My dad's family was Swedish but I never had the chance to learn the language properly since my parents raised me in Spain. I was always interested in learning it but I thought that the best way to do so was to go to Sweden and experience the whole Swedish culture.
Why did you choose the Uppsala International Summer Session?
Both of my brothers had attended the program a few years ago. They had such a great time that I also wanted to go. The program also included so many activities and the possibility to live in their own student accommodation with other people from the program.
What was your favorite part about Uppsala?
Uppsala was great because it's a town that allows you to walk anywhere and it's so well connected to Stockholm as well. It offers so many things and you can even spend a day at the lake in the middle of nature within 25 minutes from the town center.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Getting to meet so many different people from different countries and different backgrounds was one of the best things. It opens your mind to new ideas and possibilities and it makes you more aware of the world in general. Living for a while in a new town also allows you to grow as a person since you need to start from zero in a completely different environment, making you get out of your comfort zone and experience new challenges.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff was nothing but helpful, kind and welcoming. They were all so involved with the program, and just as excited as we were to be there. They were always willing to help with any problem you may come up to.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I went for 9 weeks and not for 6 because it was so good. Time flies when you are at UISS.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
I would wake up at 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. to get ready for school. Grammar classes started at 8:30 a.m. and we would have a 15-minute pause at 10:00 a.m. to then continue with Swedish grammar until 12:30 p.m. We had a one hour lunch break, the school gave us tickets that we could use at 4 different restaurants so the food was different every day, which was great. At 1:30 p.m. we started the afternoon class which was very interactive and very fun. By the time we were done, at 4:00 p.m., I would cycle back home, do my homework, have dinner and hang out with my friends, or go to the special activities programmed by the school. I was never bored at UISS, continuously busy, but I had a lot of fun.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I absolutely loved going to the lake with my friends. We tried to go anytime we were free if the weather was good. We could spend hours there, singing, swimming and preparing BBQs. I also enjoyed my time at the nations with friends and a glass of wine.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
To be honest, I decided to stay with my cousin at her apartment but what I had seen from my friend's accommodation, it seemed really nice.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Be open minded. Everyone comes from a different country, a different culture, and background. So the best way of making friends is to be open minded about the world and respectful to one another. We may have different ideas and customs but if we all respect each other it will make the time at the program so much better and much more special.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
The hardest part of studying abroad was before going abroad. Before l left to Sweden my head was full of questions, insecurities and uncertainties because I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid I wasn’t gonna enjoy myself and that I would feel alone. And to be honest, maybe the first couple hours after arriving to Sweden may have felt a bit scary, but after you get to meet everyone and realise that everyone is in the same spot as you are, that feeling goes away straight away.
What surprised you most about Sweden?
I loved how easy it is to move around Sweden, and how everything works just perfectly. I love the way they keep everything clean and in order, how friendly everyone is to non-Swedish speakers. The simple things, such as recycling-bins almost everywhere, even in fast-food restaurants; or the fact that there are jars of water even at the night-clubs so you don’t have to buy wasteful plastic-bottles of water, it just amazed me how easy everything was and the quality of their infrastructures and services.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Definitely not difficult at all. If you have any problems almost-everyone speaks English, I don’t think I found anyone that couldn’t speak English, if anything, it kind of gets annoying because you don’t get to practice as much with the locals unless you make it clear that you only want to speak Swedish.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
If I could study abroad again, I would either go back to Sweden and continue my Swedish studies or I go to Germany.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
Studying abroad opens up your mind so much to so many possibilities. You get to meet so many people from so many different countries... It makes you consider what you really want to do in the future. I also like the fact that it makes it so much easier to learn the language since it’s the only thing that you do for a few weeks so it’s really worth it.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Sweden?
Bring clothes for the four seasons... Specially if you end up going to any of the trips up North or go into one of the cave-exploration excursions. It can get really cold there. Rain clothes are a must as well. But don’t be scared, the sunny and warm days also exist, and to be fair I was really lucky this summer, it wasn’t cold at all, and even though it rained, the sun was always up after a few hours.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I come back with a different perspective. Much more open to ideas about my future. I'm questioning what I really want to do in the coming years because I've met so many people and I've seen so many things that I want to open up myself to more experiences. I would love to go back to Sweden for a while and experience it more.
Would you recommend UISS to others? Why?
Definitely. I would do it all over again, and I will if I have the chance next summer. You get to learn so much, not only about the language but also about the Swedish culture and the world in general. I can only think about positive things, there are no negatives...or maybe one: saying goodbye at the end.
Karissa Tysklind is a 23-year-old Architecture student at The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. She was raised in Spain, but her father is Swedish and her mother is from Haiti. Karissa has always been very close to both of her parents’ nationalities, and she considers herself to be a citizen of the world.