Lessons Learned in September

Yikes. What a month. I've learned a lot. Here are just a few things.

****I don't like asking for help. Or directions. I already knew this about myself. But this personal characteristic has been hammered home to me since I've been in Sweden. There are so many things to ask about, and it pains me to do so. Whether it's "does this bank open student bank accounts?" or "do we need to clear our trays or leave them here?" or "where is the student union?" I wince to have to ask and usually make a friend ask, and even then, I wince as they ask. I can't help my instinct of thinking, "Oh no, now they'll know I don't know where I am/what I'm doing/that I'm foreign." But what's wrong with that? I don't know. You can't always be a local person who always knows where you're going and what to do.

****My program is full of smart people. Whip smart. Analytically minded, intuitive, thorough, experienced and opinionated. So many who think about things the way that I do and many who don't and challenge me. I'm continually impressed by people who I've never yet heard speak in regular lectures but once we are in a seminar together they bring up the most critical points.

****I'm quite satisfied with the food here. Delighted, usually. But what I really miss from Santa Barbara isn't what I expected (burritos). It's the abundance of places to have breakfast or brunch. I truly miss places like Cajun Kitchen, East Beach Grill, and the Boathouse. I miss hopping in the car late on a Sunday morning when you can barely think straight and three minutes later having an OJ by the beach.

****The Beach Boys had something to say about them a few decades ago. Now it's Katy Perry's turn. The song heard around the world. If I only had a dime for every time someone mentioned "California Gurls" to me... "Oh yeah, I've already heard all about you!" (so hot will melt your popsicle, some classic lines)...

****I experienced being ignored and not being served because of the simple reason of not being Swedish. It happened on two separate occasions at the same place (nowhere else though)... It was a tricky situation that I hope is not a pattern, but it wasn't a coincidence. I'm a white girl who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area... one of the most comfortably diverse places in the world. I can't say I've ever experienced something like this before. That second time, I bit my lip as the Swedes around us looked our way for our reactions since what was going on was obvious, and could hear them speak to each other about it in Swedish, assuming we couldn't understand. More impactful than this was really the fact that the friend I was sitting with is German, and she had already shared with me before that she's experienced similar things all around the world. The look in her eyes in this situation was that of weary familiarity. What do I know about cultural or ethnic discrimination? Nothing, really.

****There are tree lined pathways surrounded by grassy fields and open farmland bordered by a windmill so close to my apartment. A long walk or run through these in the brisk September air is exactly what I need to clear my mind and get energized. It's quite different than my strolls down a vibrant East beach-to-Ledbetter Beach boardwalk in Santa Barbara... and I love it.


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