My ‘Holm Away from Home

Gamla stan, the old town of Stockholm

Today marks one week of pinching myself (yep, still awake) and wondering how such magical places can actually exist. Where to begin? The cobblestone road, the vibrancy of the city, the architectural highlights, the snow globe-esque scene of Gamla stan wearing snowfall like jewelry, the frozen ponds and lakes sketched over by skates and skis.

St. Gertrude’s German Church


The meaning changes from time to time; sometimes it’s a person/people, a smell, a sound, a building, or a feeling. Sometimes we have more than one, too.

What does the word mean here?

Well, it’s being greeted by an exquisite, homemade taco night upon arrival, it’s good morning and goodnight hugs, it sounds like “dad jokes,” like a mother’s worry about not wearing enough layers outside, like my homestay sister humming American pop songs while she does homework, like hilariously failed pronunciations (on both ends — though, mine are much worse), and like laughter. It smells like freshly brewed coffee. It feels like warmth and comfort.

It’s the light blue house that I walk back to everyday. It’s home.

It took longer to adjust to the jet lag than it did to feel like this was home. Though, if you want to know what I haven’t adjusted to yet, it’s the ice.

In the greater Stockholm area that I’ve explored, salt actually is not used to combat slippery roads and sidewalks. Instead, pebbles are used to substitute. Though salting is known to reduce pedestrian and mobile accidents, as I’ve learned, the chloride inside of salt has its own ripple effects.

The problem: harmful chloride ions can seep through the concrete and damage the metal supplements underneath, causing corrosion post-salting.

So… as I’ve been cursing furiously under my breath while I slip and slide my way down to and from the commuter train, drawing strange looks as I twist my face in concentration (to maintain balance), it’s important to remind myself: the reasoning behind this is to protect the environment, which is pretty cool.

In front of Stockholm’s Royal Palace

It seems that I arrived just in time to get a rear-view mirror peek at what Christmas in Stockholm looks like: a winter wonderland, to say the least.

Stortorget, the old town’s main square

My family waited for me before holding all of the end-of-Christmas activities. We sang Swedish songs (that I pretended to know the words to — picture me slurring the words), danced around the tree, stuffed our faces with Swedish chocolates (which I highly recommend), took the ornaments down, and lastly, waved goodbye to the tree.

Over the last several days, along with dipping my toes into the (frigid) waters of this city, I’ve had my first few days of orientation with DIS. What can I say? First impression:

Refreshed. That’s the word I would use.

I’ve never been more psyched for a semester. To be in a learning environment with students who want to be there, who went through all of the hoops to finally get to this place, and who can connect and share all of their differing narratives — it’s a really special thing. My teachers, passionate about their work, all have their own academic and professional experiences to knit into the classroom.

I’m sure I’ll be focusing much more on my core course (Positive Psychology) during these recaps as I dive deeper into the subject. Stay tuned to hear more about that.

Fun fact: DIS is a shared campus with Stockholm’s Royal College of Music, which hosts about 200 concerts per semester — all of which are free to DIS students!

Our welcoming orientation consisted of a few incredibly talented performances and ended with the student body chanting along the words to none other than ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Just Swedish things.

Stadsbiblioteket, Stockholm’s rotunda-style public library

Stadsbiblioteket, only a 10 minute bus ride away from DIS, is just about the most gorgeous library I’ve ever been in — 360 degrees of good reads.

My commute to school is a pretty easy one (a straight ride down for 30 minutes) via the commuter train. This is my downtime — to plug my headphones in, to be in a state of complete serenity, and to watch the sky fade from indigo, to orange, to pink, and back to blue (perks of the everlasting darkness this far north on the globe — you don’t have to wake up at 5:00 am to see the sun rise, you just have to be outside around 8:30 am).

Stadion — the most colorful T-bana (metro) station

Mastering the art of Stockholm’s public transport (SL) has been a surprisingly easy feat to take on. Seven days and counting, and I haven’t managed to get myself lost — yet.

Fun fact: Stadion, named after the nearby Olympic Stadium, was actually one of Stockholm’s first cave stations. This was apparently a relatively ‘hot’ topic when it was built in 1973.

The big concern here was that people would identify these subterraneous stations with the underworld and damnable places. So… artists, Åke Pallarp and Enno Hallek, painted a metaphor:

There is always a sky not too far above.


[‘là:gom] (adv.)

Neither being excessive nor sparse but looking, feeling, being at the perfect equilibrium.

Just right.

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