Stuck in a Stockholm suburb

All college students know deep down that a month is not a long time.

It certainly feels that way now, as I look out my window  at snow-covered playgrounds in the bustling city of Stockholm.

At least, the part of Stockholm I’m living and studying in  – the quiet suburb of Bergshamra – boasts roomy sidewalks and a large magpie population.

The old town section of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden is pictured Feb. 10. PHOTO COURTESY ALLIE PARKIN
[/media-credit] The old town section of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden is pictured Feb. 10. PHOTO COURTESY ALLIE PARKIN
It was a month ago that I arrived in Sweden, sleepless and anxious and overwhelmed.

Lugging three suitcases down a gravel-covered sidewalk by yourself is absolutely impossible, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I was on the verge of tears after dropping my smallest suitcase on the sidewalk for the 10,000th time and I had a moment of panic when a young woman picked it up before I could grab it myself.

In my sleep-deprived state, I was sure she was about to steal it, but she gave me a smile and asked me – in English, bless her – if I was going far and if I needed help. She and her husband walked me and my bags to the hotel door, making friendly conversation.

Before they left, they gave me one last “Welcome to Sweden!” and I nearly cried again. That kindness was everything I needed on my first day.

On my second day, I took my first taxi ride. The driver was a small, good-natured Indian man with a thick accent and plenty of advice for a newly-arrived student. He insisted on driving me to the door of my building, and when he accidentally drove me to the back rather than the front I resigned myself to the extra money the fare would gather when we drove back around.

To my surprise, he didn’t even hesitate to turn off the meter – “Since I drove you to the back” – and drive back around to the front free of charge.

He then insisted on walking me up the path to the door, carrying one of my suitcases and leaving his car running. He ran back with a final, “Take care!” and a wave. And so I found more unexpected kindness: the type of kindness that stays with you.

All things take time. As I learned to navigate this beautiful, snow-covered city, I found adventure and wonder replacing my anxiety. As I ran into friendly strangers, I gained a renewed sense of excitement. The world is an incredible place, and I’m ready to explore as much of it as I can reach.

The amount of self-reflection one does when alone in a brand new place is far too much for an article (a novel would be better suited to the amount of thinking I’ve been doing), but one thing’s for sure: you can do a lot of growing in a short amount of time.