Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Glad Fettisdagen!!!

Idag är det Fettisdagen i Sverige! Today is Fat Tuesday in Sweden. The day when we eat semla in Sweden. Matilda, my roommate here in my new apartment in Järfälla, got me this big pastry, semla, which is famous to eat today. It is made with a very expensive spice called Cardamom, which used to be only affordable to the rich in the old days. But now everyone eats it. :)

Here is more info about the spice and a picture.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hej hej! Nu jag talar lite svenska. This means, "Now I speak a little Swedish" in Swedish! My classes are finally starting to rub off on me.

First week of classes are done. I can finally speak a little bit of Swedish and getting a hang of the transportation system in Skäne.   Visited Kopenhavn (Copenhagen)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Student Life and The Nations at Lund University

I had a really great night in Lund yesterday! I went to Hallands Nation, one of the student nations, to register for my Studentlund account. The nations at Lund are compared to sororities and fraternities in the United States, but I really don't think they are good comparisons. The nations are much more organized and function more like nightclubs, with bouncers, tickets, and are open to everyone. The nations also host sports, lunches, dinners and host special events throughout the year. Unfortunately, I was not able to register for Studentlund, but I did meet up with some Swedish friends that I met while working at Hallands last weekend at the Love Bar. (The Love Bar is the smaller bar inside Hallands.) They invited me to join their group for "Novisch Activities". These are fun games and events going on for new students and freshmen at Lund University--sort of like a Welcome Week in the States or Freshers week in England.

We met up with some other students, both graduate and undergrads--including some Americans, and headed over to Västgöta Nation, also known as "VG's". VG was hosting a special deal for students: only 60 Kroner for a meal and entry to Hallands nightclub. We entered the bar and I made a burger and then ordered a beer. I met some other Swedes, which was nice. We talked for awhile and then the games started! There were five games in total. Hallands was pitted against Västgöta Nation to see which nation was the 'best'. Hallands won the first two. I was forced--or coerced, I should say--(haha!) into playing the third round. A group of us had to take shots and then walk across the room on top of cartons. The catch to the game was that there were only a handful of cartons and many people in our group, so we had to pass the cartons one-by-one up a line and not touch the ground in the process, then walk across the line of cartons. If we touched the floor at all, we had to move back to the starting line and do it all over again. Fortunately, nobody fell, and we all made it to the other side really quickly. The other team touched the ground too many times and gave up. We won!

I played another round of musical chairs and made it pretty far in the competition. Hallands won that one, too. After we clearly won the competition (Hallands won like four out of five rounds), everyone dispersed and I joined a game of beer pong. After all the games, I was really happy I joined Hallands. Hallands members clearly outnumbered the Västgöta Nation members that showed up. Hallands also had a lot of team spirit and lots of energy. We sung a Hallands cheer during the games to keep the players pumped. It was pretty cool and reminded me of sports matches in the States. Surprisingly, I actually won the beer pong game! I made the very last shot when it was 1-1 with cups left. I'm usually pretty bad at beer pong. The Swedes joked that my team won because I was American. Apparently, Americans are beer pong masters. But I insisted that in the States, I am not good at beer pong and don't really stand out. I was super happy about the win. After that, I talked some more with my new Swedish friends from beer pong and then called it a night. Can't wait to finally get my Studentlund account and join more nations activities!

A photo from the musical chairs game at Västgöta Nation. Hallands won, of course. 
I am sitting in the first row, fourth from the left, in the grey long-sleeve shirt and tan slip-on shoes.
Photo Credit: Hallands Nation https://www.facebook.com/Hallandsnation

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Adventures in Lyon, France

Last night, I went on an evening river boat cruise on the Saône River with my mom and saw many historic buildings lit up. It was spectacular! The buildings looked beautiful illuminated at night. I also learned a lot of the history of Lyon, France from the tour guide. She spoke French and English. My mom and I sat on the top deck or upper level deck of the river boat. I took quite a bit of photos, but the darkness did not help with the image quality much.

 Today, I went on a full-day wine tour to the Beaujolais region north of Lyon, France with my mom.  We visited a family winery that was owned by the family of our tour guide, Sebastian, who comes from a large family of winemakers from the area of Beaujolais. His great-grandfather started the winery, so it really is a family affair. Many of his relatives (a large family) are involved in the winemaking.  We learned about the terrain, the growing, the effects of the weather, and the enemies of the grapes--such as mildew, pests, and how winemakers deal with it. Sebastian's family has many vineyards, but the wine-tasting was in the cave (cellar) of his uncle's castle in the Clochemerle village. The castle is from medieval times. We tasted several varieties of Gamay wine and we had some chardonnay, which is rare for the region. (Beaujolais is known for its Gamay red wine). Their Gamay wines are light and fresh and somewhat fruity. We also toured  the medieval village Clochemerle. Then our tour group headed to a bed and breakfast and we were served a full French meal with different wines and cheeses. We had a full meal with a fresh salad as the entre and chicken in a cream sauce with rice for the main dish. French bread was served on the side and a dessert of different tarts and fresh fruit served at the end. Some of the cheeses were  from local farmers down the road  (the goat cheese) and some were from the Swiss Alps. The meal was topped off with espresso and tea. The gîte was located high up on the hillside overlooking the Beaujolais vineyards near the Clochemerle village. The Clochemerle village is also the site of the famous book and movie from the 1940's by a French author.We also saw a museum and a small electronic animated theather dedicated to the Clochemerle books and the author. You can find out more here:
The novels became very famous and then was made into a movie in the village. Then, our minivan drove to the historic medieval village of Oingt, high up in the hills above the vineyards. There were beautiful picturesque landscapes, a church, and little shops on the cobblestone streets of the village. The buildings were made out of special yellow stone and limestone from the Saône River from medieval times. Many people still live here in little homes and apartments. It is a small, but beautiful village.

 It was very beautiful weather, vineyards, buildings, and landscapes. Perfect weather for wine-tasting. It was a really fun group of people from Scotland, Belgium, and Hong Kong.  Not to mention the gamay grape wine was very good, too!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moving in and arrival in Sweden

Hi everyone,

This is just a quick update post. After a very long flight over 24 hours, I arrived in Copenhagen CPH airport in Denmark. I had a five hour layover in Toronto, Canada which I spent most of my time in the airport (not too fun!). After taking a train from Copenhagen airport to Lund in Sweden, I arrived at my Bed and Breakfast reservation that I booked on airbnb.com.

I'll be posting photos of my room at the Bed and Breakfast in my next post and go into more detail there about that experience. Yesterday, I took a cab from my B&B after picking up my room keys and met my roommate, Elsa. She is from UC Irvine and is also a Summer student at Lund. Her mom and family friend were visiting for a day and we all took a bus together to Ikea in Malmo, Sweden. We ate dinner at the Ikea diner (Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes!), shopped for bedding and household supplies we needed, and then took the train back to Lund. We definitely got lost several times on our way to Ikea and back!

Elsa and I live in an apartment-style complex called Östra Torn   There are two bedrooms (we each get our own room) and one shared bathroom. There is also a mini-kitchen and living room area with a sofa and coffee table. I am very impressed with the standard of the dorm! It is certainly cleaner, nicer, and larger than anything I've had in Berkeley. Not to mention that I get my own room!

That's really all for now. I am about to go pick up my bike from Parentesen, another housing area in Lund. I leave you now with a song that I have been playing on repeat. I think it really encompasses my mood right now, even though not all of the lyrics make sense to me. Just sounds good. :)

Safe Travels,


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pre-Departure Thoughts

Hello everyone!

My flight to Copenhagen, Denmark is only four days away and now the pressure is on. I am finally starting to feel the anticipation leading up to my departure. I still have so many things to do before I leave for Sweden! I have yet to pack my suitcase entirely and move out all of my belongings from Sherman Hall, the CoOp I am staying in for the first session of summer, to storage. Despite all of the pre-departure plans and to-do lists I need to complete, it seems like things are running pretty smoothly.

I've been working out my finances and healthcare-related pre-departure plans so that I don't run into any hiccups abroad. That has really been the crux of all the planning: so many things related to travel insurance, healthcare, and paying bills while abroad are very complicated and time consuming.

On a lighter note, I found out today that my application for the Reach the World Travel Correspondent was accepted! I received an offer to blog about my travel experiences in Sweden and share them with under-resourced schools and children in Harlem and New York. Reach the World (RTW)'s main purpose is to serve underprivileged communities and teach kids about geography, ultimately helping young public school children to broaden their global horizons, succeed in school, and learn more about the world in which they live. As part of the position as a Travel Correspondent, I will create a public profile on their website, blog, write travel journals, and communicate with young students and kids via Skype and their website. This organization is in partnership with the Gilman International Scholarship Program, which sent out the offer to me to work for them. It is a volunteer position (i.e. unpaid), but I do genuinely want to blog and share my experiences with a larger audience. I think the experience will improve my writing abilities and my blogging skills. It also sounds really fun! I will also get to Skype with the kids in the classrooms occasionally and complete various assignments related to my study abroad program. Maybe I can even teach them a little bit of Swedish? Either way, I think it will be a very enriching experience for everyone involved--myself and the kids!

Another thing I have been doing the past week and today is researching activities for Midsummer. What is "Midsummer", you might ask? Midsummer is a traditional Swedish celebration that happens right after I arrive in Lund, Sweden. The celebration welcomes the summer solstice by dancing around a decorated Maypole, making flower hair wreaths, drinking, and sometimes wearing traditional Swedish costumes. Below are some pictures so you can get a better idea of what it is like:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons - June 2005 by Mikael Häggström
Midsummer celebration at Årsnäs, by the coast from Kode, Solberga församling.

After some deliberation, I have decided to go to this event in Skansen, Stockholm: http://www.skansen.se/en/tema/midsummer-programme-2013
Events will be taking place for three days: Friday, June 21st; Saturday, June 22nd; and Sunday, June 23rd. It looks like one of the more promising locations where I will actually have a chance to participate in the celebrations, take some photos for my blog, and shoot some video. Most Swedes apparently celebrate with their families outdoors, so this event is perfect for me because it is catered to the public. I plan on posting my photos here on the blog, so keep a lookout for that soon. Here is a short video about the event so you can get a better idea of what it would be like. It sort of reminds me of some of the May Day celebrations I did as a kid in daycare. We would dance around a pole we constructed outside on the grass with colorful streamers. It looks kind of similar and it sounds fun!

I am hoping I can get some good videos and photos to show to the kids in Reach the World of the event. I'll definitely be bringing my Canon EOS T3i DSLR camera.

If you want to find out more about the Swedish Midsummer, you can check out the official Sweden website for more information: http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Traditions/Celebrating-the-Swedish-way/Midsummer/

Or you can check this recent article about Midsummer in Sweden that was just published by the New York Times:

Keep following this blog if you want to learn more about my study abroad program, Sweden, and my travels! Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about my trip or any comments, feel free to post below.

Safe Travels,