“I’m already planning to come back here and do a Masters,” says Gonzalo. “I’d planned to stay here for a year but I’m going to go back to Mexico City in January to finish my degree. I want to be part of the real Stockholm experience as soon as possible.”

Gonzalo came to Sweden to get an insight into Scandinavia.

“I’ve already visited western Europe several times and I wanted to know more about the north,” he says. “I was really amazed by how multicultural Stockholm really is when I got here.”

Like many visitors to this part of the world Gonzalo was surprised to discover that not everyone is blonde and blue-eyed.

“I was expecting Svens and Ulrikas everywhere, but Stockholm is a really international community. Especially the University.”

“I’ve been surprised though,” says Gonzalo, “that second generation immigrants in Sweden don’t consider themselves Swedish. They always say they’re from Serbia or Poland or whatever: not Sweden.”

Studying International Relations in Mexico and Political Science in Stockholm, Gonzalo made a conscious decision from the very start to experience more than the typical exchange student.

“Everyone knows that exchange students tend to hang out together. So I set out to be proactive from the start. I’ve tried to learn Swedish, taking a course, and turned up to all sorts of activities that Swedes go to just to meet real Swedes.”

At times this has meant studying the posters put up around the Frescati campus, looking for film sessions or guest lectures and talks.

“I’ve found that the times that I’ve shown up, people have been really friendly to me. They’re interested to see someone from a country like Mexico,” says Gonzalo. “Maybe I’m a little bit exotic to them.”

Because everyone speaks English, there Gonzalo finds it is no problem getting about and talking to people.

“I would like to have learned more Swedish. But people switch to English the second they hear you're from abroad. Swedes are very happy to speak English."

As Mexican, Gonzalo has been particularly impressed by the gender equality that exits in Sweden.

“Sure, as a middle class Mexican I’m used to seeing women work and have access to higher education,” explains Gonzalo. “But I know there’s also a harder side to Mexican society. The working class is very patriarchal. In Sweden, though, I’ve been astounded to see women handling heavy machinery or doing the kinds of jobs they just don’t have access to back home.”

Despite the snow, the effort it takes to meet the locals, Gonzalo is very positive about being an exchange student at STockholm University.

“You can really prepare for when you come by looking at www.stockholmtown.com to follow what’s going on. Although it’s not a massive city there is something for everyone,” says Gonzalo.

“Being here has really changed me as a person. It’s challenged me to learn to listen to different perspectives, opinions and ways of thinking.”

Text: Jon Buscall