FIRSTS: sun, class, & academic fika

Since I arrived in Sweden last week, the skies have been rather blank and grey and promising wetness–and delivering it, too. Cold rain tampered with my morning runs and overall motivation to strap on a backpack and wander the city. Today I awoke to the first real sweet blue Swedish sky I’ve seen yet, and with perfect 60F temperature. Of course, this inviting day couldn’t coincide any less appropriately than with an afternoon commitment to being stuffed in a classroom.

Though classrooms generally don’t look or feel better than they do on the campus of Stockholm University. Significant art installations adorn wall interiors, and give form to many campus buildings. Needless to say, walking across campus on a beautiful day to a new class makes one more appreciative than envious of those who’s job isn’t to simply learn everyday. That attitude could change when my Stockholm honeymoon is over, but for now, I’ll relish every lick of it.

Photo courtesy of my Italian friend Melania Cimatti

I’m taking an Ecotoxicology course for the first half of the semester. That’s right–one class and one class only, everyday, for 14 weeks. That’s how the Swedes do it. I was rather daunted by the syllabus when I first arrived here, thinking that I might have to fish for more organic chemistry than populates my brain at the moment, but today’s first class quelled any fears. For one, I’m at a HUGE advantage being a native English speaker here. Everyone in the class is trying to sift through scientific material in a second language, and I get to sit back and enjoy a seemingly relaxed pace. I admire each and every international student for their multilingualism, and often feel guilty about being here and not having to try (though Swedish starts tomorrow!).

Secondly, the professor ordered us to take a fika halfway through the 2.5 hour class. If you haven’t heard me rave about it already, “fika” is the Swedish practice of taking a mid-afternoon break for a cup of coffee (“kaffe”) and a pastry. Today the professor had the TA brew nice Italian coffee and set out some cookies. I could get used to this.

A typical fika (except for the monstrous size of this “kalenbulle”). Photo courtesy of Stockholm University.

Class ended early, and I had time to get a longer-than-expected 1hr45 minute run in to cap off the sunshine. Though I stopped twice mid-run–totaling about 25 minutes of non-running time–I still managed to be very productive in exploratory and practical ways during those times:


  • SIGHT: I happened upon the Kungl Tennishallen, a.k.a. the Royal Lawn Tennis Club of Stockholm. Why is this cool? The club was founded in 1893 and hosts the ATP World Tour ever year in October for the If Stockholm Open. I also sat and watched some young women my age absolutely hammer on the tennis court. So much power; it’s really something to be so close to good tennis swing.
  • PRACTICAL: I got to pee. In a really nice bathroom. Avoided having to do a semi-shady urban piss stop.


  • SIGHT: Running back towards campus along Lilla Vartan, the wide straight that envelopes the heart of the city, I had to stop off at a sandy beach to take in the pink, purple, oranges sun setting over the water.
  • PRACTICAL: I pulled a tick out of my leg. Wouldn’t of seen that one if I hadn’t sat down. Critical revelation that yes, ticks do exist in Sweden.

Saving my tales of my adventure to the island of Grinda for another time. Soon.



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