Lucy: Final Thoughts

I’ve been back in New Zealand for a little over three weeks now, and it honestly feels surreal. I now see what people mean when they say it feels like they never left. These past six months have been a whirlwind of amazing experience after amazing experience, and being home it almost feels like it was all a dream. I didn’t really know where to begin when I thought of trying to sum up how I felt about my trip so I thought I’d give a few of my favourite moments from my time abroad…

As I’ve said previously, I chose Europe as my exchange location so I could travel far and wide and I’ve certainly taken advantage of the proximity. I’ve totalled 20 countries in the six months I’ve been away from home, across three continents. In particular, a month long solo trip I did in November was one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve ever done. I travelled to Istanbul, all around Egypt and Jordan, then to Prague and Paris over a period of 25 days and, despite the isolation you feel while travelling by yourself, the freedom and independence I felt while away made it so rewarding. I am now the queen of packing my whole life into a carry-on suitcase – plus, I made some new friends along the way!

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Best screensaver ever
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Ticking things off my bucket list!

Another incredible opportunity I had was participating in the Student Nobel Nightcap, which is the annual after party hosted by university students for the attendees of the Nobel Prize awards which are held in Stockholm every year on December 10th. I signed up to work on the night as well as helping with the lead up to the event. This was a really cool way to meet people from all over Stockholm, and serving champagne to Nobel Prize winners was a bonus too!

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My team on the night!

Finally, my exchange would have been nothing if it wasn’t for the amazing people I met in Stockholm. I can truly say I have made some friends for life, who I have shared this crazy, once in a lifetime experience with. They were also the hardest thing to leave and we’re already planning various reunions, although New Zealand has never felt so far away than it does now.

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A traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner

If I could give any advice it would just be to go for it. Moving abroad is something you never feel like you’re ready for, but eventually it will feel like the easiest, most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. Not everything is as glamorous and effortless as pictures make it seem. There were definitely moments of crippling homesickness, nights sick in bed just wanting to be with my Mum, and the dreaded December where all the Kiwi summer pics started rolling in and I was facing -24 degrees. However, through these moments I just had to remember why I left in the first place.

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A Kiwi, a couple Brits, and a couple Canadians walk into a bar

This will be my final post for the 360 International blog. I hope anyone reading this has been inspired to take the plunge and go on an exchange of your own. If you have any questions, or want to chat, feel free to contact me on lred135@aucklanduni.ac.nz or reach out to me on Instagram where I’ve posted heaps more pictures at @lucyredwood.

Tack så mycket Sverige, I’ve had a wonderful time!

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Lucy: Travelling Europe

Hello again!

I have decided to dedicate this post to my travels during my six months abroad. Travel was one of my driving forces for leaving on this experience and I found each country I visited extremely rewarding!

The main reason I chose Stockholm University was because of its proximity to the rest of Europe. I am lucky enough to have travelled a fair bit of Western Europe before, but Scandinavia was an area completely unexplored to me so I was super excited to see a bit more of what it had to offer.

Copenhagen –

My first stop was Copenhagen, which was just an easy five-hour train ride from Stockholm. Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever visited. Everything and everyone just seemed 10 times cooler than anywhere else. Incidentally, Copenhagen was my first choice of exchange universities. I really loved the city, but after spending only 48 hours walking the streets, the insanely expensive prices of living there made me realise that Stockholm was a slightly better fit for me!

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Touristing!

Bergen –

One of the first trips I made with the friends I met on my exchange was to Bergen, Norway. This was a result of Skyscanners ‘everywhere’ option, which lets you see the cheapest flights to any destination on a given date, which became my best friend while overseas. Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe, which we only figured out after we’d booked our flights and for the most part, it lived up to the title!

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Bergen’s waterfront is filled with beautiful colourful buildings

There are so many amazing ways to explore Norway’s unique environment. Unfortunately, the weather wouldn’t allow us to do any of the more extensive tracks, but we managed to hike up Mt Ulriken, which was beautiful. Later, the sun miraculously came out just in time for a boat trip around the local Fjords.

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Harder than it looks!
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A quick break in the clouds making the Fjords look even more stunning

Kiruna –

This was by far the best trip I made on my entire exchange. Despite visiting many countries around Europe, I felt I hadn’t spent enough time exploring my home turf. Kiruna is a small town up in the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where the sun barely rises, but when it does, the scenes are unparalleled. Ten of us took a one hour flight up to the top of the country and checked ourselves into a small lakeside cabin just outside of the city.

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Our back garden…

Kiruna was cold like none of us had ever experienced before, getting down to -24 degrees at some points, but this only added to the experience. We had booked a local dogsledding tour, but other than that our days were spent wandering around the area we were staying in. One of the best nights of my entire life was spent watching the northern lights with all the best friends I had made on my exchange. We were so lucky to see them as bright as we did, which locals said was super uncommon for the time.

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All ten of us had never seen the lights before

What surprised me most about my exchange was how rewarding I found just exploring the areas surrounding Stockholm. I intended for my exchange to allow me to travel far and wide in Europe, when really the most gratifying areas of my travel were those around Scandinavia.

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Rugged up in -20!

I’m so lucky to have been able to experience so much of Scandinavia and beyond.

On my next post, I will (reluctantly) be back in Auckland and reflecting on what an amazing time I’ve had. It’s extremely bittersweet but as you can see, it will be nice to be back into a Kiwi summer!

If anyone has any questions feel free to email me on lred135@aucklanduni.ac.nz

Until then,

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Lucy: Budgeting in Stockholm

Everyone who knows me well will know that this post is pretty ironic since I am the worst person at budgeting, or saving at all for that matter. However, after picking one of the most expensive locations for my exchange, I’ve had to learn a thing or two and, despite my best efforts, this post is a mixture of advice and learning from my mistakes.

One of the most cost effective ways to save money on groceries is to share the workload. From almost as soon as I moved into my accommodation, I have been doing shared dinners with others in my residence. This began with just three of us, and has since grown to six people who each take turns cooking dinner around one night a week. I’ve found this is a great way to not only save money, but the time and effort you save from not buying groceries and cooking every night of the week is a game changer. You eat better food as there is more energy put into each dinner, as well as broadening your palate. With three kiwis, a Canadian, a Dutchman and a Serbian, we were certainly eating a variety of food – and saving money!

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The original dinner squad with my first culinary masterpiece

This may seem like the most obvious tip in the world but you’d be surprised – convert your currency!!! I find that it is so easy to mindlessly pay for things when you aren’t paying in a currency you’re used to. More often than not I’ll mindlessly pay $40SEK for a cuppa ($6.50NZD) and feel like kicking myself afterwards when I do the conversion. This mainly applies to unnecessary treats like drinks out (shout out $25 vodka sodas), eating at cafes and midnight snacks from my local supermarket. Like I said, learn from my mistakes…

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Liv and I drinking free hostel tea after paying $8 (!!!) in Bergen, Norway the day before

Another lesson I wish I could tell my past self is that not all travel is smart travel. Most of my savings on this exchange are going towards travel in some shape or form, but I’ve become much more strategic recently. Getting perspective is super important when planning your movements, and I realised after a while that some travel is going to be more beneficial to me when I have more money and time to enjoy it. I situated myself in Europe to make it easier for me to travel, but I’ve decided to save certain destinations (hello Iceland!) for a time when it won’t result in me eating pot noodles for a month.

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Sitting smug after accidentally booking a trip to Amsterdam during the most expensive weekend of the year.

Finally, my last tip (which I haven’t used) is budget from the beginning. When I arrived, I was travelling for a month before I landed in Stockholm and spent a disproportionate (and unnecessary) amount of my savings. Smarter people than I have been recording all their expenses from the get go. Basically, just remember that anything you have has to last you until then end. With all this being said, I still am a (broke) hypocrite. At the end of the day, your exchange is about making the most of every experience and I personally believe it’s worth every cent.

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Sometimes memes say it all, and in all fairness this is relatable even when I’m not on exchange

I’m spending the final week of my time on exchange in Eastern Europe where I’m hoping for a cheaper lifestyle than here in Stockholm. Will keep you updated in my next post!

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Lucy: Accommodation and Classes in Stockholm

I arrived into Stockholm at the end of August with anticipation and 30kgs of luggage. I was lucky enough that my parents were over in Europe to get me settled, so after a few teary goodbyes I moved out of my hostel and into my halls of residence – Lappis.

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Shamelessly touristing with mum at the ABBA museum
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My halls of residence, with the cute puppy I dogsit, Nelson!

Lappis is the largest student housing complex in Stockholm, with a variety of students from many universities across the city. Lappis mainly holds international and masters students, meaning there is plenty of cultural diversity and nightlife.

My room is a corridor room which means I have my own bedroom with an en suite, and share a kitchen with my 11 other floor mates.

The complex holds over 2000 students and has everything you need to live including a supermarket and free laundry services. Most of my friends I’ve made have been my neighbours so I’m never short of company, which has been such a blessing to curb any homesickness. One of the nicest parts of my accommodation is that we are surrounded by nature, with a number of bush walks right at our doorstep. My favourites have to be a lookout point situated behind our halls looking out towards the archipelago, and Lappis beach where isn’t uncommon to spot the northern lights on a cold winter’s night!

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Beautiful view out of the back of Lappis, with my fellow Kiwi exchange students
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A picture of the Northern Lights as seen from Lappis beach, which I stole from a stranger with a better camera than mine haha

One quirky thing about Lappis is that every Tuesday at 10pm, residents open their window and scream out of it. What is now known as the ‘Lappis Scream’ is apparently designed to relieve study stress, which I only found out after my first Tuesday thinking there was a massacre going on downstairs.

After about a week of settling in, socialising and orientation I began my first week of classes.

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Dad and me exploring the campus

I’m studying an Arts and Commerce conjoint and doing a bit of both degrees while on exchange, so I have to navigate multiple campuses. Frescati campus is the main campus at Stockholm university and has a massive library and student common areas – this campus is where I do all my arts based papers. Kraftiket is the business campus and is wholly separate from all other campuses. Being located in Lappis, we’re super lucky that a bus basically takes us door to door to both campuses, meaning lazy students (me) can make it to class in about 10 minutes.

Academically, Stockholm University is structured quite differently from Auckland. Instead of doing all four papers at once and being assessed for each throughout the semester, my semester has been split into four periods of about a month each so I do each paper once at a time. This means I’m able to fully focus on one subject at a time so I’m learning a lot, however there are so many more required readings and you are always jumping straight into the next course load as there are no holidays between periods.

Classes are split between large lectures, intensive seminar groups and optional study groups. We are mainly taught in English so my classes are filled with a mix of exchange students and Swedish students (who all have impeccable English). However, there is also a large focus on group work which makes it super easy to meet both Swedish and other exchange students.

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One of my group work teams with our final project, which we slaved over with the efforts of an exchange student

My transition into Stockholm and University life has been smooth (enough), however some tips for making the move as easy as possible would be:

  • Do your research – before I left Auckland I had done plenty of research about standards of living in Stockholm, experiences of the Swedish winter, other exchange student blogs…the works! You can never be too prepared.
  • Opt for a hall of residence if you can – this will make meeting new friends so much easier, especially if you’re introverted like myself.
  • If you can, pick papers that have group work (never thought I’d be saying that!).
  • Go to everything! Universities usually put on a heap of events for incoming students, both to get your bearings and to socialise.

If you have any questions about Stockholm or anything at all, feel free to contact me at lred135@aucklanduni.ac.nz. I’ve just finished up a month of travel around Europe, Africa and Asia so my next post will be all about the highs and lows of travelling solo. Until then!

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Lucy: First Impressions of Stockholm

When I received my acceptance letter from Auckland saying I had been chosen to go to Stockholm University, I had no idea what to expect. I had picked my university options on a whim about a year in advance and it never really occurred to me that I’d be spending 5 months in whichever country I ended up getting chosen for. I was just happy to be going anywhere!

So, five months after receiving my acceptance letter, I was off to Europe with 30kgs of luggage and no clue what I was getting myself into. I’d never been to Sweden before, or Scandinavia in fact, so this was a destination completely out of my comfort zone but I threw myself in head first and now, two months in, it’s really starting to feel like home.

The first thing I realised when I hopped off the train in Stockholm after a month of Euro summer was that Stockholm was definitely going to be one of the colder destinations I could have chosen. I quickly swapped my sandals and shorts for a jumper and started to explore.

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Exploring Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town

Stockholm has one of the most extensive public transport systems I’ve ever come across, basically getting you door to door wherever you want to go. An Access card will get you unlimited trips on any of the transport for a pretty good price, including the overground and underground trains, busses and even ferries. One of the best things about the underground system (or tunnelbana) is that every station has been decorated to make it into a work of art, and every station is different.

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The various beautiful underground stations in Stockholm

Another thing unique to Sweden is they love fika! It literally translates to ‘coffee and a cake break’ meaning that it’s super common for Swedes to meet for afternoon tea to catch up and socialise. My Stockholm guide book says that in Sweden, locals eat on average 300 cinnamon buns each year. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I sure am a convert!

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FIKA!

Finally, one of the best things about Stockholm is that it’s built on the water across 14 islands. The water is one of the most comforting parts of the city and definitely makes it slightly easier to be away from the City of Sails. The archipelago that surrounds the city is stunning and only a short ferry ride away!

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One of Stockholm’s many waterfronts!

That’s all from me now! Goodbye from (cold) Stockholm!

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