About Henri Drake '15

Haverford College class of 2015. I'm a Math major with interests in Computer Science, Engineering, Pure Math, and maybe Applied Math. Not really sure. I like traveling but not really the way the majority of people travel. I like to avoid big cities and touristy areas and rather like to experience what local life and local nature are like. I used to be on the Haverford Cross Country and Track team but quick that because it was too competitive. I still run daily for fun.

swedes party harder study harder

"Tour de Westeros" feat. (from left to right) Sarah (Canada) as Draco, Hannah (Canada) as Ron, Alex (Australia) as Freddie Mercury, Connie (Haverford) as Leia, Me as Peter Pan, Eden (England) as Mrs. Doubtfire, Emma (Sweden) as Peach, Tom Crauchi (Canada) as Jesus, Tall Tom (England) as Jafar, and Brittany (Berkeley) as Elvis.

“Tour de Westeros” feat. (from left to right) Sarah (Canada) as Draco, Hannah (Canada) as Ron, Alex (Australia) as Freddie Mercury, Connie (Haverford) as Leia, Me as Peter Pan, Eden (England) as Mrs. Doubtfire, Emma (Sweden) as Peach, Tom Crauchi (Canada) as Jesus, Tall Tom (England) as Jafar, and Brittany (Berkeley) as Elvis.

 Friday, March 7th

Swedish Goats (feat. Evan “Caliswag” Hamilton)

I had pretty much decided to take a break from a very social week and just have a quiet friday of studying and catching up on sleep. I was waiting in line for groceries when I checked my email and saw an email a freshman goat, evan, that was sent 5 minutes ago (about 3:30pm Sweden time). It said “Yo I’m in copenhagen, how far are you from copenhagen”. I responded by pretty much telling him I was one town over and ordered him to get on the next train over. Evan is on Spring Break and currently visiting Copenhagen and Paris with his family, but they had originally missed their flight so Evan was all alone in Copenhagen for a night. As soon as Evan and I got back form the train station, we met up with Jess and Lauren who started making us delicious Mac n Cheese while Evan and I caught up over an easy run (4 miles for me, 8 for Evan). It was really nice to see someone from back home, especially since I didn’t expect anyone to visit all semester. After dinner, we went to my friend Kim’s (University of Connecticut) corridor for a chill corridor party. When we got there, they were finishing up a “tour de chambre” (where everyone living there goes from room to room to play a themed drinking game at each – Ex. Kim had Irish theme where they played hot potato and drank Guinness) and so Evan and I just hung out with Christin (Germany) in their living room. They were shortly done with their tour de chambre and all came out to hang out in the living room. Got a meet a good number of swedes and a few of their friends from all over europe. Evan and I had some wine and punch and had some very interesting conversations with Swedes about their views on Marijuana (they view weed the way most people view Meth in the the states), the Ukraine conflict, Swedish girls, Swedish dating scene, and Sambo vs. Marriage. Overall was very interesting and I think Evan got a perfect glimpse into Swedish social life and culture, at least for the 18 hours he was in Sweden. Around midnight, people suggested we move to a larger party in a different building of the complex. This party was a ridiculous rager. They somehow managed to cram 160 people or so into a 12 people corridor. It was a little bit much but we still found some cool people to talk to. Around 2pm, Evan and I biked back and called it a night (Connie, being the awesome person she is, leant Evan her bike for the night). The next morning, I took Evan to brunch at Ostgöta nation with Lauren, Jess, and Connie. As always, the nation brunch was amazing (especially for the small price of 40 kronor). After brunch, I showed Evan around downtown and I went to H&M so I could finally fit in with all the fashionable europeans. Got a couple V-necks and a Cardigan so we’ll see how that goes. I also bought some green women’s tights but I don’t really want to talk about it.

Saturday, March 8th

Once Evan left, I power napped for a few hours and as soon as I woke up, devoured a lite smörgas and got in my costume and headed back over to Vildanden (where the pary was last night). A few of my friends from my mentor group (+ honorary mentor group members) decided to have their ridiculous version of a “Tour de Chambre”. The one twist was instead of going from room to room in one corridor, we would go from corridor to corridor throughout the entire town of Lund. The whole night would take us on an 8km journery through Lund by foot, and to 9 different corridors. Each person was assigned a costume by the rest of the group and got to choose a theme for their corridor.

The “Tour De Westeros”

The Last Coke-Float

The Last Coke-Float

1- Sarah and Hannah’s Chamber of Secrets (Vildanden): dressed up as Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, they made us “potions” and we competed for the goblet of fire (a MUCH more fun version of king’s cup)

2- Barney’s weird Union Flag and uncomfortably british music and something about Margaret Thatcher (Spoletorp): dressed as Dora the Explorer, Barney had made a union flag out of shotglasses and everyone had to take 3 shots in a row, where about 60% were water and the rest were vodka. Some people had 2 vodka, 1 water, some 1 vodka, 2 water (like myself), and one unlucky person had 3 waters. I say unlucky because that person had to drink another ridiculously strong concoction that Barney made. It was a pretty funny game because on the last shot everyone who had already had 2 water shots were freaking out and seriously hoping they would get a vodka shot.

3- Henri and Connie’s Neverland (Möllevången): Connie and I made rum-and-coke-floats with vanilla ice cream. We were trying to go for an alcoholic version of a childhood favorite and I think I nailed it with this idea. As a bonus, none of the non-american’s had ever even heard of a float before and I think they all loved it. After that, we listened to the Frozen soundtrack in Swedish and played musical chairs.

4- Tall Tom’s “Fuck Canada, Go Bruins” Air Hockey (Delphi): Tall Tom hosted an air hockey game at his play in Delphi. It was pretty fun although I think we may have broke his battery powered air hockey puck.

While there were still 3 or 4 more stops in the night, I left after Tom’s as it was 11:30pm and I did not want to stay up late again. From the pictures I’ve seen and what people have told me, the other stops were just as awesome if not cooler. I went over to Jess’s place, power napped until 3:00am then watched the first 30 minutes of the Duke – UNC game with Jess and Lauren. At 3:30 ish I was just too tired and so I biked home and crashed.

Sunday, March 9th

“But Henri, I thought you were in Sweden to study math, not to just party everyday and watch movies…”

From the last few posts, I’ve made it sound like I am always partying and hanging out with friends. While that is true to some extent, that is pretty much only what I do from 9pm-1am. From the time I wake up at 8am until about 8pm, I don’t really do anything besides work out, eat, and study. Although I don’t have that many hours of class and don’t have any graded assignments to turn in, I have done about 75% of the problems in both of my textbooks – which is not at all a trivial task. Usually my Topology professor assigns 14 problems a week and my Integration Theory professors assigns about 8. I usually am able to do about 75% of these and spend about 6 hours on topology and 10 hours on measure theory problems every week. Besides from doing these assigned problems, I have 10 hours of class a week, I spend about 10 hours reading the textbooks, and I spend another 10 hours doing various other problems in the book or going over previous problems. All together, I would probably say I would 50-55 hours a week, on just two classes. While this is similar to my workload at Haverford, it feels like a lot more because it is all pretty challenging material. Usually at Haverford, I would have like two classes with challenging material and then two other classes where I either just have to read (Ex. History or Philosophy) or the assigned work is routine (Ex. lower level physics, computer science, lab work). I also have my exams in two weeks and am very worried. I need 50% on both written exams just to qualify for an oral, which I also have to pass, just to pass the class. The grades offered are U (fail), G (good), VG (very good). You need to 50% on the written to G, 75% for VG. While these percentages sound easy, especially compared to Haverford Math classes, the tests are 5 long problems and it is 5 hours in class, closed everything, and based on the previous years’ exams, they are about as difficult as my Algebra and Analysis week long take home exams. If I somehow managed to pass the written exams, then I have an oral exams. My professors and classmates have said that these usually take 1-1.5 hours but that really there is no time limit. The oral exam essentially consists of you walking into a room and the professor gives you the name of a theorem. You then have to state the theorem, give any relevant definitions, and prove the theorem. Some of the proofs in each book are about 2-3 pages long and contain several lemmas, so this is a pretty terrifying feat. To top it all off, we don’t have an actual list of theorems to learn so we have to be ready to prove any of the 50+ theorems in our books, off the top of our heads.

 

Best studentkorridor i Lund

March 5th

Möllevången Roommate-bonding-party-week

I was talking to Xuefei (Lewis is his americanized name) and we got to talking about drinking games and how he had never played any of our american drinking games. We decided to have a night where we would play American, Chinese, and Portuguese drinking games. About 2 minutes later, a commercial come on TV saying that the channel would be showing all 6 Star Wars movies (starting with 4, of course), one a day, over the course of the next week. Since they were starting at 9pm every day, it seemed like a reasonable thing. We decided to host an awesome weeklong hangout thing with our suitemates, Xuefei’s chinese friends, and a couple of my other friends (many were gone on trips during this week, including Connie, Jess, Brittany, and Lauren). We also decided to finally meet the student’s living in the other corridor on our floor so we invited them over to fika on sunday.

Mondayfunday: Drinking game night!

Hannah (Caliswag), Bregje (Netherlands), Vivian (China), and Sandra (China) all came over around 5pm and we started by playing Kings. It started pretty slow, especially because everyone was drinking 2.8 or 3.5% beer (water). Only Patrick and Hannah had played before and everyone had a good time learning the rules. We played ‘Ello Governer after which was hilarious, as it always is, after about 3 rules. Once we realized noone could count past 5, we just called it and decided to play beer pong. It was about 10pm and everyone besides me was pretty drunk and after a short beerpong tournament, most people called it an early night because they had class or lab in the morning. Xuefei and I stayed up a bit and had an intense one on one game of water pong. We got down to one cup left and missed it so many times that we both were just doing ridiculous trick shots. Xuefei ended up ending it with a lazer and was crowned champion. He rushed to his room and got out a chinese ornament thing and pinned it up on our bulletin board to represent his victory.

Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday

Pretty much everyone came back on Tuesday for the first star wars movie. Sadly, everyone but me, Xuefei, and Helen missed episodes 4,5,6 and even we missed A New Hope. Only Connie and I had seen them so everyone was very excited and obsessed with little ani. Everyday a few people faded out until it was just me and Patrick for the last movie – and I bailed once Jess  Anakin killed the children.

Sunday

On Sunday, we invited Emma (Spain), Monica (Poland), and Max (Germany) over for Fika from next door. It was nice to meet them even though it was admittedly pretty late (2 months in) to meet our neighbors. Sadly Max is leaving in 3 weeks but the other two will be here until June as well. Hopefully we will seem them some more because they seem pretty fun.

Swedes and the freedom to roam

February 15th

About 10°C warmer than Haverford. Sweden might as well be the bahamas for me right now.

About 10°C warmer than Haverford. Sweden might as well be the bahamas for me right now.

The cutest Swedish couple in the cutest Swedish home

Back at the Chinese New Year dinner, I met Johan, one of Lewis’ Swedish friends who had studied in China with him. A few days ago, Johan told me that he and his girlfriend Sarha are spending a month in California in March. They invited Lauren and I to their home (a typical Swedish house on the outskirts of Lund owned by Johan’s mom) for a warm home-cooked dinner. The house was exactly what I would have imagined a Swedish family home to look like, very cozy and rustic feeling. We spent a little while talking about Sweden and our classes but then we got down to business. They gave us two kinds of Swedish bread (fullcorn and Christmas bread) with cheese to start on. Both were delicious but the fullcorn that sarha made tied for my favorite bread I’ve had in Sweden so far (café Mop in the korhuset’s being the other). Next they served a huge pot of beef stew (they called it chili). It was a little spicy and I don’t really know what was in it but it was delicious. As we slurped down the stew, Lauren and I got down to business. I covered everything I think they need to see north of SF (basically just SF, Muir Woods, Mendocino, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe) and Lauren (she’s from Santa Barbara) got the rest. They were super excited especially when we told them our family’s would probably host them for a few days and when I told them they could borrow my tent (saving them hundreds in motels costs). Overall it was really nice to go over and give something back for the several times they had hosted me and everything they’ve told me about Sweden and Swedish culture.

Delicious Swedish pancakes, Johan's super simple secret recipe

Delicious Swedish pancakes, Johan’s super simple secret recipe

Fried Rice

Last night, a few people wanted to go out to dinner but I had gone out so many times recently and wanted to save some money so I decided I would just cook for all five of us for the same price as going out. I ended up spending about 55 kronor for all the food, which is probably cheaper than dinner would have been at a restaurant. I even still had rice, eggs, veggies and fruit left over. Lewis had shown me how to make fried rice the Chinese way (although admittedly I did it on a stove, not over a fire like he said the proper way is) which is basically just making rice (has to be precise or you mess it up), let it cool and age for a day, then fry it with eggs, water, salt, and these weird chicken pebble things he used (too sketched out to use them myself). I decided to add some carrots, mushrooms, and onions as well as soy sauce. I think Lewis was pretty weirded out by my additions but that was the fried rice I was used to. It ended up coming out pretty awesome and I added some cilantro (left over some guac) to spice it up a bit. Jess, Lauren, Brittany, and Christin came over right as it was done and we had a nice candle-lit dinner. Afterwards, I made a small fruit salad and Brittany spontaneously decided to be my favorite person and made us fresh rice-krispy treats. Not only were they legit American rice krispies (which she said were hard to find), she got Swedish marshmellows which are sweeter and fancier than their American counterparts and caramelized the marshmellows in butter a bit before adding the rice krispies. Needless to say, they were delicious. Everyone left at like 9:00 and I went to sleep shortly after. My sleep schedule here is so much better than it has been either at Haverford or at home. I typically sleep ten hours from 10pm-8am. Usually I will stay up late once or twice a week but that’s usually on days where I can sleep in anyways.

Landskrona crew! Mostly Americans with a couple finns, an austrian, and a dutch guy.

Landskrona crew! Mostly americans with a canadian, couple finns, an austrian, and a dutch guy.

February 25th

Breaking the swedish personal bubble

Two months in, I am finally starting to make some Swedish friends! I’ve hung out with Johan and Sarha a couple of times since they had us over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. They are leaving for the states next week and I’m really excited to hear about their trip and for them to meet my family. I also started talking to swedes in my classes (Topology and Integration Theory). I mostly talk to Johan and Adam about our classes, or math education in our countries but also just random stuff about the US and Sweden as well. It’s nice to finally have someone to talk to during the fika breaks in class (every class has a 15 minute tea/coffee break in the middle). I have still somehow resisted drinking coffee but I am pretty sure the majority of people in the country judge me for drinking tea.

 Random Updates

I’m starting to spend a lot of time on my classes, probably about 50+ hours a week and that’s just for two classes. Feels weird spending 30 hours on one class in a week. After eating fried rice for about a week straight, I have started trying to make more Swedish meals (lots of potatoes, meatballs, and Swedish pancakes). Sarha gave me a recipe for Swedish pancakes and for a dense Swedish bread which I will try to make sometime. It has gotten to the point where I now have to start doing homework most weeknights if I want to keep up with my course work so I am hanging out with people in a little less than before. Definitely not going to clubs or pubs on weekdays really. As a rule, I have been taking Friday afternoon / nights and Saturdays completely off from work so that I can still experience Sweden for what it is. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to swedes about what working life is like in Scandinavia, especially in academia or a high school teaching position. I think it would be awesome to teach in Sweden or Norway some day.

 Dalby Söderskog National Park

Quarry in Söderskog National Park

Quarry in Söderskog National Park

Johan and Sarha took me, Lauren, Vivian, Sandra, and Xue Fei to a national park outside of Dalby (about 20 minutes away by bus and $10 roundtrip fare) for a 10km one way hike. We got off of the bus in what was basically the middle of a highway at a trailhead. We walked for not even 5 minutes and came upon a huge abandoned quarry that has since filled up with water. Since it was a quarry, there were ridiculously high and steep cliffs on most sides of the lake and since it was so deep, Johan said you can pretty much jump off from anywhere. The highest points were about 15 meters (50 feet)! There was some stairs and a small path going down to a tiny rocky beach so that you don’t have to jump in. I would have jumped in right then even though half of the lake was frozen if I had only brought a towel. Still need to check off swimming in a half frozen lake from my bucket list. We wandered around the quarry for a little and then headed off on the trail. Easily the coolest part of the whole trip was the fact that this trail just casually went through people’s properties. If there was a fence in the way, they just build a little staircase to go over it. There is a law in Sweden called the Freedom to Roam which lets anyone in Sweden go anywhere they want (yes, even on people’s properties) as long as they do not disturb or destroy the property. I had never even questioned how absurd trespassing laws are (besides the fact that you can legally shoot trespassers) in the States until I came to Scandinavia. This law is probably my favorite thing about Sweden, even above free healthcare and education. Anyways, we continued to wander through forests, people backyards, fields of sheep, and over rolling hills of hard rock that had been formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Throughout the hike, the scenery changed a lot more than I expected, from rolling hills with small bushes to a pretty standard leafless European forest to a dense pine forest that hardly let any light in. About 5km in we stopped for fika and much to our surprise, Johan had literally brought hot chocolate this whole way and had hike for about 2 hours with two thermi (plural of thermos?) on his back. It was still hot and was accompanied by delicious cheese sandwhiches (I think Sarha might have made the bread?) and Swedish pancakes with Hallon (raspberry) jam. The pancakes were so delicious I had to ask Sarha for the recipe. It was the perfect break and it was just cold enough outside for the hot chocolate to be a necessity but not cold enough to be uncomfortable hiking. At the end of the hike, we walked through a bit of the town of Dalby and then took a bus back to town.

 

A day in Landskrona

First clear view of the sun in Scandinavia

First clear view of the sun in Scandinavia

We decided to go to Landskrona (small coastal town north of here in Sweden) for the day. At this point I don’t even know where I am going I just let Jess plan everything because she knows what she’s doing. We had a solid group show up (maybe 12 people) and several people I had not met before (Matthias, Kathleen, Erica, Maddie, and Axel). After a short train ride, we stepped out of the train to see a huge castle tower thing in the distance and immediately decided it would be our first destination. Sadly, it was saturday so it was closed but it looked like something straight out of Rapunzel.

I got lunch at a lebanese place (delicious schwarma and fries with mixed sauce – personally did not find it as good as my favorite place in Lund). We wandered around aimlessly for a while and got to the harbor where we decided it was too late, cold, and windy to take a ferry to the island and that we would just see the castle instead. I was kind of expected a stone building similar to Bryn Mawr’s castle but nothing special. Instead I was greeted with one of my favorite castles ever. It dated back to like 1400s or 1500s and had two separate moats you had to cross and between the moats were artificial hills with some bunkers build in.

Vattenhorn (Rapunzel's tower)

Vattenhorn (Rapunzel’s tower)

Bunker built into hill - dubbed hobbit house my myself

Bunker built into hill – dubbed hobbit house by myself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The castle itself was obviously inside of the inner moat and consisted of a very tall and thick square rampart with a few buildings on the inside. We went into their small museum and discovered that in the 1800s and early 1900s it served as a prison. There were some very creepy mugshots of life-sentenced swedes on the wall. About half of them looked like psychopaths and the others looked like what you would expect a harvard sociology professor to look like.

Beautiful day at Landskrona castle

Beautiful day at Landskrona castle

As we were leaving (and subsequently on the train home) we got an amazing view of the sunset (see first picture) on what was definitely the clearest day in the last month and a half. It was also about 5°C so it was a good day to walk around.

 

Helsinborg and the one Queue to rule them all

(J’ai ajouté un paragraphe en français à la fin par demande // I added a paragraph in french at the end by request)

Helsinborg

Helsinborg, Sweden (foreground) and Helsingør, Denmark

Helsinborg, Sweden (foreground) and Helsingør, Denmark (background) – Obviously, the town was slightly less beautiful because it was overcast and we could barely see denmark, but still very nice view nonetheless. The view in this picture is from the castle.

This saturday, I went to Helsinborg with a group of 30 exchange students (+ Paulina and a couple of other swedes). It’s a small coastal town (I think the closest swedish town to denmark?) and very cute with a medieval fortress on one of the hill’s in the town. The town is famous among students (and maybe other swedes) because of the ferry to Denmark. The reason it is popular is not because of the easy access to denmark (15 minute ferry) but rather the duty free shop on the ferry. Maybe people by a ticket and literally just stay on the ferry for the round trip, visit the duty free shop and buy a backpack full of alcohol. Because of the absurd taxes in Sweden, alcohol is ridiculously expensive. Just buying a few bottles of hard alcohol, one can turn a round trip train ticket and a ferry ticket into a profit. Not only is alcohol just expensive, it is also very inconvenient to acquire. Anything about 2.5% alcohol content is only sold at one store – Systembolaget.

There are a few in Lund but the hours are ridiculous (10-5 M-F, 10-2 Sat, closed Sunday). Apparently they implemented this system to reduce alcoholism in Sweden. I’m not sure if it worked because swedes still seem pretty damn alcoholic to me. We took a quick train ($20 round trip) and when we got there we walked around to the castle and went to a small café. Unfortunately there was not room in the café for all of us so Kim, Nora, and I walked around for about 20 minutes to find another place before going right back to the same café (nothing is open at 4pm on Saturdays in sweden!). The café was like American Diner / Swedish Bakery fusion and had delicious applepaj (…apple pie). After a quick fika, we went to Laserdome and played laser tag. I played on my mentor group’s team (Britany, Eden, Tom, Tom, Barney, Sarah, Hannah, Alex, Karolina, and Karolina’s friend). At this point, everyone believed my lie that I was San Francisco country champion four years straight. Thankfully, my team was so awful at Laser tag that my lie held pretty well. I lead our team both games with double the score of the next person. It was a lot of fun and the place was pretty nice but nowhere near as amazing as LaserQuest in the states (2 floors, mirrors, free-for-all, and sniper towers). We lost both games by a ridiculous amount but I think everyone had a good time (even those with negative scores). After lasertag, everyone rushed back to Lund because for many, a ridiculously long night was about to begin.

Lundakarnevalen

At noon on Sunday, the AF building (a central student building at LU) opens its doors to VOLUNTEERS for the big spring festival that happens every four years and happens to be in two months. It seems to be similar in concept Grand Haverfest, except with 50x the amount of students. Anyways, people can sign up to volunteer for the carnival at noon on sunday. Volunteers are giving the opportunity to pay $30 (240 SEK) for a volunteer party – and that is the only perk of volunteers. Since there are only 3000 tickets to this expensive and overrated party, some people like to line up early. By 4:00 AM on sunday morning, more than fifteen-hundred people were lined up in the rain, some with tents and portable stoves and others shirtless and drunk. It rained on and off throughout the night / morning but rained consistently from 1:00 AM – 4:00 AM.

Around the two-thousand person mark of the queue at 4:00 AM.

Around the two-thousand person mark of the queue at 4:00 AM.

By the time I woke up and made my way down to the line around 11:00 AM, there were over four-thousand students – mostly swedes, with a few international students mixed in – dancing, drinking, and shivering in the streets. If you have never seen a queue with four thousand people in it, you can not understand how absurd it looks. A thick crowd of people stretched through campus, weaving through buildings and into the cobblestone streets of Lund. Many people take this opportunity to drink and party throughout the night, entertaining themselves however possible.

This is what the line looks like while moving at top speed, around 2pm.

This is what the queue looks like while moving at top speed, around 2pm.

Once the doors opened at noon, people still had to go through the entire line. The line moved forward at about 500 people per hour. My roommate Lewis said that he showed up a few hours before sunrise, at 5:15 AM and that he left after sunset (about 5:15 pm). Meanwhile, I slept 10 hours and got a wonderful brunch with my other lazy friends, Christin, Kim and Nora.

I really want to stress that all 5000 people here are lined up for a 10+ hour, VOLUNTEER commitment with virtually 0 perks besides having the chance to pay $30 for a party (and the latter does not even apply to the last couple thousand people in the queue).

Résumé de mon week-end en français:

D’abords, je m’excuse en avance pour mes fautes de grammaire et d’orthographe (il doit y en avoir déjà dans cette phrase). Celà fait maintenant exactement un mois que je suis en Suède. Ici, je prends quelque cours me mathématique à l’université de Lund et j’essaye de voyager en Scandinavie quand je n’ai pas trop de devoirs. Ce week-end, je suis allé à Helsinborg avec plusieurs étudiant d’échange. On s’est promené autour de la fortresse et dans les petites ruelles du village. Dimanche, la majorité de mes amis on attendus dans une queue de cinq-mille personnes pour essayer de s’incrire pour faire de bénévolat pour le grand Lundakarneval, une fête pour les cinquante-milles élèves de Lund qui sera en mi-mars.

Comme je sera finis avec tout mes examens le 2ème de Juin et mon billet de retour à San Francisco est pour le 8ème de juin, je compte visiter ma famille en France pendant ces cinq jours au début du mois de juin. Je suis ouvert aux suggestions mais mon plans pour maintenant et d’atterrir à Paris le soir du 2ème et de visiter Nantes et puis finir mon séjour à Lyon.

Swedish Life

I want to talk a little bit about what life is like here in Sweden and my experience adapting to the life style. I am not sure what you think of when you think of Sweden, but for me, these pictures pretty much up my expectations.

This is 100% accurate

This is 100% accurate

 

There aren't even fjords in Sweden.

There aren’t even fjords in Sweden.

sweden-798-b74c07f139ac68786a085e2650fd9ad9

I am about 1150 miles south of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously though, swedes are beautiful.

The first important thing to know besides that about Sweden is that is it pretty cold. Either you are in the North and it is legitimately cold (like -30 C) or you are in the south and it is slightly below 0 C but feels like you’re in a windtunnel. Seriously though, Hurricane sandy was a joke compared to a standard day in Sweden. You can’t even escape the wind between buildings, it is everywhere.

Pretty much all of the other facts about Sweden and its culture are consequences of the cold. During the winter months (being like Oct-April), everyone stays inside as much as possible. To minimize time outside, people ride bikes everywhere. Everyone does. I just got my bike yesterday which means that I will no longer have to walk 30 minutes in the cold wind to get to anywhere (our housing is pretty far away from campus, city center, and other student housing by foot but only 5-10 minutes to anywhere in the city by bike).

On my way to class in the morning

On my way to class in the morning 

Frozen is a pretty accurate description of my life. I highly recommend seeing it and downloading the soundtrack (I recommend the swedish version).

Another consequence of the cold weather and staying inside of the buildings is the wonderful tradition of Fika. Fika, both a noun and a verb, means to take a coffee break. Yeah, they have one word for “taking a coffee break”.

Fika in Copenhagen

Fika in Copenhagen

According to our Swedish language teacher, she is a below average coffee drinker in Sweden and she drinks 3 cups a day. Anyways, anytime Swedes feels like being social (which amongst themselves happens frequently but they are rarely talkative with strangers), they just fika. Anytime someone needs a break from studying, is bored, thirsty, or hungry, they fika. The tea (and apparently coffee although I still don’t like it) is amazing here and their pastries are absurdly good.

I have class to go to soon but I hope to be posting more regularly now, when I come to the academic buildings early in the morning before class. Thanks for reading!

Januari i Sverige

First post, after having been in Sweden for 26 days. I still don’t have internet (which overall is a great thing) but that means that it has been very difficult to blog and log my running. I’ve felt settled in for the last couple of weeks now, and finally starting to realize that I am actually in school. I’m going to split my blog post up in a couple of different sections describing things as they happened chronologically. This post will mostly be just a summary of what has happened lately and less a social / cultural commentary but I plan on doing that at some time.

Caroline (my cousin) and I at CPH Downtown Hostel in Copenhagen.

Arrival

I had a 2 hour layover in Frankfurt after an 11 hour flight. I was pretty bored and just sat there listening to RHCP when I befriended a couple of Canadian girls who I overheard talking about Lund. The flight to Copenhagen was pretty short and

I got to the airport in no time. I was totally surprised that customs are basically non-existent in Europe. At no point in my travels have I had to do anything more than show my ticket and / or passport. There were some nice Swedish girls at the airport who lead me to the train and I was headed towards Lund in no time – I didn’t check any bags because I’m a boss at packing and just had two small carry-ons. When I arrived in Lund, it was probably the most disgusting weather possible.

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Domkyrkan (the Cathedral). This was one of my first sights as I got lost leaving the Train Station in Lund.

36 degrees Fahrenheit and torrential rain with a decent amount of rain and thick gray clouds hanging low over the town. Thankfully I had my trusty low quality jacket so I lasted 10 minutes before being completely drenched. I couldn’t find the Swedish girls in blue shirts who were supposed to bring me to the check in place so I decided to just walk. Apparently 3k is not as short as it feels on the track. Anyways, ended up getting to the check-in desk and getting everything sorted out before heading over to my apartment. I was the first one to have moved in but the apartment is crazy nice. It’s pretty similar suite-style to the Haverford Apartments but with 6 rooms and a bigger kitchen and two showers. It’s in like a family apartment building though which is kind of weird.

Orientation Week

Orientation week was awesome and ridiculous. It was packed with socializing and partying and was pretty much the study abroad dream. About 4 hours after arriving in Lund, I met up with Connie and we decided to go to a pub with our Mentor group (basically like 8 permanent Lund students who get assigned 16 or so exchange students and help them out with advising and organizing social activities). We were to O’Leary’s English pub. It turns out that since all of the exchange students were exhausted from travel and dissuaded by the weather, Connie and I were the only ones to show up besides the mentors. We had a few beers (which cost 60+ SEK ~ $10 a piece) and got to meet a few of our mentors – Ankor from Canada, Thomas from England, Paulina from Sweden, Émeline from France, Victoria from Sweden, Eden from England, and Beatrice. Everyone was super nice and gave us advice about where to get a phone, buy our groceries, and told us our schedule for the week. Essentially we had a ton of Swedish language / culture classes during the day and then parties or other hang out activities at night. The next day was officially registration day but neither Connie nor I had to do that so we went to the phone store (only to find out that AT&T sucks and locked out iphones) and then at night went to a pre-party in Émeline’s suite. Connie and I were the first people to show up to the pre-party which was pretty awkward but in no time it was crowded with people from all over. I met some Australians who were hilarious and outrageous, a professional swimmer from Poland, and too many Scandinavians to remember. The next day we had our first three-hour Swedish class. That week we had 21 hours of Swedish lessons and I felt like I could speak Swedish better than I can german after 7 years. Most of my current friends in Sweden are either from my mentor group or people I met in the Swedish class or mutual friends of my Swedish class friends.

First week of classes

First day of classes, we had an introductory meeting for the math department. I ended up deciding on Topology, Integration Theory, Distribution Theory and Group and Ring Theory. It’s a quarter system so right now I just have Topology and Integration Theory. The course structure is totally different than at Haverford: your grade depends 100% on your exam grade and depending on the class it is either written or oral, lectures are optional and many students skip them and problem sets are optional. I personally really like this system and like that it’s lenient but I would also probably fail all of my classes and never attend them if I hadn’t developed a good work ethic while at Haverford. All of my courses are Masters level and the majority of my classmates are Swedish or European graduate students. It is also very strange only having two classes because Integration Theory is about as much work as Analysis and Algebraic Geometry were combined and Topology is pretty comparable to Algebra II in terms of both difficulty of material and workload. I did not really talk to any of the people in my classes the first week because it seemed like they were all either Swedish or already had groups of friends and were not interested in making any more. It’s really hard to make friends with a random swede unless you have a mutual friend or some other kind of in.

Copenhagen!

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On our first weekend, we decided to go to Copenhagen. The group was Me, Connie, Lauren, Brittany, and Christin but Jess joined us at 2pm on Saturday because she had to fly in from Rome (yes, she was in Rome for a week while I was in math class). We left Saturday morning early and caught a pretty cheap train to Copenhagen. When we got there it was -5C and felt a lot colder than back in Lund.

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We walked around downtown for a while and went to Rundetarn which is a circular tower with a ramp going all the way up in the middle. There was an amazing view from the top. We were just above all of the old red tiles roofs of Copenhagen and only a few church spires stuck out above us. We saw the harbor from the top and decided to head there first. We went to a nice Café in Nyhavn which is one of the canals with the bright colored houses and huge sailboats parked outside. We spent the rest of the day walking around, checking into our hostel (CPH Downtown, I highly recommend it) and meeting up with Jess and my cousin Caroline. We spent the afternoon and evening in the hostel bar talking, playing cards, and eating their homemade pizza. Caroline’s boyfriend came over and Lauren, Jess, Brittany, and I left with them to a hipster concert. We didn’t really have much information besides it being cheap and that Caroline’s boyfriend liked the band. Turns out it was a comedic poetry meets comic artist meets punk rock type of thing. The concert was at Loppen in Christhavn (free town) where basically anything goes. The venue was small and hidden away and it seemed like it was only people who were big fans of this dude, Jeffrey Lewis. We stayed there until 2AM and then Brittany and I went back to Caroline’s to sleep on some matress pads there so we wouldn’t have to pay for the hostel. We woke up early and got a big continental brunch at the hostel with the gang. A few of us walked around the harbor some more while the others went to a service and we all met at the Church of Our Lady in Christhavn. There was a massive wooden organ in there and basically the whole room was gilded and had tons of stone statues. We walked through the green light district (weed is 100% legal on this street) and the girls were pretty sketched out but it was pretty much just haight street with dogs to bite you if you steal things. We went to the main art museum and saw the statue and Egyptian sections. The detail in the statues was amazing and I had not really ever noticed until my artsy friends pointed it out. We were back on campus by 6pm Sunday and had to spend the next few days catching up on work.

Chinese New Year, Frost, and Superbowl

About two weeks in, Connie and I had three new roommates: Patrick, a chem grad student from Portugal, and Helen and Lewis, two environmental engineering students from China. Helen and Lewis threw a dinner party for Chinese New Year and invited us. We met three other girls from their school in China and two Swedish students who had collaborated with them while in China. The Chinese students made us a ton of food I had never heard of before, including some kind of sweet lychee soup thing and spicy fish, which were both delicious. The Swedish guys made us traditional Swedish meatballs with potatoes (obviously) and delicious brown sauce and the secret ingredient of Bob’s Lingor Berry sauce. It was amazing. We ended up recreating it a few days ago and it was also really good even though I botched the sauce a little. We stayed until about 11pm talking and playing Mahjong, a chinese / Taiwanese card game that Connie taught us.

A few days ago we went as a group and saw Frost (Frozen, the Disney movie). It was ridiculous how much more there is to that movie if you are living in Scandinavia. The people and weather in the movie pretty much exactly reflect my experience of Swedes so far. I definitely recommend seeing the movie, especially if you are familiar with Scandinavian culture.

Last night, we hosted a Super Bowl viewing party / American Culture Introduction for all of our international friends. We had a ridiculously good showing. Connie, Lauren, Jess, and I made Guacamole, Chili, and my family (barnum side) recipe – the triscuit thing for everyone to get a taste of some of the foods that we thought are representative of America. We obviously hung a massive American flag (props to Lauren for actually bringing that thing in her suitcase) and played country music for several hours before kickoff (12:30am on MONDAY for us). As for international students, we had Christin (Germany), Verena (Austria), Andrea (Canada), Lucie (Sweden), Alfred (Sweden), Johan (Sweden), Lewis (China), and Helen (China). Most people left before kickoff or slightly after but a few of us stayed until Halftime for what was probably the worst football game every played and also the most disappointing thing the chili peppers have ever done. The Swedish duo brought over a Westebotton paj (cheese pie, kind of like quiche) which was amazing and pickled herring which was a lot less amazing (and I heard the garlic one we had was the best flavor). Overall, I think everyone had a pretty great time mostly trash-talking the US and learning about each others’ countries.

Superbowl party in our suite with friends from all over the world.

Superbowl party in our suite with friends from all over the world.

San Francisco Chillin

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View of Golden Gate from Crissy Field

View of Golden Gate from Crissy Field

I am going to do my best to record my time in Sweden on this blog, updating it probably about twice a week (depending on my schedule). My goals for studying abroad are to learn tons of math from brilliant Swedes, meet interesting people from all over, to travel as much of northern Europe as possible, and of course to see the northern lights and abuse 20h / day daylight.

I’m currently at home with my family in San Francisco, CA. Trying to relax as much as possible and not do much since I only get 2 weeks of break between semesters. Very excited to go to Sweden. Bought myself some nice waterproof hiking boots today that should come in handy when I visit the arctic circle.

So far I actually have very little planned for my trip abroad and am kind of going to just wing it when I get the feel for the place. I’m meeting with the head of the Math Department to talk about which courses I should take (Currently looking at 5.5 credits, 4 of which will be math). Thankfully I will know some people in the area so the transition will be easier and when everything goes to shit (which it will), I’ll have some kind of safety net. I’ve got Connie Friedman, a junior Chem major at Haverford who I think I will be living with (we have no idea what’s going on with housing but it’s chill), a family friend’s sister who lives in Malmo, and my awesome cousin Caroline studying in Copenhagen (like 30 minutes away) for a year!