Studying Abroad in Sweden: Experience Lappland!
Before I hopped the plane to Kiruna in Swedish Lappland, two bizarre thoughts crossed my mind other than bitter coldness of mother nature: snuggling with a reindeer and searching for the hidden civilization of the elves. When I stepped off the plane, the sky was dark with few stars twinkling off in the distance. It was only four in the afternoon but it was dark enough to pass for nine o'clock. Also, it was not the frozen wasteland some folks made it out to be. Instead, it was a majestic northern realm filled with the fairy-tale atmosphere that inspired Disney’s Frozen, and sparkling snow that lit up the darkness of the night sky.
On clear winter nights the northern lights danced in the sky weaving their ribbons of green, yellow, and sometimes pinkish lights through the air. While I was there I was fortunate enough to see a bright strip of ghostly green light floating gracefully in the sky above me. At first sight I began to sing "Now At Last I See the Light" from Disney's Tangled.
The northern lights were one of nature’s many phenomena that fueled the folklore of the indigenous Sami tribes. Instead of meeting elves, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to a Sami reservation in Rensjön where I got to meet the Sami people and learn about their culture. Like the Lakota of central North America, the Sami are a tribal group that has occupied the northern Scandinavian region since time unmemorable. The key to their survival was their sacred animal, the reindeer, which they herded and from it fashioned all their needs from food to tools to clothes and blankets. The reindeer in a way were an extension of the Sami families. While I visited the reservation I had the chance to bond with the reindeer who are some of the sweetest and most gentle creatures I have ever met. The Sami were very hospitable, but also very superstitious people. Their daily lives were condoned by rituals that the culture followed in order to avoid misfortune.
My advice to you before going is to bring a camera warmer. It was so cold up in Lappland that my camera did not work!