It's been a few days since I've arrived in Umeå (Sweden) to begin my Master of Interaction Design programme at the Umeå Institute of Design. I have embarked on the first one-way flight of my life. Saying good-bye to family and friends was a surreal experience and the magnitude of my decision to move away from them has only just begun to sink in. They have provided my with a degree of safety and stability that I wasn't really aware of.
Looking out of the plane window, I remember being impressed by all the vast forests that seem to go on for ever and ever. And the many tiny lakes that look like drops of morning dew. "I've never seen this many trees in my life" I clumsily said to the taxi driver on my way to the international office on campus.
As I arrived slightly too late to join the rest of my class for their study trip to the Abisko national park I spent the first few days wandering around Umeå by myself. I read up on the city before deciding to accept my masters programme place but I honestly didn't know what to expect.
Bizarrely Umeå feels somewhat "American" to me. The grid layout in the inner city, the wide roads designed for cars, the malls of Ålidhem and the endless car parks reminded me of my road trip in the States three years ago. Most of the buildings are rather boring apartment complexes that are spaced unusually far apart. It feels like the city was designed for something that isn't here. Maybe its the looming ice and snow. I immediately missed the architecture of the cities I've visited recently. Umeå has none of the vibe of Zurich, London, Copenhagen or Berlin. Not that I should have expected it from a city of 100'000 inhabitants.
My apartment is rather underwhelming. There's enough space for a bed, a desk and a small chair. I get to share the kitchen with the other students on the floor. Prospective students should now that the apartments come without mattresses. I was lucky to borrow a defect air mattress from the student next door.
Everybody has been really helpful so far. It's kind of hard to meet locals here and my Swedish will have to improve massively before I can understand what's going on. We'll see how it goes. But right now I really don't feel like Umeå is a place that inspires me. In a nutshell, that is what I was hoping for.