More than just volunteering in Sweden

Hej hej, 

My name is Océane, I’m 22 years old and six months ago (already!) I returned to France, from Sweden (Växjö to be precise), after spending a year there as a volunteer. When you spend a year abroad, you’ve got a lot to talk about, thousands of adventures and incredible memories. And since it’s impossible to recount it all in a single article, I’ve decided to share one of my fondest memories with you: Midsummer. Midsummer (or Midsommar in Swedish) is a traditional celebration of the summer solstice. It’s a celebration that mainly takes place in northern European countries, and in Sweden it’s even considered more important than the national holiday.

This is a day-long celebration. Traditionally, we dress in white, wear a crown of flowers, dance around a pole covered in leaves and flowers, eat meatballs and potatoes and drink schnapps. Well, in reality, there are a few differences. Firstly, when my friends (volunteers like me) and I arrived dressed all in white and none of the Swedes were, we quickly realized that the celebration was actually more relaxed. All the Swedes present immediately knew we were tourists… but, in fact, they were quite happy that we’d played along and respected their tradition. By the way, respecting traditions in another country generally makes it easier to integrate; people are more inclined to talk to you and welcome you.

So, as I was saying, on this Midsummer morning, June 23, 2023, my roommates and I (and our great supervisor Sara of course) made our way to the central square of a small village where a pole had been erected. The festivities began, with dancing and singing in a circle around the pole to celebrate the change of season, a kind of renewal. It’s a very convivial moment where everyone smiles and is happy to share the moment; I think seeing everyone in such a good mood is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this celebration so much.


When the festivities are over, we meet up with family and friends to share a convivial meal, usually an open-air barbecue. Barbecues are very famous in Sweden: they’re everywhere around the lakes, they’re free and always very popular in summer. So that’s what my friends and I did too. We met up by a lake, had a barbecue and feasted until the early hours. Music, outdoor games, swimming and, above all, chatting around the fire, all the while waiting for the day to change.

Indeed, in Sweden, the summer solstice means an almost ”endless” day ; the sun doesn’t really set, and we’re so far north in Europe that it’s practically daylight for 24 hours. I was personally in Växjö, in the south of Sweden, so it was still almost dark for us, but in the north of Sweden, particularly in Lapland, it’s really daylight all day long, for a good part of the summer.

I carry this celebration particularly close to my heart, because it was at this moment that I realized that my roommates, who had already become close friends during the 1st months of our volunteering, had become my second family. Throughout my time as a volunteer, they were the ones who accompanied me, supported me, with whom I laughed, sometimes cried, grew, traveled and, above all, with whom I danced and feasted on that beautiful Swedish Midsummer.

The beauty of volunteering abroad is that ; you find a second home and a second family. You live incredible adventures together. You discover yourself, you open your heart to new landscapes and above all to new people, and in the end, you can only grow from it. At the start, I wasn’t going to Sweden for that, I mainly wanted a new professional experience and to see new horizons, but, in the end, I found much more than that. That’s why I can clearly admit that my year abroad was one of the best of my life (well, so far, I know I still have a lot to discover). If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again without a moment’s hesitation, and I’d make sure I lived even more intensely every moment spent in this country so dear to my heart. That’s why I only have one thing to say to you: if you get the chance, don’t hesitate, go and live an adventure abroad, meet people, share a moment of life with them, and above all, always keep your eyes wide open, because the world is only waiting to be explored.

– Océane: ESC 2022-2023 in Växjö, Sweden