We really have been quite lucky so far. Ever since the rainbow we saw from the airplane approaching Stockholm, things have gone quite well for us, better than we deserve, really.

We took the train from the airport to Falun on Tuesday evening. We had reserved dormitory housing, but knew the housing office would be closed by the time we got there, so I had booked a hostel for the night. I noticed after I booked it that the hostel was not in Falun proper, but about 10km north of town. Oh well, I thought, we’ll put our bags in lockers at the train station and take a taxi, then take the bus back in the morning.

Only, when we got there, the station was deserted and we didn’t have the exact change necessary for the lockers. Fortunately, a young woman came up to us and asked us if we were new students at the university. She and another university employee were waiting for someone who was smart enough to order free pick-up service from the university who was supposed to be on our train. Only, they didn’t arrive. So, the university people offered to take us and our bags to a nearby hostel, and to pick us up in the morning, take us to the housing office and then to the dormitory. Wow.

So, everything worked out well. We’re living in the dorm, which is quite nice. The rooms are spacious and comparable to a nice three-star hotel, each with their own bathroom, lots of closet space, and stylish IKEA furniture. Still, it’s a dorm, and I’m 10 years older than half the people on the corridor. The common kitchen is far from cozy, and though the TV gets BBC World, it’s usually to be found tuned in to MTV. Kostia and I have been assigned separate rooms and our combined rent is more than if we had a one-bedroom flat. So, we’re apartment-hunting.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were mostly spent at orientation lectures at the university. Although the orientation week schedule was organized well in advance, each of the presenters kind of seemed like they had just been told they had to give a presentation a few minutes before and didn’t quite know what to say. That is, except for the guy from the employment office in town, who has doubtless given his presentation dozens of times. He painted a grim picture for those looking for work who don’t know much Swedish, but there may be some chance of finding a job teaching English to corporate clients and, as he put it, “rich ladies who want to go shopping in London for a weekend.” Well, that’s pretty much the same clientele as I had in St. Petersburg, so that would be fine.

There are about 100 other international students, the majority of whom are from Poland and Germany, it seems. Kostia and I feel a sort of affinity for the Polish students, since their language and appearance resembles that of Russians. Half of our corridor-mates are Polish and we keep listening for familiar-sounding words. The only other American I’ve met so far is a woman originally from Michigan who’s lived in Norway for the past three years. Kind of like us, she saw enrolling in university as an opportunity to live in Sweden. However, she has a Swedish friend with whom she shares an apartment, and she can communicate in Swedish since Norwegian and Swedish are at least as similar as Ukranian and Russian, so she’s got it together a lot more than I do. :-)

Overall… It’s really nice being in a clean place with a good recycling program, where strangers say hello to one another, where there’s organic food in the supermarket, where everybody rides bicycles, where cars stop for pedestrians, and where you don’t have to feel like your life (or at least your wallet) is in danger if the wrong person overhears you speaking a foreign language. Yes, Sweden is very different from Russia.