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EF Talks: Gustav Björling

The first time I met Gustav, I noticed one thing immediately: this guy was polished. Tweed blazer, double buckle loafers, slim fit slacks, and pink socks. Yep, pink socks. Oh, and he was wearing one of those provocatively truthful bracelets from Ung Cancer (I’ll let you guess what it said). His striking Scandinavian good looks aside, Gustav has seen and done a lot since we first met him ten years ago. At age 14, Gustav joined EF on a language course abroad in Saint-Raphael, France. That experience had a lasting impression that would inspire him to live and work abroad – it may have even been the spark that landed him in the seat next to me for an internship at EF. But, for the sake of avoiding an already long-winded introduction, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you Mr. Gustav Björling.

Gustav, can you start by telling us your name, age, where you’re from, and where you live?

Sure, my name is Gustav Björling, I’m 24 years old and I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. I currently live in Zurich, Switzerland.

What are you up to?

Well… I am just about to finish my summer marketing internship at EF Education First. Other than that, I also happen to be in the middle of two very different career paths. I ended up here in Zurich right after having completed my bachelor thesis in Business and Economics in the Swedish city of Umea. The idea of working in marketing for EF took a quick turn one month ago when I was accepted into The Royal Institute of Technology’s architecture program in Stockholm. Becoming an architect has always been a childhood dream, and, while I will miss EF, I could not be happier about the news!

Whoah, wait, business, to marketing, and now architecture? First off, congrats, second off, where did that come from?

I have always enjoyed drawing and creating things, and I like to really “nerd out” on different types of technology. I’ve been applying to the program for a couple of years. So, I guess it was partially hard work. Of course, there’s always some luck with these things, but yeah, I’m pretty excited to get started.

Maybe we can take a step back. When and where did you study abroad with EF?

I went on a language course abroad with EF to Saint-Raphael in France when I was 14 years old. Over ten years later, I can look back and see that the trip was pretty eye-opening. Life in Saint-Raphael was totally different than back in Stockholm. I loved the excitement and newness of it all, and I always thought of traveling out in the world when I got older… and so I did.

So, after living and studying in Saint-Raphael, how long was it before you were back on the road?

It took about five years before I could travel extensively again. But, as soon as I completed my upper secondary school in Stockholm, I was off! I hopped a bus to Austria where I attended a ski instructor course and managed to get a job for the season. I stayed there for almost half a year before returning to Sweden.

Then, after attending military training in southern Sweden, I heard the call of the mountains again and left to work as a ski instructor in Verbier, Switzerland. There, in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Alps, I used the French that I had learned with EF and studied in school to instruct my younger students. That was a really cool experience.

How did you arrive as an intern at EF?

After that winter in Verbier, I was back in Stockholm, not sure exactly what to do next. Again, I knew I wanted something different. I decided I’d try a new experience in Sweden and enrolled at the university in Umea, which is located in the northern part of Sweden. From Umea, I was accepted to do an exchange semester at the University of Zurich. While here in Zurich, I figured I should apply for a summer job, and, after getting a random recommendation in a café to apply to EF, I applied and got the job. It’s crazy to look back and think that I’m working at the same company that I studied abroad with. But, here I am, and I’ve enjoyed the internship almost as much as my trip to Saint-Raphael.

Wow, what a rollercoaster ride. So cool to hear how you used your French at work as a ski instructor. For someone your age, you’ve traveled quite a bit. In your opinion, what impact has travel had on making you the person you are today?

You know, as with most experiences, it’s not what you do, but who you do it with. Through my travels, I’ve made friends for life. Additionally, I am certain that stepping out of my comfort zone and exploring new cultures and countries has made me a more independent person.

Does speaking four languages (Swedish, French, German, English) change the way you travel and live?

Of the three languages I’ve learned, I am probably the best at English. The great thing about English is that it allows you to speak with SO many people. I have made friends, gone to school, and started my international career in English here at EF. It’s the world’s common language I guess. And, while I still don’t speak fluent French or German, speaking both at least enough to keep up with shorter conversations has allowed me to connect with locals and have more meaningful experiences throughout my travels.

As an international man of mystery (with pink socks), do you have any advice for people who want to make their lives more international?

Hmmm, well, there is no perfect advice as everyone’s situation is always different, but I would probably give the cliché answer that you should dare to try going abroad, and if you miss home in the beginning, give it some more time before you go back. We all feel homesick from time to time, but often that feeling disappears, and you’ll have lots of fun being in new places.

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