Everyone keeps asking if I am excited to go to Sweden. Of course I am excited, but for some reason that question keeps stumping me. In order to be exited you have to know what it is you are excited for. I’m not really sure what it will be like or what to imagine in my head. So I guess I am excited for the unknown and unimaginable, which is different than being excited. It is more like scared, but the kind of scared you get when you are about to drop over the edge of the first hill on a really big rollercoaster.
I choose to study in Sweden because I wanted to go somewhere a little unexpected, but not too different from home. I am thinking of this time as dipping my toes into the world of international travel, so I picked a place where my lack of other languages wouldn’t be a problem. I also picked it because I love winter and snow and cold. When I was thinking about culture shock and how I will manage I think of things that are comforting; a cup of Coffee, or Fika as they say in Sweden, looking out the window and seeing the first snow, warming up by the fire. I know that with these little things it will help me to find comfort in the harder times.
In order to be able to travel I put a lot of effort into my fundraisers and received so much kindness in return. I wouldn’t be where I am without my family, friends, community and random travelers passing through.
Over the course of the last year I did two dinners as fundraisers. Because I live in a very small town, I posted on Facebook and hung flyers around town that I would be serving food. For one dinner I did spaghetti. My mom and I made two huge pots of spaghetti, salad, and baked rolls. People also donated some food, and expertise.
If I learned one thing from doing the fundraisers, so often if you ask for help people are willing.
Asking can be hard, but with practice you learn how to make it easier for yourself. The second dinner we made Mexican food. We made beans, and rice and burritos. At each dinner we probably served between 50 and 75 people. Although it was hard, one good thing was seeing a room full of people who came out to support me in reaching my goals.
I also did a third fundraiser where I put together a calendar with my photographs in it and asked local business to purchase advertising space. My parents are helping to sell them for me around our communities while I am in Sweden.
Doing these dinners and making the calendar wasn’t always easy or fun. It was a lot of prep and planning and cooking, serving rushes of people, phone calls, and organizing, but with out that work I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the program, and earning my way here made the journey that much more meaningful. Thankfully that part is over now and I get to move on to focusing on my travels and the adventures ahead of me!
I envision my year being very challenging. As I say that, I remind myself to really mean it and take it seriously. I want to know it will be hard and remember to take every challenge and use it as a learning experience.
Going to school and growing up in Alaska hasn’t been like what most kids experience. With only about 15 kids in school many things have been different. This has been both a huge advantage to me because my schooling was unlike so many. I was never just another kid. But it has also created its challenges. Although my experiences have been unique, they have also been a little limited.
I wouldn’t change where I went to school or how I grew up at all, but I hope that my time in Sweden can help me to see what else is out there.
I hope to be able to have friends my age, be involved in more activities, and take different kids of classes.
Although I am scared, I am so excited to see what this next 5 months will be like. The next two days I have a lot to do to make sure I have everything I need, and then I will be out the door. What I have will do and everything else will fall into place. Skål, to the adventures this next chapter has to offer!
Fiona MacDonald, from Cantwell, Alaska, is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipient. Learn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!