Experiencing the difference: Exchange student enjoys a slice of the American pie
STERLING – When some people think about America, it’s all mom and apple pie.
For Fritioff Fagergren, it’s the Cubs, pork chops and a new-found perspective of the world.
That perspective comes from a new way of experiencing life, one the 18-year-old Swedish foreign exchange student at Sterling High School learned not only from his school away from school, but his home away from home.
“People are entrenched in one way to live and go to school. It’s not all about studying, it’s about interacting with peers and forming relationships,” he said.
“Everyone is so much more accepting and nicer here; it’s really not that way back home,” Fagergren said.
He pointed to the random acts of kindness he’s already witnessed here, like the day a student brought doughnuts for the class.
That accepting attitude comes in handy, too, for someone like Fagergren. “I think I’m loud and obnoxious; people back home don’t like to stick out,” he said.
Fagergren arrived here in August, from Stockholm, where his parents, Anders and Pernilla, his younger sister, Elvira, and dog, Charlie, live.
“I wanted to go to the United States to experience the people, food and the American dream,” Fagergren said.
It didn’t take him long to experience the difference.
He became involved in high school sports, he’s picked up American slang, and he’s made himself at home with his host family: Adin and Emily Taylor and their two children, Brice and Alena.
He’s taken to calling Adin and Emily “mom” and “dad.”
“It’s kind of weird to call someone else your mom and dad, but in Sweden we call our parents momma and pappa, so I felt like I wasn’t replacing them,” he said.
Emily has helped him feel at home, too. She’s done her part to help him feel welcome and understand the great opportunity the exchange program presents.
“It can be easy to take this year as a vacation, since credits don’t transfer, but Fritioff has taken this chance to grow and discover new things,” she said.
As much as he’s enjoying life in the land of the old red, white and blue, he hasn’t forgotten life in the land of the old yellow and blue.
“It’s weird that you have to pay for school and health care here, because it’s free in Sweden,” he said. Also, “There are no high school sports in Sweden; it’s club based.”
“Here I can be involved in baseball, soccer, chess team, orchestra at school,” Fagergren said.
When Fagergren finally does return to Sweden, he says he’ll get to show off not only his refined English, sports, and chess skills, but his new outlook on life.
“It’s been an eye-opening and positive experience,” he said. “I learned that maybe its not about how you are, but its about how you treat others,” he said.