Thursday, November 21, 2013

See you later Sweden

It's hard to believe that 6 months have passed by and my first stint playing overseas has come to an end. It's also hard to put into words just how life changing this whole adventure has been. Here is a quick recap of the season: we finished second in the league, only losing twice altogether. My teammate Lisa and I came in first and second in the league for most goals scored, her with 24 and me with 23. I couldn’t have asked for a better first season and am still amazed at the connection we all had on the field, having never played together before- soccer is a beautiful game. I’m so grateful that I've been able to continue doing what I truly love in this world.

                                                                   Sista (last) match

I’m going to try to explain what this experience has done for me as a person, in hopes that it will give people the urge to get out and make your own life changing experience. Choosing the right words has been difficult, but here goes…

Adventure-"a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome".  The perfect word to describe this experience- a daring step into the unknown that turned into one of the best decisions I've made to date. I hadn't the slightest idea what would come of this opportunity, but that’s what an adventure is right?  Following your heart and taking a risk with the belief that it will be forever life changing for all the right reasons. As I’ve said throughout this whole journey, I’m shy by nature and have never been the type to throw myself into unfamiliar situations. Funnily enough, that’s exactly what I did. Being in such an unfamiliar environment truly changed me as a person. Experiencing another culture is one of the best things you can do and it is worth every penny of your travel expenses. I had to get comfortable asking complete strangers for help, tried food I wouldn’t have even smelled 6 months ago, attempted to learn a new (and extremely difficult) language, and said goodbye to family and friends for half a year. When it comes down to it, this experience has showed me how to truly appreciate everyone and everything in my life. It’s not that Sweden has terrible living conditions or awful people or live any differently than us, more that I simply wasn’t tuned into how grateful I should be of my life back home. It’s amazing what living without the comfort of everything you've ever known will do to a person. I recommend it greatly. I know home will always be patiently waiting for me to return back to it and that is one of the best feelings in the world.

Prior to departing for this trip, I was given a great piece of advice that stuck with me throughout the whole journey. My agent told me that living in a small town as opposed to a big city would make all the difference for a good first experience playing overseas. That couldn't have been more true. What he meant by that was pretty simple: city people aren't going to be as nice to you as they would be in a small town. Probably not true in every situation, but when it comes to uprooting your life and everything you know, a piece of advice like that is game changing. In all honesty, it didn’t prove easy moving to such a small town but I am a big believer in that there is a learning experience in every situation life throws at you. I prefer the city life over the life in a small town, mostly because I am easily bored, but also because there is just something fun about living the city life. Despite that, I have learned that small town living is definitely do-able.

                                                                  First night in Tierp

The people of this whole experience are truly what made it so great. Being over 4,000 miles away from home for an extended period of time did not sit well with me upon my arrival in Sweden. I clearly remember my first break down after I was left alone for the first time in my new apartment. But without the people I met along the way, my butt probably would have been back bronzing in sunny Florida after a week. Swedes are some of the most genuine people I’ve ever come across and I would highly recommend taking a detour to the Scandinavian lands to visit their beautiful country. I love the feeling of knowing I have friends to visit in another country and vice versa. Meeting great people throughout life definitely makes the journey much easier.

                                                                 My teammate Frida 

I could sit here forever writing about how much I’ve grown from this experience, but I’ll leave it with this…The world is truly your oyster and is waiting for you to travel and experience as much of it as possible, and I cannot wait for the next opportunity to do so. This trip has truly opened my eyes and given me even more of an urge to continue traveling this beautiful world. It’s hard to believe an entire 6 months have gone by, but somehow here I am, writing my final blog, about experiences I never thought I'd get to do, how truly thankful I am that I was given this opportunity and how glad I am for taking it. I will miss the land of converses, coffee aficionados and fika lovers, but I will be back to visit some day for sure. Stay tuned for whatever journey life takes me on next! 

Also- a huge shout out is in order for everyone who supported me throughout the entirety of my stay in Sweden. It kept me going and is appreciated more than I can say. Thank you all.

Side note- I’ve been back stateside for 37 days now (can’t believe it) and am finally posting this- didn’t think I’d write this but I’m glad I got around to it because this truly was a life changing experience and I love sharing it with whoever reads this. And thanks to everyone who kept up with the blog these last 6 months :) 

                                                 The sunset as I arrived in Florida!