Well what an experience it as has already been! To start off, we the group had a very long flight day. It all started at MSP airport where flew off to Chicago and had a three hour layover, which was not bad at all. Then we got aboard our SAS airplane and were Sweden bound! This plane was HUGE with three main sections with eight seats across! This flight took us north from Chicago to the tip of Greenland then over to Stockholm, which ended up being about 8 hours. What was very surprising was the landing in Stockholm because we all were hit by this wave of jetlag, which was very new to me. Also a huge change was hearing and seeing the Swedish language everywhere! Anyway, our first day in Umeå started with a bus ride up to the University where we met Krister, who works at the University and is a Gustavus enthusiast! We watched a presentation from a few gals from the International Office on what it is like to study abroad at this University. On a side note, this was a very new concept for me and I am sure a few others on the trip, that we are now considered to be foreigners. We then had a lecture from a professor in the Scandinavian speech department who talked about what it is like in her department as far as teaching and size. We discussed the differences in the way that Sweden conducts their classes and how we do it in America. Wow was it interesting, we learned that they register for four classes but take them one at a time, so it would go class for a few weeks, final, then repeat until the semester is done; we also learned that the average age at this university was 26, because it is fairly common for students to take time after they graduate from “high school” to travel or work until they are ready to go to school. I wish that this was more socially acceptable in the States because I feel many students, including myself, feel rushed going into college and having to choose a major; it would be nice to have some time to get to know myself before going back to school.
What happened next however was something that greatly impacted me; we had a our first lecture on the Sami by a professor who is Sami herself. One of the first things I noticed about her was that she didn’t look all too different from anyone else who I have seen thus far. I was under the assumption that the Sami people would look more like our Native Americans with Darker skin (from what I could remember seeing books growing up with what I believe were Sami). She then told us about how three generations ago the Sami children were put into schools and had to learn without knowing the language. She didn’t only tell us this happened to the children, she did so to us. She gave about a three minute speech on something and there were two rules that we could not speak English to each other, only Sami or Swedish, and she gave the speech in her native language. This was a short demonstration but it made me think about those children were not able to learn because they were thrown into a new language (much like us but we have studied Swedish and most people here speak English). This caused these children to have an Identity crisis at home because their language identities were being negatively affected by these people who were discouraging their language. So they were forced to learn Swedish in order to communicate within this new community, but it was not their language to begin with. This was all interesting to learn because I have studied a little bit about the treatment of Native Americans and saw a few cross overs; what was shared still resonates within me, which only increases the drive that I have to learn more about these Sami people.