from Stockholm, Sweden
8th April 2020
Jessica volunteering in Ghana
Tell us about you and your life.
The first twenty years of my life, team gymnastics was my number one priority. I was a part of several amazing teams with my best friends and was competing on the highest level in Sweden. Team gym made me happy, it made me engaged and motivated. I had a clear purpose and I was proud of what I was doing. It made me realise that a group of people can accomplish great things, that everything is more fun together and that hard work will pay off. I developed qualities like curiosity, purposefulness and an eagerness to always keep going. Team gymnastics really framed me, and the things I learnt from it have followed ever since. It still exists somewhere as I’m curious to discover new places, things and cultures which is also the reason why travelling has been a major interest of mine for the past few years. I’ve been inter-railing in Europe, volunteering with children in Ghana, backpacking in South America and Asia and living in South Africa. Everywhere I’ve met amazing people, learnt a lot about myself and others, about opportunities and social systems, about justice, injustice and human rights. My interest in others and the contributions from these trips motivated me to get a social work bachelor – and I graduated at the end of January this year. Now I’m eager to put my theoretical knowledge into action and I’m trying to figure out what part of the world that should be my next destination.
What are some things you love or find weird about Sweden?
Our Fika tradition is something I really appreciate! I love ”Princess cake” (a green cake with whipped cream, jam, vanilla custard and almond cover), cinnamon buns and ”semla” – everything typical Swedish. Semla is a traditional type of cardamom bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream that we eat during the first months of the year. I was working at a family owned bakery in the area where my parents live for ten years, and it was a dream! We won several prizes for the best semla in the capital and were selling thousands of them every year.
The weirdest thing about Sweden is that most people are so private and closed, hardly any chit chat with each other on buses and trains. Everyone is sitting by themselves and avoiding contact with others as long as possible. It’s a huge difference from other countries! Additionally we have a really weird Swedish tradition, called Crayfish Party and takes place in August every year. We do hang paper moons in the trees, wear hats, sing snaps songs, drink alcohol and eat crayfish. It’s a lot of fun and typical Swedish, but for others it must look crazy and tourists often look confused when I’m trying to explain this tradition.
Semla (traditional cardamom bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream)
Honestly, growing up I probably haven’t appreciated Sweden enough, but the older I’ve become and the more I have travelled, I have really come to appreciate my country. The best thing about Sweden is that everything is so organised, from how the democracy is working to welfare, which feels safe. It is also very clean everywhere. Another thing I like about the nature here is that it's so varied and that it changes during the four seasons
With a friend at a Crayfish Party, Stockholm.
I appreciate all seasons but like summer best. This time of the year the sun sets very late and rises early, in the end of June it never gets completely dark, amazing! Sweden has lots of forest, lakes, mountains and nature varies a lot across the country but no matter where you are, it’s very beautiful and something I really appreciate. O love being outdoors: hiking, canoeing, skiing, picnicking, swimming or just feeling the calmness that arises when sitting by the water. The Swedish nature is something many appreciate, cherish and are proud of and for me it’s a big part of my life.
What are some 'this is it' moments for you?
One of the biggest achievements in my life was when I managed to get to the summit (5895m above sea level) of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest free standing mountain in the world. The basecamp was at 4000m above sea level. It was a tough journey of 4 days. Two days before we left, I had food poisoned and hadn’t been able to eat or move so this type of hiking through different nature, up and down and on such a high level was a challenge to say the least. We started the long walk to the summit around midnight and then walked almost only straight upwards for about 6 hours in complete darkness, we couldn’t spot the goal or anything on our way. I got the worst stomach ache I’ve ever experienced during the time and couldn’t walk upright so I had to struggle with my body in a 90 degree position. I remember I was crying and just wanted to lay down and give up. However we had amazing guides who tricked us regarding the distance so we just kept walking and walking. Those hours are probably the toughest I’ve experienced but when we reached the summit at 5.898 m above sea level and the sun was rising over the glacier, all negative feelings just disappeared, I felt so proud of myself and realised that anything is possible.
Also, when I was volunteering in a project with children who have faced sexual abuse in Ghana for about 6 weeks, I had a positive feeling within my body. For the first time in my life I knew that something like this is what I’m supposed to do in my life. It felt safe and good to have found my spot. A few years later I applied for a bachelor in social work at the oldest university in Sweden.
At the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with father, Ulf Hallerth
What really gives you this motivation and energy to keep going? Is it challenging to be a woman in this man's world?
To see positive changes in the world, in people and in myself, to learn new things and become a better person. I haven’t started working yet within this field but sadly I know that salaries are low, mostly due to the fact that it’s a field dominated by women. There’s still a lot of injustice between men and women in the world, but I’m surrounded by a lot of inspiring young women which is very uplifting – I really hope and believe that change will come within the next generations!
The beauty tips passed on to you from your grandmother and mother.
Beauty tips from older generations have mostly been health-related: to feel good through physical activity, to have fun and be around people that makes you happy. In my family we often gather with the rest of our relatives and hang out at every traditional festival, travel together and we also share a summer house where we spend a lot of time. I’ve always appreciated hanging out with older generations and to listen and learn from them, and my cousins are more like siblings to me.
What do you think about SKÖG? What is your favourite product?
When I came to know about SKÖG's concept by the founder, I was really inspired. It just feels like a great thing today as it is needed and people have really started to care more about themselves, ingredients, environment and sustainability. So I wish your team the best and wish for your success.
As I do not like a crazy number of step routine, I find the products really efficient, hassle-free and. gentle on my skin. My favourite are the Birch facial toner and Clarifying face serum. I am looking forward to try the Under Eye Repair Oil too soon.