The alarm rings. It’s 2 am. OH NO. It’s time to go to the airport. Please gods of sleep take me back into the bliss of unconsciousness.
Mom comes into the room and tells me that it’s time to get up. My heart feels extremely heavy. Today is the day when I go to a new country to pursue a bachelor’s degree that I might not even like. I’m still very excited. But I hate goodbyes.
We are standing at the door, my mom crying and extremely anxious. Her 18 year old is leaving home. I’m crying, too.
It’s around 5 am and I’m already at the airport. Passport check. Heavy-ass luggage check. I go to Stockholm and take another plane to Jönköping, a small city in Sweden no one knows about.
I say goodbye to my grandma and her man-friend.
I HATE GOODBYES
Things are starting to look better when I reach the gates and see the girl that I met on Facebook–she’s going to the same destination. We find our seats on the plane. Everything will be fine. Little did I know we’ll have to run through Stockholm’s airport in fear of missing our plane that is supposed to leave in 30 minutes. Thank God we make it. Now everything is really gonna be fine.
My luggage is lost. I have my laptop, wallet and 2 pairs of shoes in my hand luggage. Great.
A student from the university picks us up from the airport and is trying to make small talk the whole way about where we come from and what we are going to study. Meanwhile, my mind is elsewhere.
After few hours I finally reach my dorm. First of all, I was hoping I’ll have a roommate. Even as an introvert I knew first days are going to be tough as hell without any company. Unfortunately I got a single room (which later turned out to be a blessing. Again, I’m an introvert after all).
The room looks NOTHING like the pictures on the internet. There is a bed, table, a chair, a creepy lamp that reminds me of a dentist office, a shelf and a wardrobe. All the necessities, of course. But it looks so horrifying. So empty.
Okay. Let’s not panic, I try to convince myself. Just need to call mom.
Oh, there is no internet. Apparently you are supposed to go the internet company, get it connected for 100 kroner and also get your own router – explain older students in the floor who also are nice enough to give their wi-fi passwords so I can call home.
So I’m sitting there with 2 pairs of shoes and a laptop, crying to my mom on skype and regretting with every cell in my body that I decided to come here. I miss my mom. I’m so alone.
For the rest of the evening, I’m marinating my face in tears, talking to my family and friends back home and watching Greys Anatomy until I fall asleep.
The next morning I get a call from the girl I took a flight with my luggage has been found and is resting at the university.
I take a sip of vanilla yogurt I bought the night before and take a journey to claim my precious luggage, containing Lithuanian cheese and bread, bed sheets, underwear and toiletries, back.
I also meet another Lithuanian girl from my class, who together with the flight-girl, later become my good friends and help me survive the three years of university.
After dragging my luggage all the way back from university and later 4 flights up the stairs I feel victorious. I’m ready to settle in. The sadness have not left the chat yet and I’m extremely stressed about the fact that I need to pay my dorm rent a whole semester in advance, but I feel a lot better.
4 years have passed since the day I first came to Sweden. And honestly, I still remember that day as one of the most stressful days of my life.
I was feeling down for a while. I couldn’t fall asleep without watching Grey’s Anatomy or listening to Lithuanian band Foje (they’re pretty fire even if you don’t understand the lyrics)
But I survived.
University studies started and I found out that my English is not as good as I thought it is. Well, all the practice I had before coming to Sweden was English lessons at school and endless hours of watching Pewdiepie, Connor Franta and Troy Sivan on YouTube (Dang it, I miss the old YouTube).
I made friends, I dated, I partied and had the the bachelor experience that a lot of people do even though all three years weren’t all rainbows and butterflies. But that’s a story for another day.
After the bachelor’s I moved to another city for a Master’s degree. Apart from the fact that graduation is getting close and I still have no idea what I want to do after my studies, I am very happy. I’m renting a small, cozy apartment with my partner and our pet hamster.
Now going back to Sweden after visiting home is nothing like the first day. I’m excited to go back to my normal routines and every morning wake up next to my soulmate.
If somebody told me to do it again, it’d say HELL NO.
However, it was totally worth it. I wouldn’t be the person I am if I didn’t move so far away from home so early on in my adult life.
If you just left your parents home and find it hard to get used to your new life — it will get better. It definitely will. I thought the world was ending and now I’m doing just fine.
Now a few fun facts about Sweden
- Students call their professors by names. When I heard it for the first time, I didn’t believe it was true. However, after some time it became normal. Now I’m completely comfortable with calling my teachers by their first name.
- Go fika or go die. I honestly don’t consider going to the cafe and having coffee with dessert as a Swedish thing, as a lot of people in the world do that, but they have a name for it. I find it cute.
- Swedes speak English very well. When I stopped someone in the street to ask for directions, I’d be surprised that even older people can speak perfect English.
- Education here is free for Swedish students as well as students coming from European countries (as myself). Swedes also get quite some help from the government if they need money to support themselves during their studies.
- Swedes are considered shy and reserved. Honestly, as a president of the company of reserved and shy, I do not see that. I think they are pretty close to people in Lithuania. We, too, do not necessarily engage into conversations with strangers or like to sit next to each other on busses or trains.
Don’t forget to share your experience of first days of living alone/away from your loved ones!