BC student on exchange in Sweden starts the 100 Postcard Project, uniting strangers sans Wi-Fi to build community and spread smiles

Erika Loggin was born in Terrace, a community in northern British Columbia, and is an International Studies student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Erika is on exchange in Sweden, where she has been taking education and political science courses.

On Twitter on evening, I saw Erika share news about a challenge she was initiating – the 100 Postcard Project, inspired by Naomi Bulger’s 1,000 Postcard Project. I signed up to receive a postcard from Erika, and reached out to learn more about her story. Not only do I love receiving letters and cards the “old fashioned way,” but I was intrigued to learn why Erika was inspired to connect people all over the world via snail mail.

Read more:

Photo courtesy of: Erika Loggin.

1. What was Terrace like while growing up and how do you think it has influenced you to become the woman you are today? 

It’s had a huge impact on who I am today. I crave close knit communities wherever I go, and I always feel at home surrounded by trees and mountains. I really enjoy living in Vancouver because there’s always something new to see and do, but when you grow up in a small town, you have to be extra creative with how you fill your time. For a lot of my friends, this meant starting a band, hosting an art show or writing a novel, which was a very inspiring thing to be around. Living in a big city has made me try new things and grow thicker skin, but I miss Terrace when I’m not there. I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to experience both.

2. How long are you in Sweden?

I’m will be in Sweden for almost six months, from January to June 2017.

3. What has been the best part about having the chance to explore Europe while studying?

It’s been amazing having so many beautiful places close by to visit. I can take a train to Stockholm in less than an hour, or fly to Paris for the weekend. I was on the train to Copenhagen a few weeks ago and had to stop what I was doing for a moment, I was so struck by how cool this is.

4. Do you have a favourite experience from your time away, so far?

Most of my favourite experiences are small, silly things! My friends and I found a café near the river in Uppsala, a city near Stockholm, and we go there at least three times a week (in Sweden, they have a special word – and profound love – for going for coffee called “fika”).

A couple of the staff recognize us now and sometimes even help us practice our Swedish. Last week, my friend Michelle and I were there for most of the day, studying, eating cake and laughing at nothing because we knew we should go home. I love things like that, having a favourite coffee shop and feeling at home in a place you never dreamed you would end up.

5. On your Instagram, you have a collection of photos that showcase your daily commute to and from school, delicious desserts and weekend travel adventures. What type of Instagram strategy, if any, do you use when sharing content?

I try to share the kind of pictures that I like to look at: pretty things, usually involving flowers, coffee or nice buildings (that sounds very simplistic but that’s more or less it). I do spend a lot of time thinking about the content I post, but I try not to take it too seriously, either. I don’t want to be the person who won’t let their friends touch their food for ages until they’ve taken the perfect picture (okay, I wholeheartedly encourage this and I have done it on occasion. But only if something looks really nice!).

6. You have quite the Instagram following at that! What has been the key factor in your social media success?

Thank you! I try my best to post consistent content and interact with other Instagrammers. There’s such a lovely community of photographers and bloggers on Instagram, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of, even in a small way.

7. You also have a blog called rain & grace. How did you come up with this name and what does it mean to you?

It rains almost constantly in Vancouver, where I study. Last October, it was reported that it rained something like 28 out of 31 days. Luckily, I love the rain and any kind of gloomy weather. I think it has to be taken with a bit of humour, and a lot of grace. To me, this means doing your best to enjoy the situation you’re in by being thoughtful and grounded. Buy a silly umbrella and make yourself hot chocolate if you get soaked. I suppose the title of my blog is a bit of a personal mantra – and I felt too shy to put my own name in the heading!

Erika Loggin. Photo by: Linda Nguyen.

8. One of your more recent blog posts is a project you’ve launched called the 100 Postcard Project, inspired Naomi Bulger. Tell us more – what’s in store with this initiative?

I thought Naomi’s idea was just the most amazing thing. She received one thousand  postcards from her husband and was told to send them to strangers around the world, so she created a form on her website where anyone can sign up to receive a postcard. As soon as I read her post, I knew I wanted to do something similar. A thousand was a bit too daunting, so I’ve decided to start with 100 postcards. I mailed the first few last week and I’m excited to get to work on more. I’ll be blogging about my progress and any postcards that I receive as I go.

9. What about Naomi’s project inspired you?

I think it’s such a simple, beautiful idea to send nice things to people you don’t know. I was already an avid letter writer, and I love getting things in the mail. I am so happy for the opportunity to be a bright part of a stranger’s day, too.

10. It’s so easy to connect with people today, and so often, we forget to take a moment and actually converse or interact with people we care about. What lessons do you hope to learn from the 100 Postcard Project?

Staying in touch with people can be exhausting, whether you’re in another country or just down the street. To me, postcards and letters are a tangible way of showing someone that you care and are thinking about them. I try my best to stay in touch with my friends and family while I’m abroad, but I often fall into the trap of telling myself that I’m too busy to call or reply to an email. I hope this project will help me learn to set aside time in my day for other people, and to be creative. It can be difficult, at first, deciding what to write to a total stranger, but I’m working on it!

11. What kind of reaction have you received for the 100 Postcard Project, so far?

I’ve been blown away by people’s enthusiasm! Naomi promoted my post and her Instagram, and I had 60 people sign up in the first couple of days. A few people have asked for my address to send me something in return, which was so unexpected and thoughtful. I was a bit nervous to start this project, but the reaction has been very encouraging so far.

12. I doubt this is the first time you’re hearing this, but this initiative is motivating me to begin a postcard project of my own! What advice do you have for people hoping to launch theirs?

That’s awesome! I would say absolutely do it, but with a caveat: make sure you have the time. I launched my postcard project just before a friend came to visit and I had a big exam, so I’ve felt behind since the start. But there are always a few minutes here and there to write to someone, and it’s a special feeling, knowing that they will hold your words in their hands.

13. Further, how much should project leaders budget for a project like this? 

Know the price of postage before you start out. Much to my dismay, they recently raised the price of international stamps in Sweden (I may be the only person who was devastated by the news, but I was). If you can find cheap, nice postcards then this will be your main expenditure. I knew 1,000 postcards and stamps would be too much time and money for me, so challenge yourself but choose a number that is (financially) achievable.

14. As someone who creates in her professional and personal lives, how do you stay motivated and charged? Sometimes it can be hard to keep the ideas and inspiration flowing! 

I agree! That’s probably why I spend so much time on Instagram and reading other people’s blogs (or a good excuse, at the very least!). I find a lot of inspiration from other people, sometimes directly like in the case of Naomi’s project, but often indirectly. Just being around people who are also creating and can give feedback is a huge help to me when I feel worn out or unmotivated.

15. Who has been your biggest support throughout your journey as a creator?

My parents, in very different ways. My mom constantly challenges me to dream bigger and reach higher. She works in community development and is a master of taking huge, outlandish ideas and making them a reality. My dad has taught me the value of small actions, though. He always sends me cards and letters and asks to read things I’ve written. Together, they make me want to be more ambitious and thoughtful in everything I do.

16. Based on your experiences and the stories you’ve shared with us, what advice do you have for other students, about to enter the career-world, or perhaps take an exchange opportunity of their own? 

I still have two semesters of my undergrad left when I get back from Sweden, so I’m hoping someone else will give me advice about entering the career-world before then! But as far as exchange and most other opportunities go, I have been using a rather peculiar decision-making process lately. I try to imagine myself at 80-years-old, looking back on my life. I want to think of myself as a brave and enthusiastic person. Will I be happy that I decided to move to Sweden for six months in my 20s? I am almost certain that the answer is yes. While I know that not everything is financially realistic, a lot of great opportunities are, and I think a bit of perspective can help in uncertain situations.

To follow along with Erika’s travels and adventures, check out her Instagram, @erikaloggin. You can also read her blog at erikaloggin.com. Erika encourages all A Quarter Young readers to contact her on either platform, should you have additional questions about the postcard project or life in Sweden!

I’m excited to report that on May 3, 2017, I got home to find Erika’s postcard waiting for me, inscribed with a message about hope, spring and new beginnings.

Thank you Erika for sharing your story with us.

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