Something Swedish


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Perspective/Perspektiv

Its been exactly 8 years (to the day) since I’ve moved to Sweden. What better way to celebrate than to resurrect a blog about Sweden that I haven’t updated in nearly 4 years?

Having felt like I had already written about everything, experienced everything, and not wanting to become repetitive and boring, I simply stopped. After so many years in a new place – it isn’t so new and exciting and romantic anymore. The quirky differences become normal. The food no longer tastes strange. The language is understandable. The traditions and holidays make sense. You adjust, little by little. You start to live life the best you can, even if it means making changes and stumbling along the way.

Being busy naturally played its role in my disappearance. The first year of my blogging, it was basically a full time job – I had no friends, no job, nothing to do – so, in 2012 with all of my free time I wrote 115 (long and detailed, I might add) blog entries. I knew I could never live up to that, so 40 posts in 2013 seemed a lot more reasonable and maintainable. It dwindled down to 13 posts in 2014 having been so concentrated on the last of my Swedish studies, and then in 2015 I got admitted into dental assistant school and suddenly 11 posts seemed like a lot. I don’t even count the two last half-hearted attempts in 2016. Despite a 4 year hiatus, I still have people reading old content, leaving comments, and even subscribing from time to time. Which must mean that Something Swedish is still relevant, even if I was feeling obsolete and uninspired.

So, I decided to change my perspective and take back something I loved doing. It’s important to look back and see how far you’ve come and how much you have managed to achieve (This goes for everyone, always). It’s not bragging, its taking inventory (and hopefully, inspiring others that are in the beginning of their journey). It’s easy to let the years go by and think you are standing still.

Since moving to Sweden 8 years ago I have…

…gone through Svenska för invandare (SFI) /Svenska som Andra Språk (SAS)/Svenska 1+2 (high school level Swedish) (2012-2015)

…landed multiple part-time jobs – despite my lacking grasp of the Swedish language – such as English tutor, restaurant employee, preschool/kindergarten substitute teacher, text translator, transcriber, voice actor – moving to a new country is the perfect place to try new things!   (2013-2015)

…moved into our first (full-sized) apartment together and made it a home

…become a Swedish citizen (dual citizenship) (2015 – on my 30th birthday, how serendipitous!)

…gotten accepted into dental assistant school (finally using the Swedish language instead of just studying it, managing to keep up with a class of native speakers) (2015)

…finished my 1.5 year dental assistant education (dec 2016)

…gotten my first full-time job – needing to interact with coworkers and patients in proper and professional Swedish all day, every day. This improved my confidence and Swedish skills tremendously, both verbal and written.  (2017)

…voted for the first time in Sweden elections (2018)

…been promoted to clinic coordinator/manager  (2018)

…bought a house in the country-side to fix up and eventually spend weekends and summers (2019)

Within this time and throughout these milestones I have…

…met new people and made new friends (fellow expats and Swedes alike)

…become somewhat fluent in a second language

…acclimated to the Swedish work force

…learned Swedish laws

…eaten a ton of Swedish food…and learned how to cook some of it

…been to (and understood…and enjoyed!) Swedish concerts, theater, inspirational speakers, stand-up comedy

…celebrated Swedish holidays and embraced new traditions

…traveled to Denmark, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Cyprus (all of which I would’ve probably never gone to if I hadn’t moved here)

It’s been quite a journey. A journey that I want to share with those about to embark on journeys of their own, those preparing a first visit or a picking up and moving, those curious because they are in a long distance relationships with someone Swedish, those with distant family from Sweden, those who accepted a job offer in a country they know nothing about, those who simply like to travel for the sake of seeing the world, those who are already here and can’t seem to fit in or figure it out.

I hope those who read this know that they aren’t alone, and it does get better. Moving to a new country (or state or town, for that matter) isn’t the easiest – but there are success stories to be inspired by (much bigger than my own). Open your mind and change your perspective – you can do it! Take the risk, you can learn something. The struggle only makes you stronger. No matter how bad your accent is or how much you dislike the taste of pickled herring or how you wish alcohol was sold in supermarkets or how stupid you think it is to dance like a frog on midsummer – there’s hope for you yet! You don’t have to like or enjoy every aspect of a place in order to find YOUR place there.

Take a step back and think about all YOU have achieved, how long you have come, what you want to do and how to make it become a reality. It’s easy to get stuck on being homesick and missing the way things were or the people you love, but if you never embrace your new life – it will never embrace you back.

 


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Transcript Headache

It seems that every time I disappear for a while it’s due to being busy with school. This time the difference is that I’m finally done with studying Swedish, and am finally studying for a future career in Sweden…in Swedish.

After four years of being here I’ve finally reached higher education and while I’m excited to share my experiences and explain how it all works,  I want to tell the story (from a year ago, that I never got around to posting) of my pre-application process to help someone from making my mistakes:

______________________

photo(7).JPGApplying to certain college (högskolan) or university (universitet) programs, vocational/trade school  (yrkesutbildning), or specific job positions requires verifying your transcripts to make sure you’re qualified. If you have foreign transcripts because you aren’t from Sweden, there’s an extra step that can make this messy: simply sending them in isn’t enough. Your transcripts will  need to be translated (if not in English), reviewed, and converted to their equivalents acceptable in Sweden schools.

The problem is that this process can take anywhere from 6 – 10 months (to compare with my own personal experiences of getting things sorted in Sweden: marriage paperwork= 1 month, Permission to move to Sweden= 2 months, Swedish citizenship approval= 2 weeks, Swedish passport= 4 days Read about it here)

This means that it’s really important to do this as early as possible because this wait time can really delay your plans if you miss an application deadline while waiting for your transcripts to be evaluated.

Thankfully, I knew about the wait time so I got the process started almost 2 years before I needed to – which was good because everything that could go wrong, did.

Lesson one: You always need paperwork

The first thing I did was go to the “guidance center” that assists with adult education: vägledningscentrum (works together with the unemployment services arbetsförmedlingen in certain towns)

They were very helpful in answering all of my questions, told me that UHR (Universitets- och högskolerådet or “Swedish Council for Higher Education”) is where my transcripts need to be sent to get verified and gave me the address. Most importantly they made official copies (vidimerade kopior) of my transcripts; each page stamped, signed, and dated.

Knowing it could take up to 10 months, and not yet being in a rush because I was still studying Swedish, it wasn’t until almost a year later I decided to call for an update. UHR had no record of ever receiving my transcripts. At this point, I knew I would be applying to an education within the year so the pressure was on.

I went back to the guidance center to resend my transcripts and explain what happened. It wasn’t until I was handed a form I had never seen before  that I understood why my transcripts were never processed: I sent them with no paperwork. This form was not only something to fill out, but a checklist of everything you need to send ASIDE from your transcripts, like an official print out of Swedish grades and a personbevis (“civic registration certificate” – ordered online from skatteverket “tax agency”). This time I did it properly. Or so I thought.

Lesson Two: Read the fine print

A few days later I got a mail confirming that they received and are processing my transcripts. My deadline  was in 8 months, so I was relieved and worried at the same time. It should make it in time.

About a month later I get another mail: my transcripts are incomplete.

How!? It turns out that certain countries (USA included) require all transcripts to be sent officially aka directly from old school to new (UHR in this case). This means that the transcripts that I sent were invalid. I should have learned my lesson from the first mistake. I should have read the fine print – myself.

The good news was that my application is on file, so I didn’t have to do anymore paperwork. The bad news is that it is no easy task to get transcripts quickly sent to another country, from another country. While UHR was willing to receive everything electronically, my old schools were not so hip to the times. This involved needing to snail-mail an addressed envelope  with American stamps, a form filled out with my signature, and a money order from an American bank. Getting all of this sorted could take weeks, thankfully my brother helped as a middle man to speed up the process. The high school didn’t charge extra for sending internationally, but the college insisted on using Fed-Ex which costs an extra 60 bucks.

A few weeks later I received another letter confirming that everything was complete and ready to be processed. About 6 months later – the same week of the application deadline – it was finally done. I had proof of attending high school and having all the English and math prerequisites I needed to apply to the Certified Dental Assisting Program (Tandsköterskeutbildning). Phew.

Tips:

  •  The application itself available online – this saves a lot of time (and is an option I was unaware of at the time): https://utbildningsbedomning.uhr.se/
  • If you have the ability to scan your files (that don’t need to be mailed directly)and save them as PDFs they can also be sent in online.
  • For additional information: https://www.uhr.se/bedomning-av-utlandska-utbildningar/
  • Make sure that you actually need to have your transcripts/diplomas evaluated.  This depends on the education you are applying to or if you are applying to a job that has specific requirements.
  • For certain educations, this step is unnecessary or done by a different agency, such as:  https://www.antagning.se/se/start