Hej! I’m Sarah, I’m from France and I’m currently volunteering for the NGO called Funkibator as part of the European Solidarity Corps volunteering program. I have never lived with roommates until this day: the 1st September 2021 when I arrived in Växjö, Sweden. With others, I share a place which Swedes call “villa”, no, it’s not a massive house with 10 rooms and a pool like my French brain thought, but it’s still perfect.
We are five(ish) as we joke that it’s also Isabelle’s (Globala Kronoberg volunteer number 1) second house. Their names are Reza (student at uni), Anna-Lena (4H-farm volunteer), Andy (Globala Kronoberg volunteer number 2) and Frieda (Funkibator volunteer that I work with).
I spend a lot of time with them: we like to just hang out on the couch in the evening, playing guitar and singing or just scrolling through TikTok or reading (especially Frieda). We also cooked together, mostly Anna-Lena, Frieda and me. To be honest, it’s Frieda who cooks more and we help her (she is a real chef).
As I lived with roommates for 3 months now, I would say that I have some good advice to give, and here are some of them:
DO THINGS TOGETHER
My advice, if you want to create great memories with your roommates during this one year, is to make things together. It can be as simple as making tea and reading together on the couch, or baking, also playing a board game, or painting something together and more and more, just enjoy yourself together.
One time we baked cinnamon rolls together, it was very fun as not all of us baked it in our life, and the result was very good, or as we are joking: it was jättebra.
We are also making theme dinners, for now, the theme is our country. So some Friday one of us (with the help of everyone) makes dinner with dishes from where they come from and then we watch a movie from the country in the original language. Honestly, it’s something very chilled, we had prepared a schedule but we haven’t followed it, it is more for when we want to do it.
And that’s a tip that I can give you: do spontaneous things, don’t plan everything or it can get boring. Living unexpected things together is a very good way to bond.
TAKE SOME TIME ALONE
But also the best advice that I can give you is: when you feel you need time alone, take that time. You have 12 months together so it’s not a waste of time to be alone sometimes. Take a walk around the lake, in the forest or go to the city center. We all need some moments for ourselves, especially when we spend most of our time with the same people. Moreover, everyone is different, respecting the boundaries of others is the most important thing as well as your mental health.
ORGANIZE HOUSEHOLD TASKS
We have to talk more about a boring side of life: the cleaning. We establish a routine of who is cleaning which room and every week it changes. We help each other when it’s needed (communication is key, trust me), for now, it’s working quite well. Well almost… Another piece of advice: don’t forget to buy toilet paper.
THE BEST IN HAVING INTERNATIONAL ROOMMATES
One of the very existing aspects of living with roommates from different nationalities is that you get to learn many things: the first one is obviously to practice your English, as well as other languages (I know some german words now and Isabelle likes to practice her french with me). Also, another very interesting thing are the cultural differences: things that you thought were usual are not or the other way around.
You can really enrich yourself with the culture of others. For example, I learned that you can water a Christmas tree… really, it never came into my mind. More generally, living together in a foreign country is, I would say, life-changing. You will share important moments and experiences of each other’s life which you will remember for years. I’m so glad to have this experience thanks to the ESC program!
JUST TALK WITH EACH OTHER
After a few weeks, you just learn that talking is very the simplest and the nicest thing to do together. We tried to hang out with other people like students in the first days but now we all agreed just being together is better than anything else.
As the popular expression says “sharing is caring”, even as cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. The more you share with roommates the more you will care about each other in daily life and learn to understand the other one, and so you would build stronger relations.