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Alum feels at home in the world after Macomb study abroad trip

Tuesday, July 25, 2023 08:00 AM

Alum feels at home in the world after Macomb study abroad trip
Aaron Hedblad, Macomb Alum

Curious about the world and longing to travel, Aaron Hedblad would have been the perfect candidate for a gap year abroad after graduating from Utica High School in 2007. But it took 10 more years and a Macomb study trip to Spain to free him from his comfort zone.

Hedblad, who earned an associate degree in general studies from Macomb in 2017 and a bachelor’s degree in global studies from Wayne State University in 2019, now has more stamps on his passport than he can count on two hands.

“I never would have done all this if Professor (Susanna) Williams (Spanish and Italian) hadn’t encouraged me to go on the trip to Spain,” said Hedblad. “I just decided, I’m going to do this.”

A world traveler in the making

“This” began before he ever set foot on Spanish soil. Inspired by the travel itinerary in his backpack, Hedblad, who had never ventured farther than Canada before, booked a lone seat on a flight to Paris for a three-day prelude to Spain. He stayed in a student hostel, mastered the Metro and found the Eiffel Tower on his own before heading by bus to Barcelona and a connecting flight to Granada, his “final” destination.  

“I arrived a week early and stayed in another hostel before meeting up with my class,” related Hedblad. “We had a wonderful time in Granada, studying Spanish at the University of Granada and visiting the sites, Alhambra (a 13th century palace and fortress) was my favorite.”

During his three-week stay, Hedblad roomed with a classmate in the home of a host family. He developed a taste for paella, a traditional Spanish dish of rice and seafood, and spoke Spanish exclusively.  Although his hosts also spoke English, Professor Williams had arranged for it to be a total language immersion experience for her students. When it was time to leave, some of Hedblad’s classmates invited him to join them on a side trip to Portugal. But he decided to travel solo to London instead.   

Tracing his Scandinavian roots

Since then, Hedblad has visited Italy on another study abroad trip while minoring in Italian at Wayne State. On his own, he has journeyed to Iceland, the Netherlands (where this selfie was taken) and Sweden, researching the Swedish archives in Stockholm for information on his ancestors.

“My dad is 100 percent Scandinavian and that trip was very special to me,” said Hedblad, who began learning Swedish as a teenager and has also studied French and German, as well as Spanish and Italian.  “When I was (in Sweden), I knew I needed to explore more of it. I can’t wait to go back.”  

Hedblad is currently working as an administrative assistant in Macomb’s Provost’s Office. He appreciates having a connection to the college he credits for giving him his wings while he considers future itineraries, including graduate school and other Scandinavian countries.

“When you step off a plane in another country, it’s surreal,” related Hedblad. “All my senses come alive, and now I have a hunger for more.”