THE END

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I came to Lund thinking that my year abroad would be full of activities like dogsledding in Lapland and hiking in the fjords. But like most things in life, they don’t always happen the way you expect them to (see: taking the wrong train and ending up in a different country).

Few of the things Sweden taught me how to appreciate include herrgårdost, kvarg, kladdkaka, and its cult-like obsession with Håkan Hellström. My wardrobe now lacks the colour it once had and my teeth are probably in need of some whitening from the excessive coffee consumption. But there were also many things that reminded me of home including the government-owned liquor stores that never seemed to be open and the extensive recycling protocol.

Thanks to everyone that made this year so special. I hope our paths cross again and I have a feeling that I’ll be back in Sweden real soon.

Post-Lund Trip: England

Our flight from Berlin to London Gatwick was delayed and our flight departed around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. From the airport, we took the train to Haywards Heath, which is a town located halfway between London and Brighton. Karl’s friend Ben let us stay and him and his girlfriend, and it was definitely a nice change from staying at hostels. We had short ribs (Ben had spent close to two days preparing them) and mashed potatoes for dinner, and I also got to try a slice of Ben’s lemon loaf for dessert. After an incredibly delicious meal, I immediately started to feel sleepy so I called it a night and went straight to bed. I blame the exhaustion on the one-hour time difference.

We knew before arriving in England that the weather was going to be horrible during our stay. But neither Karl or I had explored England’s south coast before, so Ben decided to take us to Beachy Head near Eastbourne to visit the chalk cliffs.

Taking the train in England was probably one of the more disastrous experiences I’ve had while traveling abroad. Hundreds of Southern Railway conductors called in sick instead of going on a formal strike, so the trains were severely delayed or cancelled due to the shortage of staff. After a45-minute train ride to Eastbourne, we found a fish and chips restaurant by the waterfront and enjoyed our stereotypically British meal. From there, we got an open-air double decker bus that took us from the city centre to Beachy Head. But the weather and visibility worsened during our drive up to the view point; the fog was so thick, we could barely see anything in front of us. Thankfully, there was a pub nearby so we decided to drink some beer and hope for the fog to clear off. We waited almost two hours, but it didn’t. Even though I wasn’t able to take a Instagram worthy picture of the English Channel, it was still cool knowing that France was just across the water. There was also a memorial to the WWII Bomber Command commemorating the men who defended the coast line. It mentioned that, for some men, Beachy Head may have been their last sight of Britain.

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Amazing visibility!

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Going home to Haywards Heath from Eastbourne that afternoon was absolutely chaotic. A journey that should’ve been 45 minutes long turned out to be almost four hours. Thankfully, Ben had thrown some chicken and seasoning in the slow cooker before we left for Beachy Head, so we were able to have delicious fajitas right away. Just like the night before, I was absolutely exhausted from the traveling so I went to straight to bed after dinner.

The next day, we decided to visit Brighton (definitely glad we didn’t go to crowded London). We all slept in because we were tired from the day before, but we woke up just in time to have a proper English breakfast by the marina. Then we took the bus back into the city and we visited the Lanes, which was a collection of small shops. I was honestly surprised by the number of tattoo parlours and vegetarian cafés we saw during our walk. We spent a fair amount of time in this one antique store that sold everything imaginable. I particularly liked going through the old maps they sold; they must have been printed in the ’30s or ’40s because the borders around Asia definitely did not look like how they do now (see: the Japanese Empire). They surprisingly sold maps of Canada and even one of British Columbia! Although they might’ve looked nice on my wall, I reasoned that it wasn’t worth paying £10 for map of a province that has not cartographically changed over the course of 70 years. The map of British Columbia was no different from those you see in high school classrooms. After exploring the store, we went to Shakeaway, where I had my first milkshake in over five years. I bought a milkshake called Arnie and it was loaded with chocolate brownie pieces, After Eight and mint Aero.

We then walked to the beach and it was definitely a drastic change from the gloominess we encountered at Beachy Head. We saw a few people swimming and we had a deep conversation about circular motion and rotation while watching rotating restaurant that was being built nearby.

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After soaking up the sun, we went back to Haywards Heath. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any disastrous delays on our way home. Ben’s girlfriend joined the three of us for dinner at a French restaurant called Côte. The appetizer, entrée and dessert were all delicious, and I struggled not to unbutton my pants after eating. I had to go to bed early (again) because we had to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to catch our flight back to Copenhagen.

Couple hours later, we woke up and walked to the station to catch our train to the airport that was leaving Haywards Heath at 4:25 A.M. The train arrived on time, but the moment we sat down, the conductor announced that the train was unable to leave the station until the engineering work was completed. He also told us that the engineering work wouldn’t start until 5 A.M. Our plane was leaving at 6:45 AM, so I started to panic and suggested that we should probably just take a taxi instead. When we stepped off the train, we saw the conductor and asked him what was going on. Apparently, this engineering work happens regularly, and when it does, Southern Railway cancels the 4:25 A.M. train ahead of time and arranges an alternate bus service for their passengers. We just happened to be unlucky that morning, but we managed to get to Gatwick on time despite the half hour delay.

Post-Lund Trip: Berlin

We miserably woke up at 6 o’clock to catch the train to Berlin. After a 5-hour train ride, we were welcomed by the smell of fresh bread at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Both of us were starving, so after quickly dropping off our bags at the hostel, we walked around Prenzlauer Berg to find a döner kebab restaurant. Surprisingly, it was incredibly hard to find a place that served what we were craving near our hostel. There were plenty of restaurants but most of them specialized in serving Chinese, Vietnamese and vegan-friendly food. There were a couple of fancier Middle Eastern restaurants, but they didn’t have that iconic vertical rotisserie.  Just as we were about to pass out from exhaustion, we stumbled upon a restaurant that had exactly what we needed. Their fridge was also stocked with Club-Mate bottles, so that was definitely a big plus.

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Most definitely worth the wait.

By that point, we established that we had developed an addiction to escape rooms. Naturally, we decided to try another one that was highly recommended in Trip Advisor. After quickly stopping by a pizzeria for dinner, we took the tram into the depths of East Berlin. The escape room was located in the basement of an apartment that was clearly build during the Cold War era. We were guided through a poorly lit hallway, which looked like something out of a horror movie. Our mission was to leave East Berlin by finding another exit into West Berlin. Being in the room definitely reminded me of those documentaries I watched in History 12 showing what life was like in the shadows of the Berlin Wall. The radio was playing a continuous loop of nostalgic music produced in East Germany and the room was decorated with distinguishing symbols of the GDR including its national flag and a familiar portrait of Erich Honecker. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let me share with you these three words: OH MY GOD. This was by far the most exhilarating escape room that I’ve ever visited. There’s so much depth and complexity to the game. If you’re in Berlin and are growing tired of walking around in Mitte, I absolutely recommend you to visit The Room (just like the title of Tommy Wiseau’s legendary film). They also have three other rooms, and they’re all based around a famous person or event with ties to Berlin.

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Then, we took the tram back to Prenzlauer Berg and caught the second half of the Germany v. Poland match. Naturally, all the restaurants in the neighbourhood had set up a T.V. outside their restaurant and the sidewalks were crowded.

On our second day, we decided to take it easy and walk around Berlin. I really wanted to visit Tiergarten and visit one of the beer gardens in the park, but it was pouring rain. Instead, we decided to take a shorter walk from our hostel in Prenzlauer Berg to the Brandenburg Gate to check out the viewing venue for the European Championships.

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After taking this picture, we were completely soaked so decided to visit the Mall of Berlin to seek shelter. We did some window shopping until it was time to watch Sweden play against Italy (if you haven’t noticed already, this trip mostly involved us sightseeing to kill time between matches). Sadly, Sweden lost but it’d stopped raining by the end of the game. After evaluating Sweden’s performance, we took the tram to Friedrichshain to see the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. After paying a visit to the extensive monument, we went to a Mexican restaurant. Sipping on margaritas was a nice change from drinking pilsners. We definitely watched another match while we were eating, but I honestly can’t remember who was playing that evening.

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Poster at the hostel. The actual score was 1-0, but some enthusiastic Italian fan decided to record 3-0. That’s when we took a pen and changed it to a 6.

The next day, we visited the German Historical Museum and spent over three hours looking at a detailed history of the country. It was great because the entrance fee wasn’t too expensive for students and neither of us had seen the exhibition before. For dinner, we went back to Prenzlauer Berg and visited Prater, which I believe is one of the oldest beer gardens in Berlin. I was definitely excited to be back in one of my favourite restaurants in the city. We saw a surprising number of Icelandic fans wearing their jerseys and waving their flags. We watched Iceland play Hungary while we ate Krakauer sausages and sipped on their signature pilsner. We also ate a baked potato drenched in a mysterious white dressing. Although Iceland didn’t win, I was still happy because when I tried ordering some drinks at the bar in German, the man behind the counter said my German was sehr gut.

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A place where you can sit outside AND watch TV!

Once the game was over, we took a short walk to Mauerpark (see: obligatory visit to the Photoautomat) and got ready to fly to England the following day.

Post-Lund Trip: Prague

After I moved out of Ulrikedal, I decided to celebrate the end of two successful semesters by visiting Prague, Berlin and London. Coincidentally, the three cities I decided to go to were well known for their beer consumption – who am I kidding, it was completely intentional. I didn’t have a detailed itinerary for the trip, but I was definitely excited to discover what the local breweries had to offer while watching the European Championship games. I’ve never been a big fan of soccer (see: football), but I was quickly dragged into watching the games because Sweden had qualified for the tournament.

Unsurprisingly, there were many tourists in Prague and you always had to keep one eye on the middle-aged dads embarrassingly swinging around their selfie sticks in front of their families and old ladies mastering the art of taking pictures on their iPads while walking through crowds.

After we dropped our bags off at the hostel, we went to one of Prague’s oldest pubs called U Fleků to have some traditional Czech food. We sat outside in the courtyard and sipped on their famous dark lager while watching Sweden play against Ireland. If it weren’t for Ireland’s own goal, Sweden probably would have lost that game (sorry, Zlatan).

It was my first time trying Czech food, so that experience was certainly more exciting than the match!

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Don’t forget to eat your (lack of) colours! The sauerkraut was delicious though.

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The next day, we wanted something fun to between visiting the Old Town and having dinner at another beer hall, so we decided to go to another escape room. Mindmaze was one of the highest rated attractions on Trip Advisor, and neither of us wanted to lose our dignity by going on a guided Segway tour. We were able to successfully escape from an alchemist’s study by finding the philosopher’s stone. The puzzles were definitely more challenging and creative than those at Sherlocked in Malmö. Thankfully, this room had no jump scares, making the experience a lot more bearable for people who are easily startled like me. It was also entertaining communicating with the game master using a walkie-talkie, I definitely felt like an eight year old.

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After escaping from the alchemist’s study, we had Mexican food for lunch and spent the evening walking along the river that runs through the city.

Next morning, we visited the castle. The majority of the day was spent walking uphill and going up flights of stairs that felt never-ending. We also found the Swedish embassy on our way to the Petrin Observation Tower. Although the weather wasn’t great, the views from the lookout was still beautiful and was definitely worth the workout.

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We quickly grew tired of stews and bread pudding, so we ate ramen for lunch and spent the evening at a sports bar to watch France play against Albania. Another boring match – nothing really happened until the last 10 minutes of the game.

Day 162/366: BYE ULRIKEDAL

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Today, I had to say goodbye to the place I called home for the last 9 months. After numerous trips to the dumpster and clothing donation bin, my room finally looked like how it did back in August.

I was extremely sad about the fact that I had to leave behind the coffeemaker I got for my birthday. I made sure to do a photoshoot with it before dropping my keys off at the student accommodation office.

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Day 159/366: SISTA PIRAYA (LAST PIRAYA)

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Tonight was Kalmar Nation’s last pub for the semester. Unexpectedly, I got to work again with the föreman who introduced me to the kitchen back in September, the ambitious Dutchman who enjoys following challenging Gordon Ramsay recipes, and the American “illegally” working in Denmark for the summer (seeking refuge in Sweden, naturally).

We made “Vietnamese” vegetable stir-fry with chicken marinated in soy sauce, lemongrass, garlic, alongside other fine ingredients used in Asian cuisine. The vegetarian option was crispy pan-fried tofu. This was served with jasmine rice, which I was in charge of cooking (big surprise).

Thank you to everyone I got to work with at the nation for making unpaid labour so fun and rewarding. I’ll always be grateful for the useful life skills you’ve taught me and all the leftover you’ve let me take home.

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DAY 154/366: FIKA

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I’ve been extremely busy finishing up the semester and moving out of my apartment, so I haven’t been able to post as often as I wanted. Here are some of the posts I meant to post earlier.

I took this photo last week when I met up with Ellen and Hannah for fika to celebrate the end of the semester. We were in the same class earlier this semester, so we reminisced about the Immunology labs and Björn’s inaudible mumbling that would put us to sleep on cold winter mornings. I loved how we all agreed that Immunology was the most challenging and rewarding course we took during our exchange. We shared a coconut brownie topped with walnuts and a hazelnut (probably Nutella-based) mousse. I don’t know how some people who come to the restaurant finish an entire cake on their own.

People who share desserts are happy. Happy people laugh more, and those who laugh more have higher concentrations of IgA. Those who have more immunoglobulins probably have stronger immune systems.

DAY 121/366: VALBORG!

Does the video work? Can you see it? Can you hear Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé in the background?

So that’s what Stadsparken looked like on Saturday around noon. Keep in mind that you can only see a small section of the park from where I’m standing. I found myself in the middle of the biggest impromptu party in Sweden, but I guess it’s not really spontaneous because it happens every year on the last day of April!

I guess it wouldn’t be the worst place to be with good company, food and drinks, but it’s mostly uncomfortable walking on mud over trash and drunk people while finding a place to sit down.

My evening was much calmer, and my friends and I celebrated Valborg by eating tacos and watching “Perks of Being a Wallflower” on Netflix. I took a glance at the Swedish Netflix selection and I still think that Netflix Canada is one of the least practical things out there on the internet.

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The tortillas were heating up in the oven when I took this picture. The setup looks really sad. Oops.

DAY 120/366: CARRO’S BIRTHDAY

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Friday was Caroline’s birthday and the start of Valborg celebrations in Lund. We started the day with Swedish pancakes (not as thick as those you can get at Denny’s) and a birthday cake. I followed a Victoria sandwich recipe by Donal Skehan (less scruffy, better looking alternative to Jamie Oliver), but after reconsidering how I should put the whipped cream and strawberries on the cake, I ended up making a jordgubbstårta. Coincidentally, it’s something people eat at birthday parties and Midsummer celebrations in Sweden. I’m totally thrilled by the fact that I made something Swedish by accident. The cake paired nicely with the fizzy plum Bellini that Caroline made for everyone. It was definitely a decadent breakfast, and I want to be clear that it’s not something we do every morning. I usually have toast, yogurt and black coffee. 

After brunch, my friends made their way to an outdoor daytime party, but I unfortunately had to to go school to attend a mandatory seminar. Thankfully, it wasn’t a boring one. My professor used to work at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen (owned by the Carlsberg brewery) and invited one of his former colleagues to talk about the whisky distillery where he’s employed now. My professor, who seemed to be a fan of the spicy, pale caramel spirit, bought a bottle for the class, and happily walked around the room handing out plastic cups. He encouraged every student to learn how to appreciate whisky. His friend from the distillery also brought barley and rye samples and urged the students to taste the grains and distinguish the different flavours.

After class, I ran to meet up with my friends who were already at the event to finally get some use out of the wristbands I paid 320 Kr for.

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Let’s talk about the fact that the guy on stage just held an original Nintendo GameBoy and pretended to play something while he banged his head to a pre-recorded track.

It was crowded, muddy and windy. And being 163 cm in a mosh pit in a country where most people are taller than me meant that I really couldn’t see anything. The singers performed songs that I’ve never heard of before, so standing in front of the stage was a confusing experience for at least two of my five senses.

The wristbands we had also gave us access to the evening party, but we left the venue for a couple of hours to grab dinner and recharge after being pushed around in the mosh pit. We came back around 10 p.m. to find Halland’s and VG’s both opening up their clubs, allowing students to jump back and forth between the two dance floors. Freedom of movement! It was a tiring night, but I’m glad that I got to experience Kvalborg! I’d also like to thank my friends for waking up at an ungodly hour to stand in the queue from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to buy the tickets. Du är bäst!

DAY 107/366: SWEDISH BALL EXPERIENCE

No, this isn’t going to be about how I went to IKEA and had meatballs for lunch.

But here’s a picture in case you were wondering what they look like.

Where do I begin? Maybe I’ll start by paraphrasing the event description on Cornelius Ball’s Facebook page. It’s an annual event organized by the Engineering students’ union, and it’s named after their faculty mascot.

I spent the night before the ball frantically scrolling through Pinterest and looking for easy, simple hairstyles. But I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be able to recreate any of the hairstyles by myself because I can’t even French braid my own hair. Thankfully, when I crawled out of my room the next morning, Caroline and her friend was willing to tackle my coarse Asian hair. Judith, Caroline’s friend who was visiting for the weekend, had studied make-up and hair design, and she was one of those girls who could curl hair perfectly using a straightening iron. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve looked if it weren’t for Caroline and Judith for sharing their expertise with me. Tack så mycket!

After I put on my dress and shoes, I helped Karl put on his dress suit, which arguably had more pieces that a BILLY bookshelf from IKEA. Then, we sipped on champagne with our friends in my dirty kitchen while we waited for Karl’s mom to pick us up (limo hire is so 2013). On our way to the venue, we stopped at the supermarket to pick up some Red Bull. We may have been slightly overdressed to go grocery shopping, but we had to chug energy drinks to make sure that neither of us would fall asleep during the five-hour dinner service. We also walked around the grocery store looking for snacks that I could keep in my clutch in case one of us got hungry, but the bag of pretzels unfortunately wouldn’t fit.

One glass of bubbly was enough to make this girl’s skin flushed for the picture.

We walked from the supermarket to the venue and we were immediately greeted with a glass of champagne. We also had a picture taken before we sat down in the dining hall for dinner service. The phrase “Where do I put my hands?” was exchanged multiple times before this picture was taken. Maybe we should’ve taken our time to enjoy our drinks and kept the champagne flutes in our hands.

When we found our seats in the dining hall, we exchanged gifts with our table partners. These gifts were meant to be inexpensive but able to keep your table partner entertained for the night. I went to TGR (DAISO’s Danish cousin) a few days before the ball and bought a portable memory game. It was pretty much a BOP IT! knock-off. In return, my table partner bought me a metal brain teaser. There was another girl at our table who received a temporary tattoo kit, and she kept herself occupied by carefully placing the letters Y-O-L-O on her knuckles while she waited for her meal.

The dinner service was in Swedish, so I had to pay attention to what others were doing to not make a complete fool out of myself.

“Wait, why are we clapping?” “Clap if you’re hungry, Rei!” “Oh, okay!”

Anyway, the dinner service was amazing! They kept the menu a secret until the day of the ball and it was exciting seeing each plate placed in front of you. I would’ve taken pictures of the food, but my understanding was that it was rude to take your phone during the dinner service. The appetizer was a blue cheese mousse served with chutney and dried figs. It was served inside a wine glass, and it was also served with arugula sprinkled with sunflower seeds. The entrée was duck confit served with applesauce and pumpkin purée. The meat fell right off the bone and it went well with the red beet salad on the side. Naturally, we had to critique each dish as if we were the judges on Masterchef Australia – DID I MENTION THAT THE NEW SERIES PREMIERS IN LESS THAN A MONTH? And the dessert – that was probably my favourite part of the meal. It was a rich brownie that was served with ice cream, raspberries and a hollow chocolate dome. Then, another waiter came to our table to pour hot caramel sauce that’d melt the dome. Warm chocolate sauce, everywhere.

After we finished eating, we went outside to watch a fireworks show. That lasted for about 20 minutes, but we probably had to wait 40 more minutes outside until we were allowed back inside for the after-party. It was a cold, windy night, so that probably explains why I woke up next morning with a stuffy nose. When we were finally allowed to re-enter the building, we went to the bar for sexa (Swedish word for a light meal after a party, but I think it also refers to an after-party for students who worked at a nation club because it sometimes goes on until six in the morning). But sexa was bit of a letdown because we were served soggy vegetarian lasagna that tasted like it had been out of the oven for a long time. Disappointing lasagna aside, we slowly sipped on our IPA that was included in the meal and let our feet rest before we danced some more. I think we ended up spending too much time in the bar and missed our opportunity to waltz and foxtrot. I wonder how much time I wasted watching tutorials on Youtube at double speed earlier on in the week…

Anyway, the dance ended at three in the morning, and to make a long story short, my feet were disgusting by the end of the night. I’d definitely like to go to another ball, and I rate my night a 10/10.

And here’s a gif I really wanted to use in this post, but didn’t how to use it:

There’s surprisingly a lot of references to Sweden in Mean Girls! Remeber how Regina gains weight by eating Kalteen bars? Yeah, they’re Swedish!