Hej Hej! Jag heter Mackenzie! That was about the extent of my Swedish skills when we arrived 107 days ago. It’s been quite the journey since then and as the trip is winding down it’s fun to look back and see all that we’ve done. I’m a junior Environmental Studies major and History minor from Edina, Minnesota. I chose this specific study abroad experience because of the opportunity to see so much of a country that I’d never been to and because of how environmentally conscious Sweden is as a nation. We arrived in Växjö on Monday April 27 to our hostel, which is situated lakeside in Evedal just outside of town. Looking out at the lake reminds me of summers in Minnesota making me a little homesick. It’s so beautiful, though, you can’t help but enjoy where you are in the moment.
Our first full day in Växjö was spent exploring the lake area around our hostel-a few of our students even went swimming! It’s only been above freezing for a few weeks here so the water was pretty cold. That night we had dinner with a branch of the City Council. The food was amazing and the council members were so hospitable to our group. Växjö is coined “The Greenest City on Earth” so hearing about their past and current environmental efforts was extremely valuable. It was also an excellent opportunity to practice our Swedish. Almost every Swede we encounter apologizes for their poor English when in reality it’s usually impeccable. Växjö and Duluth, Minnesota are sister cities and have been since 1987 so many of the council members have a personal connection with Minnesota.
On Wednesday we spent the whole day with City Council members learning about how their city achieved and maintained their high global environmental standing. Following two lectures about Växjö’s 2030 Vision to be entirely fossil free and their future energy plans we took a bike tour of the city. When we started biking it was 55 degrees and sunny and ended with a quick hailstorm-which luckily didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits too much. We ended the day with a tour of the biofuel plant. The plant supplies close to the whole city with heating, cooling, and electricity. The process uses only renewable resources so it is very environmentally friendly.
On Thursday night we attended celebrations for the Kings Birthday and for Valborgmässoafton. In layman’s terms, the day is about celebrating the end of the cold season and the coming of summer. The celebrations included a short choir concert, speech, and then a torch-lit processional to the lake for fireworks.
Friday morning a bunch of our students ran the Växjöloppet 5k and our Swedish Professor, Roland, ran the 10k. Zach was our fastest finisher of the 5k with a time of 22:07 but everyone did fantastic! Today is also May Day and Pats Birthday so we had breakfast for dinner in order to celebrate. Pat is sick so his 20th birthday was less than ideal but he put on a brave face anyway. Our first week in Växjö ended with a gorgeous sunset. One more week here and then off to Visby to finish off the trip!