NZSBA Scholarship recipient, Tom Collins Experience in Sweden
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you’re enjoying a warm and relaxing kiwi summer. The weather is a bit different here in Sweden. It’s about zero degrees and dark most days. Sound depressing but I’m actually enjoying it. To be honest, my first few winter Christmases were a strange and disorientating experience. Everything was the exact opposite to what I was used to. It made me feel out of place and very far away from home. But now I’m learning to embrace it. The decorations around town, Christmas markets and celebrations like St Lucia are starting to feel more like the holidays, or at least another version of them.
It’s moments like these that make me reflect on living in a different country. When I talk to people here or friends back home many ask if it’s difficult being on the other side of the world. Of course, in many ways it is. Being far away from my family, especially around this time of year, is hard. But it’s not just the big things. I will confess to listening to some Radio New Zealand broadcasts to hear the kiwi accent when I’m particularly homesick. And don’t get me started on the range of Swedish breads and diary products in the supermarket that still confuse me, even after living here for 18 months.
But in all sincerity, my time in Sweden has been replete with both big and small cultural adjustments, each of which has taught me more about my own identity and the two nations I now call home. I feel this chance to reflect and compare is a real privilege, something that has transformed my perspective on the world and what is possible within it. More broadly, it has made me consider the larger New Zealand-Scandinavian relationship I am a part of and the value this partnership has. The world faces many challenges at the moment and although we are relatively small countries, I believe our cooperation can have a positive impact. I hope to do more work on this after finishing my studies.
Speaking of studies, I am getting ready to write my thesis this year. It’s the final stage of my master’s programme and something I’m both nervous and excited about. Last semester we had more freedom to select our courses and I chose a variety of classes ranging from the role of gender in different political systems to the concept of democratic representation itself. But there was one course on economic inequality, and the political repercussions of it, that really interested me. I hope to connect this to popular culture and write about what the revival of ‘the 1980s’ in western popular culture reveals about the state of modern society.
I feel very fortunate to be able to think about ideas and have discussions with classmates on the big issues of our time, like climate change, the rise of far right populism and what crazy statement Donald Trump will make next. I know this wouldn’t be possible without the support of everyone at the NZSBA and the Hans and Pat Björklund Scholarship, so thank you again. I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2020 and I look forward to updating you when the weather’s a bit better.