As a rising senior, my initial plan was to spend my likely last summer break in New York. But sometimes things don't work out as planned and after a very swift spring semester I found myself on the plane back home. Landing in Copenhagen (Denmark), my dad picked me up from the airport and we drove across the bridge back to the place where I come from.
I remember waking up after a few hours of jetlag sleep, and when walking out on my parents' balcony the first thing crossing my mind being: this is not the real world. Now, I don't pretend to know much about other places that I haven't seen, but I have been fortunate to meet people from many parts of this planet and I have sought to live for extended periods of time in different places, and I must say that the Swedish standard of living is simply incredible. Yes, I've grown up in one of the wealthier municipalities, but both my mom and dad are from working class and so I've also been raised to never take anything for granted. I think this upbringing and that I've lived elsewhere to and from over the last four years largely is why the thought crossed my mind on my first day back in Sweden: how many Swedes just take their way of living as something normal and how they go on their three to four weeks summer vacation to a resort somewhere in Asia and then return with a fresh tan (read: red sunburn) to brag about in the office. Or at least, until recently this was how it used to be.
This is not the real world.
Sweden is changing. Or rather, the world is changing. In 2015, over 160 000 people sought asylum in Sweden, and for a country with ten million inhabitants this took a large toll. The Swedish socialist society, having proud itself with its humanitarian efforts, was forced to close down its immigration and the wave of refugees and the unsure times caused the rise of the nationalist party and revealed the increasing division in the welfare state. This summer, Sweden, like most of Europe and the world, is struggling to balance our traditional way of life with a new reality. It is easy to close ourselves in, to hide on our balconies and watch the chaos below. But if there's one thing that defines the Swedish culture and that most citizens still share, it's a a sense of global responsibility and care, and I'm convinced that having grown up in this spirit to a large extent caused my curiosity and need to go abroad, like so many other Swedish youths, because we're privileged enough to be able to, and because were socially minded to to care.
So, even though I'll spend most of my summer working my summer job at the fish restaurant and a few days sailing with my family, and meanwhile acknowledging how wonderful Sweden is during those warm (read: 17°C) and never fading summer days, I also know that my work abroad is not done. And so, while I'll closely follow global developments this summer, I'll also plan ahead on what's next. As this past year has shown, the future is as unsure as it ever was. But in the uncertainty also lies a world of opportunities, opportunities I intend to take--stay tuned!
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