A Bison Abroad

Q&A with Kade Leier in Sweden

Taken on a wooden dock on Lake Siljan near the town of Rättvik.

Q: First off, what’s your name? 

A: Kade Leier

Q: And your major? 

A: I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering

Q: Where are you currently studying abroad? 

A: Mälardalen University located in Västerås, Sweden, about sixty miles west of Stockholm.

Q: What has been your favorite experience so far? 

A: I have truly had many great experiences in the short two months since I have been in Sweden. From visiting neighboring countries to having interesting and enjoyable classes, to the culture itself, all have been eye-opening experiences. Despite these great experiences, I think my favorite experience so far has been making friends with other students, many of which are also exchange students. I have formed some great relationships with local Swedish students and other students from all over Europe. Getting to know these people has been an enlightening experience for me. I have learned a great deal about a multitude of different cultures. It is without a doubt changing the way I look at my own life, especially when it comes to education and career goals.

Q: What made you make the final decision to study abroad? 

A: I came to the realization that there was no better time to live in another country for a long period of time and truly experience another culture than, at this stage of my life. I realized it isn’t very likely that I will have the freedom to do something like this once I have graduated and have a full-time job.

Q: What has been one thing that has been hard getting used to?

A: The transition to life in Sweden has been relatively smooth overall, but I would have to say the hardest thing to get used to has been living without my own car. Fortunately, Sweden has a great public transportation system, so it isn’t all that bad, but still inconvenient at times.

Q: Are you currently learning a foreign language?

Q: I am currently studying Swedish at the University. Taking the course, coupled with being immersed in the language every day, has really jumpstarted my understanding.

Q: What has been your favorite dessert, meal, delicacy that you have tried? 

A: In general, the produce, dairy, and meat products here in Sweden are of great quality and the prices are relatively similar, if not cheaper, than those in the U.S. I have a kitchen in my living quarters so I make most of my meals from food at the local grocery store. I would have to say that my favorite new food I have been eating a lot of is meatballs. It may sound cliche, but the meatballs in Sweden are phenomenal. Most grocery stores have at least ten different types of meatballs you can buy. The meatballs they serve at IKEA are especially delicious.

Q: Have you done anything that was at first out of your comfort zone?

A: I have done a lot of things that are outside of my comfort zone. I think this can be expected when traveling to a different country for the first time. Simple things like buying food, talking to locals, figuring out how to get around without a car, etc. are all rather uncomfortable, but I see it as part of the experience. My ability to deal with new awkward situations has definitely gotten better because of this.

Q: Describe your favorite day you’ve had. 

A: I think the best day I have had so far was in Stockholm. The international student group at my university (over 200 students) did a weekend trip to Stockholm. We stayed in a hostel in the middle of the city and spent most of the day exploring the city, going to different restaurants, stores, and all the scenic areas. In the evening we had a giant pre-party in the hostel before going out on the town to explore the different clubs and pubs.

After 9 p.m. the streets are filled with music spilling out from the many different jazz bands playing at pubs. All the pubs and clubs were filled with people socializing and drinking. Some friends and I ended up going to a massive club in the middle of Stockholm where we partied until about 5 am. I have spent a few nights in Stockholm and it has been a blast every time. The social environment completely transforms at night. People go from keeping to themselves and being quiet to being really social and inviting.

Q: What is public transportation like? 

A: The public transportation in Sweden, like most public services, is very convenient, relatively cheap, and reliable. Besides that, it is pretty much always clean and I have yet to use public transportation that doesn’t have free wifi. People from just about every walk of life are using trains and buses to get around. Most people make their daily commute to work using public transportation. It makes not having a car much a lot more feasible.

Q: What is your housing situation like?

A: I live in an apartment complex with about 150 other exchange students about 200 yards from the university. My living quarters are rather simple. I have my own bedroom with my own full bathroom and desk with a studying area. Each floor of the building shares a kitchen area, which I at first thought would be inconvenient, but it has really been nice because it allows the other residence and I to have a reason to see each other and socialize. The university has a cafeteria, but it is very common for students to buy their own food and cook together at home. 

Q: What is the most interesting thing you learned about the culture? 

A: I think the most noteworthy thing I have learned about the culture in Sweden has to do with how people value themselves and their possessions. The vast majority of people are always well dressed and healthy looking. It is really common for people to be involved in things like running and working out. Also, people here are very respectful of each other when it comes to personal space and manners. Everything from houses to cars is all seemingly kept up very well. You rarely see a lawn that isn’t moved or a car that looks beat up. People in general just seem to have a lot of pride in how they look and live.

Q: What one thing did you expect that wasn’t actually true?

A: I expected there to be fewer people who are tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. I know this is what most people think about when they think of Swedish people, but there are so many blonde-haired blue-eyed people here. A lot more than I thought there would be.

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