The University of Iowa

Nature, summer sun, and fun in Scandinavia

July 9th, 2014

By Kelsey Frisk

scenic view of mountains and lake

Where I first discovered nature- Norway! This is the Geiranger Fjord

It’s midnight in the north of Sweden, just below the Arctic Circle, and I can’t fall asleep. It’s not because I’m anxious or had one too many cups of coffee (which is often the case) but because the sun never sets! Most homes and hotels have blackout blinds or curtains, but my current home, a tent, doesn’t. I decided, after a few restless nights, that I should buy a sleep mask. In the end, I have to admit, camping in the beautiful nature that surrounds me is well worth the lackluster quality of sleep I’ve had.

To put my surroundings into perspective, Sweden is a large country, and much of it is untouched since around two-thirds of the land is covered with forests. Therefore, I’m encompassed by nature almost everywhere I go in Sweden. A five-minute walk from my place of residence in Uppsala and I could step foot into a pristine nature reserve. I spent many hours hiking, jogging, and having campfires and picnics with friends throughout my time there. Bike friendly Uppsala even has a bike trail that leads straight to the nature preserve right off the main street in front of my corridor. See my video of bike riding through Uppsala.

gate entrance

Entrance to the nature reserve near my corridor in Uppsala

I’m definitely not the only one to take advantage of the close proximity of nature in Sweden. I would see many Swedes horseback riding, walking their babies in strollers, running, or hiking with friends and family throughout the winter and especially during the summer. Many Swedes live in tiny apartments in cities, or small houses (or villas) in the countryside to cut down on heating costs and efficiency during the long, often brutal winter. Therefore, it’s nice to have the ability to escape the confines of your home and explore the vast open land around you. It’s no wonder that the Swedes are as fit and healthy as they are.

girl from behind walking through forest

Walking through one of many, many Swedish forests

The town I’m currently in, Malå, is another grand example of the vast beauty of nature. When I have downtime during my research (I will delve further into this subject in a later post) I enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. I’ve mostly gone hiking, as it’s the easiest and a free way of exploring what Sweden has to offer. Yesterday I hiked to the top of Tjamstanberget, which is a ski resort during the winter. At the top there is a fantastic view of Malå and the surrounding forests and water, as well as a Samí (the indigenous population of reindeer herders in northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and a small portion of Russia) statue from the 1940’s depicting a male herder overlooking the town and his herd of reindeer.

girl camping by a lake
Camping in Norway

I’m lucky to be able to experience summer in Scandinavia, as most international and exchange students leave after the semester ends. I’ve been able to celebrate Midsommar (the midsummer, longest day of the year, celebration that includes dancing, singing, and eating deliciously fresh fish, vegetables and fruit), stay a weekend in a Swedish summer home or stugby, camping anywhere in nature (according to the law of every man’s right to free use and access of nature), hiking in the mountains and fjords of Norway, roasting in a Finnish sauna, and enjoying a refreshing jump in the lake to cool off. Scandinavia has a lot to offer, and its rich and varying nature is just one amazing experience after another.

*Kelsey Frisk, of Magnolia, Iowa, is a University of Iowa junior majoring in interdepartmental studies with an emphasis in global health science. She is currently conducting research in Sweden courtesy of a Stanley Undergraduate Award. Kelsey also recently completed a semester of study in spring 2014 though the CIEE program at Uppsala University in Sweden