Tomorrow at this time, I will be on a plane to LAX to begin my long (27 hour) journey to Stockholm. Unfortunately, there has already been a significant change in my life. Three days ago, my dog of 13.5 years, Cookie, had to be put down due to heart failure. She was my best friend, and I miss her so much and it makes leaving my family in a grieving period extremely difficult. However, I am still beyond excited to start this journey because I want to be able to challenge my viewpoints on different countries and even just my general perspective on life. I have always traveled. I am lucky to have a family that believes in the importance of immersing yourself in a different culture first hand. This time is going to be so much different though. I am nervous, even though I wouldn’t admit it to my parents, to be away from home and everything I consider “normal” for five months. Not only am I leaving my routine, I am going to be alone in Stockholm for two days before flying up to Umeå. I worry that not as many Swedish people speak English as I think. I want to learn some Swedish, but I know I will have limited vocabulary and hope people are not rude if I cannot communicate with them properly. Despite this, I welcoming the chance to be uncomfortable. I obviously have no knowledge of Swedish besides the standard greeting of “hej”, but I am excited to be exposed to a language that I have never had contact with before. I want this to teach me to be resourceful and be okay with not being the majority in a population. I have done little research on Sweden because I do not want to go there with negative ideas or even expect something that isn’t true. The one thing I have learned is that a daily “Fika” is common in Sweden. Fika is basically a coffee and pastry break meant to give everyone a moment to relax during the day or catch up with friends. Besides the Fika, I am extremely excited to experience a real winter. I have never been through a snowy or freezing winter season, and I hope to get a taste of what life in harsh weather is like. Being around an unfamiliar climate, language, and culture will be challenging, but I know I have a strong support system at home that will be there for me during any struggles I may face. Journaling is going to be a big thing for me while I am away because I believe being able to write down any thoughts, good or bad, will enhance my time abroad and help me figure out any confusing emotions I am feeling. Perhaps an odd way to cope, but I am bringing peanut butter with me because being able to eat something that I normally have everyday will help give me a sense of familiarity and routine. Saying goodbye is going to be hard, but I cannot wait to see what the next five months bring me, and I welcome change with open arms.