Category Archives: Abroad

The next chapter (back in the UK).

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Flying during a pandemic is not fun.

It was almost 8 months ago now since I took that brave step onto the plane. COVID-19 would not be declared a pandemic for a while yet, so the only nerves around were if I was going to ‘fit in’ or enjoy myself. I had put a lot of work into getting this far that had exhausted me mentally and physically, so a lot of expectation obviously built in regards to wanting a fabulous lifetime experience. The thought of this filled me with excitement and nerves all at the same time for my months studying abroad in Sweden. I was there much longer than planned but I have been back in the UK for almost a week now and I wanted to update you with what is happening for me.

I am now self-isolating in my university accommodation because of travellers quarantine. It has been a strange week from having a fantastic summer filled with freedom in Sweden to being ‘locked inside’ for two weeks. I suppose it is not ideal but I guess that is the price I paid for not returning before stricter travel rules were applied. To be even more honest though and what may appear strange to many is, that I am pretty much fine with this isolation period.

YES! You must think I am extremely peculiar. But after such a busy and tiring yet enjoyable summer, even the best of us need a little time to recharge. This is just natural and healthy. I was flying from Denmark but of course, the majority of my time was spent in Sweden so that is the reason why I have to isolate. I had the most wonderful and unforgettable experience, but, now it is time to get back to and readjust to my life back home in England.

As you probably know already, I was living in Sweden to study abroad since I am a university student. I believe this is generally something that is offered in the second year of your studies, so now I have a busy third and final year ahead of me. I do not think studying in the middle of a pandemic is ideal. I am worried about readjusting to a greater workload and probably a lot more face-to-face interaction than I had in the spring. We are in a period of uncertainty and it seems like I continue to face struggles, but I am determined to persevere in the face of adversity and finish my degree.

quarantine is looming

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I am into the last two weeks now of my adventure to Sweden. The place I have called home for the past 7 months will soon become countless memories. This upsets me enough as it is as I have grown so comfortable being here and I am enjoying the many sights, cities and towns I have visited. Summer is ending though (evidently so with the changing colours of the leaves) and soon it will be time to return and continue my studies back in England.

An issue I am really struggling to come to term with is a 14-day quarantine that is mandatory for returning to England from Sweden. The reckless approach to the Covid-19 pandemic from my host country has cost me this freedom. I suppose this can be rich to say, considering I have had a lot of freedom these past few months because of no lockdown… But my feelings still exist. It is difficult to go from living the time of my life, to being practically locked in my room for two weeks.

Woman in Green and White Stripe Shirt Covering Her Face With White Mask

I am an ‘outdoorsy’ person, especially in the summer and warmer months. I want to experience what I have been missing back home and to see friends and family. These are people I have not seen in the flesh for over 7 months now. To go that long is difficult enough but to be so close to them and to have to wait two weeks to see them is straining. I genuinely do not know how I will survive inside for so long without going a little crazy. I know for sure I have plenty I could be getting on with, but knowing there is no freedom and I am basically forced to do that is upsetting.

I think the most frustrating thing is reading about all this rule-breaking and bending back home. All of the mass gatherings happening and politicians breaking rules. I guess just about anything that has happened that does not respect the government guidelines. Even things like thousands going to beaches, or people going to the pubs. There are no doubt thousands and thousands of people who are not scared of or are taking the virus seriously in England (amongst other countries probably). Whereas I am someone who is not thinking of pub visits or visiting hotspot areas. I am simply a student wanting to see his friends & family and catch some easily socially distanced semi-professional football games.

ball, field, football

But no, I am just a person coming from ‘high risk’ country. Why is there no exemption for a student returning from his studies, who needs to be back for his next year of study? I am just being classed in the same group as holidaymakers, who are brave or stupid enough to go on holiday during a pandemic. Is this fair? Who even knows. I guess I had my chance back in June… June 8th I think was the deadline for no quarantine when returning to England. That was a long time ago though and I thought the situation would get better. I hate the thought of quarantine but I will never regret my decision to stay and experience Swedish summer. A truly unforgettable experience.

To those reading this: Have you had to experience quarantine, whether you were a returning traveller or because of a lockdown period in your country or area. Please share me with your thoughts and how you managed to survive.


DENMARK OPENING UP – My vISIT AND MY THOUGHTS.

You must be sick of these by now… but yes, another COVID-19 related article. 😛 I will talk about my recent trip to Denmark and include my personal thoughts about Denmark opening up to all Swedes as of the morning of August 1st. They must have a ‘worthy purpose’ for going and previously (from June 27th) only people from certain regions with low infection rates could visit.

Luckily for me, I am living in an region called Skåne  which is one of these areas with low infection rates. So earlier this week I took the short boat ride to the Danish city of Helsingør and I was on my way. The boat was very big and at a reduced capacity which I loved to see. It is just a 20 minute trip across the Öresund strait so most guests were purchasing things – tax free alcohol whilst in the Danish border and tobacco in the Sweden border. This meant the top of the boat was very quiet and I could enjoy being at sea and my own personal space.

I love being anywhere near water, so the time went incredibly quick – especially as I was snapping many scenic photographs. Getting into Denmark was quite nervy but I managed it and we headed straight for the famous Kronborg castle. We had thought about entering due to the many half price discounts going around some of Denmark’s tourist attractions right now, but the copious amounts of people in potentially tight spaces was very off putting. Instead we had a look around the spacious and outside parts of the castle, really getting a free flavour of the castle without gathering in crowds.

The rest of the day was walking around the city and enjoying a packed lunch. Helsingør is a beautiful city with lots of street art and interesting modern buildings, which meant I was very content with simply walking around on my first visit. What I liked was that more people seemed to try and keep their distance than Sweden. There was also plenty of hand sanitizer on hand too which was very useful.



I do not know Denmark very well but it would appear that they have handled the virus well, much better than Sweden anyway. New cases are much lower in Denmark and I hope this is not affected by opening up more to their neighbours. I think there is danger in doing this as I am not so sure that everyone will agree if the situation in Sweden is improving. Denmark will need their tourism to improve and with easy journeys from Malmö to Copenhagen or Helsingborg to Helsingør available, you can appreciate how accessible and easy it is for visitors to arrive.

It is not like Swedes have many places they can go visit now, with many countries ‘shutting them off’ due to their questionable herd immunity strategy to handling the pandemic. If they hadn’t already I believe they will soon be flocking to Denmark for excursions and tourism. I liked that I could go to Denmark and experience another country. I did not think I would be lucky enough to do so but I am grateful for the opportunity.

Kronborg


What are your thoughts about a country like Denmark opening up their borders? Please do share your thoughts about this and the balance between tourism and protecting its citizens against the virus.

6 months later

Six months ago yesterday I took only my second ever journey outside of the UK. I had flown to Copenhagen, for my semester abroad in Malmö, Sweden. My semester has long finished but surprisingly I am still there. My summer is not how I envisioned it, but that does not have to be a bad thing. Different is sometimes good. But what have I been doing?

January – I arrived halfway into January thankfully so I think I missed the worst part of the dark Swedish winter. I was greeted with a blue sky and sun for the first few days, which was apparently a shock. During this time I was filled with excitement for my classes and meeting new people. The time I think I felt an unexpected culture shock, but I would like to think I adapted quickly enough.

February – The month of sightseeing in my case. It was cold but that does not stop Swedes from being outside. I visited many parks and football games. I kind of regret this time slightly due to the pandemic. I was exploring my own city whilst I was still getting to know my surroundings. I wish I had explored more as the upcoming two months or so meant I had not much to do. Around the time the pandemic really started to kick in was when I was planning to start travelling. I did manage to catch Malmö vs Wolfsburg in the Europa League though. That was cool. Despite the 3 nil loss for Malmö.

March – The month everything changed so drastically. I was petrified of the skiing trip but I ended up loving it. It became an important part of my semester abroad, especially as it was a turning point. It finished a day early due to corona kicking in. It was a tiring week, but by the end of it and for many weeks after, I simply did not want it to end. An unforgettable experience in Tänndalen.

April – The new beginning? My new course of ‘Outdoor Pedagogy’ had begun and despite the pandemic, thanks to our small class size we were able to still hold a few outdoor classes. I was able to spend time in parks I had been before, but also experience new places such as Skrylle near Dalby. These lessons were valuable to my sanity at the time, as I was not getting out much. I have never been so grateful to have a class in my life, and I do not think I ever will.

May – Not too dissimilar to April really. The odd class here or there and lots of cold/tolerable days at the beach. The sights were beautiful when the days were blue and sunny. I was focused on finishing my studies with work due early June.

June – Officially the start of my summer holidays. In the picture to the left is Dalby Stenbrott (Quarry) where I had my first proper swim in Swedish waters. It was cloudy and FREEZING, with no saunas insight. But it was beautiful and I was glad I finally did it. Since I have swum in much warmer conditions at various beaches in and around Helsingborg. Lots of adventures had in Skåne this month, most notably relaxing at beaches.

July (So far…) – The adventures are only just beginning. I recently bought this summer card that gives free entry to certain places and discounts to others. It has already paid for itself in two visits to some lovely Botanical gardens. There is so much nature in which I intend to explore more.

I hope I have many more fascinating stories to tell you and I hope even more that you will continue this journey in reading along with me.

Study abroad survival tips

I am five months into my study abroad experience and although I have finished my studying for this year, I wanted to share some of my survival tips for managing the experience. I hope those thinking of studying abroad are encouraged by this post and those who have studied abroad can share some of their survival tips in the comments. In this article are just a few tips but I have so many more. Let me know if you enjoy this post and if you want to see a part two. Anyway lets get into the article…

Learn the language – English is the most widely spoken language worldwide but that doesn’t mean you should not learn the native language of the country you will be studying in. There is a very good chance you can ‘get by’ with English, but to be polite and improve your experience it is beneficial to learn some of the new language. I would admit that I am guilty of not doing this and not learning has made interactions such as shopping or ordering food difficult, or at least socially awkward. If you struggle with languages, learn the basics so that you can hold an interaction with someone and appear willing and polite.

How to overcome the language barrier | Chemist+Druggist

Join a club – Making friends can be very difficult, especially for me… I recommend joining a club as you immediately find a bunch of people with a common interest. For me this was Badminton which I was playing twice a week before my University closed due to the pandemic. It felt like a good release of energy whilst engaging with other people in a very social sport, with friendly players. Maybe sport is not your thing, but there are plenty of other clubs and I guarantee there is something for everyone.

Don’t forget your friends back home – It can be an important time to meet new and intriguing people but don’t forget about those who were there for you first. That does not mean that you have to talk to them day in day out as you want to experience this exciting new lifestyle, but to simply catch up with them as often as you think is acceptable. If they are a good friend then they should understand that and encourage you to formulate these amazing experiences. Your friends back home will be one of the first to greet you with open arms and ready to hear all about your amazing experiences. Treat them kindly.

Silhouette Friends Having Beach Party Stock Photos - Download 435 ...

Give yourself time – It is wishful thinking to get on a plane and expect everything to work out immediately. There are so many new things such as language, place and people, that you are effectively starting a new life (for how ever many months or so you will be studying abroad). There is a good chance you will be nervous and even cry, or wonder what the heck you are doing in this foreign country. These are all normal emotions and ones that I experienced myself. But I can assure you that it gets better and you will start to live the abroad experience you envisioned, and more. For me this was heavily impacted by the pandemic which knocked my confidence, but I strongly believe in a normal year, things would have been much easy. Time is key to allowing ourselves to understand and adapt.

Time and Patience is Vital to Learning | A Nomadic Teacher

What now and what next? A quick catch up.

Hey everyone. It has been too long since my last blog entry as I have been so consumed with various things but mainly University. I now feel like it is a perfect time to give a little update on what else I’ve been up to and what is next for me this summer.

In the last few days I have finished the final assignment of my study abroad experience and consequently my second year of University. To put it bluntly, my semester abroad has not gone the way I had hoped and I have not seen anywhere near of Sweden as I would have hoped. But still, I am lucky and grateful to be here when many have gone back home months ago. Now I must make the most of the short time that I have left here and build more happy memories.

I feel incredibly relieved that summer is here, as I think I can speak for a lot of students here by saying that studying in a pandemic is incredibly hard. It is one thing adapting to online classes but another in finding the motivation to complete your assignments and studies. With so few classes and with most of them being in front of a computer, I could just not engage that well. It felt like the studying element was dragging on as there little interaction to be had online. With completion of this work it is like a great weight has been lifted on my shoulder and I can finally relax, whilst looking to spend time on things I have been neglecting recently.

Some of these things can be so simple but yet so easy to neglect when you have a lot going on, whether that is depression or if you’re incredible busy. Sometimes I am guilty of prioritizing the wrong things as I want to have good grades. But now I can finally get on with my time without stressing, at least for a little anyway. I feel very relieved.

So now I have a maximum of around two months left here in Sweden with a lot of spare time. There are hardly any restrictions here and some may like that, so they can go out and about. But for me, I am taking a much more cautious approach than most Swedes. I hope I can continue to travel to nearby places safely, as there is still a lot to do and see. I want to go to more nature reserves, parks and beaches. Sweden is a beautiful country and it is quite easy I feel to travel around. Thankfully there has been a lot to keep me busy these last few months.



For now I can just hope that the situation eases up to allow me to travel safely and that opportunities to social distance are possible. I feel that not many people respect the social distancing and that can make it terrifying to be outside – especially on public transport or small and narrow shops. I hope that the sun stays out and I can spread out in parks and nature, etc. There is a world out there to explore and there is a ticking clock in which to do it. I try not to think of regrets. For now I live in hope more than anything.

Things I miss about England whilst studying abroad

I was so dead set on enjoying and making the most of my study abroad experience that I was doing my best to avoid any ‘homesickness’ or looking back to what I have left. I am determined to live in the moment here by focusing on what I have now whilst also looking forward to what I may have when I return home. That being said there are a few familiarities and comforts that I do indeed miss (alongside the obvious friends and family of course!).

Supermarkets

In Sweden, I am enjoying some fine delicacies such as köttbullar (or meatballs if you wish) and kanelbulle that have been lining my stomach for many months now! But the variety of shops compared to the UK is much fewer here. And of course, the prices of food and groceries alike, are significantly higher here. I miss walking into Aldi on my way home after sport training and buying copious packets of 27p ‘knock-off’ jaffa cakes to see me through the week. In Sweden, there aren’t many variations of the same product I feel, but I know if I walked into an Aldi or an Asda for instance, I would be surrounded by a range of just the Mcvities brand!

Kavey Eats » The Kavey Eats Jaffa Cake Taste Test!

Food

There seems to be a running theme here… I like my food. Takeouts and restaurants are one of the biggest things that I miss. I like trying new things but I also like my familiarity as I know what I am getting from a place I’ve eaten before. From my local Chinese takeaway to Wetherspoons to my roast dinner. Oh gosh, I miss the comfort of my ‘Sunday dinner’ which was any day but Sunday (cheaper of course!). Nowadays, I am stuck ‘butchering’ chicken in the oven and serving up some frozen vegetables as a very questionable dinner. I know for sure, I will be stuffing my face with mixed grills and carveries when I get back. But also takeaways, as I haven’t eaten a single one in many months now.

Stonehouse – an amazing chain restaurant. Also this is not a picture of my own meal before you try and ‘roast’ me. 😛

Sport

I think it is safe to say a whole lot of us are missing sport right now. It is safe to say that I was enjoying going to Swedish football matches and playing badminton twice a week before things changed. What made me excited for the weekends is knowing that I could tune in to Aston Villa matches back home and scream away at my laptop like I was there. It was very comforting. Every time I saw a home match on I wished I could just transport back for those brief 90 minutes, be sat in my seat and wait for the stress to begin. I was also looking forward to the cricket season starting because I could watch some online and then dive straight into my summer of cricket once I fly back home. For now, though I must make do with Belarusian football and Taiwanese cricket on weekends!

Trezeguet sköt Aston Villa till final | SVT Sport

British TV

This is one thing that I can kind of control thankfully. I may not get access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player or 4OD out here and Netflix SE may not have the best and up to date content but it has plenty of great shows! I cannot count the number of shows I have been binging over these few months but I also like the comfort of British humour. I have been rewatching classics British comedies such as IT Crowd (which my flatmates have absolutely loved) and The Inbetweeners when I need a guaranteed laugh! Also luckily Netflix SE provides both seasons of Sunderland ‘Til I Die which I have watched in recent weeks. This combines my love of sport and English television which is very comforting. Nowadays I am watching After Life starring Ricky Gervais.

The It Crowd - LOVE this show

British music

The wonders of travelling and sharing spaces with international people bring a vast range of cultural and musical differences. It is interesting getting to know what music other people like and how far the interest of ‘British music’ or certain artists travels around the world. In recent weeks I have made my British playlist (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1ru05UlaiXoVWFhlewufrj) just to remind myself of the many talented – mainly alternative rock bands that exist/ed. Sadly I haven’t had as much contact with Swedes as I expected, so my knowledge of Swedish artists and groups does not go much further than Abba. Thankfully I have picked out a few random songs from my dance classes that I was adding as part of a Nordic playlist that needs some more work from me (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/40rWBY4ri2iVhApWq4oi5b). Therefore, I am stuck with my very English music that probably not many people know of here. 

UK rock bands triumph at Kerrang! awards - BBC Newsbeat
You Me At Six

Inexpensive

I am perplexed at how expensive things are in Sweden after being quite luckily with cheaper products, food etc in England. Things such as alcohol, potatoes, paracetamol, bowling and BREAD. Yes, quite possibly the strangest shopping list you’ve ever seen? But my oh my, bread… It perhaps has more of a flavour over here but the cost is insane! Gone are the days of finding a reduced Warburtons loaf in Co-op and sticking it in the freezer! 

4 for £6 cider? Yes please.

I have some questions for my readers. What do you miss when you are out of your home country? How do you deal with this? 

Back to reality and adapting to the pandemic

It has been around five weeks now since I arrived back in Malmö after my amazing skiing trip to Tänndalen. However, a lot has changed with this pandemic, which means this period of my study abroad is extra significant. It is a time where so much change happened and one I will never forget, for a vast range of reasons.

Before the trip I was very consumed with finishing my work, settling into Swedish lifestyle, making friends and the trip I was most terrified about. What I was at the time sure of was that if I could do all of this and manage well, on the other side of the skiing trip I had an amazing few spring and summer months of exploration ahead of me. This unexpectedly changed what with, most of the people I had gotten to know being forced home sadly, before I could truly get to know them. As well as the deep concern about travelling, as I am avoiding public transport (walking everywhere is very tiring since I cannot cycle).

I find myself very depressed that a time I was so excited for, and worked so hard for, changed so abruptly. What I find even more difficult is that Sweden is taking a very unique approach to handling the corona virus with no real enforced lock down, so to speak. I decided to stay here in Sweden as at the time I felt it was the safer option to do, and out of respect for others and to protect myself, I am near enough living as though there is a lockdown. I generally only go out when I need to and I am distancing myself from others.

I am fortunate enough to still be on my study abroad experience but I am also devastated that it is and won’t be how I always dreamed of it. For now I am unable to travel around Sweden as I intended to, and I am generally limited to wherever I can walk to right now. I am still enjoying the parks which Malmö has in abundance. I wish now I hadn’t spent so much time enjoying them in the winter months though and instead moved around the country more and explored more.

I’m not a person who agrees with having regrets, but even with this unplanned pandemic I am scared I will have had too many. For now I am grateful I was able to have the wonders of the skiing trip… which was once my biggest fear, could now be my greatest experience.

My week of skiing in Tänndalen, Sweden.

Welcome to another one of my Swedish adventures! This time I went to Tanndalen with the university to do skiing and winter education. I was absolutely terrified as I have never skiied on snow before. Being an English man we don’t have such environmental conditions which meant I’ve only been on one tiny plastic slope before. Because of this I only had the simple aims of trying my best and to come back in one piece. What followed was a week of many different challenges that I was determined to tackle.

The first challenge was sleeping on a coach that was 16 hours long… But the moment we stepped out into the winter wonderland I knew it was worth it. The area and its scenery was beautiful and for the most part, we were graced with incredible weather.

I felt that here was a well thought out structure to the trip, that the weather even complimented at times. I was really grateful that we started with the cross country and tour skiing, whilst my energy levels were still high. Then there was a slightly shorter tour as part of winter friluftsliv (being out and in the nature) through the woods, where we ended up having lunch in front of a superb snowy background. Then when my energy levels had truly depleted I could fall back on the ski lifts associated with alpine skiing!

View from our windbags and lunch during the shorter friluftsliv tour

My challenges often came when I was tired or struggling with an activity. This was quite often sadly, considering I was a beginner at most things. What I will be eternally grateful though is the support I had from local students and fellow internationals. Naturally being quite an independent person I am quite determined to get by by myself and was nervous to seek help. I was pleasantly surprised though and learnt that it’s okay and in fact much healthier to do. Despite my own mental strength that pushed through such a detailed programme, the constant guidance and motivation was invaluable.

Just a few of the excellent and supportive students that contributed to the amazing full (approximately) 9 km ski tour!

Because of this I was able to have many enjoyable moments! A personal favourite was the tour ski that involved a little downhill practice, skiing over a lake and visiting Fjållnas (Sweden’s oldest high mountain hotel). Also on the last night (since coronavirus ended the trip one day early) I made the most out of the evening skiing. This was an experience I may not have for a while so I certainly had to enjoy it…

Evening skiing 7 to 9 pm

I think the guy working the ski lift must have been sick of me going up 15 to 20 times in 2 hours.. But the freedom of skiing on your own after a week of progression is excellent. Before the trip I was stressing how I would cope with so many different things. Now because of all these excellent memories with great people, I hope I am able to ski again more confidently one day.

Ski scooters taking us to our slopes for alpine skiing!

Malmö so far.

So… It’s been a while. I am now studying in Sweden (Malmö to be specific) and it has been an interesting experience so far. It has not come without its challenges but I am trying to embrace them. It has been almost a month so far and I am yet to freeze to death. Weirdly enough it was not until two or so weeks in that I really felt the cold… Malmo is extremely windy and grey like all the time… So not too dissimilar to the UK really.. The cold is worth it though to be out and to appreciate the architecture and bask in the nature Sweden has to offer.

The turning torso

There is a significant emphasis on outdoor life/activities or ‘friluftsliv’ as its roughly known here. The large selection of accessible parks offers great scenery in a peaceful environment – a lovely escape so close to the city. My favourite so far is Kungsparken, which is actually the oldest park in Malmo and was formed on the area previously belonging to Malmohus castle. The park is spacious and is occupied with lakes and the park itself is really well maintained, which makes for a fabulous time in the sunshine. There are also tons of birds, ducks and swans which makes for some interesting sounds! But it is great for zoning out and listening to the nature, to truly indulge in it.

It is often grey and ‘miserable’ so despite the cold weather, it is important to appreciate the blue sky and sun when it does come. I think everyone else has a similar mentality, with many people located in the parks even if it’s only 4 or 5 degrees celsius. Children are often outside and playing in parks and people are cycling… There is a very relaxed environment in Malmo and I for one am really enjoying it so far.

A bit close to the water on Ribersborg beach… Thank gosh I can swim.

My studies and settling in have kept me busy and the weather has kept me inside, so apart from one school visit I am yet to venture outside of Malmo (and get one of those yellow, regional buses!). I cannot wait to get around when its a little warmer but for now, I am really enjoying my course. I am studying near enough the same thing as I would back home, but from a Swedish perspective.. hence the Swedish school experiences I am gaining. It has been fantastic seeing different PE lessons take place and see how my favourite subject is taught in another country. Here there is a significant emphasis on health over competition which I think is fascinating.

Sports hall of a school I visited.

I will to keep this updated better… I have so much more to say!

Dominic.