Daniel Swedberg, a college student from Sweden, is visiting Albany this year through a Rotary program that allows foreign students to study in America.
Swedberg, who’s staying with Bill and Laura Calhoun, is taking classes at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus.
My name is Daniel Swedberg and I am a 20-year-old law student from Sweden. On the 6th of August I was picked up at Atlanta’s international airport to go to Albany. How and why did I end up here?
Everything started more than two years ago when my younger sister went on a high school exchange to Albany, N.Y., and I was a bit jealous. At the time I was about to start studying at university, so a high school exchange was just too late for me. The organization my sister went with is Rotary International, which has a long experience in exchanges and other programs for young people.
Luckily for me, Rotary International also had something called the “Georgia Rotary Student Program” (GRSP), which is an academic scholarship offered to around 50-60 students between 18 and 25 worldwide every year. The Swedish quota is the biggest one with 10-15 students participating in the program every year. Studying at university level is the main part, and every student is required to study full-time. Before explaining my way to obtaining the scholarship I am going to write a few words about the GRSP.
The whole thing started in 1946 just after the second world war, with the purpose of bringing young European students from countries ruined by war to experience the American way of life. Even though students today not only come from Europe and Sweden has never been ruined by war, the basic idea persists. The project has so far resulted in more than 3,100 alumni from all over the world.
GRSP is not an exchange program. That means that the GRSP-students families are not involved by having to host other students themselves. Instead, it is a scholarship that covers all expenses except for transportation to and from the USA, and medical insurance. In exchange, students are expected to perform well academically and be good ambassadors both for Rotary and their home country. In addition to that, there are many criteria that have to be fulfilled in order to get chosen. Each GRSP-student has a host family, but is required to live on campus.
Now a little bit more about my own situation. The application process started more than one year ago. Since then I have done interviews, tests (SAT and TOEFL), and lots and lots of paper work. In November last year, I got to know that I was one of the 15 finalists from Sweden. Before then the selection process was based on academic results and persona. After that, the SAT score and the clubs and host families preferences have been decisive. It was not until March this year that I got admitted to Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, and a few months after that I got in touch with my host family here in Albany.
My host family is the Calhouns, which consist of Bill, Laura, Darby and Will. I consider my host family as an amazing match as I have something in common with all the family members. Bill is a lawyer, which I am probably ending up becoming in the future. Laura has Swedish heritage just like me (of course ...). Darby is starting college this semester, so I am sure we will have many similar experiences. Will is a very active athlete, which I used to be back in the day as well.
I visited the USA back in 2001 (I was nine), but I never managed to get to Georgia or the South. Instead, the trip covered Arizona, California and many of the small states on the Northeast coast, including visits in New York City and Washington, D.C. My parents lived in Baltimore for a couple of years during the ‘80s, and, as I mentioned above, my sister went to high school in Albany, N.Y. This means that I am the last one not to have lived in the USA, but also the first one that will experience Georgia!
I am very open minded (except when it comes to gnats and excessive heat!) and I will be happy to experience a variety of things. But I do have some special expectations on my stay here.
Firstly, I am expecting to experience (Southern) American culture in general, which I will do by meeting many people and taking every chance I get to do and see different things.
Secondly I want to get an insight to the American college culture in particular. For me that is not only taking courses, but also includes living on campus, sports, Greek life, for example. These are the things that I already know are different from university life where I come from.
Furthermore I want to improve my English skills. Right now I do not have any big problems making myself understood, although I sometimes have a hard time understanding those who speak rapidly. Even though I come from a country where English is not used on a daily basis, it is good to speak English if you aim for a job in the international field or in a multinational company. Knowing “school English” is one thing, and using English every day for 10 months will clearly take me beyond that. One thing I do not want to give up, though, is my accent!
Last but not least, I am going to do my best as an ambassador for Rotary to show my appreciation for the opportunity they have given me. This goes especially for the Rotary Clubs of Albany, Dougherty County and Blakely County which sponsor me.
See y’all out there!