Visiting home for such a short time is really hard work. You feel as though there are a number of important people you must catch up with, while also find time to enjoy being in your native land once more.
Top of my list of things to do: go to a proper pub! Sweden does have a very active student nightlife, however there’s a very obvious difference in the culture surrounding alcohol between Sweden and my home country. Though they give it a good go, Swedes can’t seem to conjure the same atmosphere around pub drinking. So, I made sure that I went to have a proper pint of English ale with some old mates.
Relating to foreign students
I have some great friends from Southampton Uni. A few are foreign students living and studying in Britain. I’d always thought that I could understand that it was difficult to study abroad for such a long time, but I’d never had such an insight into their life in Britain until I came to Sweden.
I was sat telling my friends about the highs and lows of living abroad in a strange land where the language is different and the culture a little strange at times, then I’d look at my foreign friends. It seems to me that they thought it was interesting, because they’d never seen any of the British students react to living abroad. They gave me a sort of “welcome to my world” look.
Studying abroad is very different than studying at home for all sorts of reasons. It’s difficult at times, but always rewarding. I think I understand more than ever that education is an extremely precious thing, and that sometimes you have to sacrifice the comfort of your own country to step out in search of a better education, and in doing so you learn far more than you ever would at home.
Arriving back in Sweden
Returning to the cold and dark of Skavsta airport was strangely comforting. Britain is a wonderful country, but I’ve come to enjoy the feeling of being an “Englishman abroad”. I enjoy the fact that my Swedish is still bad enough that I can’t overhear the meaning of conversations and can therefore just enjoy the sound of the Swedish language lilting across the room. I also enjoy the smell of Swedish coffee and kanelbullar!
I’ve managed to carve myself out a normality here that’s very different to that which I’m accustomed to in Britain. Being away from that normality for even a short time was strange indeed. Though I do not regret going home, I feel that I should have better prepared myself for the trip.
I didn’t expect, for example, to experience culture shock in my own country. I found myself thinking things like: “Why on earth do the British do it this way?” “Why did the coach driver tell me off for just grabbing my bag at the station?” “How come coffee is this expensive?” “Driving on the left feels strange.” “Two pounds for a bus ticket? That’s a bit steep.” “I probably shouldn’t have said ‘Tack’ to the barman.”
I didn’t expect to feel so much like a visitor. When I’m out here in Sweden, people seem to think that I’m a ‘typical’ Brit. I went home and was somehow not. I recall what we were told during our induction talk on the first day I was in Linköping: “Each of you will go home a little bit Swedish.”
Being a little bit Swedish is not a bad thing by any means, but I feel like I will need a short while to re-adjust to life in Britain. I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to doing so.