Monday, August 26th at 11:42 A.M. I began my study abroad journey. With all the flights and time spent in airports I was a little stir crazy (a seven-hour layover in Stockholm) and a lot grumpy. In fact, after the ten-hour flight from Newark to Stockholm, I was ready to go back home. Seriously— I was already homesick and I hadn’t even reached my final destination.
However, international travel is not as difficult as I expected it to be. Sure, you have to go through security and take off your shoes a million times, but after the security checkpoints you simply find your gate an wait to board the plane. The worst part is the waiting, especially with a very long layover.
After the waiting comes the really long flight. My longest leg was ten hours, but it passed surprisingly quickly. I never slept, however, which means I am wring this post on my 33rd hour of no sleep. If you have a choice on which seat you get, then sit by a window that you can lean on. Not many things are worse than trying to sleep sitting straight up so you don’t disturb the passengers to your left and right.
The culture shock hit as soon as I arrived at Stockholm airport. As you may know, many of the airports in the states are jam-packed with loud people going in a thousand directions. But when I set foot in the most crowded part of Sweden’s airport, I could have heard a pin drop. Yes, a crowded room at an airport was that quiet, and I was genuinely shocked. Something that also threw me for a loop was the fact that the only announcements that were in English were those about not letting your personal belongings get stolen. So pay attention to boarding passes and don’t always think it will be so easy to find someone to help you figure out the answers to your questions. There are a lot of willing airport workers in Nashville, but not necessarily in other countries.
After an emotional seven-hour layover, I very shortly arrived at Turku airport, where I was met by a student tutor sent by the host university. This is a real luxury— someone to take you to your accommodation and help you get settled in to a new city.
However, I went to the grocery store alone. Of course the cashier spoke to me in Finnish. Of course I had to ask him to speak English. And of course I didn’t do the right thing with the bananas I was trying to buy— so that was embarrassing and did not help with my homesickness. Then I found out that you have to bring your own bags to the grocery store. So I had to walk all the way to my apartment with a bag of bananas, a box of cereal, a carton of milk, and 4 rolls of toilet paper. Really, don’t forget that you’ll need toilet paper. I know it’s not fun to talk about, but you will be in for a very rude awakening of you don’t think about practical things that go hand in hand with your study abroad program.
Honestly, I am still homesick. When I talk to my mom and boyfriends later, I will cry. But there’s no turning back and that homesickness may as well be channeled into something productive (like a blog post).