Long Study Tour: Edinburgh, Scotland!

The long study tour was something I was really looking forward to before I even came to Stockholm. The opportunity to travel to a new place with my classmates and getting to learn about crime prevention from the perspective of another country was something that really stuck out to me when I was looking at DIS.

Our class went to Edinburgh, which I was especially excited about since Edinburgh is supposedly very haunted. I also really wanted to try haggis, which turned out to be very interesting (in a good way!).

Although our class trip to Gothenburg was great, we had early mornings and I was always too tired at the end of the day to do any exploring. I was a little worried that our trip to Edinburgh would be the same way, but we actually had lots of free time to walk around the city ourselves and shop.

After we first arrived, our class went to afternoon tea in the Tower Restaurant. After waking up early in the morning and sitting in the plane for 2 hours, having some tea and pastries in afternoon is definitely what I needed.

Out of all the organizations we visited, one of my favorites was the Edinburgh Police Station. Like many people in my class, I used to watch a bunch of Criminal Minds and other crime TV shows, so I was looking forward to this presentation. We got to learn a little bit about what being a police officer is like, and got to talk through a murder case that actually happened a few years ago.

Another one of my favorites was the Kibble Education and Care Center, which provides housing and care for youth that have gone through trauma. It was really interesting to walk around the facility and learn about the case-by-case approach they use to treat youth.

DIS also organized some non-academic activities for us as a class to do together. We hiked up Arthurs Seat, which was muddy but had an amazing view, went on a walking food tour, and had a murder mystery dinner.

All in all, I really loved visiting Edinburgh and DIS really spoiled us with the hotel, food, and activities. It was great to be outside of a classroom setting with our professor and classmates, especially during meals, where we got the chance to talk to our professor about things other than psychology. Next week is our last forensic psychology class, and I’m a little sad that it’s over.

An important part of studying abroad is having a good balance between work and fun, and I think the way DIS as a program is organized is great. Reflecting on my time abroad so far, this study tour is definitely one of the highlights!

Living in the Studentboende: Pros and Cons

DIS has a couple of housing options and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which option fits best for you. Now that I’ve been living in the Studentboende for 3 months, I thought I’d talk in-depth about this option and the pros and cons that come along living in the Studentboende.

I would say the Studentboende is the housing option that is most similar to traditional US college dorms. All DIS students live between 2 floors of the building, we share a room and bathroom with our roommate, and each floor shares a kitchen.

I appreciate the freedom that comes with living in the Studentboende, and I think the responsibilities that come with living here have made me more independent. Our rooms are decently sized and much more modern compared to the dorms I’m used to at Vassar. That being said, there are some drawbacks that come with living here, which I will talk about now!

The typical room setup

Cons

  • Maintaining the cleanliness of communal areas is difficult, since everyone has different standards of cleanliness and some people aren’t really used to cleaning up after themselves. At times, the kitchen can get messy when people forget to wash their dishes or don’t put things back in place. We are so fortunate to have a cleaner that comes in once a week, but it can get pretty gross over the weekends.
Our common room/kitchen
  • Getting used to sharing your space with others can be difficult, especially if you used to live in a single like I did. Since we’re in charge of cleaning our own rooms and bathrooms, you really have to make sure the responsibilities are divided. It took me a while to get used to living with someone else again, but now I’ve adjusted to it!
  • Doing laundry can be a bit of a hassle here, since you have a 3-hour slot that you have to sign up for electronically. If you forget to get your clothes out within that 3 hour period, you can’t get back in the laundry room unless someone else who signed up lets you in.
  • If you’re hoping to join a gym, the chain that most DIS students join is SATS. The closest SATS is around a 15 minute walk from the Studentboende, which doesn’t seem bad at first, but when its raining and its 5 degrees celsius, walking there can be rough.

Pros

  • Having the freedom to cook for yourself! Living in a Studentboende means you’re responsible for cooking your own meals. We receive a stipend from DIS, so you don’t have to worry about spending your own money on groceries, although the money can run out quickly. I enjoy cooking, so having the ability to make my own meals and learning new recipes is always fun. When I find myself missing home, I make some Chinese food and it always makes me feel better 🙂
  • The commute to DIS is pretty short – it takes around 25 minutes for me to get from the Studentboende to DIS. Some homestays have to commute up to an hour to get to DIS, so I’m really grateful for where we live!
  • The Studentboende is located in a fairly quiet, residential area. The grocery store is barely a 2 minute walk from us, and there are a bunch of restaurants close by. My favorite part is the forest right next to us that has running trails and leads down to the lake! If you want to get to the city center, it only takes around 15 minutes by subway.
One of many trails in the forest
  • The best part about the Studentboende is how easy it is to meet people, since you’re living with so many DIS students. There’s always someone in the common room if you want to talk, hang out, or have a question about an assignment. On Thursdays, we have Torgdagsmys (Cosy Thursdays), where a group of us make dinner and eat together as a floor.

All in all, I think I made the right decision in choosing to live in the Studentboende. Like any housing option, there are a few downsides, but I’ve quickly learned to love our dorm and the freedom it gives us. Hopefully this post gives you some insight into living in the Studentboende and helps you decide on your housing when you come to Stockholm!

Olá, Portugal!

Last week was our travel week, while other DIS students had their long study tour. My Forensic Psych class is going to Edinburgh! Stay tuned for a post about that later. For the travel week, some DIS students stay in Stockholm to rest and catch up on work, while others take this time to travel a bit.

As for me, I met my parents in Portugal! I was happy to go somewhere warm – it’s already gotten pretty cold in Sweden. I was able to get some more use out of all the summer clothes I brought (don’t bring too many shorts or dresses to Sweden like I did, it gets cold quickly).

Traveling around Portugal with my parents was nice because I missed them, but also because I didn’t have to pay for anything myself! I ate SO much seafood and fresh fruit and soaked up the sun that I missed so much.

My mom and I first took the train to Porto to see the Douro Valley and some small towns nearby. Afterwards, we took the train back to Lisbon and spent the rest of the week there.

Portugal is much more affordable than Sweden and is also quite walkable, although it can be hilly at times. We walked basically everywhere, so I was pretty much dead at the end of the day. It’s a really beautiful country, with a mix of old buildings and modern architecture.

I was really glad DIS gave us a travel week to spend some time out of class and exploring Europe. As my week was drawing to an end, I found myself missing Stockholm and looking forward to sleeping in my bed at the Studentboende, which I wasn’t expecting. Our trip to Edinburgh is in a week, and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’ll be doing readings for class and writing papers.

I haven’t made a playlist in a while, so here’s some songs that I’ve been listening to these past few weeks! Hope you enjoy 🙂

My Solo Trip to Vienna!

Now that I’ve been living in Stockholm for more than a month, I’d say I have a pretty solid routine. Going to the gym, commuting to DIS, cooking dinner, doing homework… But now that I’ve gotten that normalcy I was so desperate for in the beginning of the semester, I really wanted to go out of my comfort zone and try something new.

I’m typically not a very spontaneous person. I like to figure things out in advance and plan everything out carefully, so I was definitely hesitant on leaving the country on such short notice. I chatted with some friends from home and they all agreed that traveling solo was a great way to learn about myself and to embrace discomfort. So with that (and some convincing to my mom), I booked a ticket to Vienna for the weekend!

Shönbrunn Palace

Prior to leaving, I wasn’t too worried about transportation or my safety in Vienna, since it is considered a pretty safe city. The only worry I had was the possibility of feeling lonely in such a lively place. However, once I arrived, I was so busy and consumed by the sights that I barely even had time to think about being lonely. I also noticed other solo travelers along the way, so I didn’t feel out of place at all.

There was SO much to see in Vienna, especially if you enjoy architecture and museums. The three palaces I visited were quite crowded, but absolutely worth it. Vienna is also very famous for its coffeehouse culture, where they serve pastries and coffee all day long, so eating alone wasn’t bad at all.

Shoutout to the random girl that took this picture for me hahahaha

Traveling by myself for the first time was weird in that I didn’t have to wait for anyone to wake up, argue with anyone about directions, or figure out how to split the check. I love traveling with my friends and family, but having to figure out what to do when everyone has different priorities and budgets can be frustrating. It was very freeing to have the ability to go wherever I wanted and sit down to take a break when I was tired.

Being away for the weekend also made me appreciate the fact that I’m in Europe studying abroad and am so fortunate to have the ability to travel around the world. Even though I was only gone for a bit, I missed Stockholm and am glad to be back. If you’ve always wanted to go somewhere but haven’t found a traveling partner, I really encourage you to go by yourself! I am so, so happy I decided to make this last-minute trip to Vienna 🙂

Core Course Week: Gothenburg!

Last week was Core Course Week, so on Monday my Forensic Psychology class headed over to Gothenburg, a city on the west side of Sweden. With everything that was packed into this week, I was exhausted by the end of it, but also grateful for the super informative & insightful visits we made to various organizations. Here’s a rundown of what happened:

Gothenburg: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday

After arriving to Gothenburg at around noon, we had a quick lunch before going to the Halvvägshuset Göteborg, a halfway house for prisoners that are nearing the end of their sentence.

I was pleasantly surprised at how cosy and welcoming the halfway house felt. Residents also have much more freedom than I expected: they leave the house to go to work, buy their own groceries, and have visiting hours to see family/friends. This process of gradually re-integrating into society is especially important for those who have been incarcerated for long periods of time.

One of the living rooms in the halfway house

On Tuesday morning, we visited a research group known as CLIP (Criminal, Legal, and Investigative Psychology). We had speakers give us presentations on their PhD research as well as their experiences working in law enforcement.

We had a lot of free time in the afternoon, so some friends and I decided to go to the Botanical Gardens to explore and get some cute pictures. I’m glad we went, because the garden was so beautiful and admission was free!

We then met back up with our class and did an escape room at a place called Prison Island. My group tried our best, but we still ended up getting second to last place (oh well). We had a class dinner at an Italian restaurant, where I ate so much I had a food baby and could barely walk. DIS is very generous when it comes to our class meals. To try to burn off some of the pasta we ate, my friends and I decided to walk back to our hostel and explore a bit of Gothenburg.

Gothenburg at night 🙂

Wednesday morning we met with the Swedish Police Authority, where we learned about the duties of police officers, current issues that Swedish law enforcement are facing, and the factors that can lead immigrants to commit crime. After lunch, we hopped on the train back to Stockholm, which I actually missed a little.

Stockholm: Thursday & Friday

After a really good night’s rest in my own bed, our class met up at Mansjouren, a men’s crisis shelter. This place provides support for men that are going through unhealthy relationships, marital issues, or for men looking to change their own abusive behavior. I had never heard of a men’s shelter prior to our visit, but now I know they are a much-needed organization.

Fryshuset was the last organization we visited in our core course week. Fryshuset is organization that holds social activities for the community, focusing on at-risk youth. One project within Fryshuset focuses on the de-radicalization of the right-wing extremists. Our speaker, Pelle, talked us through the thought processes of a radicalized individual as well as his own method of de-radicalizing them. This was my favorite presentation of the week because of its relevance in today’s society and because Pelle was such a fun speaker.

On Friday, our class met up at DIS and we had a discussion/reflection of our week. Overall, despite the early mornings, I felt like this week provided opportunities for us to really get to know each other and bond.

Our class photo!

This has been a loooong blog post, but I hope you all enjoyed! I’ll talk to you guys soon 🙂

Voulez-Vouz?

The third week of me living in Sweden is over! I think I’ve gotten used to my classes, getting to DIS, and cooking for myself. Someone even asked me for directions in Swedish (so I’m BASICALLY Swedish now), but I definitely had no idea what she was saying or where she was going so I was no help at all. 

There is so much to do in Stockholm, whether it be parks, random alleyways, or museums. My friend Charlotte is a huge ABBA/Mamma Mia fan, so last weekend we decided to go the ABBA Museum!

Embarrassingly, ABBA was pretty much the only thing (also the Skarsgård brothers) related to Sweden I knew about before coming here. I also recently watched the first Mamma Mia movie (I’m very behind on movies) and couldn’t get all the songs out of my head.

We took the subway down to T-Centralen, then hopped in the bus to Djurgården, which dropped us off right in front of the museum. The entrance down to the museum is sooo pretty and looks exactly like the architecture you see on Greek Islands.

The first part of the exhibit was dedicated to the Mamma Mia franchise and the filming process. They had a bunch of costumes and props from Mamma Mia on display. It was very cool to recognize all the outfits from the movies, especially Donna’s iconic overalls from the first movie.

The next part of the museum is all about ABBA’s history, their songwriting process, and the moments that led up to their break. The museum was super interactive and I learned more than I ever thought I would know about ABBA. If you’re bored and have a couple of free hours, I would definitely recommend coming here.

This week was pretty low-key for me, but I did go to some pretty good restaurants. I think I’ll start posting about my favorite meals/restaurants each week because I have a bottomless pit of a stomach and am always looking for good restaurants. Yesterday, Charlotte’s parents came to visit her and invited me to lunch with them at Prinsen, and I got to have a very traditional Swedish meal.

Meatballs, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumber, and lingonberries! Thank you @Charlotte’s parents!!

Another place I went to this week that I loved was Mahalo, a plant-based restaurant/cafe that had very cute decor and was only a few bus stops away from DIS. I got an acai bowl, but they also have savory options and a bunch of pastries on display.

Pitaya bowl + Mahalo toppings

Tomorrow is the beginning of core course week so expect a blog post on that next week! Also stay tuned for some more pictures of food 🙂

Exploring Stockholm: First Impressions

Hej! My first week in Stockholm has now officially passed. With orientation, classes beginning, and jet lag, it kind of feels like a month has already passed.

The housing I’m living in, called a Studentboende, is similar to a college dorm, with our own rooms and a communal kitchen. It is a LOT nicer than the dorms at Vassar (which are almost 200 years old and may or may not have mice living in them), and everything is very modern.

Gamla Stan, AKA Stockholm’s Old Town. Very picturesque and very good for Instagram photos

These past few days, I’ve been exploring the city with my friends and am getting the hang of using public transportation in Sweden. We’re lucky that DIS provides us with SL cards that allow us to get on any bus or subway.

Going 5 stops from my dorm on the green line takes me directly to T-Centralen, which is the heart of the subway system and an area that I have found myself frequently going to. There are so many clothing stores and cute cafes in this area, and is always packed with people.

Around T-Centralen is where I also found an Asian grocery store, called Oriental Supermarket (very original, I know). In there, they have basically everything you need to make some good homemade Chinese food. DIS gives us a food stipend, but we can only use it at a grocery chain (ICA), where the selection of Asian cooking ingredients is a bit lacking. Also, it was nice to find a place where I could speak Chinese to someone, since I was a little homesick. I will DEFINITELY be going to Oriental Supermarket every week for groceries.

I was also able to explore the area around my Studentboende by going for a run (more like a walk because me running is just….sad to watch). There’s a bunch of paths that lead to a trail along the river where there are bikers, runners, and dog walkers. I also saw a cat on my run, which made it all worth it. I’m pretty proud of myself for already completing something on my list of goals!

This week has been super busy and crazy, but I am definitely settling in and developing a routine. I promise I’ll have more pictures for my next blog post!!

Lastly, heres another quick playlist of songs I’ve been listening to 🙂

T Minus 3 Days Till Sweden!

Hello hello! My name is Frances and in three days, I will be flying 11 hours and starting my semester abroad in Sweden!! It’s kind of a surreal experience, since I started planning my study abroad plan almost a year ago, and now we’re really getting close. This is my first real blog (unless my middle school tumblr counts), and I hope I can look back on it when my semester abroad ends as a sort of time capsule in my life.

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic these past few days, knowing that I’ll be away from home in a completely different country for the next four months. I’m trying my best to savor these last few summer nights and soak in all these moments before I leave. I know that Stockholm will be an amazing experience though, and the four months will slip by before I know it.

I’m most excited about my core course at DIS, Forensic Psychology. I am a HUGE fan of true crime/creepy things and listen to crime/mystery podcasts whenever I can. My sister and I always talk about old crime cases or new murder documentaries and I’m hoping I can find someone in my core course who is just as interested! As a psychology major, I haven’ t had the chance to take any courses related to forensic psychology, so this is the perfect opportunity for me. Last semester at Vassar my favorite class was Clinical Psych, so I’m really looking forward to learn how mental illness and the legal system work with each other in regards to crime.

Other than my academics, I’ve been thinking of some goals I’d like to fulfill by the time I leave Sweden. Hopefully by completing these I can truly immerse myself in the culture and live like a local :

  1. Master the subway system without using a map/phone: I sort of mastered this in NYC when I was there for a month this summer, so hopefully 4 months is enough time for me to be a pro.
  2. Make at least one local Swedish friend: Since I’m living with some Swedes in my Studentboende, this shouldn’t be too hard…right?
  3. Find the best Chinese restaurant in Stockholm: Having lived in Beijing for half of my life, I am a big Chinese food snob and must find the most authentic restaurant there is.
  4. Go for a run outside: Apparently our Studentboende is near some parks and a river, so going out for a run nearby will be a good chance for me to get familiar with the area and possibly find some cool spots.
  5. Have a conversation in Swedish: This may be the toughest goal to complete, since I don’t want to make a fool of myself. Hopefully I’ll find someone who is patient and willing to listen to my probably-broken Swedish once I start learning in class.

That’s all I have so far, but I definitely will be adding more to the list after I arrive in Stockholm.

As these next few days go by, the butterflies in my stomach will continue to grow. I know that living in a new city with new people will require an adjustment period, where I may be homesick, and that is totally okay. However, I know that once I settle in, make friends, and get into a routine, I’ll be ready to live my best life in Stockholm! Before I sign off, I wanted to share a playlist of songs I’ve been listening to while I’ve been packing and daydreaming of life in Stockholm. Enjoy, and I’ll talk to you soon!

Frances

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