Each term, one participant from each HECUA program takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Marissa Mikrot is HECUA’s student blogger for The New Norway program this fall. Marissa is a student at The College of St. Scholastica majoring in Global, Cultural and Language Studies. Read on for her final post!
Considering the overall theme of The New Norway program – the Scandinavian welfare state – it is only fitting to visit to a second Scandinavian country. This year it was decided to go to Sweden since during the previous year the program went to Denmark. Even though we still were attending out of the classroom classes, we were all incredibly excited to take a journey outside of Oslo together!
Our journey started on Wednesday October 23 at 5 o’clock in the morning! We took a taxi to Oslo Centralstation and hopped on a train heading to Stockholm! All 14 of us took up our 8 rows, sprawled out, and passed out. We had a long 6 hours ahead of us before we would be running around the city as excited tourists. However, our train was delayed by 3 hours due to construction meaning that we spent nearly an entire day on a train tired, restless, and hungry. We were more than happy when we finally pulled into Stocholm’s centralstation.
First thing first, we wanted food so while Alex – our program director – bought our public transport passes, we all ran through the market looking for a quick meal. Afterwards, we made our way to our hostel where we were given time to finish eating, shower, and change before we took a quick tour of the city before it got too dark. Because it gets dark around 5:30pm here in the north, our tour consisted of some of the hot stops – such as Old Town, the parliament buildings, and where the royal family lives – while Alex and Hanna taught us some history of the area. When we were finished, Alex and Hanna gave recommendations for good places to eat and guided those who wanted to go back to the hostel back.
Day two began with a brief but very interesting presentation by a nonprofit organization called Invitationsdepartementet (in English the Department of Invitations or United Invitations). This organization was started by a substitute teacher named Ebba Akerman who taught immigrants Swedish in order to successfully start their integration into Swedish society. Ebba saw the difficulty her students were having learning a language that they rarely spoke on their own therefore she invited her students to share a meal with random strangers (who were first her close, trusted friends) to get to know each other and to use the language more. Thankfully, it became a huge hit with both the natives and new Swedes. Ebba decided to make it bigger and better by creating the organization.
After the presentation, we made their way toward a very diverse suburb of Stockholm to visit two more organizations that are actively working toward integrating immigrants. The first stop was Fisksatra Museum. Creating a new definition of museum, the women behind the creation of Fisksatra are creating history rather than showcasing it in the small one-bedroom apartment turned into a community center. Their main service is to serve in any way, shape, or form they can including; assisting in the creation of a cookbook made up of recipes from immigrant women, holding cultural events to share traditions from over 125 nations, and hosting film festivals. In addition to these more art-based projects, they also work by sharing the experiences of migration and work with questions the migrants have about unemployment, urban development, inequality and racism, and lack of development of local schools.
The next stop was right across the courtyard to Godshus (God’s House). With the growing diversity of people that bring their own religion to the area, this Lutheran church opened its doors to everyone looking for a place to worship in. Currently, they have services for Lutherans, Muslims, and Catholics and are looking to build onto the church so that there are separate spaces for each of the religions’ followers to worship in, to feel safe and comfortable.
Day three was my favorite. This is because we went to two museums that shared the history of Sweden. First, we went to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a humongous war ship that sank in the 1620’s immediately after it set sail, and I literally mean immediately. The ship made it about 1300 kilometers into the harbor before it tipped over and sank to the bottom. Thankfully though, the ship was salvaged in the 1950’s making it the largest, most intact ship in Sweden’s history.
Do you remember the outdoor Folk Museum in Oslo that I mentioned in a previous post? The museum tales you on a tour of what the entirety of Norway looks like but on a smaller scale. It turns out that they copied this idea from Sweden’s folk museum named Skansen. I hate to say it, but Sweden did it better… Skansen is HUGE! It is an open-air museum as well as a zoo that showcases many Nordic animals – such as moose, reindeer, wolves, brown bears, otters, seals, wolverines, etc. – and has many little districts of old timey shops, restaurants, and cultural exhibits. In the center of it all is a petting zoo. This was meant for children, but you can trust that the rest of the group of college students and I happily enjoyed the cows, goats, chickens, and horses.
In the evening we all met up at the hostel to go bowling as a group. Down the street and a couple blocks over was the bowling alley where we spent about two hours bowling our little hearts out. Three teams were created because we were such a large group but every played as competitive individuals walking around joking with one another and having a fantastic time being able to enjoy each other’s company outside of the classroom.