A Premature End: Leaving Stockholm

Drottningholm Palace, residence of the Swedish Royal Family and one of my last trips with my host family in Stockholm

Hej! Or rather, hello, now, because I’m no longer in Sweden and that’s about two months too soon. Of course, the reason why has pervaded everyone’s lives for what feels like months now, so no need to get into the details of the disruptive COVID-19 virus. But the magnitude of the challenge we face as a community meant that our semester in Stockholm has been cut short and, like the rest of the international student community, we move to online learning officially from today. In light of that, this will be the last blog post here, but I would be remiss to not recap what has been an incredible two month journey with DIS, now that I am home again and self-isolating.

Moose meatballs… quite possibly my most Swedish experience, at Meatballs for the People in Södermalm

That email came in early on March 12th, and looking back now to not even three weeks ago, it’s surprising that it came as such a shock. My previous post expressed my excitement that this post would come from Berlin on my European Security Dilemmas study tour, which still felt like a real possibility even then. And after that, everything felt like a whirlwind until I would eventually depart home, avoiding the rush to the US in light of the travel ban, the following Monday. A big list of things to do in Stockholm still unfulfilled- souvenirs to buy, museums to visit, attractions to see, and friends and host family to say farewell to. I squeezed those final days full of those things, taking my last ‘fikas’ when I could, trying moose meatballs for the first time, visiting Drottningholm Palace and more. Perhaps the inevitability of a premature departure had struck me without my realization, because I kept emotion at bay largely until my day of departure. Sweden had, and continues to even now, remain calm in the face of the crisis, and that crisis didn’t become fully visible until I made it to Arlanda Airport on Monday night.

The reality of Arlanda Airport on my day of departure

Booked on one of the only flights that night to London, or indeed anywhere, the airport was near empty, devoid of taxis, suitcases, and the hustle and bustle of holiday-goers. Ticket transactions in gloves and masks, fear, and yet somehow calm were all that awaited my journey home. Still, this didn’t feel real. The thought of missing out on study tour, on a just a little bit of Swedish sunshine, and on so many missed opportunities was pain that didn’t become real until I got home that night. But looking back, I have nothing but gratitude that not only did I get the experiences and make the friends I did, but that I got home safely and that life could continue for me. There have been, and will be, tragic consequences of this crisis. Life will move on, and I’m grateful for the time I had in Sweden. No doubt I’ll be back in the near future, to witness the warm weather they ‘claim’ they get in the summer months!

And what visit to Sweden would be complete without a trip to the ABBA Museum?

The reality now is online classes, and an indefinite amount of time social distancing. My home, the United Kingdom, faces challenges beyond those I vented about in my first post on this site, but like everywhere, they will be overcome. Balancing a life in the US, this will be my longest stay at home in many years and that alone makes this new experience peculiar for me. And of course, working remotely provides challenges to us all, although DIS have so far, albeit speaking on the first day of online classes, managed the task well. Some aspects of the semester are irretrievable, but I’m excited to conclude my courses and cap off the semester even from another country.

And that’s it. To those who have read my posts these two months, thank you, and to everyone at DIS and in Stockholm who made this such a wonderful journey, thank you as well. Stay safe!

Hej då!

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