Same holiday, different traditions

Since Easter last weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and how they differ between countries. I like experiencing another country and learn about their traditions, but it also makes me miss the Swedish ones.

It was shocking to learn that Americans celebrate Easter on Easter Day – in Sweden we do it the day before. I guess this shouldn’t have been surprising to me since I know Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day in the U.S., but in Sweden the big celebration is on Christmas Eve.

So why is it that countries celebrate on different days? It was very hard to find an answer, and I still haven’t found one about Easter, but the reason Sweden celebrates Christmas on the 24th is that a long time ago, a new day started at the sunset, not at midnight. I don’t know if the same explanation goes for Easter, too. If you know, please leave a comment.

It’s not only the day of celebration that differs between Sweden and America, but also how we celebrate. I told my American friends about how we celebrate Easter, and they looked at me like I was crazy.

On Easter Eve, kids in Sweden dress up as “Easter witches” or chickens, or something else that has to do with Easter. They go around the neighborhood and give Easter drawings they made themselves to their neighbors, and get candy in return. Basically, the Swedish Easter is our version of trick or treating, since Halloween is not a big thing over there.

Kids dressed up as witches walking around the neighborhood on Easter. Source.


The Easter witches come from an old Swedish folk belief about a witch who flies on her broom to “Blakulla” on Easter. The idea is based on the 1700th century, where there was a big concern about witches. The reason why it somehow became connected to Easter is unclear.

What I’ve heard from my American friends, the holidays here focus more on the religion itself, for example, they told me many people in the U.S. go to church on Easter. I think the religious aspect might be one of the biggest differences between the Swedish and American traditions. Even though Sweden celebrates religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, most Swedes do it because it’s tradition, without reflecting over religion.


Common ground for domestic and international students


This past weekend International Programs hosted a soccer tournament for Purdue students, where every team had to include both domestic and international students, and both men and women. On Saturday, the first day of the tournament, 20 teams competed, but unfortunately not all of them were able to come back to Trec to play the second day.

20 teams is almost twice as many teams that joined the tournament last semester. Organizer Leighton Buntain said more teams than they hoped for signed up, so the event was a success.

“We meant to use soccer as a common ground to bring people from all over the world together,” he said.

Most teams played for fun, but some were more serious. A team that was a little bit of both was Colombo Combo, with members from Colombia, America and Albania. One of them, Colombian student Stiven Puentes, said it was a friendly atmosphere, but people were serious when they played.

“But it’s not like we have to win, it’s just for fun,” he said.

Stiven joined the tournament because he enjoys playing soccer. He likes that he got to play with and against people from different countries; he has never done that before. Before the tournament, he didn’t know everyone on his team very well, but he sure knows them better now.

“A team is like a family,” Stiven said. “We are going to be closer after this event.”

Spotlight: Kanupriya and India

Exchange student Kanupriya Bhargava went to Tennessee for spring break.

Many Purdue students went to the coast on spring break. But Kanupriya Bhargava, an exchange student from India, didn’t want to spend the break on a beach; she wanted to do something adventoures.

“Going to Florida is really mainstream,” she said. “I wanted to do something not many people do for spring break.”

So Kanupriya went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to spend a few days in the mountains, hiking and white water rafting. The trip was arranged for international students by Bridges International. She didn’t know the people that signed up for the trip, but she thinks that is a good thing.

“If I went with friends I would have stuck to them, but now I was able to make new friends,” Kanupriya said.


Traveling is one of the things Kanupriya enjoys as an exchange student. She has already been to San Fransisco, and Los Angeles and Miami are next.

“I want to explore as much of the U.S. as possible,” she said.

She suggests other exchange students at Purdue do the same. There is not a lot to do and see in the area, so she thinks exchange students should take the opportunity to travel. Also, she suggests they commit to trying to learn about the American culture. Don’t assume you know what the culture is like just because you’ve watched American movies, or you will be pretty shocked, Kanupriya said.

Do you want to study in India? Currently, Purdue has five departmental programs there: engineering, management and liberal arts.

Misconceptions and challenges about America

There are plenty of misconceptions about America, or any country for that matter. Some of mine were expecting random Americans to come up and talk to me for no reason, and that people don’t work out that much. This turned out to be false.

Some of the biggest misconceptions Europeans have about Americans are that they are not interested in learning other languages or living in another country, and they don’t learn about geography in school nor appreciate soccer.

Today I had a chat with a transfer student from China, Zifan Wu, to find out what his biggest misconception about the U.S. was.

“I though I would hate the hamburgers, but then I realized they are really good,” he said.

Zifan said before he came to America, people told him that he would not be able to find any good food – nothing beats the food of your home country. But then he tried American fast food, and he was hooked.

“The fast food in America is good enough to be an important part of your life,” Zifan said smiling. “I eat at McDonald’s twice a week.”

I went on asking Zifan about one of my misconceptions about America, that Americans are really open-minded and like to talk to strangers. He said Americans are indeed very friendly and easy to talk to, but it’s hard to become close friends with them and get involved in the American culture. He thinks the language differences are the reason behind it.

“You can see many Chinese students hanging out together and staying in their comfort zone,” Zifan said. “It’s hard to get to know Americans because we don’t speak as good English as they do.”

According to Zifan, the only opportunity he thinks he has to talk to Americans is in class, but that is not enough to become close friends. Living with American students might be the best way to actually get to know them and get involved in the American culture, Zifan said.

But if you don’t have American roomies, Zifan said a way to make it easier to get to know Americans is by improving your English. Maybe it’s easier to practice with other international students since they’re all in the same boat, but once you get more comfortable with your English, you should go talk to Americans.

Preview: Purdue World Cup Soccer Tournament

Source. India, America, England, Germany and Italy represented in the soccer tournament last semester.

Hello Purdue, and welcome back from the spring break; I hope you had a great time. I spent a few days in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, hiking and white water rafting. But that’s not what I want to talk about today – today we are focusing on soccer.

International Programs and the Latino Cultural Center are hosting a soccer tournament this upcoming  weekend. All Purdue students are welcome to join, and today is the last day to sign up.

  • What? Purdue World Cup Soccer Tournament.
  • When? March 26, 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. and March 27, 12 p.m.-8 p.m.
  • Where? TREC (behind CoRec).
  • How? Register today.

Every team must have five to ten players, and at least one of them has to be female, one has to be international, and one has to be American. This is a way to connect domestic students with international. If you want to join the tournament, but don’t have enough members on your team, email

There will be prizes for the winners. My friends joined, and won, the tournament last semester and said it was a fun event. I will try to be there, and I hope to see you on the field or cheering on the side.

Spring break in the Midwest

Spring break means it’s time to leave campus and experience other parts of the U.S. If your are here on exchange, and your time in America is limited, you should definitely take the opportunity to travel.

If you’re going on a longer trip, you have probably already planned and booked it. But some people might not want to go on a long trip, or they couldn’t decide where to go so they ended up with not booking anything. For you people, I was looking for some interesting things to do in the area.

I found a website that is about the life in the Midwest, and one of the things it does is giving travel tips. There are a lot of different things you could do in the Midwest, and I’ll share a few of them:

  • Cities – You don’t have to go to New York City to experience a big city, they are right here in the Midwest. If you’ve already been to Chicago and Indianapolis, you could check out St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has a great museum and a zoo.
St. Louis Zoo. Source.
  • Small towns – Not everyone likes big cities; maybe you prefer to spend a couple of days in a charming town instead. One of the towns that is suggested on the website is Stockholm, Wisconsin, which I though was funny since Stockholm is the capital of my home country. But if you want to stay in Indiana, you could go to Nappanee.
Nappanee, Indiana. Source.
  • State Parks – If you, like me, sometimes want a break from the city, or town, and just want to relax in the nature, there are many state parks in the Midwest to visit. There are some exciting parks in Ohio and Michigan, but you don’t need to look further than Indiana. Turkey Run State Park and Indiana Dunes State Park are two of the best parks in the Midwest, according to the website.
Indiana Dunes State Park. Source.

No matter where you’ll spend your spring break, I hope you’ll enjoy it. I won’t be posting anything on my blog next week, but I will see you again after the break.

American vs. Swedish education system

The week before spring break is usually hectic for college students; there are projects and midterms, and all the regular homework at the same time. In the middle of the stress that arises from all the assignments I have to do, I started thinking about the differences between the education system here and in Sweden.

When people here ask me what the biggest difference is, I usually say that the education in Sweden is free. But when I think about it, there are a lot more differences, and they are huge. Here are five things about the American education system that are different from the Swedish one:

1. Focus on practice. One of the biggest differences between the Swedish and American education system, which is one of the reasons I wanted to study in the U.S., is that the American universities combine theoretical learning with practical training. My major is communication, and in the classes at my home university I only get to do academic things, whereas at Purdue I get to do practical things, such as producing video and television projects, and writing this blog.

My classmates in television production get ready for producing a talkshow.

2. Classes are many and mandatory. In Sweden I used to have about three lectures every week, and they were not mandatory. The teachers don’t care what you do; it’s up to you if you want to learn and get good grades. I like the freedom, but you need to have some level of discipline because the learning is your own responsibility. But I don’t mind having to go to class here; for me it’s a way of hanging out with my friends.

3. Personal and interactive learning. The teachers in America are more personal, and they challenge you in a different way. I think one reason is that the classes are smaller in the U.S. But I also think it has to do with commitment. I feel that the teachers here are more willing to get to know and help the students. I like this personal atmosphere in the classrooms; it makes it more fun to learn.

4. Homework mania. Seriously, why do they give us so much homework in the U.S.? It feels like I’m back in high school! Joking apart, when I came to Purdue I was not used to having to do homework every day. In the Swedish universities we don’t get homework. Reading is suggested, but there are no reading assignments.


5. Exams are frequent and short. I must say I love the exams in America. Since they are frequent, they are short, which means you don’t need to study a lot for them. In Sweden we usually have a huge final exam that covers everything, and it takes about four to five hours to take it. They give us a week off from school before the exam, just because there is so much to study. For the last exam I took before I came here, I had to learn four books, no study guide. Fun…

Even though the differences are big, I don’t think one way is better than the other, especially now that I’m used to the American system. What are the differences between the American and your country’s education system?

Roomies – yay or nay?


When I applied for campus housing at Purdue, I almost had a heart attack. Most options were sharing a room with another student. A stranger. Possibly a loud, messy, snoring person. I considered applying for a single room, but then I thought having a roomie is part of the American experience (and it’s much cheaper).

But the thought of sharing a room with someone else was still weird to me. College roommates is not a thing in Sweden; if you don’t have your own apartment, at least you have your own room. I used to live in a dorm with eight other students. We shared one kitchen and a living room, but everyone had their own room and bathroom.

So I expected the first days at Purdue with my new roomie to be strange. But they weren’t. Even though she was a little shy in the beginning, we became friends right away. It’s amazing having an American roomie; she helps me understand the American culture, she corrects me when I make up English words (even though I try to establish them), and she brings me useful things from her parents’ home.

But having a roomie is not a fairy tale all the time. There is one teeny tiny issue I have to deal with most of the mornings: her loud, dreadful alarm clock. My roomie has a habit of pushing the snooze button over and over again. Her record is actually quite remarkable; one morning she did it for two hours. That is two hours of sleep I will never get back!

Monsters University Poster 2

But I’m not innocent; I, too, contribute to the roomie issues. Basically every night, I wake her up by sleepwalking and/or sleeptalking. One time she woke up to find me going through our garbage, and another time running out of the room. Of course I don’t do it on purpose, but it could still be perceived as a problem to her.

What we do when an issue arises is talking about it. You shouldn’t keep it to yourself – that would only make you frustrated and sooner or later, you’ll explode. It’s better to tell your roomie the truth and try to come up with a solution. Some roomies might need rules in order to have a better relationship, but I think communication, compromising and respect are the most important things to keep both happy.

I’ve heard horror stories from my international friends about their roomies. One of them was playing computer games, talking and screaming with his online buddies all night, and another one had bags and clothes all over the floor for the whole semester (he never unpacked).

So I am super thankful for my roomie. Even though we have issues sometimes, she is my friend and family. International students should take the opportunity to learn from their American roomies; they teach us new perspectives, they keep us company, and they support us. Thank you, Cheyenne.

Me (to the left) and my roomie. Photo: Eye Spy, Journal & Courier.

Is America safe?

Last week I came across an article about two Swedish girls on exchange in Michigan. Their American experience didn’t turn out the way they expected. On Saturday, Feb. 20, they were out on the town in Kalamazoo when chaos erupted; a shooter drove around in a car shooting eight people at different locations.

The Swedish girls were able to get out of the scene. In the article, they explain that they see these kinds of incidents on TV all the time, but they can’t believe they actually ended up in the middle of it. They wanted to leave the U.S. the following day.

Growing up in Sweden, where gun laws are strict, I always felt safe. I feel safe in America, too, but maybe not as safe. Not long after I first came here, Purdue had a bomb threat toward one of the buildings. We received the message on our computers during class. I freaked out, starting to think about what we should do. Leave campus? Take shelter in the basement?

I looked around in the class room; my teacher and class mates didn’t seem to be bothered by the bomb threat. They looked calm and kept on working. I asked my friend next to me: “What are we going to do?”, and he said “Nothing, things like this happen all the time.”

That comment freaked me out even more. In Sweden I had never experienced anything like this, but in the U.S. it happens all the time? It turned out the threat was “just” a threat, so the day proceeded like nothing happened.

But it had an impact on me. Again, I do feel safe here, but I am more careful and cautious. It doesn’t stop me from doing what I want, but if there are two ways of doing something – one safe and one riskier – for example, having someone walk you home versus walking alone, I choose the safer way.