Why did I decide to come back to Sweden?

– Gaia Bertolino

Hej, ciao! I am Gaia from Fossano, a town in the North West of Italy. I moved to Växjö at the beginning of September and I am living here for the next year since I am one of the new ESC volunteers at Globala Kronoberg.

In this first blogpost, I would like to talk about the reason why I decided to come back to Sweden after my Erasmus in Umeå.

How I discovered ESC

Before June, my future was clear to me and to my friends and family: I would have started my master in Cultural Anthropology in Bologna or Venezia although I felt there was something out of tune with this. In the middle of July I was with two friends I made during my Erasmus in Northern Sweden and one of them announced to us he had applied for an ESC. I did not know anything about that program before that sunny – and extremely hot – day but my friend said to me “You deserve to be the bright girl I met up north, apply for a project in Sweden!”. Something moved in me and I decided to apply to the project I liked the most here. I received an email a couple of hours later which propose me an interview, I did it, I got chosen and now I am here, writing this while two of my colleagues are speaking a mixture of English and Swedish and laughing loud (despite every person I know in Italy think Nordic people are always very serious…).

My first meeting with Sweden

During my last year of elementary school my Geography teacher started to talk about Europe. She showed us the map of our continent and everyone has started to say the country where they would like to live or go. I said Sweden without any knowledge about the country itself, I only knew that the flag was yellow and blue and that it was one of the farthest from my home country.

Year after year, I have continued to say to everyone that one day I would have moved to Sweden to do I don’t know what and to be someone I didn’t even know I wanted to be. While growing up, I gained more knowledge about Sweden but they were still very superficial. Sometimes my mum would say “you will do it when you are gonna be an adult in Sweden”. My passion about a country I almost did not know anything about began to be for those around me a way to joke with and for me a way to remain ignorant about it.

Then, ten years after the Geography lesson at the elementary school I applied for the Erasmus program. I thought that it could be a good way to finally go to Sweden and so my first choice was the only city available in Sweden: Umeå. I got a scholarship and left with the sole intention of improving my basic level of English. I returned to Italy five months later with – in addition to a good level of English – a huge weight on my shoulders: the knowledge that although all the people I love were close to me, I was not at home.

The power of the sunsets

If I have to summarise the reason why in Sweden I find myself feeling at home, I have to talk about the sunsets. I have seen the sunsets in Sweden in a bunch of different cities and places and in any of them I felt different emotions. Furthermore, any time I stare at a sunset here I am even more conscious that they are something different that can not be compared to any other sunsets (and I am happy that Paul, one of the other volunteers, had the same feeling as mine). What happens to me when I am in front of a sunset here or when I am sitting next to a lake with people or alone to wait for it, is that I allow myself to live and process emotions. And that is something that, the normal Gaia, hardly does. That sense of freedom to express what I feel, or at least to feel, allows me to live more peacefully, to slow down and to be less stressed.

Sometimes I wish I could have the opportunity to say to the little Gaia, who was sitting at a desk in her elementary school: “You are happy now and you are in Sweden, despite everything, and tonight you are gonna see an amazing sunset”.