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Takeoff: tomorrow! 2006 August 15

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Pre-Departure, Travel.
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I’m nearly completely packed and ready to go as I spend my last night in the States.

I’m getting kind of nervous. I’ll see my elderly grandfather and my aunt before I leave tomorrow. Both of my parents and my brother are seeing me off at the airport. I’m trying to accept the fact that I might not see my grandfather again. On a lighter note, I’m also trying to accept the fact that I may not see my car again, either; my brother will be driving my car when he gets his license, and although he’ll only have it for three or four months, that’s plenty of time to total it.

Some of my uncles and aunts have called today, and I am thinking that a few more will call tomorrow but I will have already gone. That’s okay; I visited everyone in the spring, and have everyone’s email addresses. I’ll be able to keep in touch.

I had a handful of going-away festivities, including a dinner with a lot of friends and a gathering at my parents’ house. It made me realize that I’d really made a new life in Boulder, because I had such a small list, and thus a small turnout, of invitees for the gathering at my parents’ place.

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Update: no carry-on! 2006 August 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Pre-Departure, Travel.
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Today I called my local STA Travel branch to inquire about whether or not the travel restrictions apply to me, since I am flying through the UK to get to Sweden.

My travel agent gave me a number for British Midland Airways and a code to call so they could look up my flight plans and tell me what kind of restrictions I’ll face. I was holding out a little hope that because I am not flying into the US that I wouldn’t have to put all my belongings in a plastic bag, but the operator confirmed my more pessimistic thoughts and told me that I should follow the strictest standards to avoid any problems.

However, my two pieces of luggage can exceed 50 lbs each without cost (now the limit is 70 lbs, like it used to be), and I can have a third piece not to outweigh 14 lbs. But I’m not sure if that will work on my flight within the United States with United Airlines, so I’ll have to call them, too.

What a difference a week can make!

Terror threats and my flight 2006 August 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Pre-Departure, Travel.
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Unless something changes (for the better) in the next five days, my plans for the flight to Sweden are going to be changed dramatically as the latest terrorist threats have prompted a large-scale change in security measures going through the UK.

The problem is that I stop in Manchester before I get to Sweden.

A few television analysts are acting like these new methods of security are going to last for at least a few days, but you never know whether or not these analysts are just milking the love of exaggeration or they’re serious about how intense this is.

One thing I can’t get over is how over-baked this coverage is. Serious issue? Yes. Have people actually died? No. Danger of some kind of terrorist attack happening? Certainly, like always. Yet this issue is being completely over-baked and is taking away too much time from the crisis in Lebanon. It’s incredibly how many times the news media have interviewed six or seven people who say the exact same thing: no liquids. No lotions, no gels. I don’t know how many times it should be repeated in a ten-minute span, but apparently the media have decided that it needs to be repeated a lot.

I’m a little irritated about having to re-pack and plan differently, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It just adds a little to the stress factor. I’m not too optimistic that this will be cleared up by the time I fly, but that’s what I’m hoping.

Sending off my passport 2006 July 26

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Language, Pre-Departure.
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Today I sent off my passport to the Consulate General of Sweden in Los Angeles. The instructions for getting this taken care of are not provided very well; I didn’t know that I needed to enclose a $17 money order for the cost of sending it back, nor did I know if I needed anything else enclosed (that is, until I called them to make sure I had everything straight). Just to be safe, I also printed a copy of my confirmation email from migrationsverket.se to go along with my money order, passport, and two passport-sized pictures.

I had been really worried about my visa application because the decision e-mail I received went into my bulk e-mail and was poorly translated in the first place. I had thought that Migrationsverket said they would not translate a decision at all, but apparently the decision was translated into English. The poor translation said that my application had been “proceeded” – which I first thought said “processed” – instead of “granted” or “allowed,” which is the proper translation of the word they use in their Swedish decision (att bevilja). It kind of irritated me. I also didn’t realize how quickly a response would come; it was most certainly less than six weeks.

I’m worried that they will be picky about the picture, but it looks pretty good according to these standards set forth by Migrationsverket. It’s important to get it all done in just one try, not playing hit-or-miss with sending it back a few times (and wasting that $17 every time).

I’m nervous with my passport in someone else’s hands. Let’s hope it gets back soon.

Countdown: one month! 2006 July 17

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Pre-Departure.
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One month from today, I will be on a plane to Stockholm after having stopped off in Manchester and Chicago en route. Now that there’s only a month left, and although I’m really excited, I’m more in a panic than anything else. I have so much to get done!

My biggest concerns right now include:

  • Clothes. Yes, clothes. I need to pick the right clothes to bring and have enough money for good clothes once winter hits.
  • Money. The biggest concen. Yeah, I’m on scholarship, but I had to pay some bills and I planned on trying to have a little more money, but that isn’t going to happen. Sometimes it’s hard to get hours at work, and paying for gas is totally killing my pocketbook.
  • Moving. I have so many things to get rid of. And moving back up to Greeley is going to be a pain, especially when I have so little space in my old room at my parents’ place.
  • Homesickness. I am definitely going to be homesick. I’m excited to go, but since I have an elderly grandfather and a great family here in Colorado, I’m nervous to leave them. I’m also going to miss my family in Chicago, though not seeing them for a year is not as rough; I usually see them a few times a year. Oh, and let’s not forget: I have a dog who will miss me more than you will believe.
  • Language. I have to study a LOT for my placement exam, and I’ve hardly started! I’m also nervous about having to speak Swedish every day and all the time.

There are other concerns, but I just have so much on my mind right now that it’s hard to really pin down what’s worrying me. Like I said, though, I’m excited. This will be incredible. And this month will go by in a hurry, that’s for sure.

Housing in Uppsala 2006 July 9

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Pre-Departure.
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I finally found out where I’m going to be living in Uppsala!

I hadn’t heard from anyone at all, and I thought I was supposed to hear something at least before July ended, so I decided to email the international student coordinator and ask when we will receive our housing assignments. He emailed me back promptly, saying I should’ve gotten a notice two weeks ago, and he said that I am going to be living in Flogsta.

Flogsta

There are a couple thousands students in Flogsta, but mostly Swedish students, so I’ve heard. I’ve also heard that it’s just a fun place to live in general, plus I am intent on making my Swedish immersion part of all aspects of my stay; it would be harder if I lived with a lot of people who would be prone to speaking English before Swedish, and I definitely want to be speaking as much Swedish as possible.

What I’ve heard from those who have been exchange students in Uppsala is that they either enjoyed living in Flogsta or they wish they’d lived in Flogsta as they had not been assigned there. It sounds like a pretty good place.

One thing about Flogsta that is pretty interesting is the Flogstaskrik (Flogsta scream). Apparently, when Uppsala was Christianized in the 12th century, there were a few misunderstandings as to how a prayer is offered and from that arose a tradition of screaming at the top of one’s lungs at 10pm every night. Now it’s seen as a way to relieve stress or agony before an exam. I’ve got quite the lungs, so I’m sure I’ll be participating plenty.

Something else I’m looking forward to is the everyday walk to school. I’ve missed walking to class since I’ve lived far off campus the last two years of my education at CU. According to the map, I’ll be walking through a park on the way to class every day.

I have my ticket! 2006 June 23

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Pre-Departure, Travel.
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I have my ticket!

Or rather, my tickets – I have a few stopovers before I get there!

This makes the wait to go to Sweden just more excruciating. The tickets have a special place on my wall, where I look at them every day. It’s going to be quite the exciting journey.

I can already see myself in the airport, with my bags packed and tickets in hand, ready to take off. O’Hare Airport in Chicago is my first destination, with a very short layover before I fly to Manchester, then I’ve got another short layover and finally I’ll be in at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm.

I’ve been to O’Hare before; I’ve flown in and out of there a few times, visiting family and heading to other destinations on the East Coast. It’s too bad that my layover is not longer so I could visit family, but it’s possible that I could have a late lunch with someone in the terminal. I usually fly into Midway, though, which sometimes feels like the Omaha of all airports. O’Hare is not that bad of an airport, but I like all airports, mostly just for the feeling I get when I know I’m travelling. To me, there are few things as exciting as travel.

Purchasing my ticket 2006 June 1

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Pre-Departure, Travel.
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I’ve purchased my ticket for Sweden through STA Travel. I got quite the deal; the ticket cost $614 (one-way) and I will stop over in Chicago at O’Hare and in Manchester, UK. I depart on 16 August.

Although I searched for tickets myself online, STA Travel did a great job. We have a location in the UMC and some very friendly people work there. I had always been doubtful of the place but now I’m confident that they are a good resource to have around.

It’s incredibly exciting to finally have my plane ticket. Now I can take my flight information to the Study Abroad office and turn in my housing form as well.

Speaking Swedish… every day 2006 May 30

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Language, Pre-Departure.
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One thing I’m nervous about when I arrive in Sweden is my Swedish skills. I’ve taken a few years of Swedish here at the University of Colorado, but I am unsure that I will be able to function very well when I get there. My teachers have recommended that I take the higher-level courses in Swedish, and that requires I take a placement exam when I arrive in Uppsala. Most students who take such courses are European students, and as an American student, they cannot tell from my course listings where I should be placed to best suit my needs.

Although many people in Sweden speak English, I am not going to let people speak to me in English very often; perhaps only when I get stuck. It’s an amazing thing to be able to speak more than one language fluently, and it’s been my goal to get at least three or four languages down. I have taken college-level courses in French and I studied German in high school, not to mention the fact that half of my ancestry is Filipino and I understand a lot of Tagalog. However, I’m nowhere near as close to fluent in those languages as I am in Swedish.

I am the only student going over from Colorado who has learned any Swedish in an academic setting. I’m going to help the others learn some Swedish over the summer so that they aren’t completely lost when they get there. One person is probably going to learn faster than the others, one does not seem to care to learn, and the third is going to be a great student. Since I’m not going to be teaching them more than a few basics, I’m not sure how much it’s going to help my own studying, so I am going to start an intensive online search for grammar-oriented books that will hopefully help me out a lot for the exam.

The good news is that I am not going to have many problems with going grocery shopping or filling out forms. I’ll be able to understand the majority of that kind of stuff. It will be kind of fun to be the American who speaks a language most Americans probably can’t fathom ever learning. That might blow away some stereotypes when I get there.

Busy as a bee 2006 May 26

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Pre-Departure.
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Today I found myself running around campus getting small tasks done for my trip to Sweden. I turned in my credit equivalencies form from the history department (I will get a ton of history finished!) and also got myself an International Student Identification Card.

One can obtain an ISIC at any STA Travel location.

I think the ISIC was a good idea. I’ll get some discounts and have another photo ID with me. The people at the agency were really nice and hopefully they’ll be able to find me a good flight. Nevertheless, I’ll probably look around quite a bit the next few days and hopefully have a ticket and a set plan by Wednesday.

Next up on my list: housing!