New Brown Girl in the North
My experience studying in Sweden for 2 semesters for exchange program was definitely a blast. I was originally studying in Kyoto, Japan, but I was thinking, as a Global Studies student who focuses on Gender, having the chance to go somewhere even further for exchange program, Sweden was the wise choice. I decided to go to Lund, specifically. Southern part of Sweden, very close to Denmark.
In August 2018, I arrived in Copenhagen. Closer to Lund than Sweden’s capital Stockholm.
“Morgon,” greeted the blond immigration lady monotonously.
I was a bit nervous, as I had always been at any immigration desk, and I said, “Morning”.
She asked for my residence card. It wasnot written on it whether I was going to study or work.
“Are you an au pair?” she asked me directly. Her tone was condescending.
I was shocked. Maybe she could have just asked whether I was a student or I was going to work. Not that being an au pair was not a noble line-of-work, but being a brown girl on that immigration line, traveling by herself, that was a specific question, was it? So then I mentioned that I was a student at Lund University and she proceeded quickly.
Next stop, Lund. I still did not have a place to stay that time. I had to move to a couple of Air BnB and hotels with my huge luggage, a big tote bag and a backpack. First week of September, it was raining heavily, I received back an email from a live-in landlord I applied to. As I arrived there, I was trying to sell hard my sad story of being away from home. Fortunately, my competition was a local guy. I won the battle, naturally, and got myself a place to stay! Not going to lie but yes, I hugged my landlord and cried a bit. Frustrating issue was finally solved, however I still did not know anyone in Lund except another student from my home university, but I had never met her before.
The first night at my new place, I decided to hang at a Café Ariman. It was near the Cathedral, which was a centre piece there, for sure. I met two new friends who happened to be high schoolers, which we had interesting conversation about beauty standards in Asia versus Europe and the fact that they were proudly a part of the ‘’green’’ party in a very young age (green as in environmental-focused).
Later that week, on the weekend, I got to meet the other student from Japan, Misa. She arrived before I did and already got her new gang at the dorm. She reminded me to become a part of a student organization, because she was told that it would be the fun part of the whole experience. The concept was like sorority but for all genders. There were 13 of them and I had no idea which one to go. They call it ‘’Nation’’.
That night we went to one of the Nations called Helsingkrona. It was about 15 to 20 minutes walk from where I lived. They held the first club event of the semester, so the line was very long, but I used that opportunity to get to know Misa and her dorm mates. They were playing German schlager that I was not familiar with, but I must say, I enjoyed it. A true start of European student life. I knew from that moment I had to familiarize myself with their music.
The next Monday, I followed Misa and her dorm mate, Leo to apply as a member at Sydskånska Nation. The only reason was because they have football on Sunday and Leo was interested. I did not think much, I just wanted to be with my (only) friends there.
Since that day, I learned about the structure at a Nation. There was the heads, the förman who managed a specific line of event, and members. The perks were firstly of course student discounts and more discount to enter our Nation’s event. At Sydskånska, there was the pub, the club, the sittning(themed dinner party), lunch, live music, movie night, the ball and other thematic events.
I started going to their events and got along with other members. It felt so natural to me to be in this Nation. Everyone was not being weird seeing me as a foreigner. They were also proud to be an LGBTQ+ friendly place and generally very open-minded. I knew I went to the right place.
One night, I was talking to Darius at a party. He was one of the förman.
“You know you have the personality to be a förman, right?’’ he said.
“Maybe.” I answered.
I still was not sure if I could commit, but not long after that I took the chance.
Throughout the next semester I became a Hövmastare. I managed the sittning. I got to do my favourite thing: Event organizing. An sittning is not only a dinner party with a theme, but it had the whole song book and other fun traditions to follow. I tried my best to learn the songs, which were in Swedish. I had also witnessed the most outrageously brilliant DIY costumes, ever.
Plus point, after the sitting was the club, so I can just go all-out after each sitting I host andparty all night. It would be too long to list out all the crazy things that had happened there, but I did not regret a thing. I was glad that everyone knew my country too, not to set the bar too low, but you will be shocked of how many people who do not know Indonesia.
If Sydskånska was a color, it was rainbow, with glitters. I had never worn so much color in my life. I was pushed to be creative in our events and just to be immersed in the student life. A bit too happy-go-lucky as well in the flirting department, caused some drama, but hey, to be young and away from home. Before I left and went back home, they gave me “The Boost of the Semester” award at our Summer party and I knew without them being accepting of me, I wouldn’t have had the boost to go through.
I expected nothing and got everything I never thought I needed: A sense of belonging. The North was not so bad for this Brown girl!