Category: College

Hey Sten, it’s Sten…

“Hey Sten, it’s Sten. I was just sitting in the sun outside Fahlman’s here in Helsingborg, slowly getting through some math homework. I realized that almost everything is perfect. It’s just how I never dared hope it would be a year ago. I hope you’re reading this in some faux-old neo-gothic building right in the middle of campus; I hope you’re still blogging and that you don’t overwork yourself … I hope you haven’t forgotten how lucky you are to be right where you are!”

I got this right around finals before the summer from, you guessed it, a younger me. Before I got the email I had absolutely zero recollection of sitting there at the old bakery in the town I used to go to high school in. Most of all, I had completely forgotten how happy I had once been about getting in to Princeton and, honestly, if I hadn’t been reminded of that I don’t know if I would have managed finals at all.

It’s so so very easy, almost inevitable, to lose sight when you’re in the deep-end. In the middle of finals I considered myself the most stressed-out and unhappy person on earth. I had completely lost sight of how privileged I was to be worrying about Princeton finals. Yes, they’re finals, but at least they’re Princeton finals. Of course, this is not specific to me, I’m sure. Anyone would get used to going to Princeton, to being rich, living in Paris or sailing around the world. The first week of Princeton you’re at Princeton, but after that you’re just at school.

Perspective then, is pretty desirable. Recognizing the good things in life, noticing the positive change over the months that go by and removing yourself from problems that, in the moment, feel like they’ll make or break the rest of your life. I realized this when I sent my first-ever email to my future self. It was in the deepest darkest part of the college application when I had just sent in all my applications, leaving me with nothing but my mind. The worst part about that time was that I couldn’t do anything to change my fate. It was then or never. My future lied in the hands of some faceless application officers, I couldn’t bear it and I wrote:

“Sten, when you’re reading this I hope you’re looking at ticket prices for that jet that’ll take you to the rest of your life in America. Then again, know that you’re still awesome even if it doesn’t work out just the way you hoped. You’ll do great things in Sweden too, just continue believing in yourself […]”

While cheesy, it was easier for me to detach myself from my deep and negative thought patterns when I was writing to my future self. In some strange way I felt like I was advising my little sister, my wiser counterpart that just needs brotherly encouragement every now and then to achieve great things. My emails have saved me on many occasions, both when I’ve received them, like during finals, and when I’ve written them, like back in high school. Tonight, in the deep-end of my homesickness, I’m writing a letter for when I finally go back to Stockholm for fall break, so I don’t forget to do all the things I can’t wait for now (the list includes drinking tap water, catching up with old friends and getting to know a few new). It’s all about getting some long-term perspective to re-realize nothing lasts forever, and that there will always be highs and lows. Emails won’t change that, of course, but at least they can make the lows bearable by allowing the highs to seep in.

I’ll end this post with an old Swedish proverb: “Everything has an end. Except the sausage. It has two.”

Shabbat, the Bible and amazing people at Princeton

America, I was told, is very different from Sweden. “How?” I would ask and as a response I would usually get “I don’t know exactly, but it is.” Back then, several months before I made the move to the United States, I found that terribly annoying. If it is different, obviously there are specific things that are different… right? Well, as I have now lived on the Princeton campus for three months, I very much understand the struggle that is explaining the US. When I am there, I communicate differently, meet strange customs and experience things I never would have in Europe. That is all well, but now that I actually sit down to write what exactly is different, how exactly I behave differently and what these strange customs are – I find it terribly hard. Of course, I will still give it an earnest attempt. That is why I will be writing a few posts this semester about the culture here at Princeton, but also America in a broader sense; this first post will be about one of the most specific things I can think of: namely, religion.

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I am a feminist

I know what you are thinking. Yet another white guy hoping aboard the feminism train to look good. Well, be that as it may, I take a firm stance as a feminist and in this post, I will detail the story of how I came to consider myself a feminist. Most of it concerns my great friend Erik and how he convinced me in a conversation we had just shy of a year ago.

Growing up in Sweden I have always had very liberal opinions, especially when it comes to all types of social issues. Naturally, I have always held equality as a core value in all of its shapes and sizes. To me, it is preposterous to think that people should be treated differently because of their stature, gender, beliefs or ethnicity. Although I have always thought of myself as an egalitarian, for the longest time I failed to identify as a feminist because of semantics, fear and non-understanding.

This all changed as a result of a single, somewhat heated, argument with my friend Erik, and two other friends of mine, in last year’s spring. As we tackled a different problem entirely, we made the age-old mistake of shifting focus in the middle of an argument to something only tangentially related. Generally, I try not to do this since I believe it facilitates the transfer of animosity from one issue to another; instead I find it better to solve one conflict first before going on to discuss the next. That tangent aside though, I am eternally grateful that we did go into the issue of feminism that afternoon, Erik, a feminist, and I, everything but just that.

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#7 – Semi-semesterly evaluation

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Below are the five goals I set up for myself seven days before coming to the US for the first time. However, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry there is no point in goals lest there is a plan to go along with them. As such, I have instated a plan. I will be doing semi-semesterly evaluations to see how well I am doing. These will be based around each of the goals by themselves and hopefully I will find ways to improve every time.

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#6: The Fall Break Challenge

Right at this moment I should not be writing this post but instead the 800-word essay I need to hand in tonight for my freshmen seminar. Professor Kernighan, if you’re reading this; I am sorry. On a gladder note however the aforementioned essay (which I, by the way, am having a lot of fun writing) concludes my mid-term week. Considering it is my first time writing tests in English at Princeton I feel quite alright about my results, although I definitely aim to improve. I realize it is important for me to quickly get used to the tests here, as they are completely incomparable with the tests I have done so far in my academic career.

That is something I will consider more after one of the most important weeks of the year: the well-deserved much-needed post-midterm fall break. Most people waste no time, leaving campus to go home as soon as they can, and as a result of this there is a very high risk of my being supremely bored during this week. Of course, that is something I simply cannot have that and as such I have conceived The Sten Sjöberg Fall Break Challenge to keep me occupied.

The Challenge consists of five different sub-challenges based primarily in physical and mental health. Indeed, the reason I write that the fall break is one of the most important weeks of the year is not only to be funny (although let’s be honest I totally am) but also because it is an opportunity for us students to slow down and let the soul catch up. Here are the five sub-challenges:

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Sten Sjöberg for Class Officer

Having finally settled down at Princeton it is time for me to start making things happen. In the spirit of this sentiment I am delighted to announce my candidacy for Class Officer of the Class of 2021. I want to be one of the five students representing, caring for, and enabling the great Class of 2021. Not only this year but for many years to come.

In my class representation philosophy there are two dominating topics: community and fun. The two concepts might seem trivial but I have always believed that God is in the details. Indeed, we do not always need magnificent innovation to make something better than it already is; sometimes all we need is a stickler for detail, and that stickler could be yours truly.

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#3: Getting Oriented

These first few days have been really intense so I just got up a few hours earlier today in order to write a short post to you all about what has happened so far.

Before arriving on campus I meet a pair of very generous relatives in NYC, with whom I stayed overnight at their house in Stamford.

Right by Princeton Club where I went to meet a very kind relative with whom I stayed overnight before Check-In started.

I arrived together with all the other internationals for International Orientation on the 30th of August. It felt amazing to finally arrive on the campus that I had wondered and dreamed about for so long. The first three days were filled with activities to makes us internationals feel at home. Davis International Center did a great job with it and I feel much more prepared in regards to topics such as culture shock. Among other things we had great fun navigating the campus on a scavenger hunt which we almost won. Unfortunately I missed the backside of the scavenger hunt paper we were given, which had us missing out on quite a few points. After IO ended the Americans of the class of 2021 arrived on campus. Continue reading

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