As the new lot of international students arrives at Chalmers, I am reminded of my first day in Gothenburg. I must say, when I look back now it is a memory that I would smile about in the years to come, but to be honest the first night here in Gothenburg was not that pleasant a feeling.
My flight was via Doha and then Stockholm before it finally reached Gothenburg. It was my clumsiness or lack of research that I assumed that I would only collect my luggage at the final destination and there is no need to do so before that. As it later turned out, it was a grave error; I kept waiting for a good twenty minutes at the belt carousel at Gothenburg airport but merely staring at the belt did not help me find my bag. The obvious step forward, was to look for the baggage claim section. Coming from a country where airports are overstaffed and crowded with security and other personnel, it struck me as a surprise that there was hardly any staff member around me. I could not see any directions signs either which was annoying. I finally spotted a technician who guided me to the baggage claim section, where I learnt that my bag was still in Stockholm awaiting clearance and would take another day before I can get it.
Regretting the absurd mistake I had made, I boarded the airport coach planning to get off at the first stop. Unfortunately, that was the only thing I knew about how to get to my apartment; get off at the first stop. So I did, and then there I stood at Krosvagen-the central square in Gothenburg-totally clueless about which way to go or which bus to take. The only thing I had was the address of my room and a good-for-nothing smart phone whose battery had run out hours ago. So I took a ridiculously expensive taxi ride to my apartment, only to realise later that the taxi driver was not willing to accept cash. Luckily, before arriving in Sweden I was in contact with a fellow Chalmers student who lived in the same building as mine. That person also had collected my keys on my behalf. To pay for the taxi and get my keys it was imperative to reach this person. Since I did not have access to the building yet, I sneaked in with some other residents and wandered around a while before I found that person’s room. I must admit that he was very courteous; he payed for my taxi, gave me a small tour of the building and offered to help me out with anything I needed. I would eternally be thankful for his kindness and generosity.
By this time of the day I was tired and my mind was flushed with mixed feelings of excitement, nervousness and home-sickness. I wanted to fix the internet in the room and start my sim card. But neither of them seemed to obey my orders; the internet would not connect and my mobile phone kept giving an automated message in Swedish every time I tried dialling. It was frustrating, I had not been in touch with my family since I left Pakistan, and could imagine how tense they might be for me. The barrage of such small, annoying problems kept mounting when I realised that all grocery stores in Sweden close at 21:00, and I cannot find any food in these late hours. This was way too early by my standards and just added strength to the voices screaming in my head: “what have I gotten my-self into ???!!!!”None of my neighbours had arrived and my corridor gave the impression of a deserted, haunted house that is so silent that you can hear yourself breath. Feeling very low, and disappointed I crashed into my bed wearing a pair of jeans and a buttoned shirt.
Many of you would think that avoiding the problems listed above are easy and I was just naive or careless; but when you land in another continent, in a culture you do not know, surroundings you do not relate to and a language you can’t understand, then you tend to make some weird choices and land yourself in trouble. Many of the new international students might experiences similar difficulties when they first arrive. The purpose of me sharing my experiences is that you should not lose heart and live through such annoying times with sanity and strength, and I am sure when you look back at such moments in the future you have a lot to smile about. I was smiling now as I was writing this article.