The Gift of a Lifetime: Turning 20 in Stockholm

Yesterday, March 11th, I turned 20 years old. Kissing my teenage years goodbye, my day started out with a barrage of birthday wishes from my friends and family. My roommate, Carly, made sure to wake up out of her sleep at 6 AM while my alarm was ringing to wish me a groggy happy birthday (she then proceeded to slam her head back down on her pillow and fall asleep). She claims she doesn’t remember any of it; either way, I found her sleepy efforts incredibly funny and touching.

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(Carly and I in posing for a photo in Stockholm. I love her so much!)

Although I am adoring my time abroad, the kind words of my loved ones back home only made me miss them more, and strengthened the yearning in my heart to return back to Wisconsin. Every year when my birthday rolls around,  I am overcome with a feeling of bitter-sweetness: excited that I am turning a year older and moving forward in life, I often reminisce on my childhood, sometimes wishing that I could return to simpler times with less worries and stress.

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(A old throwback picture of my sister and I. I am on the left, and my sister is on the right. Wasn’t she just adorable?!)

Words cannot express how thankful and fortunate I feel to be studying abroad, and how wonderful of a gift it is to be here with my peers, learning, growing, and sharing this experience with one another. Perhaps even a sweeter gift is that I was able to celebrate my 20th birthday  in Stockholm, Sweden.

I spent my birthday roaming the streets of Stockholm with my friends. We walked along the water admiring the beauty of the historic city and exploring several landmarks, such as the Vasa Museum and the Nordic Museum, and eating lunch  at Ulla Winbladh, a cute, traditional Swedish restaurant nestled alongside the water.

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(Photos from our waterfront walk and lunch.)

After another long day well-spent with friends, acting out my dream of studying abroad, my night ended by visiting a room made of ice with my roommate Carly, and then going out to a local club with some friends (and dancing probably a bit too late into the night!). To say the very least, my birthday was well spent. It was one I will never forget.

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(Everything is made of ice!)

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think studying abroad would be a possibility for me: I always found some sort of excuse to justify why it wouldn’t be possible, claiming that I didn’t have the time, money, or that it just “wasn’t for me.” Through the continual guidance, support, and encouragement from my friends, family, and the Mount Mary campus, I was able to silence my excuses and instead provide voice and power to my goals. What I once thought would have never been a possibility, became possible, truly showing me that any goal I set my mind to is achievable in my life.

17321429_990045524429197_1210009287_n.jpg(another throwback, for the sake of birthdays.)

Nothing is more powerful than one’s drive for success and self growth, yet we can benefit so greatly from the positive love and reinforcement from the special people in our lives. Each and every day I will be thankful for all those in my life who have guided me to where and who I am today.

Until next time,

Ashley

 

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