Welcome to Lessons in Lagom, a new blog about an American couple beginning their new life in Sweden. The blog is authored by Rebecca Jones and Joe Frye. This post is a bit of an introduction to our story and why we decided to start this blog. Read more about this blog here. You can read more about Becky here. And more about Joe here. We’ll have more posts so you can get to know us as our July 2016 arrival in Sweden approaches.
Guess who has four thumbs and is moving* to Sweden?
Den här kvinna och hennes man!
*Pending approval of residence permits.
That’s how I announced the news to much of my families and friends on Facebook: Just a week or so ago, I received my acceptance to graduate school at the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden.
I am still a little dumbfounded by the news.
In 2011, when my partner (and fellow Lessons in Lagom blogger) Joe encouraged me to finally connect with my distant relatives in Sweden, even a visit to my fatherland was a bit of a pipe dream. I’d only recently connected with Sofia, my third cousin on my father’s side of the family, on Facebook – and while she seemed so warm and welcoming, we were hardly close.
After some chatting, Sofia graciously invited us to stay with her family in Gothenburg for a few weeks. I’d been hoping to plan this trip since I graduated high school four years earlier, in 2007, and I couldn’t believe we were actually making it happen. As soon as we landed, Sofia and her kind family – our kind family – welcomed us into their lives with homecooked meals, day trips, wine, candy and great conversation.
The first day Joe and I did some exploring around the centuries-old city, learning about Sweden and Swedishness for the first time in earnest, I felt a little homesick. Not for Harrisburg or Pennsylvania or the Untied States, but for Gothenburg.
“This city is so astounding. We just want to live here,” we said our first evening, only half joking.
We tried, after some more serious consideration, just about every path that would lead to a life in Gothenburg, accounting for calculated risks and, well, legal routes only. Higher education was the way to go in our case. I’ll skip the bureaucratic drama and tell you that it took us five years to determine our best options, navigate the system and save up as much money as we could.
This has been hard won, and our fight isn’t close to over. We’re still struggling to find student loans for an American in a Swedish system which guarantees its own citizens tuition-free higher education (hint: the school is not equipped); we’re navigating a housing system in a city stuffed with Swedish families and students from all over the world; we’re ditching almost everything we own; we’re figuring out how taxes and banking and mail forwarding and cell phone plans work for folks living outside the U.S.; we’re trying to make connections and develop a professional support system for writers (for me) and musicians (for Joe) in the city before we even arrive.
There’s a ton to do.
We’re just getting started.
I hope you decide to join us and check back as we approach our arrival, then stay with us through our time in Sweden and on to who-knows-where after that.
If you’re not already wanderlusting, we hope to inspire it in you.
Bonus content: Here’s the Frequently Answered Questions I posted along with my Facebook announcement of this news, some of which was already covered in this post.
A. It’s beautiful and wonderful and you should visit, and if you do visit, you’ll know why.
B. If you listen to metal, you’re not even asking this question.
C. Part of my extended family lives in Sweden, and they are all super-rad.
D. I got accepted this morning to graduate school at the University of Gothenburg.
Where in Sweden will you be?
It’s the second largest city in Sweden, it’s on the west/best coast, and it’s less touristy than Stockholm (in my experience). It’s also where most of my super-rad Swedish family lives.
What are you studying?
Global Studies aka International Relations. It’s a 2-year program.
When are you moving?
Dunno yet. As long as our residence permits go through we’re thinking late July. Depends on some decisions we have to make, permit timelines, etc.
This seems random.
Well, we’ve been working toward this since we first visited our Swedish fam in 2011. So, to us it feels like it’s been forever.
Pratar ni svenska?
En lite… vi behöver träna mer. … mycket mer.
Do they speak English there?
Yep! But we’re trying to learn Swedish anyway. Because it’s great.
Herda hjurda bork bork hahahahahaha
No. No. Stop that. Seriously.