Taxis rides are rarely a common starting point for a life-changing experience. As the first step into a new world however, it was this entry that began my transformation. A frigid January weekend flight from my hometown Philadelphia began my spring Study Abroad trek to a largely unpopular and fairly unknown location choice, Stockholm, Sweden. Bundling myself with every cloth from my carry-on suitcase, I stared out the cab window at a snow storm unlike anything the Northeast has seen, nervously wondering whether applying to Barcelona would have been smarter. Entering the city, fear of the unknown mounted as I observed the world outside my window; people running, walking their pets, shopping…all this in 2 ft. of snow! However, what unfolded after this ‘icy’ exposure turned out to be not just one of the most influential experiences in my life as a young adult but also realization that there is a world of undiscovered opportunity beyond the task-driven collegiate world that young college students like myself become so fixated upon.
The first significant stepping stone rested in my experience at Stockholm School of Economics, referred to in student slang as ‘Handels’ and the group of fellow ‘study abroaders’ in the program. While being American seems fairly commonplace across the world, my first meet-and-greet with the rest of the study abroad group proved otherwise as I was the only American. Surrounded by young people from around the globe, I was able to soak in tradition and language at every point in my day-to day life. From afternoon coffee hour held by my caffeine-obsessed Italian friend in his room, to late night English language debates with my Aussie friend, I was never at a loss for new information. This diversity allowed us to develop a social comfort and closeness over the six months and defined much of our experiences. Couple with this was my participation as a student at Stockholm School of Economics.
Right from the interactive orientation speech, given by an Australian professor specializing in global culture and dialogue, I knew that the academic portion of my trip would be nothing less than superior. Largely research and writing-intensive based, the courses and the students at the university were always engaged. I was impressed with the value placed on knowledge. Learning first-hand at SSE allowed me to develop a genuine appreciation for subject matter, not as it related to its applicability to a future career, but the actual discipline itself. A drive to learn in a manner uncorrelated to the grade attached or requirement it fulfilled brought the level of education to an extremely rigorous standard. Due to this academic approach, a sense of fulfillment and personal progress was apparent in every person affiliated with the institution.
Weekly masters and MBA dissertation presentations and dinner lectures with speakers such as the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble bolster the true excitement that the institutional community held for its educational processes. One of the goals I hoped to accomplish was to find out whether the European work environment was an area I would like to consider as part of a career path. Through the extensive and easily-accessible career resources, including a phenomenal career fair called Handelsgarna, I was able to land an internship for an employer branding firm, Universum Global. The fact that I still interact with my co-workers points to the collegial atmosphere of the firm. The multi-cultural employee base and push for imaginative independence illustrated the strong European values of non-hierarchical, hands-off and collective creativity. A fast work pace was expected, but a comfortable work environment showed that the firm cared about its employees developing their non-career passions.
Stockholm’s magical collection of awe-inspiring medieval and post-modern architecture, eclectic and global cuisine, and natural beauty encapsulated in the expansive archipelago mesmerized me. I traveled to various countries during my stay: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland and Estonia to name a few, each with its own unique personality. However, my Scandinavian experience is the most significant influence on my view of the European way of life. The greatest lesson learned about this unique culture is best described by a Swedish word, lagom. This term, first introduced to our study abroad class during orientation, means to live as if one’s glass is neither too full nor too empty, but just right. The Swedish way is just that and a valuable token to remember at all stages of life.
Shreya Adiraju, BBA12