Every story needs to start somewhere. It could be at a meeting, a book you read on a stormy day or a conversation you had with strangers over the Internet. Indeed, my story also had a beginning. The only thing is that I can’t really pinpoint it.
The story would of course start with me hearing about the Lennart Borgström Scholarship. I can’t remember the exact timing of it — maybe my Swedish high school updated me on the fact that it existed, but it was my dad who brought home a flyer about the scholarship, at least as far as I can remember everything. It immediately became a goal for me because of the great opportunity it offered: The Lennart Borgström Scholarship is an award given to one student each year for academic achievement — for one semester at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, worth almost $20,000.

The long road to Virginia
The first time I applied was fall 2013 but unfortunately my application was not enough that year. I am, however, extremely stubborn, so I decided to make an even bigger effort the next year. I worked hard on my grades and made sure my application would look as interesting as possible. It was not enough to just include grades; I also had to write several essays in English as well as translate many documents and send them overseas.
I made it somehow. Apparently my grades were good enough and my other experiences earned me the honor of receiving the scholarship.
But it wasn’t over yet, far from it. It was at this point the real hard work started. Everyone who has ever applied for an American Visa knows what I’m talking about. And I needed to study the very long course catalogue of William & Mary, choose classes and start planning my stay in the U.S.
The physical journey toward America was scheduled for August 13. At 3 a.m. my alarm rang and it was time to get started. There were eight hours on Iceland, more time in the air, and then I was finally through the U.S. passport control. I had been traveling for 27 hours with no sleep, and I had not seen darkness for one minute of that. Isn’t jetlag a wonderful thing? No, it’s absolutely not. That's why I had decided to go a few days early so I would have adjusted to the local time properly before I started classes.
It ended up that I flew first to Minnesota, where I got picked up by Jayne, a second cousin of the family. She also gave me the opportunity to work a bit, cooking and serving food at a local fair. After that I was once again heading to the airport. This was the last leg toward the biggest event in my life so far.


High expectations at the school
From my perspective, expectations from both professors and the college are much higher than in the Swedish school system. Especially at William & Mary, I feel that people care a lot about their education. As a Dutch friend of mine said, “William & Mary is the only place where you can find more people in the library at 11 p.m. Friday night than at the bars.” Everyone is extremely motivated and helps each other with their studies. From my years in Sweden I was absolutely not used to studying 10-12 hours everyday on my own. The adjustment to this was not that hard, crazy as it may sound. It was either do that, or fail my courses completely.
Before I left, numerous friends and relatives in Sweden asked me the same question, but in some variations. “Are you nervous?” “Do you have any friends there?” The answer for both questions were simply: “No." But it didn’t took very long to fix that, although I was never worried about it before I got here.
My first event was a bus trip to Target for international students, to buy all things necessary. On the bus, it took a maximum of three minutes before we all started to talk to each other. Two of the persons from that trip are still people I meet and socialize with. Overall, getting friends has never been a problem for me, and I keep meeting new interesting people every weekend.

The main part of my studies at William & Mary are in Chinese and International Relations. Before I started, I sometimes asked myself if that would be either one of my better decisions or the worst decision I’ll ever make. It turned out to be a very good decision and they are interesting and fun subjects to study. The scholarship gave me a great opportunity to study these areas since they are not easily available in Sweden.
If you want to start learning Chinese but are a bit unsure of how hard it is, I can only say one thing: The Chinese language makes perfect sense, but it is different from more European languages.

Jimmy Eriksson
William & Mary College
Williamsburg, Virginia