Hanging out with my friends along the lake

The northern lights in Gothenburg

Abba Museum with my Swedish mom in Stockholm

Walking along the island on a super windy day with my host grandparents


May 19, 2024


After passing through Stockholm so many times without going outside of the central station, I finally got to see the city for the first time! Ida and I stayed for a couple of days, exploring Gamla Stan (the old town), running through various parts of Stockholm, and visiting the ABBA Museum. Museums usually aren’t my thing, but this one was very cool and interactive. I learned so much about ABBA and their individual lives before and after fame.

We toured The Royal Palace, which was stunning inside with lots of gold. We also saw the changing of the guard, which was very intricate and something I had only seen in movies. My favorite part was seeing the old architecture. Stockholm is much older than Gothenburg. They have a similar style, but the older buildings are more intricate and detailed. I love that nothing is very tall; everything is fairly low and uniform in height, which makes it more pleasing to look at as well as appearing calmer.

The weather has finally warmed up! I quit wearing my jacket at the end of April. April weather was wild because one day it would snow, and the next it was almost 20°C. When the sun comes out and it’s warm, everyone wants to be outside and hang out. It’s nice to see everyone outside again. Since the weather has gotten nice, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the beach with my friends. The water is still cold, but it’s nice to take a dip.

The sun has been staying out for so long recently. It is great! I go to sleep and the sun will be out, and I wake up and the sun is out. It is so crazy to think that just a couple of months ago the sun was setting on my way home from school, and now it sets at 10 PM and comes up at 4:30 AM.

My favorite thing that I think I will remember for a long time is getting ice cream with my friends. Ice cream was half off for a couple of weeks. We would walk to the store during our lunch break, get some ice cream, and sit on the pier together. We did this almost every day when the weather started being nice. We just sat there together in the sun with our ice cream and talked.

The Gothenburg Botanical Garden hosted a Japanese festival, which my friend and I attended. We saw cherry blossom trees in full bloom! There are cherry blossom trees all over where I live, and they are so beautiful to see on my way to school.

A big tradition is Valborg (the last of April). Everyone goes out, and in parks (like Slottsskogen, where we were), large bonfires are lit. Everyone gathers there with their friends. There’s also a parade before the fires are lit at 9 PM. The parade features floats designed by students at Chalmers University, based on major news events from the past year. One float was about the bed bugs in Paris. They get so creative, and it was fun to watch with friends. The trams and buses were very crowded going to and from Slottsskogen, and there were people all over the streets!

Another big event in Sweden is Eurovision. My friends say that nobody cares about Eurovision as much as the Swedes do. For Eurovision, about 12 of us got together. We made tacos, ate kanelbullar, played kubb (a Swedish outdoor game where you throw sticks to knock down the other team’s pieces), and watched Eurovision. We discussed all the songs and outfits and picked our favorites. Sweden’s song by Marcus and Martinus was by far a favorite (absolutely no bias). We walked around the lake before the votes were tallied, and we noticed that many houses were lit up purple because everyone was watching Eurovision. The contest goes very late into the night. Sweden did not end up winning, but we had a good time anyway.

Sweden does not have thunderstorms, or at least not where I live. I thought that maybe I just slept through them or something. However, throughout my time here, I have never seen lightning or heard thunder even with all the times it rains. Instead of thunderstorms, they have insane winds—the kind of wind that feels like it will sweep you off your feet!

I had the opportunity to speak to Swedish outbound students. It was cool to see that these students are exactly where I was last year—scared yet excited. I gave them advice I wished I had remembered or received before I left. Many were going to the US, so I could tell them what to expect and represent the US in a different way than the media portrays it. I talked about the 6 Be’s we learned last year: Be first, be curious, be on purpose, be of service, be grateful, and be here now. I didn’t have time to cover them all, but I discussed being on purpose and being here now, which are my favorites. Being on purpose means looking for opportunities everywhere you go, which was so important during my exchange. Saying yes to everything, even if you’re unsure, opens up more opportunities. I think if I had said no to doing the first swimrun with my mom two days after I arrived, things would have turned out very differently. Once you say no, people will expect you to say no. Being here now means focusing on the present moment, which is challenging but crucial. If you’re always thinking about what’s next, you miss out on what’s happening now. It was good to share this advice and how it helped me. Two students who were on exchange last year were at the meeting as well. It was nice to talk to them and see how they felt after so much time had passed since their exchange and what happened when they got back. I was also able to speak with parents who will host exchange students next year. I gave them advice on what to expect and how to make the students’ exchange better. They were impressed that I was speaking only Swedish and could understand almost everything. This allowed me to tell them how best to help their exchange students learn Swedish, especially if English is their first language.

Recently, I talked with my friends about the first few days of school. They told me that when they heard there would be an exchange student from America, they expected someone loud and not very bright, as portrayed in the media. They said I was not what they expected. It feels good to change the way they view Americans. I’ve received this comment from many people I’ve met and hung out with, making me feel like I was a good ambassador for the US.

One of the ex-RYE students I had met recently invited me to a picnic by the water with her and her friends. We had chips, candy, and juice, played games, and talked. It was nice because I had just met these people. They didn’t know me when I couldn’t speak any Swedish, so it was easy to talk with them. They spoke Swedish with me and never switched to English because they assumed I spoke Swedish (which I do, but sometimes it's hard to believe that I do). That night, we went into the clubhouse and then went out to say goodbye to one of them who had to go home. As we walked back, I saw some green in the sky and thought I saw the northern lights. We stayed outside and watched as the sky erupted into beautiful colors. It felt like we were under a skirt of pink, yellow, green, purple, and blue—completely different from the northern lights we saw in Kiruna. We stayed outside for a long time just watching the sky. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Göteborgsvarvet is the largest half marathon in the world and is said to be a huge party! Ida asked me a while back if I wanted to do it, and I wasn’t sure at the time, but we started training for it anyway. I finally committed and said yes. We ran in under 2 hours, and our goal was just to have fun. The 21 km course is filled with people cheering you on, which makes the energy so high! There are DJs, bands, and dancers. The whole course was so fun to run through. It was such an incredible way to see Gothenburg as well. I am in the city a lot, but this point of view is so different. It was a pretty incredible feeling to cross that finish line with Ida!

A big part of this experience for me has been not being afraid to find something to do by myself. It’s easy to do nothing when my friends are busy, but I don’t know if I’ll get another chance like this, so I have to take every moment to explore!