First day with host family!

Swim run with these incredible people

Chemistry lab with my friends Enis and Ellen

Rotary Intro Camp


September 11, 2023


Hej allihopa! I cannot believe it has already been a month here!

I arrived on August 2nd with no issues in the airport. During the flight I met a woman who is a part of Rotary and had done a short term exchange when she was younger. It is very cool to see how big these exchanges have impacted someone’s life, especially at the beginning of my journey.

I was exhausted when I arrived in Gothenburg because of the time change and the flight. My host dad (Michael), host mom (Ida), host brothers (Ture and Milton), the Rotary Club counselor (Michael), and his son (Alex) met me at the airport. I don’t remember much from when I first met them because of how tired I was. But we talked for a little bit and then left the airport and went home. When we got home, my host family had to bring Milton to the train station to go to Stockholm because he was leaving for his exchange the same day I arrived. So while they were gone my goal was to stay awake, but I didn’t. I napped for a little while and then they came back and we all had lunch together and just talked. We went on a walk in Näset along the ocean as the sun was still out. All I could think was “wow this place is so beautiful.” The first day with my host family I knew everything was gonna work out. Even though now it has only been a little over a month, I feel like I have known my host family for way longer than that and they feel the same. I am so lucky to have the host parents I do. They are so encouraging, loving, and always inviting me to do and try new things.

The first couple days I was here and I was telling a story or something and Ida would breathe air in and it sounded to me like she was surprised or that something had happened. But then I learned that sucking air in meant “yes” or “continue” not that something had happened. I have started saying yes that way now too, especially when I am at school with friends. I have been to my host family’s summer house in Kungsham and it is so beautiful. I got to go on their boat which was so fun as well. The town their summer house is in looks straight out of a pinterest swedish board or like what you see when you look up “Sweden” on google.

Two weeks into my exchange I had celebrated my birthday, the Swedish way. Ida and Ture came into my room while I was asleep singing with a candle in a homemade cinnamon roll. In the afternoon, we went to the beach and played kubb. Then we had a family dinner that I got to pick out. We had a delicious cake as well. It was meringue on the bottom with ice cream and fresh berries on the next layer, then more meringue, then whipped cream, and topped with more fresh berries.

After my birthday I went to the intro camp for three days. It was incredible to meet the other exchange students in Sweden and I made some good friends there as well. We went to the lake twice everyday and played volleyball. The camp organizers taught us some of the basics in Swedish which I had already learned but it was good to help the others with their pronunciation and spelling. The camp was a very good way to learn about Sweden and meet other students.
Most recently, in Ljungskille, there was a camp just for my district. There are 5 students in my district. We all hiked up to the cabin we would stay at for the night. There was no running water, no electricity, and no service which I think was great. We all slowed down and enjoyed the little things. We just got to know each other because some of the students were not at the intro camp. This was our first time meeting each other. I started the fire that we cooked food on with just a fire striker! Some of us watched the stars that night as well because there was no artificial light and we saw 2 shooting stars.

I visited Ikea for the first time and it really is as incredible and huge as people say. I loved walking through the different staged rooms and pretending that these rooms were my bedroom, kitchen, or living room.

Two of the things I love here are cozy Fridays and losviktsgodis (candy) Saturdays. On cozy Fridays we eat chips and watch a movie or something. We just chill basically. On Saturdays we go to the store and pick out some candies. There is basically a whole candy store in the regular grocery store. You grab a bag and a scooper, pick out what you want, and weigh it. My favorites so far are Kex, a wafer lightly covered in chocolate, and licorice, especially the spiral ones.

The grocery stores aren’t that different here, but the one thing that stuck out to me was that at Ica (the main grocery store we go to) you use a scanner as you shop and just pay for everything as you leave. It saves so much time because you do not have to wait in a line. Another thing in the grocery store is that you can bring your empty soda cans to get some money.

There are 11 different types of trash. Separating the trash has been very difficult for me because even plastic coated paper goes in the paper section.

There are some other things I thought were new and different.

The public transportation system here is great. I can get wherever I need to go almost whenever I want to go. I get to school by the bus or sometimes I take the bus and the ferry instead. A lot of the kids here are really independent, I sometimes see kids that are maybe 10 years or younger walking back from the grocery store on Saturdays with their candy. It is also very typical to walk or bike everywhere (which I love). My host dad bikes to work everyday. Sometimes he will run to work. One time he came home from work, I didn’t know he ran to work at this point, and I just saw his head bobbing behind the bushes as he made his way home, all while he was smiling. He had just finished a 10k run from work and was smiling and not tired.

One thing I had never seen before was people practicing cross country skiing during the summer. They have these short skis on wheels with ski poles and they just go along the sidewalk. There are so many people doing that too. I now have learned they are very dangerous because they do not have brakes and people just go off into the grass to stop but sometimes they fall.

One of my favorite things that I have tried is swimrun. Swimrun was started in Sweden and it is where you run across one island, swim to another, run across that one, then swim, then run, etc… I am enjoying that so much. Ida sets up these swimruns for beginners and I get to go with the fast group! The only thing you have to watch out for are jellyfish. When my host mom first told me there were jellyfish, I thought she said yellow fish so I kept looking for yellow fish and I never saw one. It took me a couple weeks to figure out she was talking about jellyfish. I really enjoy the swimruns because when I am running I know I get to swim soon. Plus doing these in a group is so amazing and inspiring. Really recently I completed a 2.5 hour swimrun! I am so proud that I am able to complete these swimruns and enjoy them!

I started school a couple weeks ago and it is so different here. The schedule changes every day, when teachers are not at school we don’t have a sub (most of the time) so we just don’t have class, lunch is in another building, sometimes there are long breaks in between class, and you can leave the building and come back in between classes. Everyone at my school is so nice and welcoming. I am trying my best in each class and I have started answering questions that the teachers ask, but my Swedish is not very good yet so I do not understand very many words in chemistry, CAD, and architecture class. However, I am still enjoying school here because I don’t have the stress of doing well on my shoulders. One of my favorite classes so far is “Idrott” or PE class. The first couple weeks we have been doing “orientation” which is when we are given a map and a card. We have to walk around in groups and find all these different points. We have also played team sports and everyone gets so into it! I learn a lot of new words in that class because it is so repetitive.

My Swedish has been improving a lot, I think. I am understanding a lot more of what the teachers are saying and of what my friends are saying. It feels good when I understand what is going on.
I presented for the first time at my Rotary club fully in Swedish and everyone was super impressed. I am so proud and glad it went so well.

I am really enjoying my time here and I look forward to what is to come!