"Notification of Selection Results" the subject line read for an email I received one morning. Here it was, the classes I was registered for during my semester in Växjö , Sweden. A lot was riding on that two page document: tuition dollars, my graduation date, my pride at managing to squeeze in two abroad programs barely over SU tuition, and so on. So I opened it…and I was devastated. All electives. Each and every one of them from the Swedish classes to the course on European Union Politics. My dream of studying business in Europe was crushed.
Now I had to make a decision and fast. Forfeit the $3000 down payment on the program and stay in Seattle or make the most of what I had been given.
It wasn’t as if I wasn’t interested in the courses I had been handed. I’ve always been passionate about language at least and the history course seemed very appealing. Plus this was Sweden we were talking about: a beautiful country with gorgeous scenery, rich history, and a culture that, as I would later learn, fit my personality to a T. So I took the jump, boarded a plane and made my way to a tiny city near the most southern point of Sweden. What I would do to make up for the lack of business classes would largely have to wait until I got there.
The first step was to make some friends. Linnaeus University welcomes more than 1,600 international students each year from over 60 countries, which meant that there was a lot of international networking I could accomplish. I started with the dorm building I had been placed in. Most students there were from the US as well, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t have valuable stories to tell.
Mission more or less accomplished, it was time to move onto the Swedes. Being that they are a generally introverted bunch (especially by American standards), this was easier said than done. Thankfully most of them spoke fluent English, which eliminated one hurdle at least. Regardless, I looked around for ways to connect with Swedish students and citizens of Växjö to get to know them and their culture. The Friend Family program and the Buddy Program were my solutions. The former program paired me with a local family who would meet with me once a month minimally to show me around and answer any questions I had about their culture, city, and country. The latter paired me with a Senior Swedish student who would essentially play the same role, but within the confines of the school. Through both programs I was able to rapidly expand my network and connect with those working in and studying the business field.
The next task was to explore a little. Taking advantage of the cheaper traveling expenses between European countries, I visited three other nearby countries during my stay. It was important for me though not to attend strictly as a tourist, but to study up on the country beforehand and visit significant historical sights to make the journey just as educational as it was fun. I am an international business major after all and what better way to study the international portion on a larger scale?
I didn’t stop moving once I was back in my dorm though. Instead I took to studying as much as I could about business in Sweden on my own. From there I would develop questions to ask my expanding Swedish network so I could come home with the satisfaction that even though I didn’t have business classes, I was doing what I could to obtain that knowledge.
Studying abroad is always a daunting task no matter how well your plans go. As I sit here a year later, I am so thankful for the experience. Not only did I manage to achieve my goals, but I learned how to look past my inclination for a perfect plan, and to become flexible even when everything seems to be going wrong.
Senior, International Business major, Japanese minor