Hosting Information: Ystad, Sweden: Hammenhög Rotaryklubb District 2390
Sponsoring Information: Kamloops, BC: Kamloops Aurora 100
Six and a half months ago, I did not know a single word of the Swedish language. I had never tried pickled herring or sang silly songs while drinking snapps. If you asked me to take a fika, I would look at you strangely, not know what to do or what you were talking about. I wouldn’t be able say that I have been to places such as Salzburg, Austria; Copenhagen, Danmark; and of course; Ystad, Sweden. Six months ago, I would not be able to say that I now have two homes, thousands of miles apart, but right beside each other in my heart.
This exchange so far has been the most incredible and life changing experience. I’ve been thrown into situations that I never had encountered before, from learning one of the hardest languages in the world, to testing my strength to deal with emergencies across the oceans. I still can’t say that I have had to deal with much homesickness since I have left Canada. It did not take me long to adjust to my new surroundings and country. Sometimes when I am just simply walking home from school, or walking to a friend’s house, I realize how comfortable I am in this city. The cobblestone streets and varied colours of brick houses no longer seem foreign to me, but cozy and natural. Walking into the local grocery store, I can find my way around without wandering aimlessly. When taking a trip to Stora Osterleden, the main street, I can find more and more familiar faces, and stop and talk with a friend from school. Weekends are much busier, as there are more and more people that I hang out with. I meet new friends on a regular basis, and strengthen the ones that I already have. I no longer feel uncomfortable walking into a store, and speaking Swedish with the cashier, nor do I have a hard time to understand them and I don’t have to ask them to take it again but in English. Speaking Swedish with my friends is so much easier, and we can talk to each other in Swedish, and write in it as well the whole time. Classes in school I still don’t understand as much as I would like, when I think about it, I still barely understand anything, but I go and listen and take notes, although I am not sure what I am writing down. When I meet a new person, I can go the first half of the conversation all in Swedish, which impresses them and makes me feel much better about my language skills. I have found though that I have lost some English skills, and a few times I have said sentences that are quite incorrect, and make me sound very Swedish. Talking to friends back home, whether just in an email or on Skype, I find that a lot of the time my first instinct is to speak Swedish, and a couple times when skyping I have accidently spoken Swedish instead of English. It is so much easier now for the words to come out, and for me to just sit and think in Swedish as well. I think that’s a good sign that it’s finally starting to click.
I have a hard time even thinking about what it will be like when the time comes to go home, and it makes me almost teary when I do. Everything here has been so amazing, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without meeting the people I’ve met and experienced the things that I have. Rotary has been the best decision of my life, and never once have I regretting filling out that first application. I am ever so grateful for the opportunity of being here, and will never ever forget this year. I have changed into a more independent and cultured person I know, the change that I believe is for the better. It has honestly been the best half year of my life so far, and the best six months are just to come.
Take each day as you want. Do what you want to do, be who you want to be. Don’t think about what you could have done; focus on what is still left to be accomplished. Don’t say no, and always smile. You’ll find that life rolls around easier that way. And when the time comes to say goodbye, don’t make it your last.
Vi ses igen snart Sverige. Du är mitt hem nu. Alltid och för evigt. Puss och kram.