Penn Abroad: Rising senior Kiersten Thomas in Sweden 

Thomas created a prizewinning video about her experience on a spring semester studying in Stockholm. 

Kiersten Thomas crouching in snow with dogs attached to dogsled on frozen tundra with mountains in the background
Rising senior Kiersten Thomas, a health and societies major in the College of Arts and Sciences studied abroad at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Penn Abroad offered students studying abroad during the spring semester the opportunity to create a video about their experiences for a new contest. Rising senior Kiersten Thomas is a health and societies major in the College of Arts and Sciences from Ponte Vedra, Florida, who studied through The Swedish Program affiliated with the Stockholm School of Economics. Her video was chosen as first place.

Why did you choose to study in Sweden?

I was initially drawn to study abroad in Sweden because of Penn’s liberal arts study abroad program which allowed me to take courses in international affairs and public policy. As a health and societies major, concentrating in public health, Sweden’s impressive social welfare program, accessible health care, and commitment to social and economic equality was really inspiring to me.

What was a highlight during the semester abroad?

A highlight of my study abroad experience was a program-organized trip to the Arctic Circle. We took a 17-hour train to a remote town where we partook in dog sledding and snowshoeing and saw the northern lights. This experience was a definite highlight because it was a huge bonding experience for my fellow classmates and me, and it was such a departure from the activities I would do in a typical semester at Penn.

How do you think your abroad experience may impact your career at Penn and your goals for the future?

Studying abroad opened my eyes to a wide array of social and political beliefs that I had never closely interacted with before. In terms of my academic career, Sweden’s social welfare system was a fascinating juxtaposition to the United States; however, living in Sweden exposed me to their own underlying shortcomings. Studying abroad ignited a desire to have more global experiences in the future. Stockholm was such a clean, and friendly city with values that mimic my own personal interests, such as sustainability, social justice, and environmentalism.