The University of Michigan has established exchanges with Uppsala and Stockholm universities, and all second-year U-M students can go on a subsidized study trip to Sweden during their spring break, while the Swedish students visit Michigan for a week.

Johanna Eriksson, director of U-M's Scandinavian Studies program, also encourages students to go for summer internships in Sweden. They can get 3 credits for the internship if they write a 20-page paper about their experience after they return - but more importantly, they learn so much from working and living independently in Sweden.

Caroline Rothrock is one such student who worked as a summer intern in 2017. We caught up with her after her return:

I spent eight weeks in Malmö, Sweden this summer interning for a magazine called Gatans Röster (“Voices of the Streets”). I was tasked with guiding daily 6-hour writing workshops to develop story concepts for the magazine, which functioned as a platform for young people ― particularly immigrants to Sweden ― to tell personal stories and offer perspectives on current political events.

I chose to pursue an internship in Malmö, rather than enroll in one of my school’s exchange programs in Uppsala or Stockholm, to experience life in Sweden as a resident might. My language skills picked up rapidly, and, to my surprise, I soon found myself thinking of my apartment, neighborhood and the city itself as “home.” I lived in a studio apartment in Malmö’s Värnhem neighborhood. It was quiet and very residential but within easy walking or biking distance of the shopping and business districts. I’ll miss Malmö’s orderly and peaceful atmosphere more than anything else (except, perhaps, the cardamom buns).

I’d worked for two magazines before Gatans Röster, and what struck me here was the focus on collaboration and group consensus in the workplace. There was no hierarchy of positions; a great effort was made to ensure the final product was a reflection of everyone’s visions and contributions. It was an incredibly supportive environment, and I never felt like an outsider. The spirit of accommodation and cooperation pervaded the workplace here, something I think its American equivalent could stand to learn from.

In my spare time, I went to cafes to work on personal writing projects, wandered Malmö’s exquisite flower gardens and city parks, saw art exhibits around the city and visited Copenhagen. My great-grandmother emigrated from Malmö and settled in Minnesota during the early 1900s, and this gave me new context for understanding my heritage. I felt I’d sort of come full circle, by “settling” in the place she left behind.

To another student considering an internship abroad, I would recommend you be prepared to be an outgoing and active participant in your own experience. I was more or less on my own in a foreign country, and the temptation to hold up in my apartment and avoid interaction was almost insurmountable sometimes. I had a lot of time to fill and no guidelines telling me how I should fill it, which was empowering and terrifying in equal measure. The thing to remember is: It’s up to you to independently seek out opportunities, give yourself structure, and (judiciously) open yourself up to all the experiences a different country and culture present. Fortune favors the bold.

For more info on the Scandinavian program: Scandinavia Studies at University of Michigan Ann Arbor