Category: Stories from International Students

Slowing Down in Sweden

By Jocelyn Forrest, Sophomore Student from British Columbia, Canada

(Editor’s Note:  In May and June, Jocelyn traveled to several European countries to see and learn about new places and to reconnect with current and former Castleton students along the way.  She wanted to reflect on her experiences by writing a series of stories for the blog.  This is Jocelyn’s first of three stories.)


Earlier this summer, I began my five-week European trip in Sweden, and I immediately fell in love with the country. The Swedish people are very kind, classy, and gentle. It is a nice change from the more outgoing and “loud” nature of us North Americans. Everyone dresses very nicely there, at all times. What they consider pajamas, we consider a normal day outfit such as leggings and a loose t-shirt. The majority of the clothes worn in Sweden are navy blue, black, grey, or white—-in other words, you don’t see a lot of colour. Most of the vehicles are made by Volvo, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Volkswagen- even their semis are Mercedes Benz. There are no trucks and not many “not nice-looking” cars there.

I love Sweden, and I blame this on my newly acquired addiction to coffee, thanks to Fika. A Swedish tradition, Fika’s basic meaning is: “to have coffee“, often accompanied with something sweet.  It is more about socializing than drinking coffee. It happens at least 2 or 3 times a day and, trust me, the Swedes are shocked if you turn down Fika or even a coffee. I barely drank coffee before my trip, maybe one or two times per month. However, by the time I left Sweden, I was used to drinking at least one or two cups per day, which is a big change for me. I really like the concept of Fika in that Swedes will take time out of their day to sit with their friends, relax and talk, no matter how busy they are or how many things they have on their mind. I think this practice needs to be incorporated into North America, as we have a tendency to rush through our days and invite unnecessary stress into our lives. As a result, we pick up something quick from a fast food place before returning to our hectic day.  We do this despite the reality that in fact, we do have time to sit down and socialize and still keep our day intact.

I could go on and on about Sweden, but I will stop here so I can write about and share with you my experiences in two other wonderful countries–Switzerland and Norway. Stay tuned!



My First Year of University: Getting to Know the “Castleton Spirit”

By Frank Wan, Sophomore Student from Nanchang, China

I cannot believe I finished my first amazing year in Castleton. I am missing my first year of university every day of summer vacation here in China. When I look back at my life in Castleton, I appreciate so many friends, professors and “families” there.

When I arrived at Castleton for the first time in August last year, I found everything to be new, everything to be different from China. I was totally attracted to this beautiful small town. My first impression about Castleton was “green”— everything is green there. Also, everything is healthy and dynamic. People said “hi” to me, even though they did not know me. They were also willing to offer help to me if I had any problem. I call this the “Castleton spirit”, which means: people live together as a strong community, everyone is willing to help one another, people respect each other, and there are no arguments. I knew that English was the most significant thing that I had to focus on, but I was afraid of speaking to people because my English was not as good as it is now. However, I was surprised that there were so many students who wanted to be involved in our English program, by being conversation partners with international students. My conversation partners helped me build my confidence when we were talking together, and took me hiking and skating during the weekends as well. At the beginning, it was hard for me to be social in the school because we have such different cultures and languages.  I did not know how to start a topic with others, but my partners taught me how to do this with lots of patience.

Castleton has so many perfect professors, and Professor Waara is one of my favorites. She cared for me just like her own family. Many professors, like Professor Waara, treat us like family.  This summer, Professor Waara came to China to travel, give lectures and do research.  She came to visit me as well, which made me both surprised and delighted. We are eager to get to know each other’s culture, and I believe this is also part of the “Castleton spirit”.

Loneliness is the most common problem that international students meet in university. Our families and friends were not at Castleton and I felt unassisted.  But then I met my host family, Mr. Bill and his wife, Nancy.  They always took me to their house for family dinners and playing with their cute dogs, Maisie and Angle. They even invited me to stay in their house for Christmas break. They helped me understand the real American culture thoroughly, and they gave me the love like my own family in China. I did not feel so alone because they accepted me as one of their family members.

I changed a lot since I came to Castleton, thanks to my friends, professors and host family. They all made me stronger than ever. Now, I am looking forward to meeting more new students next semester.  I will tell them all about the “Castleton spirit”.

Christmas with my host siblings. December 2016.

With my conversation partner, Marissa, at Spartan Arena. February 2017.

With Professor Waara in Nanchang, China. May 2017.

With my host parents at my farewell dinner. May 2017.