Just don’t forget to pack the bug spray.
Before I left the States, if you asked me what I thought I’d be doing when I got to Stockholm, I might have said taking a nap. Unpacking, having a cup of coffee, even exploring Stockholm might have come to mind.
Foraging for mushrooms deep in the forest would not have been top of my list.
Allemansrätten law means that anyone is entitled to hike, forage, or camp on any land in Sweden, with the exception of private homes or gardens. The day after I arrived in Stockholm, my host parents and I drove further northeast of Stockholm to look for mushrooms in the woods. (It probably wasn’t that far in, but I would have definitely gotten turned around on my own).
Prior to arriving in Sweden, I was slightly panicked about living in a homestay. I had always known that I wanted to do a homestay while studying abroad, in order to immerse myself in the Swedish culture and live like a local.
However, as departure time approached, I became more and more nervous. So many homestay guides said it was normal to feel isolated or like you were missing out for the first month or so. Month!?
I was beginning to doubt my decisions.
After Skyping with my homestay parents, I felt reassured that this experience would be a great one. Still, the prospect of being far away from friends was daunting. Would I miss out on the city’s pulse by not being in the heart?
As soon as I arrived in Sweden, I met other homestay students at the airport. I discovered the efficiency and ease of the SL transit card, which really does “unlock the city.” I’m only a 20 minute train ride out, giving easy access to events and nightlife.
After all that worrying, homestay life is great. I’m eating much better than my peers, and I even have weekend plans with new friends! Most importantly to me, this experience is totally different from life back home for me.
Standing in the middle of the forest on Day 2, snacking on wild blueberries (or blåbär) while foraging for mushrooms, I had a moment of complete serenity. This was an experience I never would have discovered on my own. Foraging is a common part of Swedish life, and this experience would only be possible with a homestay.
A few days later, the mosquito bites have faded and I’ve settled in a bit more. I’ve met new friends, started classes, and I’ve barely dipped my toes in the waters of the Swedish language.
I think I’m gonna like it here.