It was 5 p.m. on a Thursday. I had only just arrived in Sweden the night before, and I was exhausted. I had been sleeping for the last 24 hours, and hadn’t even unpacked my bags. I was still wearing the same clothes I had worn when my first flight left Portland, Ore. early Tuesday morning, and I hadn’t showered since Monday.
Suddenly, there was a sound similar to a fire alarm going off. Harsh, piercing, and out of key, it caused me to rise a good 30 centimeters vertically from my bed. Startled, I wondered what it was. Then it sounded again. And again. It was my doorbell.
Normally I would have thought who the heck would be ringing my door when I’d just arrived, and especially when I had only even physically seen about four people and a dog in Växjö so far.
I limped over to the door, jolted by the doorbell’s unexpected similarities to a jet engine but eyes still half-shut with exhaustion. I opened the door, and in front of me stood an attractive, smiling brunette Swedish girl.
I had died and gone to Heaven. Either that, or this was the prelude to a rather raunchy and decidedly real-looking dream.
My jaw dropped.
“My name’s Sara,” she said, seemingly unperturbed by my reaction or what God only knows I smelled like, “and I’m your buddy.”
Within ten minutes, I was waist-deep in a field trip at the grocery store, having the history of practically every item explained and why it’s sold in Swedish grocery stores. On a more practical level, I was shown how to shop at a grocery store and told what the different words on the cans and boxes meant – all the more important considering I hadn’t been to a grocery store even in the U.S. in several months.
Walking home later that evening, carrying half a dozen bags of food that would spoil within a couple of days, I knew the whole buddy thing was worth it.
In short, international students at Linnaeus University are paired with a Swedish “buddy” who helps orient them to the university, shows them around, and helps them adjust to life in Sweden. Basically, they’re your best friend and the key to your survival.
Ah, nothing like forced friendship! Suspicious, no? Well, it’s not, Nuenen.
The buddies are not paid for their services, and don’t even get any kind of academic incentive. In other words, they’re volunteers who simply want to help exchange students.
And they really do help. If it wasn’t for my buddy, I would have starved to death a long, long time ago, and died a very lonely man.
But thanks to my Swedish-born, spends-her-summers-living-in-Houston-Texas buddy, I not only was able to survive, but to thrive. She introduced me to some of her friends, and now I can say most of my friends are Swedish. And no, we don’t usually debate which ABBA song is the best or swap meatball recipes.
I’ll issue a disclaimer: you and your buddy may or may not become attached at the hip. Chances are, you’ll be seeing a lot of each other. I know my buddy and I have. It’s like having a big brother or a big sister, only not having to worry about having gum placed in your hair or ice poured down your pants.
Unless you’re an anti-social hermit who prefers to converse with rocks, trees, or the flocks (more like swarms) of geese, you should get a buddy. All you have to do is email the international office, and they’ll show you what to do. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
And if for some reason you do, I promise to eat crow.