Northern Minnesota Girl in The Big City

Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by

Well we have made it through 12 days in Stockholm alive! Despite withstanding vicious winds, countless miles of walking, many important meetings with influential people, and living on a ship with incessantly loud highschoolers, we all managed to make it to Spring Break in one piece. Instead of our days being filled with class and Swedish lessons like in Mora, we were instead given opportunities to take part in some experiential learning in the beautiful and bustling capital of Sweden. We visited several museums, including the Vasa, the medieval museum, the Moderna Museet of art, and several others. We also visited the Storekyrkan (The Great Church), the Royal Palace, City Hall, and the place where the Nobel Prize for literature is decided. But my favorite part of Stockholm was just being able to explore the city and see where my feet took me—and that was usually to thrift stores, shoe stores, or cafés to have some fika. I had the time of my life, and I fully intend to come back to Stockholm at some point during my life, hopefully in the summertime next time around.

As a girl from small-town Minnesota, cities scare me a little bit. But after about a day in Stockholm, I felt completely at home. Home to around a million people, the streets are a bit crowded and the people move at a slightly faster pace, but Stockholm is far safer than Minneapolis in my opinion. I walked around and saw bikes that were unlocked on the street, and never once did I feel unsafe, even at night. Over the course of our 12-day stay, we were able to become familiar with each district of Stockholm, including Södermalm (south town), Östermalm, (east town) and my personal favorite, Gamla Stan (Old Town). Gamla Stan was a great place to fika and grab some lunch or a cup of tea in between sightseeing. Full of buildings older than our country, Gamla Stan’s cobbled streets and intimate shops were a perfect representation of what sets Europe apart from America—time, and with that, maturity and gorgeous buildings.

The group fika-ing! Downstairs at Kaffekoppen

The site of many fikas–Kaffekoppen in
Gamla Stan
On our first night in Stockholm, we had our professor Daniel Lundberg show us around a bit. Daniel is a Gustavus grad that will be teaching our science class in Uppsala. We went to the Vasa museum for a few hours to see the giant ship that sank more than 300 years ago, and then we went on a walking tour of sorts. On February 28, 1986, Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden was shot and killed in Stockholm. Much like the assassination of JFK, this memory sticks in many Swedes’ minds as a dark day of sadness for the country. The assassination of Palme is shrouded in mystery because the perpetrator was never found, and with varying eyewitness testimonies, probably never will. Supposedly Christer Pettersson, who had a considerable limp and later took back his confession of killing the Prime Minister, killed Palme. Pettersson died in 2004, so the case still remains unsolved. Daniel had us do a reenactment of this by running up several flights of stairs that were close to the murder scene. As someone that considers herself to be in fairly good physical shape, I was unable to complete this task in the time that it allegedly took Palme, who had a limp and was not in the best health mentally or physically. At the top of the stairs, we met a woman that was very interested in what we were doing, and who had an American accent. We explained what we were doing, and she seemed slightly amused, and after talking to her a bit about our semester, went on her way down the stairs that we had just raced up.

Site of the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme

About a week after this event, Lei and Chelsea did some hefty investigating and found this woman, whose name is Mary Lee Sjönell. We met with Mary Lee and I found her to be an incredibly interesting woman. Walking into her office, we saw an entire wall full of movies, probably the most that I have ever seen in one place in my life. She supposedly has the largest horror film collection in Sweden, and her interest in film led her to her present career, which is storytelling. She meets with companies that are trying to redefine their image, and creates a story for them to guide them in the right direction. She has worked with IKEA, H&M, and is currently working with SAS airlines, which is struggling to stay afloat. But aside from Mary Lee’s career path, she has a very large personality and has a special gift with people. She is a vibrant black woman that has a way with “navigating a room” and figuring out just what it is that people need from her, and also how to make her clients be successful in the advertising world. Her energy was incredibly positive, and her goal in life was wonderful—to make people feel just a little bit better about themselves after her path has crossed with theirs. She had us do an exercise where we wrote down our names, our “motto”, our childhood hero, and why we like that hero. From these four simple statements, she was able to create a “brand” for that person and tell a story about us. She analyzed several of our group members perfectly, nailing their true personality right on the head, and I was astounded. I have never met anyone who was so incredibly perceptive, and as a Psychology major, I was fascinated by this remarkable skill. I left her office feeling a little bit better about myself, so I would say that her goal was accomplished.

The best way to navigate a new city is to walk around and orient yourself. Luckily, we already had an expert on our hands. Kallie’s friend Nichole from high school has been living outside of Stockholm for about a year and a half, and she was able to take us to places what we would otherwise have never found. And with her Kallie, Erik and I were able to master something else—the Stockholm subway system. We spent our Saturday night out in Södermalm using the subway system, and even made it back by ourselves! Nichole also took us to several places, including a few cafés for some good ole fika, a delicious Thai restaurant, and some great thrift stores in Södermalm, my personal favorite. I found a few replacement items for the package of things I sent home, and bought some absolutely gorgeous Swedish boots—one of the few items I have splurged on since being in Sweden. After spending two months with the same ten people, having a fresh face in the group was wonderful too, and Nichole plans on joining us in Uppsala for awhile as well. We spent a day at Nichole’s house in Täby and had some delicious cinnamon rolls with our coffee and tea—the perfect fika. Erik and Kallie left some of their luggage at her house because they are off to London for Spring Break! I will be taking all of my luggage to Bulgaria, where I will be visiting some friends for eight days. More on this adventure later! But until then, vi ses!

Nichole, Kallie, and I taking the subway out on a Saturday night




  1. Roland says:

    Thank you for blogging about “the Venice of the North.” It’s great that you’ve been able to explore the city on your own in addition to making “formal” stops at museums and official places. Meeting Mary Lee Sjönell seems to have been one of those wonderful “extras” to add to your memory bank. Hope you’ll get to see Stockholm in the summer some day. From what I have read you had unreasonably unseasonably cold weather while you were therel. Hope your days in Bulgaria have been good and that spring will have come to Uppsala when you get there./Roland

  2. Christa Andersen says:

    I like to hear the facts about cities like this. They are so foreign to the American culture. We really have no exposure to the type of history and architecture Europeans and Scandinavia do. What a great experience you are all having!

  3. Richard P. Janke says:

    Cami, I read your second posting first on my little Smart Phone. Here at home, on a regualr computer, I noticed you also posted about Sweden. It too is very interesting and well written. Thanks for doing this all.