On Autumn in Stockholm
I’ve never experienced a season quite as perfect as autumn in Ohio. The days are long and warm; the nights are crisp and cool; there are apples and pumpkins and never-ending fields of corn. At Kenyon, students take their homework outside or play Frisbee on the lawn in front of the dining hall. And the trees – the trees are like a living art gallery with their leaves of fiery orange, freckled yellow, deep burgundy, fierce red. The leaves swirl through the wind, get crunched and kicked and jumped in, and provide a multicolored carpet down Middle Path. They surround you – on the ground, in the air, and hanging above your head, letting through shimmers of sunlight, blue sky, and wispy white clouds. Winter in Ohio comes on slowly – the days get chillier and you realize you need a jacket, but the transition is mitigated by the sun’s bright morning greeting and the random heat waves in November.
The most wonderful time of the year in Gambier.
Autumn in Stockholm is … different. It’s not that it doesn’t exist – at least, the leaves change. But if you blink, you’ll miss it, and I guess I must’ve blinked. There was never any doubt that winter was coming. You could feel the chill in the air. Unlike the blue sky of Ohio, the past weeks have been nothing but gray and gloomy, day after day, to the point where I’ve begun to wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again. It gets dark at 4 p.m. now, which means I always have to fight the urge to crawl into bed before dinnertime. A couple weeks ago, we were surprised by the first snow of the year. It was November 2.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm...
The monotony of grayness has become somewhat routine now, just as my life in Sweden has become routine. After two months here, the novelty has worn off, and my days all feel relatively similar – going to classes, doing homework, taking the subway everywhere, grocery shopping, cooking for myself. I don’t feel like I’m visiting or traveling here; I feel like I’m living here. Not being able to understand overheard conversations has become my reality; I’ve gotten used to planning for a 30-minute commute to school; I no longer instinctively pick up the phone to FaceTime my mom without thinking to check what time it is in California.
I’m already anticipating the difficulty of answering the classic, “So, what was the best part?” question when I return to the United States in a month and a half. I can’t really choose one best part, because how do you explain the best part of daily life? Of waking up in the morning to a somber sky, going to school, spending free time between classes doing homework in a dimly lit corridor of the building? Of evenings spent curled up on the couch reading Swedish crime novels and watching as the world gets darker and darker? Of making weekly to-do lists just as I’ve done the past two years at Kenyon? Of falling asleep at night in an apartment, in a room, in a bed that feels as though it’s always been mine?
Don’t get me wrong – this has been an incredible experience, and I’m so glad I made the decision to study in Stockholm. But every day of those first few weeks, I woke up surprised and excited to be here, and now, I wake up each morning to just another ordinary day. But in some ways, I like that better – it helps me feel as though somehow, I belong here, like this is home now, even if only for a short time.