I’ve been putting off writing my last blog for a few weeks now, partly because I didn’t know how I was going to summarize seven months of my life abroad, but mostly because it would be a final acknowledgment that my time in Sweden had come to an end. I’m now on the plane back to Canada, with 8 hours of internet-free time on my hands so I promised myself i would write my last entry.
All of my blog posts have intentionally not centred around the hockey aspect of my time in Sweden. While hockey was obviously the primary reason I came to Sweden, and hockey is the venue and propellor for most of the activities I did while I was there; what I’ve realized after playing hockey in various levels, leagues and countries for the past 25 years, is that hockey is hockey wherever you play it. When you’re on the ice, the acts of skating, shooting and passing are the same whether you’re in a county rink in a suburb of Minneapolis, or playing for a semi-professional women’s team in the southern part of Stockholm. It’s no longer the physical sport that defines what hockey is; for me, hockey is the people: teammates, coaches, parents, even the zamboni guy at the rink, which make the hockey experience. I feel like I’ve been so lucky to have ended up coming to Sweden, and Segeltorp, and been welcomed so whole heartily by my team and the community there. On the plane today, it already seems like one long dream that I am looking back on and thinking, ‘did that just happen?!’.
When I look back on the first few weeks in Sweden and when Oly, the one familiar and safe thing in my life was abruptly removed, it immediately changed the experience I would have. Being by myself forced me to open up more to other girls on my team and thus allowed me to develop closer friendships with many of them. Going through this on my own was both scary and challenging, but in the end, highly rewarding.
I want to thank a few people who made my time in Sweden so great…
My coaches and team management: Jared, Eric, Stefan, the Palms and the Östlunds – thank you for your selfless devotion of time and energy to the team and always being positive regardless of the outcome of the game. A special thank you to Marianne for helping me get my visa to allow me to legally stay in Sweden!
My teammates – you girls were so open and welcoming and were the main reason I had such a positive experience. I have never been on a team where everyone gets along so well, and I think that speaks to how genuinely caring, kind and special all of you are.
Cutter and Devon – my two best friends from university (now living in PEI and Pennsylvania) played a huge part in my life this year, providing daily humor, banter, and advice through our group text message. Thank you for listening to my concerns, no matter the hour of day or the triviality of the topic.
Lisa – Sometimes there’s people you meet in life who you immediately get along with. I never thought I’d meet someone in Sweden that I could have so much fun with, whether it was going to a seedy concert venue or just sitting in your apartment playing music. I feel like we’ve been friends for years…the ocean now between us better not change that!
My brother, Mum and Dad – thank you for supporting me in my decision to go to Sweden and for providing some serious emotional support throughout the ups and downs of my time there. There is no way I could have done this without you guys.
Lastly, if anyone is reading this and thinking about whether to go abroad to play hockey, I would tell them to do it now, without a doubt. There are so many opportunities in Europe to play after university, and besides being able to do something that you love, the experiences, and mental and social growth you will undergo is invaluable. I would not trade my time in Sweden for anything.