Nearing the End – Part Two

Hej hej,

It is finally time to post my final blog as a CIE blogger. Before I get overly sentimental, let me fill you in on what I have been up two over the past several weeks.

Drawing of the common bream by Houghton.

Drawing of the common bream by Houghton.

In terms of school, I’m still attending class on a regular basis. Our current lectures have shifted away from water treatment, moving more toward the realm of river and lake restoration. This past week I found myself out on two excursions. The first was on Tuesday and took us to Höör and Hörby to witness biomanipulation in action! Everyone in class piled into little motor boats so that we could catch up to some small trawling vessels that were attempting to catch bream. In this particular lake, the bream are removed in order to maintain a habitat that favours pike perch. Before we left, the men working on the trawlers tossed us three huge bream to take home. Now, I should say that in Sweden bream is considered a ‘junk fish’. That is, it is often a fish that people would not eat. However, many of the fish species we currently consume were once considered junk fish as well. We eat them now because the species that were highly sought after have all been overfished. So, with this in mind I managed to convince some of my classmates to help me cook the bream. This bream eating party didn’t actually happen until Thursday, but I must say it was worth the wait. We ended up making a fish stew, as well as an American style fish fry using beer batter. Both were pretty phenomenal. The one draw back I suppose was that the bream was quite bony. However, the bones themselves were on the larger size, so picking them out was quick and easy.

Okay, enough about eating supposed junk fish, back to the excursions. Our second excursion took place Wednesday afternoon and evening. In the afternoon we broke up into small groups and were assigned a 400m section of river to habitat map. This is easier said than done. The river was not easily accessible, and my group found ourselves having to take turns touching the electric fences to see if they were operational. Thankfully, all our fences were off. All in all, we spent about three hours mapping this 400m stretch. It involved a lot of climbing, as well as a fair amount of sinking into what looked like solid ground, but in actuality was some kind of epic mud pit that deeply wanted to devour shoes. Later in the evening, when all the groups had reunited, we walked around in large patches of farmland listening to frog calls. This was actually super cool. We found a pond that was making quite a lot of commotion, and using our lights we were able to spot a few different species (below are photos of a few of the species we were hunting for). We eventually made it back to Lund shortly after midnight.

Spadefoot toad.

Spadefoot toad.

Fire bellied toad.

Fire bellied toad.

Great crested newt.

Great crested newt.

Hackeberga.

Häckeberga.

Now, as for my free time, well I’ve been up to the same old. A small group of us enjoyed a hike in Häckeberga one weekend. While on another weekend we did a cycle trip to Lomma again. More interestingly however, was celebrating Valborg. I’m still uncertain as to why and how Valborg came to be, but it was definitely a spectacle to behold. Basically, it consisted of every student in Lund coming down to the city park with loads of beer, food, and a picnic blanket. People began arriving as early as 8am to reserve their spot, and begin the partying. I arrived sometime around 10:30 and was completely overwhelmed by the huge amount of people already there. Quite frankly I had not even realized this many people even lived in Lund!

Häckeberga.

Häckeberga.

Passing the rapeseed fields while on route to Lomma.

Passing the rapeseed fields while on route to Lomma.

Action shot!

Action shot!

 

Picnic during Valborg.

Picnic during Valborg.

Where are you?

Valborg: Where are you?

Valborg, early afternoon.

Valborg: Early afternoon.

With my exchange experience coming to a close, I really feel the need to reiterate just how amazing these past nine months have been. Before leaving for Sweden, I felt as though my life back in Toronto was becoming too comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, but I was getting that itch to shake things up. What I love most about traveling and living abroad is that you never know what you’re going to experience, and thus, what you’re going to learn. The education I have received from Lund University has drastically increased my confidence in regard to my research abilities. This confidence lead me to apply for research positions, and now I’m happy to say that I will be spending the summer working for The Seagrass Ecosystem Research Lab in Miami, Florida. I would never have looked for this position had I not participated in the exchange program. On top of spending the summer in Miami, I am also in the process of searching for a UofT professor who can take me on as a 4th year project student.

On top of the exceptional education I have received, I also have to give credit to the phenomenal people I have met during my stay in Lund. I think many of these people do not realize just how much they have inspired me, and how they will stay with me as I carry onward to my next adventure. I can only hope that I manage to someday cross paths with these fine folks again. And of course my door, wherever that might be, will always be open for a friendly visit.

Tack så mycket Sverige! It’s been a slice.

Abby

Nearing the End – Part One

Hej hej!

I imagine at this moment many of my friends back at UofT are practicing some form of extreme studying in preparation for their upcoming exams. I however, am sitting comfortably at my desk, drinking coffee, while enjoying the incoming rays. Since classes are taken sequentially here, I only ever have a maximum of one exam at a certain time. However, some professors choose to forgo the exam altogether, in favour of written assignments and oral presentations. For me, by the time I am finished my studies here in Lund, I will only have written two exams for the entire academic year. Okay, yes, I’m totally bragging right now, but if you want something to feel better about then perhaps you can take solace in the fact that my final course only finishes June 5th. That is, I’m in class for minimum one additional month longer than the average UofT student. Although this may seem like a cruel fate for many of you, I actually don’t mind it. As I have been saying throughout my year of blogging, academic life is way less stressful here. I think the Swedes have a much better balance between work/academics and personal life than what we experience as students back home. Plus, with the extended academic year, this means I get to stay in Sweden longer! I am quite pleased about this because the days are getting longer, brighter, and warmer all the time. The sunlight crept past my curtains around 6am this morning, while last night I was enjoying the sunset around 8pm. After a fairly long and dark winter, it would be disappointing not to experience the Swedish spring and summer.

This past Friday my class had an excursion to the Helsingborg waste treatment facility, which was quite interesting. I had not been to one of these facilities since grade school, and although it can be easy to dismiss such an excursion as unpleasant because of the fact that it deals with wastewater, it really is such an important community service that residents should probably have a basic understanding of. This particular facility is special in regard to their process for separating phosphorous from the water. That is, they use a biological separation process instead of the more common chemical separation process. We finished the tour of the water treatment facility around noon and headed back to Lund by train. Once arriving, a group of us decided to go for a final fika (coffee + treat) before saying goodbye for the Easter holidays (that’s right, I have an entire week off, none of this silly long weekend business). Luckily for me, many of the international students are sticking around Lund and Malmö during this holiday, which means I’ll have some peeps around to plan some hikes with.

Friday night I found myself visiting some friends in Malmö. Although Malmö is much smaller than Toronto (~300,000 residents) it does remind me slightly of home. This is where you see lots of small scale food vendors, cafés that make good coffee (a true rarity), bars that sell cheap(ish) beer, and hipsters with their fixed gear bikes (sorry Salle).

Saturday brought with it some beautiful weather, so a small group of us biked to Lomma, a nearby coastal town. We bought some bread, cheese, and other assorted snacks and then head to the beach. Although it was sunny, the wind kept things a bit on the chilly side. Meaning, coats and scarves were required.

So this is going to be my last post for a while. It is actually suppose to be the final post, but since I’m not finished until June, I’m hoping the CIE will let me fit in one additional blog entry to summarize my final month abroad.

Until then!

Abby

Feedback, Water Management & Two Hikes

Hej hej!

Gears have shifted once again here in Lund. I finished my Aquatic Ecology class on a high note and have now begun Water Management. Why a high note? Well, as I mentioned in my previous blog, I was rather nervous about effectively being able to gain the attention of my fellow students for my 20 minute long seagrass presentation. After completing the presentation I was relieved because (1) it was over, and (2) I was happy with my performance. Presentations took place in the morning, while individual feedback was given in the afternoon. It was great to receive some constructive criticism from my professor, so that I know where my current strengths and weaknesses lay. Additionally, everyone in class briefly wrote anonymous reviews for each presentation. During the afternoon feedback session I received all of these reviews to look at on my own time. These comments turned out to be more funny than constructive, but definitely my favourite was “you did a great job in making a seemingly boring topic interesting”. To this I say check and mate.

Not much to report yet regarding Water Management. I was happy to learn that the main professor for this class just happened to be my professor way back in September for Marine Ecology. This professor always has a good story to tell, one of the more memorable ones involved a conference where he was one of the keynote speakers. I should preface this by telling you that his areas of expertise are in the aquatic microbial food web, phytoplankton ecology, and plankton community structure (emphasis on trophic interactions). At this conference, he wanted to discuss the topic of bioluminescence in plankton. And of course, is there any better way to generate interest in this topic then by constructing a makeshift lightsaber and filling it with a mixture of bioluminescent plankton and seawater? I thought not.

As for the great outdoors, well I’ve managed to fit in two hikes in the past two weeks. The first hike took place in Söderåsen National Park and involved a lot of campfire food. To be fair, I think we ate more than we hiked, so perhaps I should change my memory classification of this event from hike to wilderness picnic. With the campfire going, we managed to cook up some grilled cheese sandwiches, reheat some pizza, bake several bananas filled with chocolate, and toast some cinnamon campfire bread, all the while enjoying some deliciously hand crafted Portuguese custard tarts.

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Campfire bread. Yum!

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Choco-banana!

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Söderåsen

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Söderåsen

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Söderåsen

 

 

The second hike took place this past Sunday. A small group of us took a train, followed by a bus, connecting us to a ferry, which allowed us to reach a small Swedish island known as Ven. Originally the plan was to rent tandem bicycles, however we were slightly early in the season for this. That is, none of the bike rental shops were open. However, with the island only having an 11km perimeter, walking was a great alternative. It ended up being a great day filled with the superb company of new friends. The sky was clear, the wind was low, and the temperature was ~14°C. I even managed to get small sunburn, something I take as a clear indication that summer is coming (sorry House Stark, winter had its chance).

On board the ferry.

On board the ferry.

Leaving the pier.

Leaving the pier.

On route.

On route.

Ven!

Ven!

Life is sweet when living on Ven.

Life is sweet when living on Ven.

Approaching another port.

Approaching another port.

Fishing vessels.

Fishing vessels.

Until next time,

Abby

Plankton Metabolism, Seagrasses Continued, & Wonda

Hej hej!

Time is flying here in Lund. Hard to believe I’ve been living in Sweden for close to seven months now. The past couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy in my Aquatic Ecology class. We were given a new project to complete in groups of three regarding environmental change and plankton metabolism. Although the groups worked independently from one another for the majority of the project, we all worked together in executing the experimental design. We specifically wanted to assess the impact of increased temperature and increased dissolved organic material (DOM) on plankton metabolism and community structure. We therefore designed an experiment with four treatments; 8°C, 8°C+DOM, 12°C, and 12°C+DOM. The water sample used was collected from the Baltic and divided into 16 buckets (four replicates per treatment) after removal of zooplankton. The remaining organisms were phytoplankton, ciliates, flagellates, and bacteria. Each group looked at a different aspect of community metabolism, such as primary production, respiration, chlorophyll a biomass, community composition, bacterial abundance, and bacterial production. What made this project particularly unique was that although we carried out our analysis independently, the results were shared among all the students. Groups then had to use these results to create a report that linked everything together. That is, we were able to discuss how the community was responding, verses the response of only one individual organism. Why is this interesting you might ask? Well, I find it interesting because organisms do not exist in isolated systems in the natural world. The purpose of scientific experimentation is to try to explain what is occurring in nature. Although it is much easier to study an organism in isolation, since it excludes confounding factors, it can also lead to false conclusions because the study has removed the other interacting organisms. Monday at 4pm was the report deadline. My group and I managed to submit our paper a whole seven minutes early, plenty of time to spare

In addition to working on the aforementioned report, I have also been dedicating time to preparing for my 20-minute presentation on seagrass reddening this coming Wednesday. Like me, you’re probably wondering how on earth someone can talk about seagrasses, particularly on the topic of leaf reddening, for 20-minutes. Well, let me tell you… I have absolutely no clue. Actually, that’s not completely true. I think I can easily fill the 20-minute time slot. My concern though is how I can present this topic in such a way that my audience, a.k.a. my fellow classmates, find it interesting. As the presenter, I do feel it is my responsibility to gain the attention of my audience and I take this matter rather seriously. Why? Because what good will my own future research do if I cannot convey my ideas and findings to colleagues? Tricky tricky business these presentations are. I still have one more full day to prepare, but then the day of reckoning will be upon me (cue foreboding music).

Finally, I have to tell you about my kick-ass little red bike. I bought her at an auction during the first week of September. She had two flat tires, one working gear, and a chain as dry as the desert. Following a few Google searches, a couple of DIY YouTube videos, and a trip to the local bike shop, I was ready to begin her revival process. After applying a little TLC, Wonda (she needed a proper name of course) was ready to go, and man can she fly! I often wonder how much faster Wonda would be if I only fixed her rather prominent rear tire wobble, present due to the untimely disappearance of three spokes. Initially I was just putting off her spoke maintenance because of the cold, which was further exasperated by my winter laziness. However, after making it nearly seven months with this mad wobble, well, now it seems like a bit of a challenge to see if she can last until June. Come on, like you wouldn’t do the same…

Until next time,

Abby

Disappointment, Six Pizzas, & One Long Hike

Hej hej!

Taking off from the last post, I must say that the class debate was slightly disappointing. I had prepared myself for battle, but when the time came, none of the other stakeholder groups (Agriculture, Engineers, and the Green Movement) pressed forward the issues caused by Fisheries. The majority of the debate took place around the agricultural impacts on the health of the Baltic Sea. This is clearly an important aspect that required a discussion, but it is far from the only problem. Although I enjoyed the debating practice, in the future I would hope that the discussion is a bit more balanced.

Report writing process.

Report writing process.

With the completion of the debate, a new project began. We were given eight class days to work on our Individual Literature Project (ILP). Although I had known about this project for quite some time, I had not made too much progress prior to the start of this eight day period of free study time. However, my ILP came together quite smoothly. We were allowed to choose any topic, as long as it related in some way to aquatic ecology. I decided to look into the phenomenon of seagrass reddening. With my free time I read a mountain of scientific articles that were all somehow related to this topic. I then condensed my ideas regarding the articles I found useful, and finished by spending a large amount of my time writing the actual paper. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the final product…although this may change depending on how it is graded.

Pizza preparations.

Pizza preparations.

After spending so much time indoors writing, I definitely wanted to take advantage of the approaching weekend. To start, I through a mini pizza party in my apartment with several classmates Friday night. I had the dough waiting when they arrived and everyone got the chance to make their own artistically inspired pizza. There was a massive amount left over, but this was perhaps a blessing in disguise since a group of us decided to go out hiking on Saturday. We took the train from Lund to Landskrona and then hiked along the seaside North to Helsingborg. I’ll admit that it wasn’t the greatest weather, but at least it wasn’t rainy. Plus, the thick coat of fog that followed us during the latter half of our hike made the whole experience feel like some foreboding post-apocalyptic movie scene. The hike lasted for about five hours. Needless to say, I decided to stay in Saturday night…I’m fairly certain I was asleep before ten. Although, for those of you who know me, perhaps this is not so surprising.

Hiking along the coast.

Hiking along the coast.

Hiking into the abyss.

Into the abyss.

Passing through a little fishing village.

Passing through a little fishing village.

Until next time,

Abby

A Debate, a Dissection, & a Dinner

Hej hej!

More and more it looks like spring has come to stay here in Lund. The days are slowly getting longer, the birds have begun their early morning serenades, and I have managed to spend some time outside without having to dress is triple layers.

The final version of our poster.

The final version of our poster.

Since my last post, I have wrapped up the project regarding phenotypic plasticity. I began, and finished, another project regarding how climate change impacts aquatic biodiversity, and I am now working on a debate article addressing the multiple stressors affecting the health of the Baltic Sea and what should be done to ensure sustainability into the future. Writing this article has proved challenging, mainly because my partner and I have been given the position of fisheries experts. That is to say, we must produce an article, and prepare for a class debate, in which we will be defending fisheries’ rights to remain in the Baltic and continue fishing at roughly the same current levels. This is a hard argument to make considering the horrific affects many fishing industries have on aquatic environments (destruction of the benthos by trawls, by-catch, noise pollution, altering population dynamics, etc.). However, preparing for the debate has helped me realize some of the other issues preventing sustainable fisheries, such as the over-consumption of meat products by affluent nations, which is exasperated by the current consumer demand for low fish prices.  I am interested, albeit slightly nervous, to see how this all plays out during the debate. The other stakeholder groups that will be represented are Agriculture, Engineers, and the Green Movement.

Helsingør waterfront. Photo credit: tpsdave.

Helsingør waterfront. Photo credit: tpsdave

Outside of the classroom, I managed to take a ferry ride across Øresund into Denmark. I spent the day in the beautiful seaside town of Helsingør. To be exact, much of the day was actually spent at the town’s small aquarium where a white-beaked Dolphin was being dissected (note – this dolphin died in the wild and its carcass was found washed ashore). The dissection, as one can imagine, was rather graphic, but it was a great learning experience. Additionally, I was greatly surprised by the interest expressed by many of the children who where visiting the aquarium that day. As they gathered ever more closely to the dissection area (which was just an area of grass outback covered with a tarp) I thought for sure these kids would scatter once the veterinarian began his work. However, they proceeded to move so close that the organizers had to bring out chairs and tape to produce a makeshift barricade.

White-beaked dolphin.

White-beaked dolphin.

A final noteworthy event to mention from the past two weeks would have to be the lovely Valentine’s Day dinner I went to on the 14th. Now, I’m sure you’re imagining a romantic restaurant with couples at every seat, but it was actually a group event that took place in a friend’s kitchen. I think the size of the group fluctuated between 10-12 throughout the night. We ate, we sang, we danced, and we played charades. I’m normally quite indifferent to Valentine’s Day, but if it gives me the excuse to attend a party with the aforementioned items, then I must say that I’m looking forward to February 14th, 2015.

Yup, at 27 years old my mum still sends me Valentine's Day cards. I make fun of her for it, but secretly I'm very grateful.

Yup, although I’m 27 my mum still sends me Valentine’s Day cards. I make fun of her for it, but secretly I’m very grateful (thanks mum).

Until next time!

Abby

Passing the Hump & Phenotypic Plasticity

Hej hej!

Hard to believe, but with the passing of January I’m now more than half way through my academic year abroad. Absolute craziness if you ask me. I’ve begun making a list of places I want to see and things I want to do within the next four months. Visiting my old stomping grounds in London, checking out the Berlin wall, and sightseeing in Dublin are currently residing at the top of said list, but I suppose only time will tell what I manage to fit in. And of course, wherever I manage to go I will clearly be reporting it back to y’all.

As for the realm of academia, I am currently in my third week of Aquatic Ecology. At the moment, I am working in a group with three others on a poster presentation regarding the topic of phenotypic plasticity.

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Gonyostomum semen

More specifically, we are analyzing the results from a light intensity experiment using the nuisance algae Gonyostomum semen. Why nuisance you might ask, well that would be because of its ability to form large blooms in humic lakes, combined with the fact that it secretes itch-inducing mucus strands. Nice, right? Our experiment was fairly simple. Six samples of G. semen were grown under high light conditions (white light), while six others were grown under low light conditions (red light). Half way through the culturing time, three samples from each light treatment were swapped. The samples were all left to grow for an additional week before we were ready to put them under the microscope, and what a microscope it was! We had predicted to see a change in G. semen cell size as a direct result of the light treatment it was exposed to. So, for this, we needed to look at cell surface area. The microscope we were given access to had a camera attached, and it was directly linked to a computer that allowed us to take photos of individual cells from each of the 12 samples. C-O-O-L! Since we were working with live samples, a few of these little guys made us work for their photo, but by the end of the day we had managed to get photos of approximately 25 cells from each sample…which is a total of 300 individual cells!

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Measuring lengths and widths of G. semen.

Once the photos were all captured, we then used the same computer software to measure the length and width of each cell. These measurements were later used to calculate area, which was the variable we wanted to run our analysis on. When all was said and done, we saw a significant difference between the light treatments, illustrating that G. semen are phenotypically plastic organisms. All that remains is for us to edit and format our poster, which will be presented on Wednesday.

Sorry to nerd out on everyone once again. But, if I remember correctly, the deadline to apply for exchange studies though the CIE is on the approach. Therefore, I wanted to give a good example of the type of project that can be completed, during your bachelor studies, here at Lund University. I highly recommend this school to anyone looking to get some early research experience. Seriously, I have been able to super beef up my CV thanks to all the field and lab work I’ve been completing since arriving here.

Until next time!

Abby

New Course, Seagrass, & Semlor

Greetings once more from Sweden!

I’m happy to announce that my Fisheries Ecology class has come to an end. Normally, I am not so eager for a class to finish, but I think I’ve had just about as much as I can take when it comes to modeling programs. To be fair, the class was a great introduction to understanding how fisheries managers manage a fishery, but both the modeling project and the stock assessment project were massive leaps (for me anyway) between the textbook theory and actual hands-on modeling.

Monday the 20th was the first day of my 3rd course here in Lund, Aquatic Ecology. Now this is a course I am rather excited about. The aim of the course is to increase our knowledge regarding the scientific method, scientific writing, and further develop our oral presentation skills. This equates to projects, scientific article readings, and PowerPoint presentations, c’est fantastique! No seriously, I actually really enjoy these things, especially when everything is related to current research in the aquatic ecology field. During the first lecture, our professor mentioned that one of the major assignments for this course will be an individual project worth 30% of our overall grade. One of the things I’ve come to love about Lund University is the freedom students are often given to explore areas of their own interest.  So I was not surprised when our professor encouraged us to begin thinking of possible topics that we find of personal interest. It took me about five seconds to decide on a topic, seagrass. Why seagrass you might ask, well because seagrass meadows are beautiful, unique, and they provide an amazing environment to conduct research in. Come on, if you’re version of going to the office everyday meant snorkeling or scuba diving through some seagrass meadows, you’d be pretty happy, no? If you don’t want to take my word on the awesomeness that is seagrass, fine, but perhaps you can use you’re eyes instead…

Photo from www.psmag.com. Photo credit: NatalieJean.

Photo credit: NatalieJean.

szhwy3vn-1337712113

Photo credit: Rachel Sussman

turtlegrass

Photo credit: Bill Keogh

Okay okay, I’m finished with my geek-out. Moving on…

Lund is beginning to get a bit more of a proper winter. We’ve been having on and off snow, and some pretty high winds. Nothing to complain about though, especially when I consider this Polar Vortex business going on back home.

Sightseeing on my way to class.

Sightseeing on my way to class.

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Still sightseeing…

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It’s a bit of a long walk…

One exciting change that I have been noticing in the bakery windows all around town is the appearance of a lovely little cream pastry. Known here as Semlor, these pastries are traditionally eaten prior to lent, more specifically, on Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Tuesday/Fat Tuesday. Why they are showing up now, well I can only assume that they are just too good to be eaten only once a year. I have not yet had time to purchase one of these delicious looking treats. However, on the final day of Fisheries Ecology our professor brought in a box full of them. All I can say is that it was a great way to spend a fika.

Semlor. Photo credit: Maia Brindley Nilsson

Semlor. Photo credit: Maia Brindley Nilsson

Until next time!

Abby

Skype, Translators & Back to the Grind

Greetings once more from Sweden!

What's an exchange student to do for the holidays? Nothing like using Skype to eat breakfast with the family on Christmas morning.

What’s an exchange student to do for the holidays? Nothing like using Skype to eat breakfast with the family on Christmas morning.

As always, the holidays seemed to have disappeared in a flash. I stayed in Lund up until the 26th of December and then headed southward to Italy. I arrived in Milan and took the train to Faenza, a small town close to Bologna, where I was greeted by an old U of T friend who drove me to her even smaller town of Brisighella.

You know you're traveling with a budget airline when no one even bothered to take the trees out of the boxes.

You know you’re traveling with a budget airline when no one even bothered to take the trees out of the boxes.

Brisighella is a quaint little town surrounded by rolling hills, and is home to a small olive oil and wine cooperative.  During my short stay, I met many lovely people who welcomed me into their homes and included me into their holiday celebrations.

Overlooking Brisighella.

Overlooking Brisighella.

However, one night definitely stood out from the others. I attended a party where I was given fair warning that no one else attending really spoke that much English. Regardless of this fact, I was warmly welcomed once more into a stranger’s home where a huge Italian style potluck was in full swing. The beginning of the night was a bit on the quiet side for me, since I had only been able to find one person who was willing to practice his English. However, as the night went on and the holiday cheer continued to be drunk from bottomless glasses, more and more of these lovely Italians began to speak English, and quite well I might add!

It ended up being a really fun evening. At the start they were giving me a bit of a hard time, but I was touched by the fact that they were trying so hard to include me. It was apparent that a few of these Italians were more proficient in English then the others, so they quickly became the “translators” for their friends. I was quick to catch on though, that these “translators” were picking, choosing, and perhaps bending, what was actually being said by the others. That is, I’m pretty sure they were trying to set me up with one of two men. Luckily my friend and I left before any dates could be planned.

Walking along the harbour front in Trieste.

Walking along the harbour front in Trieste.

After my stay in Brisighella we travelled to Trieste, a city in Northeastern Italy. Trieste is a beautiful seaside town which architecturally has been heavily influenced by Croatia. Here I met many more wonderful people, and we all celebrated the coming of 2014 together with champagne and fireworks in the center square.

More walking.

More walking.

 

Sunset on the 31st.

Sunset on the 31st.

I was back in Lund by January 2nd to enjoy my last few days of freedom. Refocusing back into my studies has been a bit of an uphill battle. My Fisheries Ecology class does not finish until the 18th of January, and we were half way through a group modeling project before the holiday break began. Naturally, no one so much as glimpsed at the project during the holidays, so we all feel as though we are starting back a square one…c’est la vie!

Until next time,

Abby

Class Debate, Celebrating Lucia and Arranging for Italy

Hej hej!

So, after handing in my stock assessment assignment this past Monday, it was nice to get back into the routine of regular class hours. Tuesday’s lecture was devoted to an overview of the stock assessment. Our professor prepared a PowerPoint filled with all the graphs we should have been able to create and add to the report, as well as what conclusions we should have drawn from their interpretation. Sadly, about half way through the presentation, I realized my graphs began to deviate from what was being shown. I was slightly alarmed…until I looked around the class and recognized that same alarm chiseled into the expressions of all my fellow classmates.

However, the climax of the week came on Friday. Weeks ago, our professor had sent out an email explaining that we would be having a round table debate about issues presented in the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. At the bottom of his email he listed seven stakeholder groups; industry, large scale fisheries, small scale fisheries, green peace, aquaculture, and scientists. Beside each stakeholder group was a list of three to four student names, indicating which group everyone belonged to. Thus, everyone’s argument depended on which stakeholder group they were representing. I was grateful to see my name listed beside the scientist stakeholder group…since I pretty much have opinions regarding all aspects of the fishing industry, AND scientific evidence is always my weapon of choice. Overall, the debate was surprisingly good. All groups had valid points to argue, and everyone was given appropriate opportunities to speak.

Once again, this represents one of the many practical reasons of why I decided to come to Sweden to study for a year. I think it is advantageous for me to grow my debate skills while completing my undergrad, instead of sometime later in my academic career. I think doing science is only half of the battle. Being able to persuade others because of what your science shows is equally important.

A photo of a traditional Lucia event. Photo credit goes to Wiki.

A photo of a traditional Lucia event. Photo credit goes to Wiki.

Moving away from the academic world, I filled several of my evenings this past week attending Lucia events. Lucia, from what I gather, is a strong tradition amongst all Swedes. I first experienced it in Lund’s central cathedral downtown, a grand old building dating back to 1085. Lucia was performed by a large choir comprised of a mixture of young children to young adults likely no older than 16. The girls were all dressed in white gowns with red ribbons wrapped around their waists, while the boys wore black slacks with white shirts. All the choir singers held candles as they sang for us at the front of the church. Many of the songs were in Swedish, but were beautiful and enjoyable nonetheless. The event in its entirety is about darkness and light, cold and warmth, which I suppose makes sense since the Swedish winters can be long, dark, and cold, making it important to celebrate light and warmth.

Outside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to Andreas Georg.

Outside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to Andreas Georg.

 

Inside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to Wade Aiken.

Inside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to Wade Aiken.

 

Inside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to The Dynamo.

Inside Lund Cathedral. Photo credit goes to The Dynamo.

Sadly, with the holidays coming, it means I am having to say my goodbyes to some of the other international students who I have met here in Lund who will not be returning for the upcoming semester. This past Saturday night was a farewell party to my good German friend Stefan. The party was great, and although it was sad to say my farewell, it was amazing to say “see you in Berlin”.

As for my holidays plans, I’ve been trying to listen to those quiet murmurings coming from the depths of my right and left atria…umm, I mean, my heart. I’m happy to say that I went ahead and booked a flight to Italy, Milan to be exact, and will be taking the train South to Faenza, which is where I will be meeting a past roommate who also happens to be a U of T alumni. Hopefully I’ll have some good stories to share come January.

Until then, lots of love and holiday cheer being sent your way,

Abby