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Adventures Abroad: Inside the KCAD Sweden Study Away Experience - Part 2

Posted June 18, 2014 in Classes & Presentations

Students in the Study Away program are blogging from Malmö University in Malmö, Sweden, and we'll be sharing their thoughts, impressions, and adventures as they arise.

Day 13 - Packing Up and Homeward Bound by Kaylee and Abby

From Kaylee:

I’m writing this as I’m sitting on the plane with yet another 6 hours to go until we make it to Chicago.

Today has been a day of mixed emotions, reflections, and tears. Many of us are sad about our departure from Sweden. It’s been such a magical and liberating experience for us all. We’ve made friends within our group as well as friends within Sweden, and we all experienced things we never thought possible. I think everyone can say that they lived this trip to its fullest potential and we’ve done it all as a group, a family really.

We borrowed Sprint’s word “framily” within our first few days in Sweden because our experiences have all really been dependent on each other. We are friends who’ve come together as a family. We went through morning wake up calls, bus rides, train trips, lectures, and exhibits together. But the best thing about our family is that we stayed a family even when we didn’t have to.

On Midsommar’s Eve, we spent the day dancing and singing together in flower crowns, and one night we even went dancing, all 18 of us. We’ve had dinners together as a group, and we’ve collaborated, grown, and been by each other’s side through thick and thin.
Just the other night, Rennie got stuck in the elevator and a bunch of us stood outside the door just so she didn’t have to be alone. Another day, we planned a surprise party for Abby’s 20th birthday.

Throughout this trip, our group has been more than a group, and I think that might be one of the best experiences of all.
Because although some of us are ready to come home, many of us are already planning to return to Sweden. And those experiences we had in Sweden have not only been defined by the adventures we have had and the people we met, but by the bond we have had as a group - as friends, and as a family - through every aspect of our trip.

It’s not over, though; our journey together will continue. We have the rest of summer to plan, organize, and create the best study abroad show KCAD has ever seen. So watch out, everyone! We have a lot more in store for our adventure.

From Abby:

It’s the end of our time here and it feels very bittersweet. Some would rather miss the flight, others are happy to be going home to families, kitties, puppies, and whatever else we’ve been missing while we’ve been away.

Our day has been spent finishing up the last bit of present hunting for folks back home, packing, and cleaning. Many of us are wondering if our bags will tip the scale too far, or aren’t sure how it will all fit back in the suitcase we came with, but we’ll make it happen!

At our “farewell” dinner tonight, I was at a table with John and he asked about our favorite part of the trip. I honestly couldn’t decide. I think the best thing about this experience was taking myself out of the familiar and into a new place with people I barely know and making a go of it for two weeks. It was truly about the adventure of it all and the ways that I overcame the uncomfortable to grow. It also has been about seeing the ways that I have changed over the years. Having been to Scandinavia in late elementary school (about 20 years ago) and then again in high school (a little over 10 years ago), returning to a place really reinforces the way that you yourself have changed. I know these experiences abroad have formed me into the person I am and I know this particular experience will change who I am as a designer. I’m not going to enter the classroom this coming fall semester as the same student I left KCAD as this past spring.

Day Twelve - Final Exploration and Reflection Day by Nicole, Suzannae, and Linny

From Nicole:

As the final days of our trip loom before us, we took this beautiful sunny Sunday as a day to reflect, rest, and finish our final explorations of this beautiful city that we have all come to know and love over these past two weeks. It’s hard to believe our entire trip is almost over, and we’ll have to leave the beautiful country of Sweden. I can’t speak so much for the others, but I know personally that this whole trip has been such an eye opener. It has helped me break out of the daily routine and has forced me to realize how many things we take for granted in our lives. From the simple things like public water fountains and free public bathrooms, to the complex things such as being able to figure out what it is you’re really buying at the grocery store or being able to communicate to the people at Subway to try and get some lunch.

There have been a few challenges (like getting mixed up in the subway station in Stockholm) and a ton of great times (The Midsommar celebration at Folkets Park and Debaser Night Club), and they have all been written down to be saved and remembered close to our hearts. I know that for me, it’s going to be hard to head home and sit back behind my work desk and focus when I now know that there’s a whole part of the world that I’m missing as I try to make a career for myself. I know from now on, I’m going to try my best to experience and immerse myself in as many other countries and their cultures as possible, to try and better understand their views and how they see the world. America isn’t the only place on earth, and even though it’s always going to be my home, I want to learn more about why people are so anxious to visit the great United States.

sunset in Malmo SwedenA beautiful Malmö sunset

This trip was truly a wonderful way to force myself to step back from the comfortable stability of my own language and culture, and to go out and explore the other possibilities in life. To talk with other students here at the Celcius Garden dorms and to hear their experiences and their passions and their love of travel, it gets me geared up to be on their level as well, to travel and to understand where they’re coming from. This amazing abroad experience helped me realize that I need to focus more on the macro of life and design rather than the mirco.

This city, these people, this trip, my experiences – they’ve all made me realize that I need to open my eyes, I need to grow, and I need to understand that my point of view isn’t the only one out there.

From Suzanne Jonkman, KCAD professor:

I want to start by saying this is a great group of people I have been traveling with. Some of our days, though wonderful and awe-¬‐inspiring, have been long and arduous. We are averaging 10 miles of walking a day and lots of hopping on and off trains, buses, boats, and trollies. And through it all there has not been one complaint. These are real troopers.

Now that we are at the end of our two weeks we are starting to feel at home. We have mastered the travel systems and can maneuver in and around Malmo fairly easily using various modes of transportation. Several of the students are so acclimated they are thinking of trying to study here. I might have to rethink the trip if I come back each time with students who plan to jump ship and head back the first chance they get.

The KCAD Sweden Experience crewThe KCAD Sweden Experience crew

On the other hand, I am very happy to get back and look at the huge volume of photos, writing, sketching, and journaling everyone has done. With all of our traveling and keeping everyone at home up to date on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter, we haven’t had an opportunity to really make sense of it all. Though our quiet picnic day in the park gave us the down time we needed to get everyone’s creative juices flowing, hence many final project concepts were born.

We have booked Haworth’s Blue35 Bluescape lab on our return to bring our large library of observational pieces together. As noted on their web page:

“Blue35 is home to two Bluescape labs that house award-¬‐winning Bluescape technology: a system of incredibly powerful touch-¬‐screen monitors that create an unparalleled digital experience that combines text, web-¬‐based browsing, photos, digital whiteboard space, and more, in real time. It is ideal for strategy sessions, seminars, planning, brainstorming, and more.”

swedish flagSweden truly was an awesome experience!

We are so excited to be able to use this amazing space to collaborate and brainstorm and relive some of our favorite moments from the trip.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in a couple of days.

As said before, today was a reflection, creation, and final exploration day. Below is an incident from Linny’s day, and it helps remind us that no matter where you are, we’re all human. We need to stick together.

From Linny:

Full of foreign culture, sightseeing, and history, our time in Sweden thus far has been nothing but magical. Even the moments of frustration as we run to keep up with the fast pace of our teachers, or the panic of nearly losing classmates in the hustle and bustle of the metro can now be looked back on with fondness as our trip draws to an end. But today the magic of Sweden took a darker turn.

Today, the second to last full day before we depart from our new second home, the group was given a free day to do whatever they desired. Erica, Kaylee, and I decided to make our way to the iconic Turning Torso and overlook the Baltic Sea. We arrived at Malmo Central Station just as dark clouds and a light sprinkle of rain began to replace the previously sunny day. As we stood waiting for the number 2 bus to approach, I heard an impact on the concrete and a short groan come from behind us. I whipped around, eyes searching for the cause. My eyes landed on a well-dressed older man lying on the concrete, hand on his head, his facial expression clearly expressing pain. I was shocked. Even though it was quite obvious, I couldn’t help but frantically ask my friends what had happened.

Kaylee had seen the incident. As we hurried over to the man’s side, she explained to me that he had attempted to duck under the bus arrival time board and hit his head on the corner, subsequently throwing himself off balance, and fell backward onto the concrete. This is the impact I had heard.

Almost instantaneously, there was a small gathering of people around the old man including us. I was frozen in my footsteps as I saw the growing pool of blood beneath his head. I vaguely recalled something about keeping pressure on the wound as I stared blankly at the injured man in front of me. Luckily, others were quicker to take action than myself. Kaylee pulled out her phone, which has an international calling plan, called the 112 Sweden emergency phone number and handed it off to a nearby woman who could speak to the operators in their native tongue. A younger dark-haired gentleman stepped forward, holding his hands against the old man’s head as he asked for something to press against it. A nearby woman handed him napkins. Kaylee immediately dug inside her backpack, fishing out her towel and handed it to the young man. The dark-haired man, with the help of another woman, carefully lifted the injured man’s head to place the towel beneath it for support. Next they asked for water. In my blank state of mind I wasn’t sure what they needed it for, but I wanted to make use of myself so I hurriedly grabbed for my water bottle and ran it over to them, pulling off the cap as I did. The young man slowly poured water onto the older man’s head, cleaning the open wound. A blonde-haired woman came forward with a sizeable handful of wadded up toilet paper she had ran to gather from the nearby station. She offered it to the younger gentleman, who replaced the now bloodied napkins with the wad against the man’s head.

Now all we could do was wait for the ambulance to arrive. Though this all had happened so fast it is nearly a blur in my memory, this wait seemed agonizingly long. I watched from the sidelines as person after person who walked by would see the wounded man and immediately offer their help. There was really nothing else that could be done at this point, but seeing nearly every passerby selflessly offer their help despite their own lives and buses and trains they risked missing was inspiring. I wondered if I could say the same would happen if such an incident happened at a Central Station in America. I imagined that there would be those to stop and help, but there would not be such an overwhelming amount so willing to inconvenience themselves to aid another person in need. I imagined that more would continue walking, seeing that the situation was being handled by someone else and not concern themselves with it.

A distant wail reached my ears, marking the coming of an ambulance. The wailing grew louder and louder, and much of the crowd moved aside to allow space for the awaited vehicle. A neon greenish yellow ambulance with red stripes pulled up and parked beside the scene. I expected the doors to fling open before the van had fully stopped, the paramedics running to the man’s side to swiftly place him in the back and get him to the aid of a nearby hospital with speed. Oddly, this was not the case. Upon parking, the responders unbuckled, and leisurely exited the vehicle. One slowly walked over, another stopped to put on a coat and zip it up. I was a little shocked. Why did they seem almost bored by the situation? I am far from a paramedic expert, but this didn’t seem quite right. What a contrast it was to the tremendous amount of help offered by the bystanders who were all so quick on their feet.

Erica, Kaylee, and I watched as the responders lifted the man onto a stretcher and raised it into the back of the ambulance. They threw out the bloodied wad of toilet paper and Kaylee’s towel with her approval, returned to their seats, and drove off. I stared at the wailing vehicle until I lost sight of it. All of this happened in the span of about fifteen minutes. Before I had even gotten to fully process the incident, it was over. Just like that. The only evidence left that it had even happened was a puddle of spilt water from my water bottle where the man had been laying.

Day Eleven - Denmark by Emily and Leah

From Emily:

We traveled outside of Sweden to the neighboring country of Denmark.

Hamlet’s Castle

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is about a Danish prince with an internal dilemma and a dire question, “To Be or not To Be?” While Hamlet was a fictional character, the castle in the story is very real. We were able to tour through parts of the castle and grounds.

Observations led us to wonder why the castle was so scarce in furnishings and why there wasn’t a drawbridge.

While we weren’t able to go through the entire castle, we did see the apartments, chapel, and catacombs. The view of the castle and surrounding scenery was breathtaking.

While the United States does have old buildings, this is unlike anything we’ve experienced at home. Our country is relatively new in the world comparatively. There are very few of us who have seen an actual castle, let alone one marked so famously.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Our second stop for the day was the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The Museum featured both traditional indoor exhibits as well as garden exhibits. We were able to walk through the giant circular path from start to finish, recognizing a few artistic works by Alexander Calder.statue by Alexander CalderDenmark has a Calder too!

Besides paintings and statues, many works were textured and/or a mixture of flat and three-dimensional structure.

Some sculptures sat high on the bluff over looking the water. This became a great place to sketch.

Modern art is spread throughout the United States, with many pieces placed in Grand Rapids. The styles our group saw today are ones we’ve experienced before in local museums. The garden exhibits were a little different for many of us. Museums in the United States usually are very protective of their collected works and usually display them indoors for safer keeping, especially from nature.


We arrived to Copenhagen later in the day than we had hoped. A small group returned back to Malmo while the majority walked through the busy streets from the train station to the canal.

The streets were filled with street performers of varying talents, including men and women dressed in silver and resembling statues.

Many in our group were not big fans of Copenhagen. It wasn’t quite as busy as Stockholm but it was much more lively than Malmo. In comparison to an American city, the activity level would be halfway between Grand Rapids and Chicago.

From Leah:

While studying away in Sweden these past few days, we have been learning and practicing the art of observation. With so much to see in all of the places we have traveled to, there have been innumerable opportunities to practice these skills. Spending time in Copenhagen today helped me to fully realize how much my observation skills have been sharpened since arriving in Sweden. The most obvious indication of this improvement is the comparisons and differences I was able to notice between Swedish culture in Stockholm and Danish culture in Copenhagen.

Stockholm and Copenhagen are quite comparable when it comes to size and population. Both are large Nordic capital cities only a few hours apart. However, when you actually get a feel for each city by experiencing and observing it first hand, you begin to see how different they truly are.

Visually, the two cities are different in several aspects. Stockholm was very well kept and had minimal amounts of trash on the ground, whereas Copenhagen was very dirty. I felt like I needed a shower after walking around for a couple hours. The signage and architecture in Stockholm is designed very well and is quite contemporary. Copenhagen looked like a typical older European city with mismatched signage and old rundown buildings.

Another major difference I noticed between the two cities was culture. In Copenhagen there were several advertisements on buses, signs, and even t-shirts that objectified the female body, suggesting a gap in gender equality similar to that of the US, where objectification is an everyday occurrence. You don’t see anything like that in Sweden. I noticed that even professions that are predominantly one gender or the other in the US, such as law enforcement, were gender neutral in Sweden.

Copanhagen, DenmarkCopanhagen, Denmark

Another cultural difference I observed in Copenhagen was how loud and ostentatious people were. People wouldn’t hesitate to shout across the street to catch the attention of a friend or wear neon colored leggings. In Sweden, where the philosophy of Lagom radiates down to the core of culture, it is not common to hear people shouting on the streets or even talking on public transportation. They are very introverted and quiet. The people of Stockholm dressed very well but I did not see anything flashy or brightly colored being worn around the city.

Though being able to observe and experience both cities was an exciting task, I am glad we are staying in Sweden rather than Denmark because I am more comfortable with Swedish culture.

Day Ten - Misummer Festivities by Kaylee, Andi, and Deanna

From Kaylee:

Today, our group had the opportunity to enjoy one of Sweden’s oldest traditions: Midsummer! Today marks the day known as Midsummer Eve!

Midsummer Eve is celebrated in the countryside. Everyone leaves town, everything closes, and the city streets are suddenly deserted. Midsummer Eve is always on the Friday between the 19th and 25th of June, and people often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, which is a key component in the celebrations. Women also make wreaths to wear on their heads. The maypole is raised in an open spot and traditional ring-dances cause people to scurry around in delight and dance around it in celebration. I cannot express to everyone how much fun our group had today! We were dancing and singing to songs that we didn’t even know! It was a really fun and exciting experience.

Midsummer is also known for having a specific menu associated with the festivities. It normally features different kinds of pickled herring, boiled potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream, and chives. This is often followed by a grilled dish of some kind, such as spare rib or salmon, and for dessert the first strawberries of summer are served with cream. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve that menu under certain circumstances, but we all chipped in and brought food to share for a picnic-type lunch, grabbing the occasional festive goodies at local stands as we pleased.

Enjoying the Midsummer festivitiesEnjoying the Midsummer festivities

So today, we got to spend the day as a group dancing, singing, and experiencing one of Sweden’s oldest cultural traditions. We even got a little close while we braved it out during a brief rainstorm! I’d have to say, we had a pretty great day together as a group, and everyone is excited about what else is yet to come on the last few days of our journey.

From Andi:

For today’s class, we all met up and walked to Folkets Park for Midsommar. I’ve heard quite a bit about this Swedish festival, but being there in person was a whole other experience.

As we approached the park, I noticed music booming from a massive stage to my right. People were already sitting throughout the park on the grass all prepared for the day. Right away I noticed how minimal things were. People had a blanket to sit on with their basket of food and drinks. Otherwise, the rest just stood in place and conversed with one another. If it were an American festival, I think it’s easy to say there would be blankets, cars with hatches down, high tech lawn chairs, mass amounts of food, and even portable grills. It doesn’t seem like much or a big deal, but I just appreciate the simplicity in things over here in Malmo, and in Swedish culture as a whole.

students wearing flowers at the Midsummer festivitiesFlowers are integral to the Midsummer festivities

Soon after our arrival, we headed over to a table where girls were handing out bunches of flowers so we could make flower crowns. This festival is based in pagan tradition, featuring a fertility pole made of flowers that is raised at the beginning of the ceremony. So of course, along with the pole made of flowers, woman are to wear a crown made of flowers. The live music eventually ended and the true festival tradition began. The pole was raised, and everyone began to dance around it. It was wonderful to see a culture that appears incredibly up to date still carry out such a cherished tradition. The light beaming off of everyone’s face was a true indicator of what this holiday meant to them.

It was an absolute pleasure to be part of something that is so meaningful to another culture. I love the moments I am experiencing here in this beautiful country, and leaving it is going to be extremely difficult!

Maypole at the Midsummer festivtiesRaising the Maypole at the Midsummer festivities

From Deanna:

Sweden has been an amazing experience thus far. I am super excited to be here because studying abroad is something that I have always wanted to experience. I have traveled out of the country before, but this is the first trip that I will have time set aside to make a body of art. With this in mind I have been comparing this trip with other trips I’ve taken. Whenever I travel, I try to take things in as much as possible and experience as much as I can. At the same time, I am looking at things through a different lens, one that is searching for the right inspiration to make some crazy art.

This trip has been great because I have been able to talk to Swedish people about how they live life and how they view the city that I am just experiencing for the first time. It gives me a deeper insight into different things to absorb and look at.

For now, I have some ideas floating around about making an interactive piece that will help the viewer to have similar feelings to what I’ve had while exploring Sweden. What the final piece will look like is still in the works, but I’m sure inspiration is right around the corner. Well, that’s it for now hope all is well back in the States.

student sketch​  One student sketched his interpretation of the event

Day Nine - A Relaxed Day by Abby, Rennie, and Mia

From Abby:

Today, we took a bit of a break from our breakneck speed. After a good night’s sleep, we all met up and spent some time in the main square in Old Town Malmö sketching, concepting, and just generally looking at what was around us. It was quite blustery and overcast, so we couldn’t stay out too long, but it was nice to just sit and take in the city where we’re living.

The afternoon was free time to shop, clean, do laundry, begin packing (!), and whatever else. The shopping was top priority, as tomorrow marks the beginning of Midsommar festivities and the shops will likely be closed from closing time today until Monday to celebrate. We’ll be going to a celebration in a park here in Malmö tomorrow, so we’ll let you know what this Swedish tradition is like!

From Rennie (about yesterday’s IKEA trip):

Today, we took a trip to IKEA in Malmö. IKEA may be the most well-known company in Sweden that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances, and home accessories. It was founded in 1943. In 2008, IKEA became the world’s largest furniture retailer. The IKEA in Malmö wasn’t very far from the location we live, so we got there in about ten minutes by train. Right after getting off the train, we saw the large signboards of IKEA across the street, which was a bold bright yellow type (IKEA) on a deep blue background, symbolizing the color of Sweden. Actually, IKEA is not unfamiliar to me. In my hometown, the IKEA there is pretty close to my apartment. I go there 3-4 times a year to just wander around and see how they display the furniture. What I found interesting is that most furniture in IKEA does not upgrade very often, or maybe it does, but always in IKEA style so I don’t realize. But every time I went there, I could always find something new.

sketch by studentA sketch by a KCAD student

Walking into the IKEA in Malmö, I felt like as if I was back in my hometown. John told us IKEA opens stores internationally and they look all the same wherever they are. But IKEA attracts people all over the world by using this same kind of design. Why is it so successful? I feel that in IKEA, innovation and tradition are usefully combined in many ways. From bedroom to kitchen to bathroom to living room, IKEA displays their furniture one by one in model rooms, so that customers can go in and place themselves in an atmosphere of home. Their furniture is available in all varieties, from wardrobe to wire plug, and there is nothing you cannot find in IKEA. It is worth mentioning that IKEA not only sells furniture but also a good selection of Swedish food. In their cafe I had some really good Swedish meatballs for just 29 SEK (about $5).

I used to be mad about walking in IKEA in my hometown because I had to start from the top floor and look around everything before I could get to the floor I wanted. But today I noticed that IKEA has a very friendly and easy navigation system. There are maps everywhere, also arrows on the floor to guide your way to the next step. Signs and notifications are hung in conspicuous places in a neat design that you can never miss. Another thing I noticed today is that in each IKEA block there is a computer area where customers can pick their favorite furniture and drag them into a plan and display them freely. When they’re finished, the program will turn the plan into a 3D model so customers can know exactly how their room looks after renovation. That is just so cool to me.

I’m very glad I can be in the birth country of IKEA. It’s wonderful experience.

From Mia:

Tomorrow will be the Midsummer Festival day in Sweden. All stores will be closed. So John changed the schedule that everyone could have the last chance to go shopping. I feel very lucky. Thank you John, you are so nice!

We went to the Old town. It’s a little bit rainy and the wind was chilly as well. We had about an hour just sitting in the square to do some sketches. I really like Malmö’s street view, so I did a sketch in the square. Practicing sketching is also good for us to improve the ability to observe things around us, so we can capture the good moments of life more often.

At the same time, I realize that people in Sweden seem to pay more attention to their dress. Their style catches my eye all the time. We went into many stores. I like the fashion here but they are always too expensive to buy. I hope some day some of the Swedish brands beside H&M will open stores in the US.

Day Eight - Experiencing IKEA by Nicole and Abby

From Nicole:

Today was our IKEA day! We got to experience the layout and the design of the popular Swedish furniture store and try to understand from a design point of view why their brand and was so strong and unique. It didn’t take long for us to understand that this was no Art Van furniture store; there were beautiful displays set up with all of IKEA’s products, creating beautiful environments of all different kinds. The displays were stunning, showcasing the products to the highest degree, yet keeping things simple and easy to find. Though the store layout involved a lot of twisting and turning to the point where you were forced to go through every section before coming to the checkout, it was still a unique layout and a great experience in understanding how the function of the brand touches absolutely ever aspect of it. Everything about Ikea comes down to functionality and saving space in a beautiful and clean kind of way, but keeping the costs down to make things affordable.

IKEAOutside of the IKEA building

Functionality and practicality are the main forces that drive Swedish design, at least, this is just what I have personally observed. Catch the attention of customers where they’re going to spend most of their time, but don’t overwhelm them. It is here that I have personally noticed the effects of “lagom” in their society. There’s not too many advertisements, but not too few either - just enough to get the point across but not enough to numb you to their presence. There’s no need to plaster advertisements over every flat surface in the city. And that is how a lot of things here in Sweden are handled, with this beautiful balance and simple sophistication that can only be found in a design-driven country.

enjoying lunch inside IKEALunch inside IKEA

Nature and natural preservation is also extremely important in Swedish culture, as there are many public spaces filled with as much green as possible. Just today we took advantage of this and sprawled out in the small park behind John and Suzanne’s apartments to have our first real class time. We started organizing the huge amounts of photos and data that we have collected over the past seven days, and also reflected on how being in this foreign country is going to translate into a final project piece. All in all, it was a beautiful day here in Malmö, and an even greater day for the KCAD students enjoying it!

From Abby:

Ever since coming to Sweden it has become a wonderful blur of newness and adventure. Walking the uneven brick laid streets and witnessing beauty in architecture and people with every step you take is truly a humbling experience. Through the observations I’ve made so far, the one thing that fascinated me right away are all of the bikes that are here. I’m a nerd and love bikes to begin with, so to see all of these people going from point A to point B on their bikes is crazy. Here we are a group of 20 from Grand Rapids aimlessly walking the sidewalks of Sweden and not realizing that there are reserved lanes, one for biking and one for walking. People just go cruising by non-stop on what seems to be a mission destination. It’s hard to imagine that type of transportation in Grand Rapids. Back home it is just second nature for us to hop in our cars and go where we need to go.

Day Seven - Day Trip to Helsingborg by Emily and Michelle

From Emily:


Michael (Heart Director) and Petra (Art Director) gave inspirational lectures on their design company, Manifesto, in Helsingborg, Sweden. We reviewed two cases studies, both of which were interactive: 1. A new hair product by Apotek (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ646wM2y_w). 2. Volkswagen, in an effort to get more people to use the stairs, gave people a little creative incentive (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw&feature=kp)

We reflected with group work and even squeezed all 18 of us into the small bookshop in the corner of their building.

Church in Helsingborg, SwedenChurch in Helsingborg, Sweden

The process and philosophies they use are use heart direction, the moyo concept (media of your own), one internet means we’re all connected, the new R.O.I (return on interaction), and design for the social impact.

Unlike our previous lecture with Ms. Cristel Brost, Michael and Petra do not believe lagom is the best for design.

We participated in a group workshop where we listed both the positives and negatives of Sweden, not from a design standpoint. Our positives were astounding, focusing on the unique qualities of Sweden, such as embracing public spaces, balance of old and new, and better cultural understanding. Our negatives were more from a tourist perspective with things like paying to use the restroom, drinks being scarce with ice and the lack of Kleenex.

Manifesto’s philosophies are similar to what we experience in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas. Lagom is not something we had even considered until a few days ago, and it’s not something we seem set to adopt either. We live to be heart directors; design is our passion and we want it to express more than just a simple clean design. Do we necessarily need everyone to know we’ve created this design piece? No, but we want it to speak volumes within each person.


After the Manifesto lectures we grouped together and went to find the Koppi coffee house recommended by Michael. In his opinion it is the best coffee house in all of Sweden. Sweden, however, has voted them as the second best. Their coffee did get rave reviews from us KCAD visitors, who expressed feelings of “this is how it’s supposed to taste” and “it doesn’t taste this good back home.”

Students enjoying cafe latteKaylee and Linny enjoying a cafe latte

The most popular drink ordered by our group was the cafe latte.

Many of us purchased coffee beans in hopes to maintain the great quality of coffee when we return back to Grand Rapids.


Around noon, our groups separated, with two staying in Helsingborg to do a little more sightseeing while the others returned home to work on homework and do a little cleaning.

Those who roamed around Helsingborg enjoyed a pizza picnic by the castle tower, sketched and wrote in their journals, and attempted to visit Toy World (a museum featuring whole toy collections from before 1990).

Those who returned home worked in their journals, finished other projects for our study abroad, did laundry, and relaxed.

From Michelle:

Today marks one week that all of us KCAD students have been in the beautiful country of Sweden! I can’t believe one week has already gone by! Even though the time is surely flying, we have covered so much and I couldn’t be happier. I think the most sleep I have gotten is about 5 hours in a night, but I don’t even care. Every moment awake will be one I will never forget. Late last night we arrived home from our 3-day trip to Stockholm.

Because we were in so late, we had some free time this afternoon to catch up on. A few of the girls and I decided to do some laundry during this free time. The washers are pretty much set up the same as in America, but the symbols are much different and there weren’t any instructions in English. We threw some towels into the dryer thinking we knew what we were doing, but we definitely didn’t. Buttons kept lighting up, but nothing was happening. After much confusion, one of the buttons we mistakenly pushed started the washer up. We were super excited to have figured it out and it was a very proud moment…until we had to do another load and had no idea what we pressed all over again…

students learn how to do laundry in SwedenStudents figuring out how to do laundry in Sweden

Shortly after struggling with the washer, we came upon a similar situation with the oven. We wanted to make a simple frozen pizza. Again, the symbols were foreign along with no instructions to be found. After 15 minutes of wandering the halls to find some help, we attempted to heat up the stove again and finally got it to start with a simple click of a button. Proud moment once again! Both of these struggles made us even more aware that symbolism is not always universal, and that sometimes the smallest accomplishments are so big in our world as foreigners.


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