Field Notes 2016
Here you can read about the Arctic course taking place in the summer of 2016! The participating students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology together with the students of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are writing about their experiences throughout the course.
July 4th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew
This morning we woke up and went to the town of Malmberget which can be seen across the valley from our cabins. Malmberget originally began as a classic mining shanty town and is still built around the mining industry. Tragically now it is being destroyed by the mine itself. This town of a couple thousand began to develop a large sinkhole in the 1960s and LKAB has bought part of the town and homes in the affected areas.
The entire town will no longer exist within the next 20 years. We walked around a neighborhood close to the deformation zone where it was incredibly run down. Mixed among the remaining homes were the ghostly remains of walls and gardens outlining the areas of houses that have already been removed. Looking through the fence you could see the giant hole a block or two away where the ground is collapsing. It was impossible not to wonder when it would expand and consume the land that you were currently walking on. Afterwards we headed over to the old sports hall where there was an exhibit showing Malmberget’s history. The display housed different pictures from community events such as dances, concerts, and pageants and also old class photos from the 1960s and 1970s of the local school. These images depicted Malmbergert in happier times before its slow destruction. In the gym was a large photo display of houses throughout the town from different years and old mining photos. A large model of the town helped display the layout of Malmberget. Finally we went to a historical recreation of the original shanty town where people were selling goods from the old buildings and homes. The shanty town is one of the few things in Malmberget that will be preserved and moved.
After lunch, an hour and a half drive led us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Laponian Area”. At the Naturum Laponia Visitor Centre, a guide showed us the exhibit and explained why a 9400 km^2 large area in North Sweden was designed as a World Heritage Site in 1996.
Laponian area is one of the 32 World Heritage Sites whose selection was based on the combination of unique natural and cultural values. This site contains exceptional natural beauty and it has been occupied by the Sami people for over 2000 years since the transhumance of reindeer herding. However, the exploitation of natural resources, which started in the early 20th century in Norbotten County, has posed several obstacles to the reindeer herding and to other activities which are impressed in the culture and in the history of the Sami communities living in the area. One of the most severe obstacles is represented by the numerous dams and their connected infrastructures, i.e. power lines and roads, which are used to regulate the water level in the Lule River for the production of electric power. 25% of the Swedish hydropower comes from the Lule River which was originally a basin composed of 7 lakes and alpine streams and is now transformed into a huge lake.
On the way back to our cabins we had to slow down and stop many times in order to herd lots of reindeer off of the road.
July 3rd by Brittany Hancock-Brown and Mark Patterson
Today was the day we hiked down from Tarfala Research Station. When we got up, there was a lot of wind and rain and therefore very cold and not a promising start. We all gathered and packed our things and went down to the dining hall for breakfast. Instead of Adam making breakfast, we found Pia in the kitchen baking wonderful smelling bread. Along with the usual oatmeal, we had a great breakfast before we headed out. We headed out and the rain had stopped falling as hard—So that was good! We had to take our time coming down from the station because of the wet conditions in the weather. While waiting for the group to catch up at the first bridge, there was a Bohemian Rhapsody jam session. We also noticed that there was much less snow on the mountains than there was when we had walked up only days before. The water levels, consequentially, were much higher in the rivers and creeks that we crossed. By the time we reached the valley, the clouds had cleared up and the weather became ideal—cool, gentle breeze, and a lot of sun. Overall the hike back was much smoother than the trip up. We stopped at the Sami Restaurant and I had a reindeer burger. It was delicious!
After we reached the end of the King’s Trail, we waited for the bus to arrive. To our delight, the bus was massive, posh, and we had it all to ourselves! We switched vehicles at the airport, which was preceded by a challenging game of Frisbee with high winds. The new vehicles were private vans which we are renting for the remainder of the trip. We drove to get dinner and some of us chose to eat at Frasses and others ate at a pizza place. We then went to Coop to get food for the next few days. It took longer than expected since we had to coordinate meals with our new roommates and because some of us still have trouble reading food labels and navigating foreign stores. Then we started our hour and a half journey to our cabins. In our van, we passed the time by playing “guess the Disney song” game which involved Martin playing random Disney songs on Spotify and having us try to identify which movie it came from as quickly as possible. When we finally arrived at our cabins, we were delighted to see how wonderful our living spaces are. We have comfy beds, private bathrooms, full kitchens, a TV, wifi, and even a sauna! Perhaps the best thing of them all is the perfect view from our kitchen windows of the midnight sun.
July 2nd by Saloni Sheth and Laura Schultz
Today, we did not struggle. At least, we didn’t struggle as much as we did on Sunday, the day of our canceled flight and carrying too much luggage. After a nice morning consisting of the normal breakfast at 7:30, we had a break until 10, when we went with Pia, one of the station’s research assistants who is also the station’s flower expert. We had a field excursion to the nearby vegetation monitoring area. Here, we identified ten different species of Arctic flora in various stages of blooming. Studying and identifying plants based on their physical attributes is called phenology.
Pia then told us all about how the blooming of several of the species has varied over the past few years, most likely due to how the climate in the area is shifting. In addition, she explained to us that the reindeer that roam the valley like to eat more than just lichen, as many people imagine they eat. During the winter, lichen is pretty much the only vegetation remaining available to them, so that is what they settle for. However, when more plants and greenery are in bloom, the reindeer are happy to eat that instead. We found this particularly interesting because we too had thought that reindeer mainly subsisted on lichen year round.
Pretty much this whole time that we were out, it was quite cool and rainy, so we were happy to head back to the station for lunch. However, the fog that had enveloped the valley did allow for some very nice pictures.
After the fog lifted and we had a nice lunch of fish and potatoes, we met back in the classroom for two final lectures here at Tarfala. The first was given by Ninis about the REXSAC project that she and Dag have recently established. The second was from Mark about public history and Arctic tourism, which we paid careful attention to since our research topic is the impacts of tourism in the Arctic. To wrap it up, we had a really interesting discussion about the day’s reading about a Sámi man named Nils Sarri who was integral in establishing tourism in the Kebnekaise area in the early 20th century.
When the lectures concluded, the rest of our night consisted of dinner and plenty of free time in order to prepare for our departure in the morning. It feels like our time at Tarfala has flown by, and we have learned so much from our field trips. We will be sad to be going, but are excited for the next chapter of our Arctic adventure in Gällivare.
July 1st by Evan London and Kajsa Lundgren
Our second day in Tarfala valley began with our long awaited lecture on the cryosphere (consisting of ecosystems with year round frozen water including glaciers, ice sheets, and permafrost ecology), presented by Ninis Rosqvist. We began by discussing what should be included when designating the Arctic region. The Arctic has many overlapping definitions what the cutoff for the Arctic region? Should it strictly be considered regions above the Arctic Circle, excluding southern Greenland and almost all of Iceland? Or perhaps the area of the map above above the 60th parallell, including the cities just north of Stockholm? Or even defined by more natural boundaries such as the tree line and the Arctic Ocean’s convergence zone? There’s no easy answer, but all of these potential definitions are important to consider especially when determining which actors should be able to dictate the outcomes within our planet’s northernmost regions.
After getting a better idea of the icy regions we were considering as ”Arctic”, we started to look at how the polar region has been fluctuating in temperature over time. The human recorded weather data date back to the 1700’s, although records from this era need interpretation due to the differences in measuring practices between our present and the past. Filling in the rest of the long term record requires more scientific inquiry and data collection. The methods include some truly ingenious techniques such as biochemically analyzing trees preserved within peat bogs and even looking at the formation patterns of stalagmites and stalactites within deep caves. With our ability to look at the temperature pattern of the last 10,000 years, we can see that the overall trend has been one of polar cooling, however looking at the last century of the graph is a whole different story. We couldn’t help but think of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth where similar graphs were shown, and yet even with all this public attention for the past 10 years, it still seems like not enough is being done to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.
To lighten our spirits after contemplating the drastic changes to the polar climate, we began preparing for our hike on Storglaciären. Our kit provided by TRS included: an ice pick-axe, a harness and crampons. With our equipment stowed in our packs, we set forth to the tounge of the glacier ascending on the moraine. Before stepping on the glacier we had our lunch and had good look at the processes in the paraglacial area (the new land revealed by the receding glacier). We could now very clearly see the old 1910 extent of the glacial ice and the moraine of broken up bedrock that the glacier carries with it through the natural motion of ice melt and gravity pulling the mass down the valley floor.
Now acquainted with the periphery of the glacier, we proceeded to ascend to the Automatic Weather Station near the very top. From this vantage point within a bowl of mountain rock we could see across the valley we hiked through the day before last (29/06/16) along with the upper reaches of Kebnekaise, truly a sublime vista!
But what then to make of this Arctic sublimity? To answer this question we needed to return to the lecture hall at Tarfala for Mark Safstrom’s lecture on H.C. Andersen’s The Snow Queen and the Arctic narratives of 19th century romanticism. This romantic period found expression in a desire to make progress through regress, to make a return to our primordial natural state. The lure of the untamed icy expanse for those seeking fame and adventure inspired a multitude of expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, some of which ended fatally, but all became part of the larger narrative that the polar regions of the Earth were only meant for those who could muster their masculine might to proclaim themselves masters of the ice. It’s funny to think what these early male explorers would think of our group with our strong women majority who have clambered the icy slopes just as spryly as they did.
After the day’s activities, we’ll have no trouble sleeping, preparing ourselves for what tomorrow brings~
June 30th by Karl Blomgren and Kathy Limes
In the morning, we got up and got a lot of breakfast. We also made delicious sandwiches (although we didn’t make enough L). Those sandwiches accompanied us on the lakewards journey that Ninis assigned us. We were told to walk down to the frozen lake, then walk north to the base of the mountain and back to Tarfala. We walked along the river and investigated (and debated) the geologic history of the region.
We saw a few glaciers, and were enchanted by a group of reindeer that we found wandering along the snowfields in the valley. We also found some stone circles, where the brave sandwiches tragically perished in the line of duty. We hiked back to Tarfala along the base of the mountain, trying our best to avoid the patches of snow (or battlefields, as some argued) along the way, and had a couple of really dramatic snowball fights when and as we failed. Kajsa tried to tackle Martin into the snow, but was unsuccessful, much like Katy’s attempts to hit anyone with her snowballs.
After we returned, we had a two hour break. Katy took a nap, Karl stayed on the E rock and mourned the sandwiches.
Then, we had an outdoor lecture on the geologic history of the region from Ninis. She talked about what we had discovered on our hike – how the landscape was shaped by glaciers, how the lake was formed, what kinds of environments were found there, and what it might look like in a hundred years. She also dazzled us with the massive time scale of the valley’s history, and of the ice ages that shaped it.
We then went inside to have a lecture with Mark.
He talked about the Arctic in the enlightenment age, and more specifically, Carl von Linné and his perspectives on the Sàmi. We talked about travel writing in that age – how it was a combination of genuine information and fantastical storytelling, and had a rousing discussion on the assigned reading.
After that, we had beet soup, beans, and bread for dinner, and then the official day was done. Karl went on a hike, and Katy went to sleep. The evening hike was directed towards Kekkonen peak, but also managed to include Tarfalatjårro.
This is a picture of some of the hikers on Kekkonen peak.
Tomorrow, we’re going on a hike up one of Tarfala valley’s glaciers. We can’t wait!
June 29th by Martin Alesund and and Rachel Gutierrez
In the early morning, everyone got up on time and we all met up at the bus to head to Nikkaluokta. The weather looked ominous. We were not thrilled to have to hike in the rain. We arrived at the Nikkaluota station and gave our bags to the helicopter, visited the guest station, and started our journey.
Martin befriended a rabbit within with first five minutes of the hike. That was the only form of wildlife we saw today. The cheerful group hiked further and then the rain came out of the sky like a faucet. We were not cheerful anymore. We were soaked. Then, we walked and walked and walked some more in the rain.
The rain stopped and we took of all of our not-so-waterproof raingear. “Idiots” the clouds thought and then the rain started again. We were again bathed in nature. We ate snacks along the way and eventually lunchtime came. By this time, Rachel was feeling light-headed and it had actually not rained for a while so we were slightly happier. We had a beautiful lunch near a beautiful riverside and we were able to see glaciers on the mountain.
Then, we started on the very tough part of the trail. We had to stroll through rivers, stumble through glaciers, balance and climb on rocks, and try not to fall over at every step. By this point we had hiked most of the way and were feeling very exhausted. When we finally say the research station, we cheered! We had made it! Our legs were not going to fall off before we got there! The 24 kilometers / 16 miles was not a cake walk. It was the toughest as scariest thing I have ever done in my life (Rachel).
Then we had a lovely dinner and showered and are now ready to sleep for the next century to recover. Tarfala research station is the coolest place we visited by far and if you already didn’t google it, do it now.
June 28th by Enrico Lucca and Ellie McGrew
Exciting day with planned visits and unexpected meetings in Kiruna
My name is Enrico Lucca and I am 23 years old. I am pursuing the last year of a Double Degree in Environmental Engineering at KTH and at Politecnico of Torino, in Italy.
Ellie McGrew: I’ll be starting my fourth year at the University of Illinois this fall majoring in earth and environmental sciences with a minor in geography. I really enjoy outdoor adventures and a trip to the Swedish Arctic sounded like a great one; plus this trip included different topics which link closely with what I’m interested in studying.
After an energizing breakfast we walked through the town aiming for the base of the “Midnattsolstigen” (Midnight Sun Trail): a 2 hour trail which goes up to the top of the Luossavaara mountain (724 m). Even before starting the trail the idea had been to come back there during the “night” to experience for the first time the Midnight Sun, but the weather forecast was not encouraging.
The Kiruna municipality has installed panels all along the trail giving information about mining, Sami history, reindeer herding, geomorphology and flora and fauna of the Luossavaraa mountain. Once we hiked through the woodland and crossed the tree line, we ended in the low alpine zone from where we had a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. We observed several signs of the so called technological mega-system for Norbotten, which was built in the early 1900’s to support the mining activities: power lines, highway, railway, waste rock terraces, the remains of prospecting activities and old open pits which are now filled with groundwater. These infrastructures and the old pits represent obstacles for the reindeer herding, which has its routes from the winter to the summer grazing fields going in the SW- NE direction.
June 27th by Brittany Hancock-Brown and Mark Patterson
We have arrived in the Arctic!
Today started bright and early, as all the Illinois students and Enrico got up to catch the 5:12 bus from Universitetet. We then hopped on the train to Arlanda and met up with Dag, Kajsa, Martin, and Karl. We checked our bags, printed our boarding passes, and headed to the gate. As we boarded, we got good news that there were empty seats on the plane and that Enrico, Saloni, and Laura wouldn't have to wait until the afternoon to fly to Kiruna!
We landed in Kiruna, checked into our rooms, and went out for pizza. After lunch, we reconvened with Dag and Mark to start the day's activities. First, we met Dan Lundström from Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården and hopped on to start our bus tour of Kiruna. Our first stop on the bus tour was near the base of Luossavaara, which is where LKAB originally wanted Kiruna to be relocated to. Dan went on to explain that the political leader in office chose not to have Kiruna relocated there, but rather to the east of town. As we took in the views near the base of Luossavaara, Mark pointed out a peak in the distance and identified it as Kebnekaise. We continued on our bus tour and Dan pointed out several different areas and buildings. One of these areas was a former block of houses that had been torn down and replaced with art pieces and a park to preserve the memories of those who lived there. We continued on past the site in which the new city will be located and then looped around back towards town.
We got off of the bus at the Kiruna church. Dan gave a brief history of the church before we entered. He explained that the church was built to be more of a meeting place rather than a church, which is why the church does not contain any religious symbols. The inside of the church was breathtaking. We had a discussion regarding the church's significance to the people of Kiruna and how it may change when it is taken apart and moved.
Our tour of Kiruna continued on to the inside of City Hall. We covered a variety of topics including the art within city hall, the four different deformation zones of Kiruna, Sami mittens, and the demolition of old city hall and construction of the new city hall in 2018.
We continued onward to the Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården where we ate reindeer, salmon, or vegetarian sandwiches with coffee and tea while Dan wrapped up material for the day. Some of the points he made during his conclusion that we found particularly interesting were that the people of Kiruna have more faith in LKAB than the community and that if the mine were to close, one-third of Norbotten's 250,000 inhabitants would be affected in some way or another. He also described his organization and how it acts as a sort of middle-man between LKAB and community leaders.
Our day together concluded with the group eating delicious pasta and talking about the days events. Everyone is exhausted from a long and busy day, but excited for tomorrow starting off with a hike on the Midnight Sun trail!
June 26th by Laura Schultz and Saloni Sheth
Today, we struggled.
Saloni’s morning: The morning started off rough with over-packing issues, so I rushed through getting ready and headed to the bus stop to meet the rest of the group. Unfortunately I missed the bus—and my group—by three minutes and the next one wasn’t for another half hour. I resigned myself to getting to the train station by foot, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I accepted the fact that I looked like a mess in the rain, running with two suitcases, a hiking backpack ready to burst at the seams, a knapsack, a jacket, and furry hiking boots. Thankfully, I found the rest of our group waiting at the train station, and when they saw me arrive out of breath with my luggage they all applauded. I thought my morning journey would be the roughest part of my day—it couldn’t possibly get any worse, right?
Laura’s morning: I thought the day would be just fine when I woke up. I got out of bed, showered, and had breakfast all in good time. From there, I started to get delayed- I had to forgotten to take my trash out and my last minute packing of loose items took longer than anticipated. But the real problems began when I had to leave Lappis and carry all of my luggage… which included a suitcase, a duffel bag, my backpack, a boarding bag, and a tote bag. It was a combination of my own overpacking and my mother’s encouragement to bring more that led me to be this weighed down. Thankfully, after getting it all outside, I caught the bus to the subway and then the subway to KTH, a process that looking back was relatively pain-free. However, once we all stepped out of the subway station, the worst part of my day began.
Walking to Dag’s office on the other side of campus was painful for all of us. And it certainly didn’t help that it was raining. Once we got there, we dropped off our extra luggage and thought the difficulties were over. That was when we got the news that our flight had been cancelled, and that the next flight Norwegian Airlines could get us on wasn’t for four days. After looking into alternate options, we found an overnight train that left that afternoon and would get us to Kiruna by morning. Excited to take the scenic route, we were content with this plan. Then we realized that nine minutes in between train transfers was too risky and could leave us stranded in the middle of the night in a random city. Now the best option was to book a different airline for the next morning. This would work out fine for ten out of the thirteen travelers in our group, but for the three of us that would be on standby (the two of us and Enrico) it was just one more struggle. But we have no other choice, so here we are, waiting at the airport and hoping three people just don’t show up for this flight. The positive highlight of yesterday is easy to pick out—when we were headed back to Lappis for the night and Enrico bounced off of the bus walls… Maybe it wouldn’t have been funny on any other day, but after a day like yesterday, any sort of comic relief was very welcome. :)
Week 3 at KTH by Evan London and Kajsa Lundgren
Hi, Kajsa and Evan here!
Time has flown by fast, the third week at KTH has now passed and we are leaving for Kiruna and new adventures tomorrow. This week has been quite busy with lectures together with Dag where the focus has been on the Swedish north, colonization, and heritage in Arctic politics, amongst other things.
It’s been interesting to learn how the Swedish North played a crucial role when Sweden was about to re-define itself during the 19th century (after the Great Power era). The North was of great importance in many aspects; resources, science, and power production. Due to the industrial revolution, which reached Sweden around 1870, there was a huge increase in the demand of steel. This also contributed to the northward expansion and colonization.
During the industrial revolution people didn’t care much about environmental protection, not that they didn’t care about their surrounding nature, but more of a common understanding that no matter how humanity changed the environments, nature would always win in the end. One might call it “the unbeatable power of Mother Nature”.
In the late 17th century there was a shift in this way of thinking and the first law for bird protection was imposed in the year of 1888 in Germany. In the states national parks were established and this idea was then brought to Sweden by Adolf Erik Nordeskiöld who argued that Sweden also should establish national parks. Laponia was at the same time acknowledged as a World Heritage. This lead us into the definition of heritage and how historical narratives have been used to highlight the importance of certain individuals in order to make claims and “prove” historical connections between nations and locations of interest. An example discussed in class in South Georgia where Great Britain and Argentina are using history to tell their own story of how they are connected to the island.
As the week drew to a close, we presented in our essay groups about the status of our research. Everyone had great presentations with a lot of good questions, a really good position for us to be in before heading up to the Arctic.
Friday was Midsummer, and the american students went south to the celebration in Nynäshamn. It was a great representation of an authentic traditional midsummer complete with a maypole and folk dancing. There was no better way to end the week before we head up to the Arctic on Sunday.
Week 2 at KTH by Karl Blomgren and Katherine Limes
This week, we started to get into the real material of the course. On Monday and Tuesday, we talked about the history of the arctic - beginning with a general orientation to the Arctic on Monday (and an introduction to the essay topics for our final projects), and then a discussion of the human history of the Arctic.
We talked a lot about the exploitation of the Arctic by humans, what resources were there and how we utilized them (including a discussion on what a resource actually is), and a discussion of the history of humans in the Arctic, from ancient times to the present. We talked about the earliest settlers of the Arctic, and were introduced to some of the major schools of thought in archaeology. We then covered our essay topics, which were mostly to do with the effects of the modern usage of the Scandinavian Arctic on the Arctic as it is today, and as it will be in the future. On Tuesday, we covered some of the modern uses for the Arctic, including resource extraction and science. At the end of the lecture, we had an exercise role-playing an international arctic expedition crisis meeting.
In the next part of the week, we talked about the history, culture, and economic life of the Sámi. We began with a general introduction to the people of Norrbotten, including the Swedish minorities that live there, and then we began discussing and watching Sámi film. All the films we watched were made by Sámi filmmakers. We began with a feature length film about the Kautokeino rebellion by Nils Gaup, and continued the next day with two short films by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Liselotte Wajstedt, both of which were on modern Sámi. We then went to the Nordiska Museet exhibition on the Sámi, which we discussed in the context of the former exhibition.
Ending the week was a lecture on the geopolitics of minerals, and a group seminar on current mining developments on Greenland.
Karl’s bio and week:
I follow the engineering physics programme at KTH in Stockholm, the city where I’ve spent most of my life. I decided to take this course out of personal interest in the topic, and a fascination with the polar regions.
The time of year being as it is, I’ve spent much of my time outside of class this week following the European football championship. Between matches I’ve also tried to stay on top of the readings, and enjoy the lovely summer weather.
In class I’ve particularly enjoyed the different group exercises and discussions we’ve had on this week’s topics.
Katy’s bio and week:
I study Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois, although I’m originally from Colorado. I chose to take this course because I was interested in the history and impact of technology, and I wanted to see the arctic.
In no particular order, this week I’ve done a ghost tour, visited the beach by Lappis, and gone to Helsinki for a quick visit. In class, I’ve enjoyed learning about the geology of the arctic.
Week 1 at KTH by Martin Alesund and Rachel Gutierrez
This week, we were given a brief overview of the course that we are taking. We also learned some general knowledge about the arctic, including: global climate change, melting glaciers, the rise in sea level, and the melting permafrost. Our main question we want to answer is: “How the society is affected by the climate change and its consequences?” We also learned that there are economic interests in the arctic that are also being affected by the climate change and climate change may pose a particular threat to these economies. The goal of this course is not “reverse” or “stop” climate change, but rather to better prepare for what is going to happen in the future and how to cope with these changes to the environment. Ms. Rosqvist was supposed to have lectures on Thursday and Friday but she was unfortunately ill so we watched a video supplement that described reindeer herding and how climate change is changing the routine of the Sami people and reindeer herding.
Bio on Martin and Description of his Week:
My name is Martin Alesund and I am 25 years old. I am studying the first year in the master program of Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Infrastructure at KTH. I´ve been living in Stockholm my entire life. Here comes a short summary of my week, since me and Rachel were at different places. The day before the course started, I wrote my last exam before the summer and had a massive migraine afterwards. The headache came back three days straight so despite coming to school for the 45 minute course introduction I was home in bed. I worked during the weekend. So my week wasn’t great and I´m really looking forward to the upcoming course.
Bio on Rachel and Description of her Week:
My name is Rachel Gutierrez and I am from the University of Illinois in the USA. I am majoring in Atmospheric Sciences and minoring in Geology and I will be starting my fourth year in the Fall of 2016. I decided to take this course because I am interested in climate change and I thought it would be an amazing experience to be able to go to the arctic and learn about it. This is also my first time traveling to Europe, so my week has been quite exciting. I arrived on Tuesday, June 7th with some other classmates and spent a long time dragging our luggage from place to place as we tried to find the place to pick up our keys for the dormitories. Once we were settled, which took a surprisingly long time, we rested for the upcoming day of class. After class, my fellow U of I companions and I went touring around Stockholm. We went on a boat tour of the canals and bridges around the city and got to learn a little bit about the buildings that are on the water. We also went to Skansen, which I personally loved because I got to see many baby animals, moose (my favorite), and walk through 19th century villages and learn about the Swedish history and way of life at that time. Next, we visited the Vasa Museum which was absolutely incredible! I learned so much about the tragic fate of the Vasa ship and it was extremely fascinating to see how so many artefacts from the ship were preserved, almost as if a piece of 17th century Sweden is frozen in time. My first week has been filled with many new experiences and challenges, but I am certainly enjoying my time exploring a new place.