One thing I continuously rave about is the concept of exposure and the external influences on our internal selves. I truly believe as humans, we can grow infinitely, and the possibilities are boundless depending on the stimuli we have access to. For this reason, I choose to immerse myself in different cultures, landscapes and ways of living.
During the fall of 2018 I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to participate in an exchange program at a partner academic institution to Simon Fraser University, my alma mater. I was able to choose from an array of options, from countries all over the world. I carefully made my decision, considering how exposure would play a role in my experience and therefore, for the duration of my exchange, I decided to live in a small town outside Malmö, Sweden, called Lund. This was my first visit to Europe itself and quite honestly, the most memorable and transformative time in my life to date.
Living in Lund et al
Growing up in New Delhi, a city of about 25 million people (which I like to refer to as “organized-chaos”), I thought Vancouver was a welcoming change. Lund, however, with its 90 thousand-ish residents was unbelievably yet believably different. It was awkward (in a way?) running into people everywhere you’d go. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it running into someone, as almost always I expected to see a familiar face whenever I stepped out.
Probably the most charming thing about the city (other than the cobblestone streets of course!) was the preferred mode of transportation - bikes! Almost everyone, and I mean everyone, owned a workable bike and a lock most likely more expensive than the bike itself to go with it. Funnily enough, at the beginning of the school term every year, the police department holds a bike auction from all the recovered and stolen bikes!
It took a while getting used to it, especially during the winter months, but it was an enthralling experience altogether that made me rethink transportation and the human energy footprint.
Studies at Lund University were slightly different than what I was used to in Canada. The semester was split up into two terms and we had classes more frequently (couple times a week) in comparison to a traditional semester at SFU. I took courses in B2B Marketing, International Marketing, Brand Marketing and a really enriching course about the pitfalls of aging populations and lowered birth-rates in developed countries, like Sweden, Canada, and Japan.
Trips within Scandinavia
I was also lucky enough to visit many other Scandinavian countries during my time in Europe. Lund is right on the border of Sweden and Denmark, there’s a super-cool bridge that lets you cross between the countries in no time at all. I was able to visit Copenhagen, an entirely other country, on a bunch of weekends because of that.
Additionally, I also flew up to Norway during my time there, and I have to say that the town of Bergen is one of the most strikingly beautiful places I’ve ever had the privilege to experience.
I was a bit unlucky with the Northern Lights during my visit to Lapland (Finland) but had this really fun experience sledding with a pack of huskies while I was there.
I’m a big takeaway person, and from every experience I’ve had, I try to pick out something that resonates with me as a memory for that event. In this case it was the realization of the difference in cultures. I believe, it is very much the difference between each one of us that gives us that uniqueness - that identity that you can share with others. Same was the case with Lund, it was the dissimilarities that led me to reflect on the similarities and embrace and appreciate both in their own way.