Our first week on the hill – Jönköping

Posted on May 5th, 2013 by

We arrived in Jönköping after a short train ride from Växjö. The first thing we saw through the train windows as we pulled up was the enormous (2nd largest in Sweden) Lake Vättern. Jönköping is situated at the southern tip of the lake, with large hills on each side of the city. It’s actually quite similar to St. Peter, but the valley is much more pronounced and dramatic. We’ve had to trek into town a few times for groceries, and we all get to do some solid complaining as we make our way back up the hill. It reminds me of the complaining I would do walking up the hill to campus from St. Peter. I think now would be a good time to put a picture to set the scene of our stay here so far. It’s quite a view. Luckily, my room is facing into the valley.


Our time in Jönköping is mostly focused on Leila’s class, Rhetoric of Place. It’s actually offered a pretty interesting dynamic in the classroom having Leila be the final teacher of the course. Save for a few discussion periods throughout the trip, we haven’t had Leila as our “main” teacher until now. The interesting dynamic comes from being new students to her as a professor in the classroom, but being very familiar with her as our mentor for the duration of this trip. It’s been nice because, as is typical in discussion-based classes, usually it takes everyone a while to get comfortable and secure enough with the professor and with the other students to start participating in discussion. Even for the outgoing person, the first couple weeks of a new class are a bit stressful as you get a feel for how the class and discussions are going to be run. Having Leila as our professor for the past 3.5 months pretty much alleviates this awkward phase of a typical class, so we’ve been able to dive into the material she has assigned to us. This has allowed for some interesting and satisfying discussions, and it’s been the case that we run out of time and can’t get to everything we want to that day instead of those long silences where no one has anything to say or is too nervous to say anything at all.

This course comes at a great time not only because of our familiarity with our professor, but also because much of the reading and discussion requires careful thought about Sweden and its people. The insights we have in class simply would not have come to us if this class had taken place in Jokkmokk or even Mora. We’ve all learned a great deal about Sweden, but much of what we have learned comes from being here and talking to people. I’m under the impression that most people reading this have some relation to a person on the trip. You might have asked that person, “What are Swedes like?” This question requires months to even begin formulating an informed and nuanced answer. Yes, we can give a short answer and say they are reserved and attractive. But if you press a little further, I think most of us would take several minutes before we gave a satisfying answer to that huge question, and we would still admit we probably don’t know all that well anyway. Leila’s class is almost entirely about those questions that require these answers that take minutes or hours to talk about and discuss before coming up with something of an answer. This might sound a bit odd, but stick with me. This class sort of  has us learning about what we’ve learned about Sweden. We’ve got all this information and all these observations we have about Sweden and its people, and this class is using the lens of rhetoric to focus this information and these observations. It’s giving meaning to our observations, I guess you could say.

What does it mean when we’ve all observed how a surprising number of Swedes like to tell us about Sweden’s former vast empire? When talking about what this means, we remembered Sweden’s relationship with Denmark; they’re amicable now, but Sweden’s empire was formed after kicking out Danish rule. We also now know that Denmark, employs many immigrants that live in Sweden, benefiting economically from their labor. We have observations of Swedes’ reactions to Norwegian skiers seeming to always win the biggest ski races. Norway is also prospering with their oil in the north. Now, we obviously can’t say anything for sure, but all of this might have something to do with how much we hear about Sweden’s glory days. We have all the necessary observations and knowledge about Scandinavia to make these insights, and Leila’s class is drawing these insights out by amalgamating our observations.

Last Friday, we had a bit of a special class. We met up in the park right next to where we’re living and all took solo walks through the park, observing what we could. This is part of the “Place” in Rhetoric of Place. We had a short discussion afterwards talking about why cities have parks, and what green spaces mean to people. We could all agree parks were an important part of any urban/suburban area, but we wanted to get at why that is. It wasn’t long before the other special part of the class was ready – the cookout. I’ll finish this post with a picture of the group enjoying Isterband (a special Swedish sausage) and grillkorv (not-as-special hot dogs). Thanks to Erik for being the photographer.cookout

And here’s another picture I grabbed looking out over the town on my walk in the park.




  1. Roland says:

    I remember those hills, but almost as much the ‘vitsippor’ (anemonies) in the parks and wooded area around the school. How are they doing? I seem to remember they were particularly abundant in the area just south of the school (on the other side of the highway that meanders up the hillside). Nice trails in that area too.

  2. Jens says:

    Spring has definitely arrived here. We’ve spent most of our time out in Stadsparken just to the north of the school. That’s where we had our grillfest, and that’s where we’ve spent time out on the walking trails. We’re all glad spring is here!