’t been eating out much since my arrival in Stockholm. Mainly because it is quite expensive, and I couldn’t seem to find a place that I really liked. However, I came across this very cool restaurant near St. Eriksplan T-Bana, called « Burgers and Beer ». The food is delicious, and the decor is awesome. They also played R&B tunes the whole time, which to me completed the whole experience.

Their home made dip sauce, and sweet-potatoe fries got a 10 out of 10 from me ! I will definitely go and eat there again. To top it all off, the food was quite inexpensive.

  1. Globen :

When it comes to activities, and places to go  to or visit, I also have a few favorites.

First of all, if you are a fan of Afrobeat or dancehall music, you need to check out the guest list of Stockholm Globe Arenas ! I got to go there a few times, to see artists such as Gyptian or Charly Black during showcases. The vibe was really nice. Before and after the show, DJ’s come to play some good Afrobeat music or dancehall songs, the dance floor is open and everyone is up to a good time. I definitely recommend it !

  1. Historiska Museet :

The Swedish History Museum is one of the good surprises that I had being here. I went in, not expecting much, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The museum is huge, and you really get an interesting insight in to Swedish history. You will definitely come out of it knowing a little more about Sweden ! The expositions about the Vikings, Medieval Art, and the History of Sweden were very interesting and for the most part entertaining ! There is no entrance fee as well, and audio-guides are very cheap. It is worth it !

  1. Gröna Lund :

If you have the chance to be in Stockholm during the summer, I would suggest to stop by Gröna Lund. Located on the Island of Djurgarden, it is just a few minutes away from Slussen by boat, and it is worth the trip ! The attractions are very fun, and if you are fond of extreme sensations you will not be disappointed. You will also be able to get a stunning and panoramic view of the city from the gigantic « swing » that sits on top of the amusement park.

  1. Skansen :

Finally (and I think it is a lot of people’s favorite here) Skansen is a must. The open-air museum, also located on Djurgarden, is such a fun place to go and visit with friends. I particularly enjoyed the zoo, and being able to see nordic animals ( including brown bears and reindeers ). It is also very representative of the Swedish traditions, with traditional houses, and a small reconstituted village.

These are all the places that really enlightened my stay here in Stockholm so far, but I will certainly come up with an updated list of favorites in the upcoming months. I can’t wait to share more of what I’ve learned and keep on learning with you guys.

Until then, take care !

Jessica