This post is the first installment of our monthly Q&A sessions with international students turned peerTransfer employees. It’s our hope that reading their experiences will help you along your journey.
To kick us off, we interviewed Carolina Pastor from our marketing department. A native of Valencia, Spain, she studied abroad in Sundsvall, Sweden. Last week we sat down with our resident, international superwoman and here’s what was said:
What did you know about Sweden before you decided to study there?Great views and cold weather – this picture says it all.
Cold and dark winters and tons of snow: I know that’s so cliché but it was everything I knew about Sweden at the time. I never would have imagined that I’d end up studying in such a remote and exotic destination!
When I first found out I was going to Sweden, the only reference I had was the internet as only one girl from my home university had studied in Sundsvall before. For those unfamiliar with this Swedish city, Sundsvall is small and located in the mid-east coast of Sweden by the Baltic sea.
I was both excited and terrified, but I knew that it was a once in a life opportunity that I couldn’t miss! I needed to leave the nest and get out of my comfort zone.
How was your transition once you reached Sweden? How quickly did you start to become acclimated to your new surroundings?
I can’t say that the first weeks were easy at all. I knew no one, couldn’t speak a word of Swedish, was unable to understand the signs at the supermarket, and didn’t know how to move around. In fact, it took me some time to understand how everyday things worked. There was one time when I mistakenly “stole” plastic bags at a supermarket simply because I didn’t know I had to pay! All of these things really make me laugh now.
In a matter of two weeks, I was over all the hurdles of the adaption phase and was lucky to start meeting other students that became not only my friends but my family. Other students were from France, Italy, Germany, Japan, USA, UK, Russia, Poland… we made up our own mini United Nations!
Wow, that sounds like quite the adjustment period. What was your best memory after you starting getting settled in?
My best memories? The never ending winter nights and summer days; skiing in the dark in winter and making a barbeque under a bright sky at 11 p.m in June; having a sauna and running out into the snow; renting a van and driving from Sweden to Norway. There are too many to mention!
On the academic side, I was surprised to discover how different the school atmosphere was compared to my home university. We had fewer lectures and more individual and research work. As a journalism student I was able to shoot my first short movie in English and collaborate as editor in the university magazine. It’s incredible how enriching it was to work with such multicultural and varied teams.
Looking back, the year was simply too short.
While you’re now living in the United States, what were your next international stops?
My next stops? London, New York and Boston. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop my career internationally. It was definitely a life changing experience that I will never forget.
Carolina was kind enough to share a short video about her exchange year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=freeTiRrLeM