I made the decision to study in Sweden based on my major and courses, and because I felt it would be unique to immerse myself in the Scandinavian culture that makes up my own heritage.

Linnaeus University pulled me in with its great course offerings and a unique teaching style, but the students and staff are what made the university home. Meeting other exchange students from all over the world was something I was not expecting.

Abby jumping in winter sun

Making friends from Austria, France, the United States, Switzerland, and more made it hard to leave. We got to know one another and taught each other so much about our own cultures while experiencing the Swedish culture together. From Sunday morning brunches to Tuesday study dates to Thursday night fondue, my eyes were opened to the different foods, cooking and study habits from around the world.

If I could sum up Sweden in one word, it would be fika. And the Swedes would agree. Swedish fika is a time-honored tradition throughout the country that I quickly took a liking to.

By definition, fika is a coffee break but it’s so much more. Fika is a daily – sometimes twice daily  (for the Swedes) – coffee break including arguably the best sweets. It can be taken throughout the day either with friends, family or co-workers. One thing I quickly learned was when it was fika time, it was fika time. Nothing else is happening and I mean that. It is a time to break from the workday or school day and enjoy the company of friends or quiet time alone for a warm coffee and sweet treat.

We “fika-ed” at least once a week, our wallets unable to support a daily fika, and gathered with friends to truly enjoy our company. Kullzénska Caféet, otherwise known as Granny’s, the local hidden gem of Kalmar, quickly became our common spot. Apple pie may be an American delicacy, but Granny had it figured out in Kalmar!

Swedish fika pastries

A Swedish delicacy tied with fika is the semla, a unique pastry I had never heard of before but will never be able to stop thinking about. A close second is the kanelbullar, the Swedish cinnamon roll with grains of sugar pulling it all together. I never considered myself a foodie, but Swedish fika may have turned me.

Sweden captured my heart, in the same way grandmas do, through my stomach. While you might expect Swedish meatballs and potatoes around every corner, you were much more likely to find a burger joint or Chinese buffet. Unexpected? Yes. Delicious? Every time. I can honestly say I never had a bad burger in Sweden.

I was once told you only share a meal with people whom you care about and that rang true even in Sweden. Great food with even better people make for unforgettable memories. While I could go on and on about my travels throughout Europe to Italy, Hungary, Norway and so on, the heart of my experience lies with the laughs and fikas shared with the amazing people I met in Kalmar, Sweden. They say home is where the heart is and Kalmar will always be home.