Parents week!

As I write my parents are hurtling along in a small aluminum tube high above Canada on the way back to the US! They got here on Sunday morning, the 12th, and spent nearly a week here in Lund. That’s probably why I haven’t written a blog post – lots of parentsitting!

Before they got here though, I went to Malmö last Saturday to explore as I haven’t actually been yet! Here are some pictures:

Giant Harry Potter-like bushes in a park


The turning torso building near the coast
A famous sauna/bath house out in the ocean
Øresund Bridge from the Swedish side
USA! USA! I don’t really know what was happening here.

This week was the Lund Choral Festival which began on Monday. We went to as many concerts as we could and most were free! Our Monday consisted of two concerts and a delicious dinner of fish soup at a restaurant here in the market hall. It was rainy and a bit cold mostly all week so soup was a good choice!


On Tuesday, the only day this week without rain, we decided to make a trip to Copenhagen! My parents had never been so we tried to see the main sights and some cool museums while there. We went to the National Museum of Denmark which had way too much ancient Danish and Viking things for one trip – but it was all very interesting to see! After the museum, we had lunch and went to the tower of Christiansborg Palace which I went to in August, but it’s free and offers quite a good view of Copenhagen so a second visit is still interesting. I lugged my heavy camera around all day but the only pictures I ended up taking were at the top of the tower! Here’s the bridge between Denmark and Sweden:

Very Scandinavian weather, too

The last three days of the week I had classes, so we didn’t do more traveling and just stayed in Lund. On Wednesday, I got my parents some Swedish meatballs because you can’t come to Sweden without them. Cool plating:

Also that evening we went to the Gala concert for the choral festival which turned out to be a three hour long concert with ~600 singers, an orchestra, two soloists, an emcee, and not one but two Dolly Parton songs. Yeah, what? There was lots of talking and joke telling in Swedish so we just sort of laughed with the crowd…one particular rendition I enjoyed was the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly where the choir sang the trumpet part and sort of sounded like meowing cats. We were very confused by the time we left.

On Thursday we went to more concerts (so many!) and then to one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in my recent memory, and it was right here in Lund! I can say it was the first restaurant I’ve ever had cotton candy in…but I swear it was good!

Friday was pretty rainy as usual, so after my class we got some fika then walked around and went in different stores. I bought some candles (got to have something remotely warm in Swedish winter…) and a Swedish flag to put on my wall! Finally decorating a bit after two months, oh well. That night we went to a concert at the Cathedral which consisted of three Bach cantatas sung by a quartet and accompanied by period instruments. It was a really special experience to hear that music in such an old Cathedral.

My parents insisted they were well-traveled enough to figure their way back to the Copenhagen airport so I left them to it and slept in this morning. Spoiler alert: they made it!

The pilgrimage to IKEA is complete

I had been using an IKEA chair in my room since I got here that suddenly decided to break on Friday while I was sitting in it. Perhaps I’ve been having too much fika? Anyway, this finally gave me a legitimate reason (other than to eat Swedish meatballs!) to go to IKEA!

On the note about fika: Saturday was Kanelbullens Dag here in Sweden which is basically a day where everyone makes or buys cinnamon buns! Why don’t we have such holidays in the US?! I got together with my mentor group and we made probably over 80 cinnamon buns along with some Chokladboll which is exactly what it sounds like. Here’s a picture:


Back to my IKEA story: I caught a regional train down to the outskirts of Malmö, about a 25 minute train ride with a lot of stops. The train I originally planned to catch mysteriously never appeared at the station…so hopefully they didn’t get lost. Luckily they run every 30 minutes so I didn’t have to wait too long. A big sign signals your arrival:

A short walk away is what I came for!

Of course no trip to IKEA is complete without some Swedish meatballs! It was actually quite cheap as far as Sweden goes so that’s likely why the place was packed on a Monday.

After some lunch I walked around the store and eventually found what I was looking for. Getting it home was quite an experience but I made it and assembled it all! The final product:

Had to harness all of my engineering know-how…

In other school news, I got a B for my Social Policy class! The professor says that’s equivalent to an American A- so that will certainly do. Had the first lecture for my Education, Culture, and Lifestyle in Sweden class today – should be an interesting class. My parents are visiting next week, too – they arrive this weekend!


Weekend in Stockholm

Happy October! Wait, what?

This past weekend I went to Stockholm to celebrate finishing my social policy class! I left on Friday, the 26th, at the dark and early hour of 5:54AM. I actually liked taking a really early train though, it got me up to Stockholm at about 9:45AM. As you would imagine, the Swedish train system does not mess around, and is never seventeen hours late like Amtrak can be…we leave on time and usually arrive early. If your train here is delayed past a certain time, you can even be compensated for it.

Small streets of Gamla Stan.

So, after arriving in Stockholm, I walked to my hotel which was on Gamla Stan (Old Town). Luckily my room was ready so I got to shed some weight before heading back out to sightsee. The plan for the day was to go on a tour of the Royal Opera House, head to the Swedish History Museum (as it was free on Fridays), then probably fall asleep early due to waking up at 4:45AM. Before the opera house, I had some Swedish meatballs at an Irish pub that was playing American music. It was very weird, but the meatballs were good! I then went to the opera house to buy my ticket for the tour. As I waited for the tour to start I walked over to the church next to the opera house, St. Jacob’s church, where I saw they were having a free organ recital later in the day! Would definitely be coming back for that. The opera house tour lasted about an hour or so and we got to go everywhere except backstage as it was being remodeled. Oh well, the royal box made up for that. Here’s some pictures:

Royal Opera House
Royal box “hangout area”

After the opera house I went to the Swedish History Museum, but I was pretty exhausted by that time from all the traveling and walking, so I had to have some fika and a kannelbullar (Swedish cinnamon bun) while there. The museum was very interesting though, they had a lot of viking artifacts and a look at Swedish history over the last 1000 years which was cool to follow. After the museum, I walked back to the church next to the opera house for about an hour long organ recital. The very famous Widor Symphony No. 5 was played – the last movement is probably the most well known. Here was the organ:

At this point I was pretty worn out so it was quick dinner and early to bed! Saturday morning I went on a free walking tour of the main part of Stockholm. It was similar to what I did in Copenhagen – the guide works on tips. It was a good tour, we walked all around a part of the city I hadn’t seen yet and saw the building that housed the bank where the first examples of Stockholm syndrome occurred during a robbery in the 70s. After the tour I had to eat lunch quickly to make it to another tour at the Royal Palace…so somehow I ended up with a $22 burger. It was not worth $22, but you win some you lose some. That afternoon I went on a tour of the Treasury at the Royal Palace – which I expected to be like the treasury where money is made, but it was actually where they keep their crowns and swords and assorted royal things. It was very interesting and I learned the difference between a crown that a King would wear as opposed to a Prince! I also went on a tour of the Royal Apartments, which are used for guests on state visits and other entertaining that the royals would do. After that I went to the Royal Armoury which housed a lot of historical items like…armor, swords, things like that. Somewhat unexpectedly there was an exhibit on the TV show Game of Thrones, with some original costumes from the show there.

Entrance to the Royal Palace

That night I tried to eat on the cheap due to my expensive lunch, and went on an evening walk around Gamla Stan. Quite a sunset!

On Sunday morning I walked to the Djurgården which has things like a theme park and museums. First stop was the Vasa Museum, which houses the Vasa ship, built in the 1600s. It sunk about 20 minutes into its maiden journey due to the fact that it was built way too tall meaning it effectively just tipped over and couldn’t stay upright. It was a massive building to house the massive ship, and there were a lot of views of every inch of it! Here it is:

After some lunch (and more kanelbullar…) I headed to the Nordisk museet (Nordic Museum) which housed a lot of items relating to Swedish culture. This included lots of home furnishings, place settings, food customs, toys, things like that. After the museum, I walked back to Gamla Stan to go to a choral concert at Stockholm Cathedral. I got there late so my view wasn’t the best, but it was a nice sounding and looking cathedral! Crown Princess Victoria was married there in 2010.

On Monday, my last day in Stockholm, I went to the Fotografiska which I had heard a great museum. It turned out to be pretty interesting, but quite artsy-fartsy…the top floor cafe made it worth it though just for the great views of the city!

After the Fotografiska, I got some lunch on Gamla Stan, then headed to the City Hall for a tour. The Nobel Prize banquet is held here each year, while the awards are actually given at the concert hall in central Stockholm. Below is the gold room, where the dance floor is set up after the banquet. I’ve been told that the current King, Carl XVI Gustaf is known as the “party king” and is the last one on the dance floor usually…I wouldn’t be surprised.

The Gold Room of City Hall

I also went up in the tower to see some great views like this:

Visible to the right is Gamla Stan with the Parliament and Royal Palace towards the left

Whew! Congrats if you’ve read this far. I guess a really long post makes up for my lack of posting recently!

My post naming system is confusing me

Hej! (Pronounced “Hey!”)

The last week has been mostly school work as my one month class is drawing to a close. The final home essay is due on Thursday and I just have a bit more to do. This is obviously different from what I’m used to. No essays in a computer science course!

Had choir last night as usual. It’s actually turning out to be a pretty fun group! I tried to get into a different choir but they seemed a bit high brow so this will be more fun. The guys are singing the melody to “Your Song” and I seem to be both the only native English speaker and the only one who has heard the song…oh well.

Just before choir yesterday I received a text from SJ (the Swedish train company) saying basically “Hej! Your train back from Stockholm next Monday is cancelled. Sorry!” then about four minutes later, “Hej! Whoops, nevermind, disregard that!”. Way to get me worked up for about four minutes, SJ…thanks. I head to Stockholm at 5:54am on this Friday! (It was the cheapest ticket of the day) That should get me there just before 10:00am leaving nearly a full day to explore. I’ll come back on Monday evening.

Yesterday it got colder for the first time and I think it’s probably going downhill from here. Currently 42F feels like 38F as I write this at just past nine in the morning…brrrr!

Week 4.5

It’s only been two days since my last post, but someone named Hannah Brennan thinks that is way too long to go without an update. So here you are:

Yesterday I got a haircut from a guy who didn’t speak English. It was kind of terrifying when he started asking me questions in Swedish and I sort of had to mime answers…but the good news is I still have hair and I don’t look entirely ridiculous. Had another installment of choir yesterday as well. We sang “Your Song” by Elton John which is a) not something I ever expected to be singing with a choir and b) pretty funny to hear non native English speakers sing.

I bought tickets to Berlin! I’m going the weekend of Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey day I’m treating myself to the Berlin Philharmonic and Martha Argerich – one of the greatest pianists alive! I think the Christmas markets are also open then so that will be a cool experience as well.

Not much else to report on other than a mountain of reading for my social policy class. My classmates are very confused when I tell them I’m a computer science major…but I’m branching out!

Tack för läsning! (Thanks for reading!)

Week 4

Feels like I’ve been here longer than four weeks! I guess that’s a good feeling to have? Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Last Sunday, September 7th, I went along on a Nordic Wildlife Tour organized by the International Desk here at the university. We went to the Skånes Djurpark (Skåne County Zoo) which focuses primarily on nordic animals. We saw everything from grey seals to reindeer. Most of the animals were very curious and some even woke up from their naps to look at us! Here are some pictures:

A male brown bear came over to say hello
His wife was a bit more skeptical
Raccoons are not actually native to Sweden but this one was trying to take a post-lunch nap!

After the zoo we went to a lake to have some fika! Some were even crazy enough to swim…

I would call the temperature ‘brisk’…

The main part of my week was relatively normal – a few lectures on social policy and a whole lot of reading. I now understand why taking one class at a time is common…because you have so much work to do! I did take a break from working to plan a trip to Stockholm though! I’m going September 26 through September 29. My train leaves Lund at 5:54am…whew.

On Friday night, I ended my week with a trip to Copenhagen to see Canadian pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. It was in the coolest concert hall I’ve ever been in. Very modern and I sat really close to the orchestra! Here are a bunch of pictures:

The DR (like the Danish NPR/PBS) complex from the metro station. The concert hall is on the left.
Closer now. They even have a canal!
Panorama from my seat (and not even a super expensive one!)
The lobby area during intermission
From the top balcony

As Copenhagen is quite expensive I didn’t do much the rest of the weekend. Just went to the Saturday organ recital and Sunday service in English at the Cathedral. Currently planning a trip to Berlin for the end of November!

In celebration of passing my introductory Swedish course…Ha en bra vecka! (Have a good week!)

First week of real classes

Near where I have classes

Things are back into full swing here in Lund as most of the students are back in town. I’ve been told it’s like a ghost town from June to August! I had my first real classes this week, starting off the semester with Swedish Social Policy. It is obviously different from what I’m used to – lots of reading and gray areas as opposed to facts and concrete answers! I think it will be interesting if I can manage to wrap my head around all the content that is taught in the month long course. Next up is Education, Culture, and Lifestyle in Sweden during the month of October.

I also went to the first lecture of a math class I thought I could take…but it turns out I was wrong. I lost the professor about ten minutes in and never caught up. Oh well. My coordinator picked out another course called “Economic History: Growth, Stagnation and Inequality in Africa” instead – sounds like it could be interesting!

I went to Malmö today to the Migration Office (Migrationsverket) to have my picture and fingerprints recorded for my residence permit. Was in and out in not much time at all and got to explore a different bus system too. The actual office was kind of sad to see. I was most definitely a minority amongst the people I was waiting with. Many were likely seeking asylum or protection; I saw at least one family from Ukraine and countless others from the Middle East and Africa. I knew Sweden was very open country to immigrants, but seeing that today put things in perspective for me.

On Sunday I’m going on a “field trip” of sorts to the Söderåsen National Park – they apparently have lots of Nordic animals and cool things to look at! Should be a nice break from reading about social policy.

Day trip to Copenhagen

On Saturday I went on a day trip with a group of 10 including people from as close as UNC and as far as Honolulu or Sydney, Australia. It’s actually very easy to get over to Copenhagen from Lund, and it takes about 50 minutes on the train. We met at 8:00am and were on the train shortly thereafter, arriving in Copenhagen at about 9:30am. After regrouping in the Central Station we walked across the street to a bakery right next to Tivoli to get something to eat. As we were standing in line with our queue numbers (you know the ones where you take a number and wait to be called), an American-sounding and looking couple behind me was struggling with the machine to get a number so I helped them out. We started talking, and the woman asked where I went to school and what my major was. I told her N.C. State and Computer Science, and her jaw dropped. Turns out she taught Computer Science at NCSU for fourteen years before leaving in 2012 to teach at Georgia Tech. She knew all my professors at NCSU, and said I should of course come to Georgia Tech to do grad school.

We went to the tourist office on the same block next to try and get maps and buy tickets for a tour of the Carlsberg brewery later in the day at 3pm. We got tickets and then set off to kill a bit of time before the free walking tour started at 11am. The tour was three hours long and showed us several of the main sights in Copenhagen, but there’s always more to see! The tour ended at 2pm and we had planned to try and negotiate the bus system to get out to the Carlsberg brewery by 3. Unfortunately…due to the Copenhagen Pride festival and parade taking place at the exact same time, our bus never came. The good news was that the tourist office did refund our tickets!

Swimmers in the canals?

Being pretty tired out after our long tour and trying to negotiate the bus but ending up on the subway, we found a coffee shop to sit and rest for a bit. Once rested we walked back to Christiansborg Palace to go up to the (free) tower and see the view from the tallest point in Copenhagen. It was pretty rainy and cloudy so the view wasn’t the best but it was still interesting! Will have to come back on a sunny day to see it again. After that we got our whole group back together and tried to find somewhere to eat but were largely unsuccessful. Copenhagen is the most expensive city I’ve ever been to, and the pride festival didn’t help things either. We eventually split up and three of us found a place to eat before heading back to Lund earlier than the rest of the group. It was a lot of fun even in the rain!

A very Copenhagen picture


Do I actually have to take classes?

One tower of Lund Cathedral

I’m enjoying this two-week-long orientation thing they do here. Let’s just extend that through December shall we? This week has mainly been more SUSA classes, more chapters in the class registration saga, learning Kubb, and finally playing a piano!

The exam for my SUSA class is tomorrow. It’s basically credit that won’t transfer to anything back here so I’m just trying to pass for fun. Luckily it’s all multiple choice and there’s no pronunciation so I don’t even have to make a fool of myself! I figure it will be helpful to at least read signs or understand Swedes if they speak slowly and enunciate perfectly like my teacher. Just like we all enunciate English perfectly all the time, right? I’ve tried to catch myself saying “y’all” and be clear about my word choice since I’m talking to people from all over the place with varying knowledge of English.

I made a last minute change to make my class schedule more interesting, with things like Swedish Social Policy along with Education, Culture, and Lifestyle in Sweden to balance out more technical courses. As of now I’ll be taking one course in September, one in October, and one in November/December. Need to fit one more in somewhere. Should be all figured out tomorrow!

Kubb is a lawn game that is very popular in Sweden. I played it along with a few other members of my mentor group. Hard to explain, but basically you set up five wooden blocks in a line and one team tries to knock over the other teams blocks by throwing wooden batons at them. Ended up tied at one game for each team.

I finally got my hands on a piano yesterday! They turn out to be at what I think is an International School here in Lund, with a private music school in the basement. I went during the day so kids were outside between classes and some listened and yelled at me through the window! I had no idea what language it was so let’s hope it was all compliments?

Here’s two pictures of the eastern part of Lund from the AF-Borgen building roof visited during a Treasure Hunt event this afternoon! Sorry for the smudges that are on my phone apparently…

Looking southeast
Looking east

One week in Sverige

I’ve survived one week! In the last few days I’ve conquered Swedish laundry machines and drying cabinets, cooked real food for the first time in my new corridor, watched a game of basketball between Lund and Helsingborg, went on a tour of Lund Cathedral, and found both a place to practice piano and a possible choir to join.

I definitely miss more American laundry machines…I’m not a fan of drying cabinets so far. Forgot fabric softener so my clothes are a bit like sandpaper now. Learning experience I guess. On the food front, I’ve just been trying some simple things so far. No dishwasher in the corridor (they use the word corridor to mean kind of apartment, not hallway!) so washing everything by hand is definitely a pain.

The basketball game was a pre-season game organized by the International Desk here at the university, and Lund won! It was a mix of ages, looked like everything from about 15 to maybe 28. They had a light dinner of noodles for students after the game, but I didn’t register in time for that so I didn’t want to take someone else’s food! The bike ride back was all uphill…who knew someone could bike as slowly as I did.

The tour of the cathedral this afternoon was also organized by the International Desk, and it was led by one of the ministers of the cathedral. It has quite a history! Very powerful to sit in a place that has been around since the 11th century. The organ is the largest church organ in Scandinavia, and there are free recitals of sorts every Saturday at 10am, so I will be taking advantage of that soon! The new bishop of Lund is also being installed this Saturday so I may go to that service to see something entirely different from what I’m used to. But now that I think about it it will probably be in Swedish so I may have to rely on visual cues…

I found out about Odeum this morning – it is a music center at the university. I knew about the Malmö Academy of Music previously so I had assumed all music things took place there but I was wrong! Turns out there was a free orchestra concert I missed last Friday too. Next time I guess. I got in contact with someone there who works with a local music school to hand out keys for students to practice on the pianos in the school too! Glad to know I’ll have a place to practice and won’t go crazy from lack of playing all fall.

Tack för läsning! (Thanks for reading!)