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Studying Abroad in Sweden: Abba, Ikea, and Me?

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My name is Solveig Rundquist and I am a Ute. Born in Salt Lake City and raised my entire life in Utah, I’m a desert girl through and through. Like any other student from the U, I wrinkle my nose at the mention of a particular rival school. But this year, you’re going to have to take over my share of cheering.

Royal Botanical Garden on the island of Gotland.

This cactus has been transplanted to the land of moose and meatballs, schnapps and snow…Sweden.

Central Stockholm, with National Museum in background

The situation is not as life-threatening as it sounds, however. I’m a junior at the University of Utah majoring in International Studies, and will spend this academic year at Södertörn, in Huddinge, about half an hour from central Stockholm.  So far, studying abroad has been the best choice of my academic career. Indeed, some level of international experience can be the crowning laurel of anyone’s education, particularly in the increasingly integrated world of today. In 2010 there were 690,923  foreign students attending school in the U.S. (International Institute of Education). That’s almost thirty times the number of undergraduates than we have at the U this year. Add to that the fact the expanding global business world, and it’s a wonder study abroad isn’t a requirement. Increasingly, corporations must be global to compete. For just about anyone who plans on studying past a Bachelor’s degree, international contact is virtually inevitable at some point in your career.

The most photographed buildings in Stockholm's Gamla Stan.

And yet, out of 23,371 undergraduate students at the U, roughly 600 students enrolled in study abroad this year according to the U’s Study Abroad office. Where are the rest of you?

One of the most common deterrents that throw students off the path of study abroad is (drumroll!) money. Ah, money! What other word can simultaneously ignite such desire and trepidation within a student? When we need it we don’t have it, when we have it we can’t spend it, and there is never, ever enough. But like any other student obstacle, there are ways around it. My year studying abroad is entirely funded by the State, the Federal government, and the University of Utah. It sounds unbelievable, but I’m here to tell you all about how it’s possible for you, too.

Along the coast of Lidingo, island in northern Stockholm.

I was the lucky recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship, a federal fund devoted to helping U.S. students study abroad. As part of my follow-on project for the scholarship, my goal is to write back to my fellow Utes occasionally and let you know how things are going across the pond, as well as how and why you should get over here and join me! In the meantime, I welcome questions from Utah students who are curious or inspired to study abroad. Post a comment here, write to me at solveig.rundquist@gmail.com, and check back on RedThread for updates.

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  • SchnecKen

    Your life is great! Hopefully you will like it!
    I am now a visiting student here. But when I came here, I don’t know how to make friends, I want to know more about life here, and want to find a conversation partner of native speaker. But I don’t know where to seek help.

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    You have an amazing life, I almost a little jelous… in a good way of course :)

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    Studying abroad is always an exceptionally useful experience which involves not only learning about another culture (which is often more than exciting by itself) but also is refunded by the organizer of the exchange program. Students which have participated at least once get unforgettable emotions and memories.

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    I was reading this with great interest. Seeing you were an exchange student, it must have been an amazing experience.

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    Amazing story. You’ve visited beautiful countries and saw the art of nature. I’d like to be in your shoes.

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    This is an amazing experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Cherish this.

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    Wow! Definitely sharing this post with my friends! It is definitely every student’s dream to study abroad and what better way to do it than Sweden? Great job!

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