This past May I was fortunate to receive the Enabled Abroad scholarship to go to Stockholm, Sweden for a week. The trip was a short-term study abroad program through the College of Media called MACS 364: Food Networks: Media, Technology & Sustainability in Stockholm. The title basically says it all; we focused on sustainability in the food industry and how companies can effectively use marketing to portray their message and brand to consumers.

Before going abroad, we had an 8-week pre-departure course to discuss the sustainability of food networks in the United States. Each student was given a brand that we researched over the course of the class. We got to pick from a list of meat, dairy, grain, fruits & vegetables, and beverage companies. My company was Chiquita, and you can find my final project for the class here.

In addition to the work we did inside the classroom, we also went on several field trips. One week we drove to St. Louis to go to Monsanto, which is a sustainable agriculture company that uses technology to make the most of the land and resources available to produce more crops.

We also went to two local farms Blue Moon Farms and Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in the Champaign-Urbana area that have a commitment to sustainability.

After we finished the pre-departure course and got through final exams and moving back home, we all met at O’hare International Airport and departed for Sweden.

While we were in Sweden, we had a jam packed week. Since we were there for such a short amount of time, we wanted to make the most of it. We spent our days going to companies, farms and universities where we learned about sustainability in the Swedish food market. We also had free time in the evenings and over the weekend to explore the area and get a greater sense of the culture.

Some of the highlights included:

KTH: Center for Sustainable Communication

This was the university that sponsored our program in Sweden.

Arla Dairy Company 

Arla was one of the companies that we went to visit while in Sweden. They are committed sustainability by making environmentally conscious decisions and using natural ingredients.

Krav

Krav is a company in Sweden that certifies organic products. The Krav label is very well known in Sweden.

Uppsala University 

Uppsala University is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. It is a beautiful campus with a lot of history and character.

EPOK at SLU

The Centre for Organic Food and Farming at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences focuses on agricultural research program that focuses on food and farming

Konstfack Museum

This is a museum that features work from students from the College of Arts, Crafts and Design. There were many different exhibits featuring unique and thoughtful work.

After all the weeks activities we were able to go out and experience the sites and sounds of Stockholm. We went on a tour of Stockholm to see the popular landmarks and to learn more about the city. We were able to walk the streets with the locals, do some souvenir shopping and try out some Swedish cuisine.

Accessibility in Sweden:

As mentioned earlier, I received the Enabled Abroad scholarship through the Study Abroad Office to help fund my program. This scholarship is a new award that promotes inclusion of people with disabilities in study abroad programs.

I am a manual wheelchair user, so one of the first things I have to think about when I decide to travel is accessibility. Sweden is a developed country, so their accessibility overall is good, but there is always room for improvement.

Accommodations:

While we were in Sweden, we stayed in the Fridhemsplan Hostel. There were two stairs to get in, but they provided metal ramps for access. Inside, there was an elevator that went to all levels, an accessible bathroom and larger rooms. Overall I thought the hostel was pretty accommodating. It was also in a great area and was close to bus stops and subway stations.

Transportation: 

We utilized all different types of transportation while in Sweden: taxis, trains, subways and buses. I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible all these modes of transportation were. The busses were similar to those that we have in Champaign-Urbana, with the bus lowering and a ramp coming out. We did the majority of our commuting by subway. There were elevators to the different lines and when the doors to the subway car opened there was small gap between the platform and the car which was manageable. I was very impressed by this system, because in Chicago I am unable to use the subway system due to lack of accessibility.

Trip Accessibility:

All of the businesses we went to were equipped with an elevator. It got tricky when it came to the farm visits, because they normally have rough terrain and grass that makes it difficult to get around.

Since Stockholm is an old city, it was sometimes hard to walk around. There are a lot of hills and paths with cobblestone that makes things difficult. Most of the time there were curb cutouts, but every so often there weren’t. Getting around Stockholm was manageable, but I definitely needed assistance a lot of the time.

Going to Sweden was an amazing opportunity and I’m so glad I got the chance to go. I learned so much about the food market, experienced a new culture and met friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Studying abroad in college is life changing  and something that everyone should take advantage of.

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