First year completed!

Posted in: Life in Sweden, LiU on 11 June, 2017 by Keely

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I’m super excited to announce that I’m now halfway to my Master’s degree! I have a full year of courses under my belt, have learned so much, met so many good friends, and have an infinite supply of fond memories!

Finishing up this last course was definitely an exercise in patience and hard work. The past two weeks were extremely busy for me–I had a proposal for my thesis due the first week (the topic for which took a lot of work to devise) and then an extensive home exam the second week. I’m not gonna lie, I’m totally ready for a long, well-deserved summer vacation.

Some exciting things are also coming up! A couple friends and I are road tripping west to Gothenburg for a few days, and we leave tomorrow! While Ted and I went to the city last summer (and LOVED it!) I’m excited to have a vacation with my girls. We’ve rented a car and an Airbnb, made an extensive Spotify playlist, and are ready to hit the road. I’ll post some pictures after the trip!

The next week Ted and I are going to Stockholm to see a couple concerts (Flogging Molly and First Aid Kit) at Gröna Lund, which is a theme park on the island of Djurgården. We’ll be there the whole week to visit friends, and then my mom comes to visit mid-week! We will take her to the Stockholm archipelago to celebrate Midsummer, and then back to Linköping to show her our apartment for the first time.

It’s definitely a lot of excitement coming up, which makes the past two weeks of hard work worth it!

Happy Summer!


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Posted in: Life in Sweden, Linköping, Personal, Swedish Tradition on 23 May, 2017 by Keely

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The Swedish language includes quite a few terms that don’t have a direct translation in English and must be explained. The most well-known term, of course, is fika, which means to have coffee/a pastry with friends.

I just learned a new word in my Swedish class to add to the list: smultronställe. In google translate (a less than reliable source), this term translates to “hideaway” in English, but the word itself conveys much more meaning. A smultronställe (literally “wild strawberry place”) is a place where one goes to feel relaxed, a place that may be a secret or not well-known. Maybe your smultronställe is a secluded part of a beach, a neighborhood cafe, or just a special room in your home.

I really like this term, and thought for a while about my own little hideaways in life. Nothing came quickly to mind, until one of my neighbors reminded me of a sweet little café near our apartments. Åbacka Café is only open during late spring and summer because all of the seating is outdoors. It’s an old, classically red Swedish house where they serve coffee, waffles and jam, and other treats. The backyard area is large, with beautiful landscaping, pear and/or apple trees, and lots of comfortable white tables and chairs. It truely is a serene, quiet little café where you can spend a sunny afternoon reading a book or chatting leisurely with a friend. I definitely plan on returning to my smultronställe many times before summer is over.


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Countdown to thesis

Posted in: Program, Uncategorized on 18 May, 2017 by Keely

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In a few weeks’ time, I can proudly declare that I finished my first year of graduate school! 🎉  While my mood is celebratory and I’m looking forward to Summer vacation, our current course asks us to consider the most dreaded topic: the subject of our Masters thesis!

By the end of this course, we are required to submit a 6-7 page thesis proposal, outlining as much as we can of our idea for our final thesis. This class is scheduled an entire semester before we need to start actual work on our thesis because many of my classmates have the opportunity to intern or study abroad next semester. Sadly, this is the last class we will all have together!

Until recently, I pushed down, hard, when any thoughts about my impending thesis came floating to the surface of my mind. As the thesis looms ever closer over the horizon, I can ignore it no longer. Now this 65-70 page paper, which will consume the duration of an entire semester, has to be addressed.

Luckily, I had a spark of inspiration and the gears started turning, so I’m hoping this idea will prove successful if I choose to present it in my proposal. It’s still so early in the process that I can calm myself down by saying, “you still have time, you still have plenty of time…”


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Not a mossy stone left unturned

Posted in: Uncategorized on 15 May, 2017 by Keely

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One of the joys of living in Europe is how easy it is to travel to other countries! I was lucky enough to be invited by my dad to be his co-pilot during a road trip around Ireland. For four days, we would travel from Dublin, past Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, then west to Donegal and Sligo before heading back to Dublin for my flight home.

It was my dad’s second time in Ireland and my fifth (clearly I love the place), and we decided to rent a car to have as much freedom as possible. He drove the first time he visited, which is why he came well-equipped this time with a vigilant co-pilot, an extra set of rear view mirrors, a huge map, and a healthy dose of fear and anxiety. Driving in Ireland is terrifying: besides the fact that everything is on the wrong side, the country roads are tight and narrow with barely enough room for one car as it is.

Besides a couple near-death experiences on our first day (I think I have 20 new grey hairs–thanks, Dad!) we actually got around pretty well. The car was certainly the right choice, because we got to stop and take in the amazing views whenever we wanted. I definitely plan to drive the next time I visit!

An obvious highlight was the Giant’s Causeway, a geological marvel of hexagonal pillars that rise from the sea to form steps, a result of volcanic activity long ago. Of course, an Irish myth claims that the steps were constructed so that a giant from Ireland could cross the sea to battle a Scottish giant, and the connecting steps were destroyed afterwards. I like this version best.

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We also visited Sligo, a town whose surrounding beauty was an understandable inspiration for Irish poet W.B. Yeats, whose last request was for his body to be carried back to Ireland from France. Yeats reminisced about the breathtaking beauty around Sligo in his poem, “Lake Isle of Innisfree”:

“I will arise and go now,
And go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
Of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there,
A hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there,
For peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer,
And noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings

I will arise and go now,
For always night and day
I hear lake water lapping
With low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway
Or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
W.B. Yeats

The past few days in Ireland were an absolute dream, and I’m happy I got to spend them with my dad. We are both proud of our Irish roots, and the connection we feel to the land and the people is palpable. I can’t wait to go back!


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Sweden through fresh eyes

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Linköping, Personal on 10 May, 2017 by Keely

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Sometimes the routine of life in the same city can seem monotonous and lose its sheen — you walk down the same streets, have coffee at the same cafes, and only glance at the once awe-inspiring views. When this happens, there’s nothing like a friendly visitor to make you see the city in a new light.


Last Thursday, my dad came all the way from Texas to visit me in Linköping! I was so excited to show him my Sweden: the nearby towns with picturesque streets, my favorite coffee shop, my school, my apartment, everything! He had never been to Sweden before, but we had previously traveled together around London, Paris, and Germany, and he definitely loves visiting me in Europe.

Ted and I wrote up a loose itinerary for the six days my dad would spend in Sweden, and actually spent the majority of time in Linköping. He really enjoyed his hotel in the center of the town because it overlooked the bustling square of Stora Torget and was perfect for people watching. He talked to literally every person we passed on the streets, which I watched with amusement. I’ve adopted the reserved nature of swedes, but my dad was overtly happy and friendly towards total strangers which seemed to shock them but also make them laugh.

More than anything, my dad loved photographing everything. He even snapped a shot of the yellow flowers on the weeds that grow between the sidewalk cracks! I immediately started seeing the city in a new light that day, and hope his sense of wonder continues with me for a long time to come!


My dad and his selfie stick in action






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Keely Witherow

Keely Witherow
Hey you guys!

I came all the way from Texas to study International and European here at LiU, and so far I am loving it!
Grab a little fika, get comfortable, and let me tell you all about my adventures as a student in Sweden!

MSSc International and European Relations

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