Making the Most of Melancholy

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Lights in Uppsala Cathedral

As I write this, I have just nine weeks left in Sweden. Just 63 days. My time here is more than halfway done. The realization shocked me out of a daze that I hadn’t noticed I’d fallen into. While I was going about my business in Uppsala, the better part of my semester abroad came and went and I was left staring after it like a train I’d just missed.

The mid-semester slump is a very real phenomenon. Even at my home university, I find that the middle of the semester is when everyone gets bogged down in schoolwork and just bumbles through their mundane routines. But the slump seems to function a bit differently in the context of study abroad.

When I was new to Sweden, the first order of business was to make myself at home. I made some friends, decorated my room, figured out how to navigate the university system, started studying Swedish. I didn’t travel much, inside the country or out. I wanted to be really settled here in Uppsala. And I did settle in. I did school work every day, spent time hanging around with pals, hit the gym a few times a week, had a class now and then.

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Grey skies behind the last fall leaves

But some days ago, I was struck by a spontaneous and keen awareness of my transience here. What was I doing sitting at home when there were still so many things I hadn’t seen and done, in Uppsala, in Sweden, on the continent? What had I done with the last month? How could I have wasted so much time just floating along when my time here is so scarce?

Upon reflection, I feel that that time wasn’t wasted. I had a lot of little experiences in that time, though perhaps without being aware of and appreciating them. But I realized that I need to make the best of my last 63 days, to be more present and to stop “settling in.” I had settled right into a post-honeymoon slump, but I’ve been startled out of it.

 

I wrote a list of all the things I want to do in the time I have left here: visit every student nation at least once, go to the art museum in Uppsala’s castle, visit a different part of the country, go to a concert or to the ballet. I want to go for more walks, plan more activities with friends, go to more events around town.

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Early evening in central Stockholm

My school workload is lighter now, so there’s nothing to keep me from actively being here, taking it all in while I can. I could deactivate my Facebook to make it easier to focus on the present. I’ll plan for the things I want to do instead of acting like they’ll eventually happen of their own accord. I’ll be more intentional in what I make of this opportunity.

I’m told there’s a Swedish word for the feeling I have now, a word without an exact translation. Vemod– the quiet, longing sense that something dear will soon be gone. How strange it will be when I go home and that word stays here and I’m left with no name for how I feel.

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