Living Like A Sponge In Sweden

Sponges live a particularly different lifestyle than us humans. They are simple, multicellular organisms that lack organs and circulatory and nervous systems. We tend to look past sponges based on our reasoning that they are ‘too simple’ and ‘below our pay-grade,’ so to speak. Sponges could never live our lives; and that is obvious. They could never enjoy that essential morning coffee at your neighborhood café, nor people-watch on your commute via the metro, nor arduously type up your dissertation. But, do they need to?

In overlooking sponges, we forget about a big, under-appreciated part of life: taking in what is around us for all it has to offer. Sponges do this better than any other organism. They absorb nutrients directly from their environment whereas we seek out resources from our environment. Now, you may wonder what the benefit is from a ‘spongy’ take on life; and I completely understand why. Society mandates tunnel vision. We are to focus on our task and ignore all other stimuli. But is that good for us? I argue that it is not. I argue that if we implement ‘sponginess’ into our daily routines, we will be a lot happier and more interconnected with others and our surroundings than ever before.

Some sponges.

My name is Kyle Wolf. I was born and raised in New York, New York, and am proud to say that Alicia was right when she sang “the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” It is a fast paced city with an adequate “city that never sleeps” nickname. It instills in its people the importance of the aforementioned tunnel vision focus on life. I love my home more than anything. But, in full sincerity, I do not love that aspect of my home. Although it taught me book and street smarts, it did not properly teach me how to relish in life’s beauties. 

So, I chose to go to Stockholm to live like a sponge. I was drawn to this city by its juxtaposition of old and new: century-old architecture and modern trends; and by my prior experience here. For example, the Royal Palace—constructed in 1697—sits in the Old Town neighborhood. If you walk just a couple of blocks away, you will find a 7/11! (Although I am yet to visit that Americanized retail lot, it was funny to see a piece of home in a foreign country.) The downtown area is beautiful. It is filled with glass buildings that lure the eye for their deserving recognition as architectural feats. There are a host of shops and restaurants of every variety. You can find whatever you crave, whenever you crave it.

Royal Palace of Stockholm (and a guard).

I visited for the first time when I was 12 for a hockey tournament. I remember walking along the water downtown and the feeling of awe that ensued. I remember the powerful history of the Vasa museum. I remember playing hockey at the Ericsson Globe arena–now known as the Avicii Arena. These sights and memories pulled me back to the place of their conception.

I chose DIS because of the classes and opportunities it offers. I am enrolled in a Biomedical Lab that is based at the Karolinska Institutet–one of the best medical institutions in the world. The training I will get here and the knowledge I will take away will aid me very much in my future. I want to do research in neuroscience, so knowing how to diagnose and treat illnesses is paramount.

DIS Stockholm

In closing, before I arrived, I read an article by Anthony Ogden on studying abroad. He talked about immersing yourself in a new setting with a new way of life. He did so by presenting an analogy that positioned an abroad student next to a colonial explorer. He set both on a “veranda” and tasked them with staying put or getting off. Ogden showed that getting off the veranda is how to explore and appreciate a new land. His conclusion was that to explore is to immerse. 

Had Ogden taken my input, he would have (hopefully) added my sponge analogy. To leave the veranda is to live like a sponge: to absorb your environment and take in all it has to offer. When you, the reader, arrive at DIS, take heed to my advice. Live like a sponge and enjoy every second of it!

Kyle Wolf

DIS Stockholm

Summer ‘22

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