Abroad

By Doreen F.

I had always hated my parents for giving me such a boyish name. How could you call a girl Sam, not Samantha, but simply Sam? I did not mind most of the time and I got used to confusing teachers at school. At university I did not have any problems since hardly any professor knew any of his students and did not bother with names at all. I liked my studies and the best part was yet to come. I had applied for a year abroad in Sweden, a country I had always wanted to go to. I was to live at the university dorm and I was already very excited to go there. I had applied for a double room since that would be cheaper and I did not mind sharing. That was also a great opportunity to meet new people. I was single at the time and I maybe I was hoping to find a boyfriend abroad.

Eventually the day came and I went to Stockholm, where I would spend the next year. I had to undergo hundreds of security checks – or so it felt. At the Swedish airport I found out that part of my luggage had not come with me, so I had to fill in a form at the lost & found desk. Thank God, Swedish people knew English very well. They agreed to send my bag to the dorm and told me it would not take long.

I was picked up by my buddy, a girl I had been in contact with while still back home. She was part of a programme universities all over Europe offered for incoming students. These buddies were supposed to help us get used to living in a foreign country and university life over there. Linda took me to the dorm and on the way I told her about my bag which was yet to come. She told me I was one of the very early exchange students of this year and the dorm would still be quite empty. So she suggested to spend the next two or three days together. So I would get to know the city and get used to Sweden itself.

At the dorm I found out that they had booked me into the boys’ building. Linda told me not to worry. She talked to the responsible people and explained to me that it was not to strict and there would not be a problem for me to stay there. Other girls, who did not get a room in the girls’ building, would be living there too. Since the rooms had a private bathroom, I agreed, although I was rather sceptical. There was nothing much I could do. Besides if Swedish people did not seem to mind, then why should I? So I just told Linda to make sure I would be sharing the room with a girl though. So I put my stuff into my room and then we left for the city.

Stockholm was really beautiful. There were many parks and really old houses. Furthermore it was at the water, a lake which stretched out to the sea. The old town, Gamlastan, was especially nice and there were so many small cafés where you could eat delicious cakes. I was stunned; I had not expected the city to be that charming.

The days passed by and more and more students were arriving from all over the world. My bag arrived too, on my second day in Sweden. The dorm was filling with people and the first welcome parties had already been scheduled. I had become friends with some Swedish people, especially friends of Linda and other buddies. I still did not have a room mate, but I did not really mind as long as I did not have to pay more. It was actually good to have a place where you could be on your own to study.

The classes began and I was glad Linda had given me plenty of advice. The courses were generally very interesting and the teachers were really good. I also went to a Swedish course, since I had always been fascinated by that language and I wanted to be able to participate in basic conversation. The university also organised trips for us, the exchange students and their buddies, to other parts of the country and even to Denmark, Estonia and Finland. Everything was really exciting. I was so glad I was going to stay for the year and not only for the semester. I heard some other students regretting that they had to leave at the end of January, although the Swedish winter was not the nicest time to be in this country. I had made many friends and I was also curious who was about to come in February.

I also had a boyfriend for some weeks. He was from the Netherlands and I had met him during one of my lectures. He was a really nice guy and we had a great time until he told me about his girlfriend back in Holland. Well, I knew there had to be something wrong. It had always been like this. Not that he had been perfect, but I had liked him quite a lot. We went out some more, but I always had to think about his girlfriend and how I would feel if I were her. The semester was already coming to an end anyway and I had not expected our relationship to last longer than until the end of that term. We parted as friends and exchanged addresses, phone number, etc.

My marks were quite good, much better than back home, actually. My Swedish had improved a lot and I was looking forward to the second semester I would spend in this beautiful country. My parents came to visit me for a weekend and then the rented a car and explored the country, while I had to attend classes. How nice of them!!

Many tears were cried when I had to say goodbye to the other exchange students who were leaving. There were not many of us staying for the whole year. So at the beginning of February the dorm was really empty again.

Since we had holidays Linda invited me to go skiing and I was really thrilled about that. There was so much snow in the mountains and we had a really great time. I also got to know Linda’s family. She had two brothers and a smaller sister. Her parents were really kind people and I had a really great time. They seemed to be really eager to talk to me in my mother tongue in order to practise their skills. I did not really mind.

When I came back to Stockholm there were many new exchange students at the dorm and I was told that I would be getting a room mate by the end of the week. I was curious what she was going to be like and I hoped that she would be nice.

The days flew by and suddenly it was Saturday, the day when my roommate was supposed to arrive. I did not know the exact time, but most students arrived at the dorm in the afternoon. So I made sure I was at my room in the afternoon. I had to tidy it up anyway. I did not want her to think I was the kind of person who never cleaned up.

Around 4.30 there was a knock at my door.

“Come in”, I said cheerfully.

The door opened and a boy about my age came in.

“Hello!”

“Hi!”

Both of us looked surprised.

“Well, I guess I must be wrong, I’m sorry, but I was told my room was number 313.”

“This is room 313, but let’s just ask somebody, okay?”

“Yeah, sure I’m Andy.”

“Sam, nice to meet you.”

“Likewise.”

“You can leave your staff here so you don’t have to carry it around.”

So we went down to the office and told them about our problem. They checked everything and soon found out that there had been a misunderstanding because of our names. In the dorm they had known that I was a girl, but they had thought that Andy was a girl too, since Andrea is male in some countries and female in others. At the exchange student organisation they had thought Sam was male and Andy as well.

They apologised about a hundred times and told us that Andy could stay at another room for the night and they would think of something.

We went back up to 313 and took Andy’s stuff to the room he would stay in tonight. Andy seemed rather nice, but also confused. He had just arrived and did not expect so much trouble. He told me that he was from Ireland, but that his mother was Italian and had wanted him to be called Andrea like his grandfather. That had lead to a lot of confusion throughout his life. I explained that I had had very similar experiences. We shared a laugh about that. I invited Andy to accompany me to a party I was going to that evening, but he said he was too exhausted from the trip since he had had to switch planes and did not like flying since he always felt sick. I wished him a pleasant evening and we agreed to meet on the next day to see how the misunderstanding concerning the room was going to be solved.

In the morning I got up around ten since Andy and I had agreed for me to pick him up at eleven. I had not stayed at the party for long so I was not tired in the morning. When I knocked at Andy’s door, I asked him, “Ready to go?”

“Sure, I’ll be right there.”

The door opened and Andy came out. I had not noticed that he was quite handsome yesterday, but we had had other things to do back then.

At the office they did not really have good news. The problem was that the dorm would be filled to capacity by Monday and there would be no room for us, but 313. Either we would agree to share it or one of us had to find a place somewhere in Stockholm which would be rather costly. Neither of us had the means to afford that. What other choice did we have than to agree? I had never shared a room with a person I hardly knew and certainly not a man. Andy did not seem to be too pleased either, but we would get used to it, would we not? I hoped we did.

So we went up to take Andy’s stuff to our room. He unpacked his suitcases and in the meantime I read in my book or I pretended to read watching him. Then I thought better of it and left the room to get myself some coffee.

“I’m going to buy myself a cup of coffee, do you want one too?”

“Yes, that’d be great. After all this stress I wouldn’t mind.”

I tried to spend as much time as I could buying the coffee. I knew I would not want to have anybody watching me unpacking my suitcase. After about 15 minutes I returned to 313. Andy was lying on his bed.

“I didn’t know how you like you coffee, so I just brought you the same I have. I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, thanks that’s fine as long as it’s not too strong.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Since you’ve been here for quite some time, would you mind showing me around?”

“No, of course not. Do you want to see anything in particular?”

“Just the campus and some of the city would be nice for a start.”

“Great, I know just the place. I’m sure you’ll love it.”

I showed Andy the campus and afterwards we went to Gamlastan. Andy seemed really impressed by it.

“Are you afraid of heights?”

“No, why?”

“Well, we could go up the Stadshuset, the tower of the city hall. From up there you have a great view of the city.”

“Wow, sounds interesting, let’s go there!”

There were not many people up there this time of the year and we were nearly alone. I showed Andy the different parts of the city. It was getting really cold up there so we decided to head back to the campus. It was quite a long walk and I suggested taking the underground, but Andy seemed to like to walk.

“Walking is the best way to get to know a city, isn’t it?”

“That’s true, but the underground is the best public transport for chilly winter evenings.”

We walked all the way back to the campus and I felt like a block of ice. I felt that I needed a hot shower to get warm again. I had almost forgotten that Andy and I were sharing a room. Not that it made so much difference, but I had to get dressed before I left the bathroom and do some other things I did not have to worry about before. After the shower I felt much better and I realised that it was already quite late.

“Do you have any plans for dinner?” I asked Andy.

“No, I just thought I would go some place near and have a pizza or something.”

“Let’s go there together, I know a very nice place, it’s close by and the prices are moderate.”

“That’d be great.”

At the restaurant I ordered Spaghetti and Andy had a pizza. The food was really great, but the weather outside was getting worse while we were having dinner. It was incredible cold and windy and it was snowing. After dinner we hurried back to the dorm through a minor blizzard – at least that was what it felt like.

Back at the dorm I made us a cup of tea while Andy hurried to the bathroom. We had a nice evening at our room and drank some beer I had left from a farewell party. I was tired so I got to bed rather early. We watched some TV, but I soon fell asleep. I did not know when Andy went to bed. I woke up when he was pulling away the curtains.

“Good morning”, he said cheerfully as I yawned.

“Morning”, I replied stretching.

“Do you have any plans for breakfast?”

“No, why?”

“Well, I thought since you were so nice yesterday showing me everything, I’d love to invite you to some nice place for breakfast provided you know such a place.”

“That’s really kind, I’d love to. There are plenty of places around the campus. I’m sure we’ll find one. The cakes here are delicious. I just have to get dressed it’ll only be a minute.”

“Take your time we’re in no hurry, are we?”

We had breakfast at a small bakery and I was convinced I could have gotten a roommate much worse than Andy. We spent most of the time together. I introduced him to my Swedish friends and we got to know many of the other exchange students. I usually came home late and most of the times Andy was already in bed. On the other hand, he would get up rather early.

Soon the holidays were over and university started. I had given Andy some advice about which course to take, but since we were studying different subjects I was not of much help. So now I had to get up earlier, since some of my classes took place in the morning and I preferred to have a free afternoon.

One day I woke up before Andy and went to take a shower. Suddenly the bathroom door opened and Andy came in.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t…err… realise you were already up”, he apologised and left.

I got out of the shower and after when I returned to the room Andy blushed.

“I’m sooo sorry, I didn’t expect you to be up and I …”

“Hey, it’s okay. Let’s just forget about it and next time you check whether I’m still in bed, okay?”

“Sure, I will.”

Then he rushed into the bathroom. I got dressed in the meantime and blow-dried my hair, put on some mascara and wondered if Andy was ever going to leave the bathroom. I had to go there since most of my make-up was there.

After what seemed like an eternity Andy came out only in his boxer-shorts. Wow, I had not realised what a nice body he had. He looked really good. Oh, stop it, he was my roommate!

“Well, here comes the beauty king. Now I know why you have to get up so early.”

“Ha-ha, I’m laughing my head off.”

“Sorry, just some revenge.”

“Great I’m going to hear this forever.”

“We’ll see.”

I went to the bathroom and then I left for my classes. I did not see Andy all day until I came back to our room.

“How was your day?”

“Don’t ask! Yours?

“Could’ve been better.”

“Do you want to watch TV?”

“I’m not feeling well.”

“What’s the matter? What happened?”

“It’s kind of silly. Some boys and I were playing football in the afternoon and it was really windy, you know. Now that most of the snow’s gone there are so many of these small stones and there’s a lot of dust.”

“So?”

“Well, some of that dust came into my eyes and … I don’t know how to explain this to you.”

“Just go ahead.”

“Alright, I wear contact lenses and this was really uncomfortable. I didn’t want them to know about it, so I pretended everything was fine. Well, it wasn’t. My eyes hurt and I rubbed them quite a lot and suddenly my contact lens fell out.”

“Did you find it?”

“Yeah, I did, which is quite a miracle. I went to the toilet to put it in again, but my eye still hurt. I went back to our room as soon as I could. By then my eye didn’t hurt that much anymore, but when I removed the lens, I couldn’t see clearly and my eye’s really sensitive to light and I have a terrible headache.”

“That doesn’t sound good. Do you want to go to a doctor?”

“Let’s wait until tomorrow and if it doesn’t get better, I’ll go there.”

“Why didn’t I know you had contact lenses?”

“I took them out in the evenings and put them in first thing in the morning. I’m so blind I didn’t see you weren’t in bed anymore this morning.”

“Oh Andy, don’t be stupid. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I couldn’t find the courage to tell you.”

“Forget about it. You’re probably tired. I’ll leave you alone and go to the movies. “Tomorrow’s Saturday, everything will be better then.”

I left and when I came home late at night Andy was already asleep. Poor guy.

I woke up next morning when I heard that Andy was getting up.

“Hello Sunshine! How’s your eye?”

“Seems okay just now, at least it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’ll go to the bathroom to try putting in the contacts.”

“Shouldn’t you give your eyes some rest and wear glasses for the day.”

“No, it’ll be fine.”

Apparently Andy did not seem to have any trouble with his contacts although I thought he was blinking more than usually. Somehow the thought of him not being able to see properly or wearing glasses turned me on. Suddenly I felt slightly more attracted to him.

We had been planning to go to Uppsala that weekend and since Andy seemed to be fine, we left for the train. The weather was nice and we spent half the day there. On our way back I saw that Andy was distracted. His eyes would not quit watering. When we came back to the dorm he rushed to the bathroom.

“Oh my god, I have to take them out now.”

It took him quite long and when he came out he looked totally lost. Squinting at me he said mournfully, “Sam, I need your help. I don’t remember where I put my glasses.”

He told me where to look for them, but they were not there. Finally I found them after what seemed like an eternity. I handed Andy the hard case.

“Thanks, you’re an angel.”

“You’re welcome.”

Andy took the glasses out and slipped them on. I felt my heart jump. He looked so vulnerable, so cute, so stunning. It took me a moment or two to regain control over my feelings.

“I can see you”, he did not seem excited.

“You don’t look that bad in glasses. They suit you.”

“You’re just trying to be nice.”

“No, I mean it.”

“But they’re so thick and ugly and …”

I squeezed his hands.

“No, they’re not. You look good.”

We looked at each other for a long time. Slowly we were moving closer until our lips finally touched.

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