Embracing the Unexpected and Connecting with Swedish Culture: Q&A with Elisabeth, Spring 2021 Student

Elisabeth, University of Massachusetts Amherst, is studying abroad at DIS Stockholm this semester. Even with the pandemic at play, Elisabeth’s perseverance and flexibility has given her the chance to re-connect with and discover her Swedish heritage while abroad.


We asked Elisabeth about what led her to study with DIS Stockholm and her experiences so far:

DIS: Hi Elisabeth, tell us a bit about yourself.

E: My name is Elisabeth, and I’m a Public Health major with an English minor at University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. I’m an avid fantasy reader, and I am on staff of the UMass Color Guard, which takes up most of my time in the fall semester. I’m from a small town in New Jersey in the swamp with not much to do in the area, so I love to travel and explore new places. My mom, sister, and I are all Swedish citizens, and we have come back to Sweden to visit all of my family nearly every summer since I was born.

DIS: What was your journey leading up to applying for study abroad with DIS?

E: I was originally planning on going to Italy since I also speak Italian, but the program I was going to do was not running. I then searched programs on my school’s study abroad portal and found DIS because of its public health classes, and it was perfect. I then applied to DIS Copenhagen with the help of my advisor and was all set to go until Denmark increased border restrictions. Last minute, I was able to switch to the Stockholm program because I am a Swedish citizen, which was amazing.

DIS: What are you most excited about with regards to Sweden and Swedish culture?

E: Since I grew up around Swedish culture, I was already excited to experience everything that I had heard about when I was little, such as Fettisdagen (also known as Fat Tuesday in the U.S.) and Midsommer (Swedish summer holiday involving a lot of greenery and a maypole). I am really glad that I will be staying through part of the summer for travel with my family and two DIS Summer sessions so that I will also be able to have some of the Swedish summer after a dark winter.

DIS: What have you gotten out of your semester in Stockholm so far?

E: I have been able to try a different type of learning style along with lots of different activities that I can’t do at home. I have a greater understanding of Sweden and how the country and government works. I definitely idolized Sweden when I was younger, so it’s been cool learning that while it is a great place to live, there are still flaws like in every other society. 


DIS: What have been some of the highlights of your semester?

E: This past weekend, my friends and I went dog sledding which was absolutely incredible. I also really loved the ice bathing and ice skating on the frozen lake that DIS organized.

The classes are so interactive with the city, which is so much fun because then we aren’t just sitting in lectures all the time.

DIS: Where are you currently living?

E: I am living in a Studentboende, which I am in love with. I am a social person, so I really enjoy always having people around to talk to and hang out with, whether it’s eating dinner together and watching a movie or just doing homework together. Since it’s such a small group this year, we do have our own rooms, so we are really living in luxury compared to what I normally have at my home university. One of my favorite things to do so far here is make dinner together from scratch with a few of my friends. Gnocchi has been pretty popular so far, and we make it fresh from potatoes. 


DIS: Has studying in Sweden been different from studying in the U.S.?

E: My home university has nearly 30,000 undergrad students and coming from that to 22 students is definitely a huge jump. The majority of my classes at home have over 100 students in lectures, so having classes with only two other students is crazy to me, but not in a bad way. It’s a lot more hands on than at home, and the Field Studies on Wednesdays are always great. The classes are so interactive with the city, which is so much fun because then we aren’t just sitting in lectures all the time.

DIS: Which is your favorite class and why?

E: My favorite class is 100% Swedish Politics and Society. Our professor is amazing, and I feel like I am learning so much about how Sweden’s government runs. I have never taken a political science class before, and I was a little nervous coming in that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and while it is hard, our professor explains everything really well.

We also do a lot of simulations in that class whether it be a mock election to learn how forming a government works or a mini-Almedalsveckan (an annual event for politicians, held on the Swedish island of Gotland) to understand Swedish lobbying. 

Even though I used to spend a few weeks here every summer, I have never lived here, and I honestly love it and I hope I can live here again in the future.

DIS: Has being in Stockholm made you feel more connected to your Swedish heritage?

E: It definitely has. I was always very connected to my heritage at home. I went to Swedish school when I was little, we celebrate Christmas and Easter with Swedish traditions, we throw Midsommar and crayfish parties for our friends; but being here makes it feel more real in a way. Seeing all the foods in the grocery stores that my family eats only when we can get it at home is really cool. Even though I used to spend a few weeks here every summer, I have never lived here, and I honestly love it and hope that I can live here again in the future.

DIS: What has surprised you the most about Sweden?

E: It’s still surprising to me how hard it is to speak Swedish with people when you are trying to learn. Most people can tell you are not a Swede and will automatically switch to English even if you try to speak Swedish. 


DIS: What is still on your to do list while abroad?

E: I’m really excited to experience a Swedish Midsommar. We always celebrate it at home with S.W.E.A. (Swedish Women’s Education Association) in a local park called Vasa Park in New Jersey, but it’s usually a small group of people, so I’m excited for more people (depending on vaccines, of course).

I also really hope to visit my family in Halland (located south of Gothenburg) before I leave. My mom is coming to visit at the end of the semester, and I think we are going to drive down together and see everyone since she will be vaccinated by then. 

If you were to study here in a normal semester and were able to travel, don’t forget to explore Sweden, too, because it is such a beautiful country and it doesn’t only consist of Stockholm.

DIS: Did you receive any good advice about study abroad that you’d like to share now?

E: I would say to just embrace everything, even the bad, because it all works out. I also had a lot of people saying take advantage of everything you can and do everything, but I wouldn’t say that because you do need breaks and weekends to just chill without traveling everywhere all the time because that can get exhausting. If you study here in a normal semester and are able to travel, don’t forget to explore Sweden too because it is such a beautiful country and it doesn’t only consist of Stockholm. 

Want to Learn More?

>> Apply for DIS Stockholm

>> How to meet locals and get involved in Stockholm

>> Swedish Politics and Society course

>> Student Housing: Studentboende

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