For as far as I can remember, I wanted to live abroad. Growing up in a French small town, I wanted to see the world. For most of my childhood, my biggest dream was to live in Australia. Why? I literally have no idea. Now that I think about it, it was super random but I wanted to see the kangaroos, the desert, the ocean. I don’t think I knew much about the rest of the world, but I was obsessed with Australia.
When I was a teenager, I wanted to move to an English-speaking country, because I liked the language. I had previously traveled to the UK and loved it there. And of course, as any teenager, I was dreaming of visiting the U.S – who’s gonna tell my 13-year-old self that I live in Vegas now? –
When I turned 18, I started traveling a lot, especially around Europe. I would visit places that were cheap to fly to, visit friends that were living or studying abroad, and made the most of these first 2 years of college! It was truly awesome.
In 2016, I flew to Finland to spend a week with a friend who was doing a semester abroad. We visited Helsinki and around the city, a small Finnish island, and even went to Tallinn, Estonia.
That’s when I knew.
That’s the moment I knew I wanted to live in Scandinavia.
What a beautiful place. What awesome and nice people. And what a positive atmosphere.
At the time, I was in the middle of my bachelor’s degree in France and specialized in Foreign Languages. A bachelor’s degree lasts 3 years in my home country, and because Europe is THAT awesome, we usually can do a semester or a year abroad in another European country thanks to a program called Erasmus.
What is Erasmus?
Erasmus is a European study abroad program that supports education, training, and sports within the EU. To put it broadly, it allows students to study abroad for a semester or two during college at a university that has a partnership with their own. They go to school in the uni abroad but are still enrolled and get credits in their home uni. It allows them to graduate with their original degree while spending some time in another country, get to know a different culture, language, way of life, and open their minds. It’s also great for their future resume and applications to other schools, for a master’s degree for instance. Depending on the school they’re in, there’s either gonna be a lot of spots abroad available or very limited ones.
My university had very limited spots. Only the best students could go.
I was not the best in school, but I worked SO so hard to be able to leave. I knew I had to make it happen. There was one spot in Finland, and one in Sweden. I applied to both and spent hours writing cover letters to convince the teachers that I could do it. I had an interview with the teacher in charge of these countries and had to wait until my finals results. It was one of the most stressful and hardest times of my life, but I’m so glad I gave it my all.
I got accepted for a year abroad in Sweden! ME. Out of all the applicants, I was the only one selected from my university to go. I was truly in shock and so happy.
I spent the summer before leaving traveling with friends, partying, going to concerts, and preparing for my big move.
I had never moved out of my parents’ house before. And let me tell you, the day before leaving, I looked at my suitcase and started crying so hard. Why did I do this? Why did I even agree to it? This is mad!
The next day, I was gone! Off to Sweden!
I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know the country, and I didn’t know the language. But that’s what made it so fun and special.
I left my hometown with two other girls that were on the same campus as me but attending another university. We had previously talked on Facebook and booked the trip together.
I’ll spare you all of the things that went wrong on that trip, it was something I never experienced again. From being stuck in elevators, needing two rides everywhere because of how much luggage we had, not finding the person that was supposed to pick us up in the little Swedish town we were moving to…
But it all worked out and it’s all funny memories now!
On August 24th, 2017, I moved to Falun, Sweden!
But what about the logistics?
Before moving to Sweden, I had to personally do a lot of research. I had – very little – help from my Erasmus tutor in my home university and had to find courses in Sweden that matched the ones that I would have had in France, in order to get all my credits and graduate. It was no easy task, given that my year abroad was the first year of the partnership between both universities. They didn’t know much about each other and I had to do most of the work.
It was a mess finding an apartment there because the Swedish university accepted too many students and there wasn’t enough accommodation for all of us. They ended up finding the three of us – me and the two girls from my hometown – the biggest apartment I’ve ever been in! And we were roommates for a year!
We also managed to rent furniture from a local business in Falun. We had basic kitchen equipment, and each of us had a twin bed, a desk chair, a kitchen chair, a table, and a desk. We had to make a pit stop at Ikea to pick up other things we needed. I also had a budget for Home in my student loan because I needed to feel good in my apartment and bought some plants, lights, desk accessories, etc.
Speaking of money, I was lucky enough to not have a student loan prior to this move, because college is free in France and I was living at my parents’. So I took a “small” loan for my year in Sweden that allowed me to pay for rent, food, bills, activities, and trips!
Falun is a small town located in the county of Dalarna, about 3 hours North of Stockholm by train. It is surrounded by endless lakes, forests, and valleys. It is truly everything you imagine Sweden to be. In fact, the famous red color of Scandinavian houses – Sweden, Norway, Finland, and even Estonia – is called the “Falun red”, because it’s made out of copper extracted from the Falun copper mine, now part of UNESCO. And I was living only a mile away!
It is a place where spring and summer are blooming, fall shows off all the colors, and winter… well, winter is a REAL winter. We experienced temperatures below -22°C – about -8°F -, only 4 hours of daylight, and as much snow as one can imagine. It was extreme weather. Sometimes a little depressing, but it’s something I am so happy to have experienced.
Life in Sweden was amazing. I made friends from all around the world, some of whom I remain close to, to this day: Italy, Germany, China, Macedonia, Ukraine, Spain, Austria, & more. It was a true melting pot and I had so much fun.
With Falun being a very small town, there wasn’t much to do, especially during the winter. Before the cold and snow stopped us from doing much, we went biking around the lake, barbecued by the water, chased the northern lights, and walked a LOT.
During the winter, activities were pretty much going to coffee shops, indoor bars & clubs, visiting museums, and sometimes we would adventure ourselves out in the wild and walk on a frozen lake or two. It was pretty amazing, to be honest.
How was school?
Going to school there was awesome. My teachers were the nicest people ever. They even gave me hugs when the school year was over – not something you experience in France -. They encouraged me as I’ve never been encouraged before: always believing in me, giving me second, third, and fourth chances if I needed them! They were sharing life stories, made us talk, and meet new people and new cultures. This way of teaching and learning was entirely new to me, and the opposite of how education is in France.
I took a semester of Swedish, of which I don’t remember a single word except “hej” and “tack”. I don’t know why I wasn’t into it that much because I’ve always loved learning and speaking new languages. But I remember being super into my classes and studying really hard for those grades! Swedish wasn’t a priority for me because it was more of a “bonus” class and wouldn’t get me any credits.
What about the rest of Sweden and Scandinavia?
Of course, I didn’t stay in Falun for the whole year. I actually traveled more during this year abroad than any other year in my life. First, I visited a lot around Dalarna, the county in which Falun is located. It’s a region that has a lot of lakes, and it’s absolutely stunning during spring and summer. Even Fall is a beautiful season. In winter, it honestly just all looks like a white floor and it’s exciting for the first 3 weeks, but pretty soon, you get tired of seeing the same landscape over and over again.
That is why I recommend visiting the backcountry during those seasons, and going to the big cities during winter. Stockholm was 100% my favorite! But Gothenburg and Malmö are awesome as well.
Dalarna is a beautiful place. If you ever go there, you should visit Mora, Rättvik, and Carl Larsson’s house.
During Fall, my friends and I rented a van and did a mini road trip around Sweden. We departed Borlänge, a close-by city, then drove to Gothenburg for a day, and then spent the night in the van in Lund. The morning after, we drove to Malmö and then passed the bridge that separates Sweden and Denmark. We spent 2 days in Copenhagen and this city is magical! It’s like Stockholm but even better.
Speaking of Stockholm, it’s a must-see! I actually might write a blog post on the city because there is so much to do and see, but some of my favorites were the Vasa Museet, Gamla Stan, Moderna Museet, the royal palace, the public library, & more.
The biggest trip I took was a ferry trip with my friends. It was a whole week and we departed from Stockholm. We shared a cabin on a ferry and made our way to Helsinki, Finland. It was my second time there and I’m grateful I had already been because we only had a day there. I always find it so fun visiting places I’ve already seen with new people. We then went back on board and the next stop was St Petersburg, where we stayed 3 days. The architecture is awesome, but I found the atmosphere really tense. Our last stop was Tallinn, Estonia, which was also my second time visiting. This city is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life, and I would give anything to go back and take my husband!
Later that year, we also took a ferry trip to Riga, Latvia. Ferries are usually really cheap – probably less than $20 round trip per person – and it includes a cabin to stay overnight. It’s also a really cool experience and so much more fun than flying! But it’s also suuuuuper long. Pick your poison!
Sweden is where I found myself, where I understood who I was and whom I wanted to be. It’s where I finally took the leap and flew to the U.S to meet my then-boyfriend – and now husband! -. It’s where I started working out for the first time ever, and haven’t stopped to this day. It’s where I understood my worth, and what behaviors I wouldn’t tolerate around me anymore. It’s where I lived alone for the first time, and where I fell in love with School and learning in general.
This year abroad has changed my life in every way, and I miss it each day. But without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today, nor where I’m at.
If you want to move abroad, you can! It’s 2022! There are countless opportunities, especially if you’re young or if you are a student. From study-abroad programs to working-holiday visas, you can probably find something that’s right for you. Hit me up on Instagram if you want to discuss it and need advice.
As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading me and allowing me to share my story.
Let’s be friends!