UN Security Council Role Play

Posted in: LiU, Program on 29 April, 2017 by Keely

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Yesterday, my classmates in the MIER program and I held a mock UN conference modeled after a meeting of the Security Council. The Security Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” and focuses particularly on peacekeeping missions and conflict aid and prevention. Since we started the program, several of my classmates had voiced a desire to gain experience acting as delegates or representatives of countries in the UN. Researching, analyzing, and crafting a position on an issue through the lens of a specific country is a skill that will undoubtedly be useful in our future careers.

Our current course is called “Europe’s Relations with the World,” and this project will make up the vast majority of our grade. We divided into groups of two or three and were assigned a specific country (I got Ethiopia). The teacher left all of the planning up to us, and we finally settled on the question of chemical weapons in Syria. Some countries definitely had more to say about the topic than my country (Russia and the USA, for example), but taking the position of Ethiopia was a challenge I had to accept.

Considering that the students planned and organized the entire event, I think it went really well. Everyone stood up and spoke in front of their peers, were convincing, and had clearly done their research! I was very proud to see how far we have come as a class. We all looked pretty sharp, too 😉


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My one year anniversary with Sweden

Posted in: Life in Sweden on 23 April, 2017 by Keely

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Hej allihopa!

It’s hard to imagine that on this day, one year ago, I officially moved to Sweden. Living in a new place for an entire year is definitely a rite of passage: you’ve experienced every season, have a daily routine, feel settled in your dwelling, and have begun developing a set of friendships.

Before I moved to Sweden in April 2016, I had visited my boyfriend a few times and even lived with him in Linköping for three months (during the winter, so you know I was serious about moving here!) However, during those periods of time I was a transient tourist who knew she would be unwelcome after her 90-day travel visa expired. I also couldn’t fully settle down, get a job, go to school, or even take Swedish lessons. It was nice, in a way, getting a glimpse into my future–but until I officially became a resident it wouldn’t feel like “home.”

I remember getting an email from Migrationsverket (Swedish Migration Agency) telling me a decision had been made about my residency case. Thirteen and a half months before, my boyfriend and I had applied for a permit to allow me to live with him (affectionately nicknamed the “lover’s visa”). It was a long, terrible wait that left both of us feeling hopeless–until we finally got a positive decision!

I moved to Sweden a few weeks later on a temporary residence permit of two years that allows me to live, work, and go to school (tuition free!) Right before my permit expires, I’ll apply for an extension to a permanent residency permit.

This past year has taught me so much about myself and about what I want in the future. I moved here without any friends (except Ted), and now I have several good friends who mean a great deal to me. These are people that I now cannot imagine my life without, whom I have shared laughs and secrets with, and who truly make Sweden feel like home. I moved here into an apartment that was yet to be furnished, with all of my things in suitcases. Now I have a cozy home, with personal touches from my life and even a little dog who barks at the neighbors! I moved here with no idea about the Masters program I would soon begin, and now feel confident in my abilities and pleased with my success in classes.

I still don’t know Swedish.

What I do know is that moving to a new place, especially one that’s halfway across the world, is challenging. But with time and a positive attitude, any place can feel like home.


Exactly one year ago today! Happy to finally be in my new home.

Exactly one year ago today! Happy to finally be in my new home.


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Glad påsk!

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Swedish Tradition on 18 April, 2017 by Keely

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Our four-day weekend in celebration of Easter just ended, and I’m feeling relaxed and full of candy! Easter is a much bigger deal here in Sweden than it was back home–we usually only celebrate on Sunday and don’t get extra days off for Good Friday or Easter Monday. While the majority of Swedes are now atheist, they maintained the Christian holidays–because who doesn’t like a few days off work?!

Easter traditions are a bit different here, too. Instead of a hunt for many small, brightly colored eggs stuffed with candy, Swedes just hide one huge egg full of candy. Either way, lots of candy is always involved! We bought a smaller-sized egg and put some candy in it, which you can see pictured below. The candy is now gone.


I also noticed a really interesting Easter decoration here: feathers tied to birch twigs and trees! Flower shops started selling them a few weeks ago, and you place the feather-topped twigs in a vase just like a bouquet of flowers. None of my Swedish friends has been able to explain this tradition, just as I can’t explain many traditions I celebrate back home. Maybe they just like the pop of color the feathers create, since the trees and flowers haven’t yet started to bloom very much.

On Sunday I attended an Easter brunch hosted by my classmate. Apart from me and Ted, all of the guests were German so we swapped stories about our own Easter traditions. For example, instead of plastic eggs  full of candy, they hide real eggs painted or dyed in bright colors (much healthier). I also told them about cascarones, which I suppose originated in Mexico, but we also use them to celebrate Easter in Texas. They’re basically dyed, hollowed out egg shells filled with confetti that you smash on each other’s heads. It’s a really fun tradition and I wish I thought of making some for my friends this year! You always know it was Easter when the streets and sidewalks are covered in colorful confetti!


Anyway, the brunch was a lot of fun–we had pancakes, eggs, fritatta, coffee, mimosas, and lots and lots of nutella! We skipped the traditional Swedish foods like sil, but that was just fine with me 😉


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Who’s hungry?

Posted in: Life in Sweden on 10 April, 2017 by Keely

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Whenever I travel, I really enjoy going to the grocery store. You can learn a great deal about a place and its people by seeing what they like to eat! Instead of tacky knick-knacks from tourist stands, I like to bring home samples of food from wherever I travel. Whenever I visit my parents in Texas, I bring a few Swedish treats for them to try like local honey (which is solid, not a squeezable liquid like I’m used to), cloudberry jam, and reindeer-flavored cheese. That last one was a joke gift for my dad, who reminisced about his childhood in Europe and how “Europeans love putting food into squeezable tubes,” so we bought him some squeezable cheese flavored with bits of reindeer meat. He actually ate it.

Last time we went for our weekly grocery shopping, I decided to snap some pictures of quintessentially Swedish grocery items!


Fabulous selection of fish! Our grocery store recently renovated their meat and fish section, and it’s so much nicer than it was. We bought some Norwegian cod and cooked it this weekend, and it was really nice. Sweden isn’t known for its fabulous seafood because it’s not good to fish the Baltic Sea, but the West coast (near Gothenburg) is an exception. Instead of fresh fish, pickled fish like herring is extremely common. I’m just really excited my local grocery store stepped up its seafood game!


If pictures of freshly flayed fish didn’t pique your appetite, I’m sure this will! It’s the aforementioned squeezy tube cheese in a rainbow of flavors! I had to wait a while to snap this picture because a very indecisive old Swedish woman couldn’t choose between shrimp or ham flavored cheese goo. Frankly this stuff grosses me out and I’m not sure how one eats it (maybe on knäckebröd, or Swedish crispbread).


Ah, a dusty shelf of non-alcoholic beer… Clearly no one is interested in partying without the hangover. In Sweden it’s actually illegal to sell alcoholic beverages over a certain percentage in the grocery store! You can buy very light beer, for example, but no wine or normal beer. That’s because the Swedish liquor store, System Bolaget, has a monopoly on all alcoholic drinks. This is partly an effort to keep Swedish people from drinking too much, but I always laugh a bit when I go to Systemet and see huge lines of Swedes waiting to buy as much booze as they can carry. Basically, you have to plan far in advance to buy your drinks because the liquor store closes at 3 on Saturday and is closed on Sunday.


Finally, something that looks appetizing! This is the bakery section, which sells ample amounts of princesstårta, or princess cake. These traditional Swedish cakes are covered in a sheet of blue, green, or pink marzipan and consist of layers of sponge cake, cream, jam, and whipped cream. It’s my boyfriend’s favorite kind of cake, and we get it every year for his birthday. I actually didn’t like it when I first tried it–the marzipan and cream and everything was too sweet and filling for me–but now I like it on special occasions. I’m always and forever a chocolate cake girl.


And last but not least, the candy aisle! Sweden is famous for its self-serve bins of candy, which range from gummies and chocolates and anything in between! When I first moved here, getting a small bag and filling it with my choice of sugary goodness was my guilty pleasure. Now, I can’t look at the candy aisle without feeling super queasy. I overindulged one too many times. While many people know “Swedish fish,” they just call them “fish” here. Fun fact. Also, Swedes love licorice!! Especially the salty kind. I personally hate licorice, so I don’t have to fight anyone for the last piece in the bag.


Well–there you have it! A few, but definitely not all, of the quintessentially Swedish grocery items. Are you brave enough to try them?


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Weekend winding down

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Linköping, LiU, Weekend on 9 April, 2017 by Keely

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Sunday nights are always a melancholy time because weekend relaxation is over and a busy new week is just around the corner. My weekend was a pretty typical one, and involved ignoring my quickly-growing list of assignments and readings and instead enjoying time with friends. On Friday night, I went to a small “wine and cheese” get together with a few people from my program. Our hostess-with-the-mostest invited us to her corridor in Ryd for some baked Camembert, wine, and good conversation. Among our many topics of conversation was our current course, which is developing into the most stressful course of the program. Hopefully things will improve after the first week, but our work load is growing and I can only ignore it for so much longer!

On Saturday, Ted and I took Auggie for a walk into the city center because the weather was incredibly beautiful and I couldn’t wait to sit outside with my dog and have a coffee. We went to Babette’s, my go-to cafe, and sat out in the sun while enjoying a brownie and coffee. Our friend Barbara joined us, and we spent an hour or two talking and trying to keep Auggie from digging up the garden.

Ted, Auggie, and Barbara

Ted, Auggie, and Barbara

Last night I attended a big corridor party hosted by one of my program mates, which was really fun! There were a lot of international students, and I met some really cool people. I actually rarely go to corridor parties in Ryd because I live on the other side of town and usually can’t be bothered, but I’m glad I went.

Today was all about chores: laundry, cleaning, dog-walking (which isn’t really a chore!), and cooking. While I had a really nice weekend, I can’t help but feel guilty for not doing any school work whatsoever! Maybe it’s the lovely weather, or maybe it’s because we passed the semester’s halfway mark, but lately it’s hard for me to find motivation. I’m sure this next week will force me to kick into high gear, since we have a seminar on Thursday I need to prepare for!


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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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