Gabi – Exchange to Malmo University, Sweden
Semester 2, 2016
If you read my last blog post you’ll know I was pleasantly surprised by what seemed like the endless summer in Malmö, Sweden. But alas, the sun has set, the winter has made itself at home and the time has come for me to learn how to survive a Swedish winter.
‘The sun set’ is not just a nice figure of speech…the sun sets at 4.30pm, and rises at 7.30am, leaving us with days shorter than I’ve ever been used to. As the sun begins to retreat at 3.30, it’s hard to not feel like the day is over and that you should be going home to make dinner and go to bed. It requires constant checking of the time, to remind yourself it is not in fact dinner-time, and that you must hold out for a few more hours.
To compliment the short days, the temperature has dropped below 0 (or if we’re lucky, hovers at about 1-2 degrees). The minus temperatures mean that going out, especially at night, requires a lot of motivation. We are much more selective with our outings, occasionally opting for a tea at home over a beer at the bar. But luckily, living with all the exchange students also means every night you’ll be able to find someone keen to have a beer, or four, at home too. I have also learnt the necessity of a scarf, gloves and a beanie, beyond a fashion accessory – without any one of these, riding a bike in minus temperatures would be near impossible. Coffee and soup are equally important.
With the minus temperatures hitting here, it means the 30+ temperatures are hitting Sydney. A little bit more strength is required every day to weed through social media which is flooded with amazing beach photos. It’s hard not to feel homesick when you see you’re friends soaking up the sun at your favourite beach, while you ride home, freezing, in complete darkness at 5pm. But the reminder that you’ll be back before the end of summer helps ease the sting.
But with theses challenges also comes some amazing positives (beyond the fact that I finally get to wear the pink coat I bought months before leaving Australia). One of these was the first snowfall of the Winter. Last week, I opened the weather app more than my Facebook app, crossing my fingers, and loudly announcing to my flat mates, that it would snow this week. They all laughed. But on Wednesday night the weather app proved right and the snow fell. Most people (my Canadian and European friends) begrudgingly put on their coats, dreading the thought of riding their bike to uni through the snow. Me? I pulled on the closest clothes I could find, ran down, and biked an extra 15 minutes just so I could see the park covered in white. To say I was excited is an understatement. I took hundreds of photos and spent the days it took to melt absolutely awestruck by the beautifulness of the winter wonderland.
Those who are close to me know I absolutely love Christmas and all its lead up entails. This is a passion I’ve retained since the days of leaving carrots for Santa’s reindeers. And for the first time, Christmas makes sense. As the streets retain a white powdered cover, the florists start to sell real Christmas wreaths, the shops become filled with Christmas ornaments and the old town square, Lilla Torg, gets its Christmas tree, all of the Christmas movies I’ve watched religiously in December, make sense. I have absolutely loved watching the city transform and become my own real life snow globe. It has made my love of Christmas sooo much stronger.
This week I head up to Swedish Lapland, 200km within the Arctic Circle. I consider my first taste of Malmö winter to be a small practice run, as up there temperatures reach -18 and the sun rises at 9am and sets at 2pm. All the lessons I have learnt here, will need implementation like never before. But with that I get to see where Santa lives, hopefully covered in thick layers of snow, and an opportunity to possibly see the northern lights. It epitomizes both the pros and cons of a Swedish winter, which I’m slowly, slowly getting use to.