Why I Quit Swedish Class

So about 6 months back, I talked about starting on Svenska Som Andraspråk in this post and my theory then was that going for some Swedish class is better than none. And so that was what I did and I went through (and passed) 1 level.

6 months on, I am not so proud to admit that I have decided to quit SAS for the following reasons:

  • I became very involved with work, travelling and netball which meant that I would have to miss out on a lot of lessons which is very counter productive and stressful especially when there are tight deadlines to meet at school. Example, reading 2-3 chapters Swedish text a week + writing essays.

So yes going for SAS is good because it is free and the standard is decent but you need to be able to commit to the workload.

  •  I didn’t feel like it helped me on a business level ie while I can write a decent (maybe occasionally grammatically wrong) essay about a Swedish book, I felt like it was a struggle to write professional emails and talk about work comfortably in Swedish.

At the end of the day, my goal is not to be ace at writing Swedish literature essays but to be able to work and converse comfortably in Swedish on a business level and hence I felt like the time and effort I was committing to SAS was not going to help me achieve my goal.

I don’t want to say I lost faith in the system but perhaps I have not found the right path for me yet. But in the mean time, I will try to watch more Swedish TV and read more Swedish texts until I find something else that is more work/business relevant.

And to anyone else out there who has the time to commit to classes, I think that it is still best to stay in school especially because when you complete the program you should be “ready” for University level courses. Although I would of course take that with a huge pinch of salt because it really depends on how much Swedish you use on a day to day basis outside of school.

If anyone has tips on what to do, where to go or advice on what you are doing personally for Swedish, do let me know!

Till the next time, vi ses!

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Accommodation Options in the Arctic

It has been awhile but if you have been following my other social media channels, you would know that I was in Arctic Europe/Lapland for a week. You can check out my video here in case you have not seen it yet:

I understand that there is a huge fascination and interest to visit the Lapland region particularly for the Northern Lights and so I thought it might be useful to write a mini guide about the region. Partly also because I feel like most people only know about ONE resort in the area when there are so many other options to choose from.

Also if anyone tells you that the Northern lights are “disappearing”, I hope you know that the Northern lights is a natural phenomenon that no one can control although the locals did mention that they have seen some of the best Northern lights in their life this 2016/17 season.

When to visit:

This is possibly the most commonly asked question and because no one really knows when the Northern lights will go on display, you can only try to increase your chances by 1) Going as far north as possible, 2) Staying out in a dark dark place and 3) Pray for a cloudless night.

If you are afraid of the cold and hate snow, the local recommend the autumn season between Aug to Oct where the Northern lights would start to appear as the days get darker and you might have a chance of viewing a “Double Aurora” where the aurora reflects off a lake/river. You would not be able to do winter activities then but if you want to enjoy cheaper prices + fewer tourists and only want to chase the Northern lights then it is a good option.

However the most popular period of travel is between Nov/Dec/Jan where it is the darkest and coldest period. You would have to be okay with paying premium prices, squeezing with other tourists and dealing with the frigid cold (-20 to 30 degrees type of cold).

So personally if you were to ask me, I would recommend March as a good month to go because 1) There is still snow to do winter activities 2) There is more sun and daylight 3) It is not so cold 4) There are less tourists around and 5) You still have a good opportunity to see the Northern lights.

Where to stay

I think that we need to take price out of the consideration here because you have to be prepared to spend should you wish to visit Scandinavia. Instead we should consider what type of experience you would like to go for, other than viewing the Northern lights.

Rovaniemi

The most popular destination is Rovaniemi because it is marketed as the “Home of Santa Claus”. You can get there by plane or an overnight VR train from Helsinki.

There are many hotels to choose from including:

  1. Arctic Snow Hotel – They have a very cool Snow Sauna!
  2. Santa Arctic Circle Glass Igloos

It is a good place to go for an all rounded trip where you can visit Santa Claus, visit the Snowhotel, do winter activities and also pop over to Kemi to do the Ice Breaker that I did in this video:

However it is also the most commercial place to visit and you have to expect a lot of tourists.

Luosto

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If you would like to be near Rovaneimi but slightly further away from the crowd, you can consider Luosto which has these igloos at Santa Aurora Hotel and nearby there are log cabins as well at Lapland Hotel Luostotunturi.

In this area they have an Amethyst mine which I have not personally visited but know that it is quite a popular attraction there.

Nellim/Muotka

For a more homey, cosy experience, I would recommend visiting Nellim or Muotka. It is accessible via flight from Helsinki to Ivalo. These two places are run by a couple and they offer unique accommodation like…

This Aurora Cabin in Muotka:

Muotka Wilderness Lodge

These log cabins in Nellim:

Nellim Wilderness Lodge

And these Aurora Bubbles in Nellim:

Somehow when I was there, I felt very connected with nature and it felt like a very peaceful escapade. I believe that there are also good cross country skiing spots there too.

Kirkenes

It is also possible to combine a visit to Inari (near Muotka/Nellim) with a visit to Kirkenes as well. In Kirkenes they have a Snowhotel which is worth a visit, these cosy Gamme cabins as pictured above and King Crabs!

A fun fact is that you are actually helping the environment eating the King Crabs there because there are so many of them there that they are destroying the seabed and when they run out of food they actually…eat each other.

It was also in Kirkenes that I got to go on a local home visit which made the experience that much more special. It was so cute that the locals were so enthusiastic and excited to have us visit their homes. I believe that this activity can soon be booked through the Snowhotel in Kirkenes.

There are many other options of course but these are a few that I am familiar with and also enjoy working with. Hope this will be useful to anyone planning your next Northern Lights holiday!

Svenska Som Andraspråk

So for those of you that have been following me on Youtube, you would have known that I am now done with Swedish For Immigrants ie SFI.

While a lot of people give the system a whole lot of crap, I must say that even though I am still not fluent in Swedish, it was better than not doing anything at all. I switched to evening classes when I started working and it forced me to listen to full Swedish for at least 2.5 hours a week. I found that my Swedish (in terms of reading and listening especially) got better over time although it might also be because I am more exposed to the language when living here.

Anyway being done with SFI feels good, a bit like a mini accomplishment. However I was also a bit clueless as to what to do next. My teacher at SFI literally told me, “Congrats. All the best. Good luck!”.

So I went a big round trying to email different schools/departments/people to eventually learn that I need to fill out an application on my kommun’s education portal to enroll for class. I required Jens help because the online portal was not user friendly especially for non-fluent Swedish users.

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The course in my kommun was once a week at 5pm which meant that I would never make it on time so I requested to be placed in a school in the city instead. Thankfully my kommun approved my request and I applied to ABF. It is a school that was highly recommended by my friends who have been through the system and also just perfect that the school is near my workplace. Thankfully I was accepted and I just started out in the beginner’s course for Swedish Som Andraspråk ie SAS.

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When we went for the first lesson, we had to take a test which comprised of a comprehension test and a letter writing segment. On the second lesson, we were split into different “levels” and I was shifted to SAS Grund 2. There are 3 Grund courses in total so essentially I got to “skip” one course.

I really appreciate the fact that we have a proper study plan and homework every lesson because it makes the whole course more structured (and also intense). We are basically going through bits of the textbook every lesson and chapters in the storybook so by the end of the course (ie before Christmas) we need to be done with the storybook so that we can write an exam. In fact there would be 4 components to the exam for this course incl Comprehension, Listening, Speaking and Literature.

The texts that we are given to read now involve more complex Swedish words that I have never seen before and till now cannot remember. Hence usually by 2030, my brain is double fried from both work and school.

I really hope that I can keep this up but the commitment level is very high and while the spirit is willing, the flesh is quite weak. I usually come home too tired to move and would need to drag my feet to work the next day.

Anyway I hope this is remotely useful for anyone going through Swedish and if you need any tips just drop me a comment!

Best Summer Ever

I might have lived in a tropical country for almost my whole life but now that I have experienced two full summers in Sweden, the summer this year might be hard to top.

It is going to be a challenge trying to fit everything into one post but this summer has been made perfect not only because of the good weather, but because my entire family made their way across the globe to visit.

Some of my favourite moments include:

1.Our time in Gothenburg with the Marklunds where we were treated to kind Swedish hospitality and explored an old village together, had a picnic by the beach, caught crabs, visited a farm and rode a horse, took a boat ride on the lake, a long hike back to the Marklund home and also celebrated my sister’s birthday in the most Swedish way possible.

2. Being tourists in Stockholm together.

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It is great that there was enough things to do to last the month and here was one of the days when we all got together to visit Stockholm classics like the City Hall. Just look at all their chirpy morning faces.

3. Taking on Gröna Lund one game/ride at a time

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What better way to bring the entire family together than to hold a competition in the amusement park right? We challenged each other to five different games in search for the best guy and girl player and then went on a few rides after for the fun of it.

We tried really hard to accomplish two missions – 1) Win a big ball and 2) Win a huge bar of chocolate but although we were not successful on our first visit, the Chngs and I went back again a second time to complete them!

Here is our winning photo:

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4. Attending Weekend Festival

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It has been too long since my sis and I had a night out together and what better way to have fun then with the likes of Martin Garrix and Tiesto.

5. The Cottage Life

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We all squeezed into 2 cottages for some quality time together over homecooked food, a day out at the water theme park and even streaming Singapore’s national day parade!

6. Lots of Fika

What is a visit to Sweden without some fika right? We definitely had a year’s worth of sugar with all the kanelbullars/cakes we had. Although I must say that having fika on a tram was taking it to the next level!

7. Kolmården: Wildlife theme park

Finally we also got to explore new places together like this visit to the Kolmården park which is a combination of animals and rides. It was the best combination for the children and my only wish is that we had more time there.

Looking back at all the pictures and memories created, my heart is so full. I wish I can keep reliving our time together. For anyone in a long distance relationship with your family will probably understand how precious family time is. Even moments when we were all crammed in my tiny apartment eating food cooked by my mum was more than enough.

Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy lives to make time for family. Would not have wanted to spend my summer any other way. Thanks for the memories!

Till the next time we meet again!