My Exchange Experience

It is 30th January. I haven’t delivered on the promised posts. Catching up with school has all of me occupied. I will try in the coming few months to have at least one of “these” posts until i feel like I have exhausted my word love for Sweden and Europe in general. Today though we can have a summary? yes?Maybe? Enjoy!

It started off with the decision to take on a minor in International Relations in addition to my major. It meant double the work load, an extra semester in school, graduation a year later since the ceremony would have passed me by, as well as losing a job opportunity that had presented itself. A year later it also meant that I would be grieving my mother’s passing, away from home with no family to help me get through it.

Even with all these red flags, it was the best decision I ever made.

It meant that I graduated with a degree and a minor in my transcript to give me an edge as well as an exchange experience in the same amount of time I would have undertaken my major alone. It meant that I was pushed out of my comfort zone and I had to grow up fast to accommodate the change. It meant a new perspective on life. It meant a new and improved me.  It meant travel and new friends. It meant wealth realization. It meant independence. It meant letting go of baggage. It meant noticing any hint of mediocrity and  running away from it. It meant realizing self worth.  It meant a wiser me. I couldn’t say no.

I have to say my exchange experience at Linnaeus University was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had always wanted to study abroad from the very beginning but things did not play out as planned. Now, three years later I thank God I did not leave home.  I cannot imagine my mum leaving when I wasn’t home and the last time I saw her was months ago when I last came home on holiday. I would like to believe this was His reason, it must have been.

I would not call myself an introvert but I very much like to be alone most of the time and I do not go out of my way to meet new people. I keep it closed with my current friends and that is as far as it goes. Don’t get me wrong, I talk to many people, I am quite friendly I just don’t nurture a deep friendship. This program however required that I do the exact opposite and much more. I had to make new friends again, open up to people again which then meant I could not always lock myself away. I did spend most of my evenings in the confines of my room but it always came after being around people I just met and had to make relations with.

I had to step out of my comfort zone and interact with people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different ways of life. I had to accept people’s way of life and try and see things from their points of view. I had to accommodate the arrogant type, the judgmental type, the temperamental type, the shy type, the loud type and at the same time stay grounded and still be me. Dancing to my own tune and not being swayed by the others wind.

I learned to be independent far beyond the bounds of that word. Sure I was independent at home. I was driving myself places, making decisions on how to spend my allowance and what not but it was not nearly as close to the type of “independent” you have to be when you’re living alone. When you’re living alone in a different country. When you’re living alone in a different country with a stronger currency than yours.

I learned that age is nothing but a number and that I could easily interact with people from the ages of 21 to 50 with no problem. In Kenya people stay closed and confined retaining relations with people within their age groups. It will be very much frowned upon if I was caught in a restaurant with anyone 10 to 20 years older than me. Conclusions would be drawn that have no head or tail to them.

In Sweden however, no one is judging as long as you keep it clean. My mum and Dad ( Diana and Bjorn) spent a lot of their time with me. Which meant that I spent a lot of time with their friends who range from the ages of 21 to 50 +. I had conversations that made me wiser because in all reality, these people have seen more of life than I have. I got advice that will lead me through life ensuring success and prosperity.

This opportunity allowed me to make connections far and wide from France to Sweden. I have learned that as much as we would hate to admit it , many times it is about who you know. And quite frankly I am not opposed to making a friend who will put me in a position much closer to realizing my dream and especially one who  is more than happy to help me get there.

More than that, this opportunity ensured that I learn to stand my ground for what I thought was right and not let anyone walk over me. It allowed me to know that I am to blame if anyone was to impose their decisions on me. It also made sure that the shy girl in me was able to break out and speak up for herself.

I was afforded the chance to travel beyond Sweden and experience 4 different cultures in total which is way more than I bargained for. Plus…I got to satisfy my love of travel which I believe will keep me sane long enough if I don’t up and leave again too soon.

I have changed as a person and like I said my friends are noticing which means it is indeed true. This type of experience pushes you beyond your bounds, it tests you so hard and forces you to change and step out of your comfort zone if you aim to survive. It grows you in an unexplainable way and I can’t believe the decisions I made in the past months because knowing what I know now, I would have taken a totally different path. It allows you to shine and be the best you that you can be.

It gives you a drive for life unlike any other because I can tell you I am so pumped. It opens your eyes to all the opportunities in front of you and leaves you wanting more for yourself. I met 19 Year old’s who had chased their dreams so hard and were now living in a house that they financed and driving a car because of their own sweat. I was even embarrassed to say that I drive because I obviously did not contribute in the purchasing of the car that I roam the streets of Nairobi with.

Wealth realization is not a bad thing and do not let anyone tell you otherwise, to say you make your own according to me is so impressive! Never in a million years would I have imagined myself planning for my money and investing some of it in shares. It may be small now but in the long run, not so much. My little centonomy experience without centonomy.

It reveals your weaknesses and the vices that you carry and makes you realize that you are not the nice person you like to think you are.( I was very disgusted by some of the vices I realized I ?how? I had to accept it though )But, it also allows you to make a change so that you grow all the way round. You get to know EXACTLY who you are, who you want to be,what you want and gives you the tools to get there.

If you study away from home, you definitely know what I am talking about. For those of us who are in the comfort of being close to home,however, I urge you to go away, for 6 months or for one year even 3 months, if the opportunity is there. It doesn’t even have to be Europe, just anywhere that is not your usual environment. I promise it changes your life tremendously and you will not regret it. It has been so fulfilling, enriching and life changing and I would do it again and again.

I am down to about 1000 + words and I am not even halfway done explaining this experience but I shall not bore you any further. I shall close this January series with this post and I hope it was a good break away from the pains and tears of cancer.I hope you enjoyed.

My Big thanks goes out to United States International University and Linnaeus University for affording me this opportunity. I thank my parents for being open to the idea and not limiting my opportunities as well as financing me. I thank all the swedes that made me feel very much at home, Diana, Bjorn, Barbara and family, Nardos and family, Eva and family and all of Diana’s friends that I met. I thank my friends who helped me get  through the days when I was missing home or the days I had nervous break downs and I cried all day..Jung Hyun and Hayat  you are close to my heart.I thank my friends back at home who checked up on me constantly ( Nearly everyday) and gave me strength to make it through another day. There is a reason we are friends. I thank El jefe for being there for me too. I thank the swedes that helped me carry my suitcases when I first landed in Sweden…to those that helped when I was moving to Sala and even those that helped on my way back to the airport. May you all be very blessed in a special way.

I love you all from here to the moon and back.

Tack sa mycket! Kram!




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