American Abroad

As a Swedish-American student, I’ve had the chance to live in both countries and been able to experience the cultures. I was born in the United States but I have lived in Sweden for over six years of my life, five of those years from the ages of 7-12 years old and living in a small town in Northern Sweden. I have learned more everyday about the people and the way things are here, and believe it or not, there are some clear differences between the two countries. 

On one hand,  student social life here in Sweden, Jönköping from my experience, is very unique compared to U.S. college culture. I attended two years at a university back in the states and had the pleasure of experiencing Greek life up close. It’s funny, because everytime I have mentioned to my friends here that I was once in a sorority, they always refer to how they’re depicted in movies. It’s similar when I reference other American traditions, or even my high school experience. Until I recently moved here, I didn’t realize that some people’s only reference to the U.S. has derived from movies or certain media that they see on the news. Which makes sense, but it is interesting because that means that most people, maybe not specifically in Sweden but in Europe and elsewhere abroad, have a very narrow view of what the U.S. really is. But don’t get me wrong, the states may not be so perfect, considering there are currently many issues and conflicts that have escalated in even just these past six months. There are, however, many things I do miss from back in the states, for one example: stores that are open past 10pm. I’ll touch on that more later, but for now I can continue discussing student life. 

Going to University here in Jönköping  has probably been one of the best decisions I have made so far. Kick off has been so much fun, for both years I was involved. My courses have also been very well rounded and I have met many amazing people both through my program and other activities such as EDIT. As I mentioned, I did go to a college back home, the University of Oregon, for two years. Which was an amazing experience, I met some of the best people, learned and experienced so much, and of course made some mistakes, as any college student does. I was studying journalism and advertising, I had a job on campus, and I joined greek life. Although educationally, I believe I have learned more in two years  of studying here in Sweden than in two years back home.

The University system back in the U.S. is a lot less efficient than it is here. Even though they are all 4 year bachelor programs, the first year and a half are basically a waste of time and money. You are required to take a lot of random “general education” courses; arts and letters, social science, and science. For example, I took a class in Anthropology, which is learning all about human biology and development over time. Honestly I can’t think of one thing I learned in that course, but luckily I also took Geology where I learned all about dinosaurs and the Cenozoic era — super helpful for my future career in marketing and graphic design, not. The system is basically just out for your money. The thing that’s nice about Swedish universities is that if you fail a test, you get two chances to retake it, instead of having to retake the entire course and pay another $2,223 (roughly 20,000kr). Another thing I really love about studying in Sweden is that the government basically pays you to study, while it does cover my food and living, it also supports my shopping addiction.

Comparing that experience to my experience here, is like comparing apples to oranges, they are two things that are fundamentally different and basically cannot be compared. But at least maybe you now have a little more insight into one my college experiences.

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