Each host family and exchange student build their own routines, memories and find shared interests throughout the exchange period together. For Tine, Åsa, Stefan and Tella, living in Arjeplog, this implies reindeer herding, northern lights and floorball. Tine, a German high school student coming from Munich, has found her new home together with her host parents Åsa and Stefan and their daughter Tella, living in Norrbotten, the geographic region located in the most northern part of Sweden.
When asked how it feels to live in such a small place so up north in the country, Tine tells how kind people are in Arjeplog and how that maybe is connected to the fact that it is a small community where most people know each other in one way or another. She was also so glad to see that everyone at school is kind and the total different relationship between teachers and pupils, showing that there is indeed a way to make school fun to attend! “Here when someone asks how you are feeling, they actually want to know !”.
Nature is one of the main interests that both Tine and her host parents have in common. They all like winter and outdoor activities. Darkness is not a problem for Tine since there are still a lot of activities to do even when it is dark and cold. “For example, there is a ski resort just outside Arjeplog we like to go to on the weekends, once a week I take horse riding lessons and I have also joined a floorball team ”. Nature was also one of the reasons that made Tine decide to temporarily move to Sweden. “A couple of years ago I went on a bike tour from Oslo to Gothenburg with my German family and I fell in love with the Swedish nature”.
Stefan adds that they have some reindeers. The reindeers are taken care of by family friends who are reindeer herders, and sometimes they visit them for helping out with the animals. Since Tine is a part of the family she is also helping with the reindeers. It is a chance for her to get to know the Sami culture, something totally new for her.
When it comes to home sickness and keeping in touch with friends and family in Germany, Tine says that “it was rather difficult to have contact with my family and friends without feeling home sick, and that’s why at the start I chose not to keep in touch that much. And now I can’t imagine to go home again, it is crazy that I only have five months left here!”
Åsa and Stefan have already hosted an exchange student earlier and being a host family for a second time still brings excitement. Things have become smoother the second time. “There are things we are a bit more prepared for, everything is much more relaxed” , says Åsa, adding that they felt they could be a bit stricter with the Swedish language, as they know how important that is for the school work . “Another thing that we realized after hosting our first exchange student was the importance of the student’s age and how that affects the student’s social life in general. For example, since we knew the student would attend the first year of high school, and many countries start school one year earlier, we decided to choose someone who was 16. In that way the classmates would be the same age.
To host someone unknown is already a challenge, so gathering as much information as possible from the start is essential. I would advise every exchange student to fill in their preferences and interests as good as they can so that their experience as exchange student can be a success. “
Åsa and Stefan invites everyone to think about being a host family, “it is a fantastic thing to do and you really learn a lot. You get friends for life” says Åsa towards the end of the talk.
Applying for an exchange program will most likely start an excitement and it will probably be something you think of a lot. You are curious to know who your future host family will be, arrive in the host country and start facing the daily experiences. However, remember that the first step toward an exchange experience already starts with the application process. As Åsa emphasizes, it was important for them that their host family application and the student application presented a realistic image of them both to really set the expectations right before the exchange started.
Sweden is such a huge and diverse country which throughout the different regions shows a variety of cultural differences and environments. Tine’s experience confirms how satisfying and rewarding an exchange year can be, even – or especially - when you go from a big city you are comfortable with, to a smaller village isolated from larger communities and presenting new possibilities and activities you are not used to. When asking exchange students in Sweden why they chose to come here many answers; because of the beautiful nature, the school system or the kindness of Scandinavians in general. Tine find that she got to experience all of these reasons.