By Taylor Squires
When I was in my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to partake in a two-week trip to southern Europe. I had never been anywhere outside of North America, so naturally I could hardly wait to get on a plane and finally start gaining some serious international experience.
Although the trip itself was short, it was also very sweet. In fourteen days we managed to travel throughout Greece, Italy and Spain. I remember looking out from the Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence and thinking to myself that living in Europe must be like living in a dream.
And as it turns out, I was right.
I decided to apply to Laurentian’s Global Opportunities program in the fall of 2013. I spent the entire summer reading articles about the benefits of studying abroad and I knew that it was something I just had to do.
After delivering a very powerful and effective PowerPoint presentation, my parents were on board and I was ready to complete my application. The process was long but overall, the hardest part was choosing where I wanted to study.
Since I had already seen a good part of the south, I focused my attention on the northern region of Europe. While researching Scandinavia, I developed a strong interest in Sweden because I found that its culture and politics aligned perfectly with some of my own passions and beliefs. For example, it is a country that aspires to be a clear voice for human rights around the world, especially with regards to the rights of women.
In fact, in 2012, Hillary Clinton applauded Sweden for being “not just on the front lines, but leading” in it’s commitment to gender equality.
Sweden is also extremely cautious about pollution. On its official website, it states that only 1% of all household waste ends up in a rubbish dump and more than 90% of all aluminum cans are recycled.
The more I learnt, the more it became evident to me that not only did I want to visit Sweden but also I wanted to experience what it would be like to live and study there.
After a multitude of flights, trains and bus rides, I am happy to report that I am finally in the city of Karlstad, which is roughly two hours west of Stockholm.
Located near Sweden’s longest river, Klarälevn, Karlstad is a place that is as rich in history as it is in desserts. It is often associated with the symbol of the sun because it is reputed to be one of the sunniest cities in Sweden.
During my time here, I will be studying Intercultural Communication as well as Swedish as a Foreign Language at Karstalds Universitet. When I first arrived, I was given a guided tour of the campus and a presentation on the Swedish education system, which uses a very independent approach to learning.
One of the first things I noticed about the school itself was its modernity. There are countless pieces of artwork found around the university including a bright sign near the main entrance that reads “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” The second I laid eyes on that Dirty Dancing quote, I knew I was home.