“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” – Robin S. Sharma

This is a quote I believe everyone should live by. It has stood by my side whenever I have felt happiness, nervousness and homesickness while I have been on exchange thus far. It reminds me of all the reasons I decided to leave my comforts of life in America and look for personal discovery, growth, adventure and experience alone in a foreign country. Being an exchange student, you don’t only build a new life for 11 months, you build a lifetime of experiences and perspectives that no one else can take away.

I have been in Stockholm, Sweden for 5 weeks now and I appreciate your patience as I have begun to adjust to a new way of life here. It is hard for me to comprehend what has happened within the last month; I often must remind myself that I have two lives, one in America and one in Sweden. I went from my American life of normality to traveling thousands of miles across the world and flipping my entire world upside down.

The day of my flight to Stockholm, I was really relaxed…I wouldn’t be surprised if someone called me crazy for how relaxed I was. For many months I knew I was going on exchange, and as I slowly closed the chapter of my life that took place at Stillwater High School, reality never struck. I said goodbye to friends and family and packed up my suitcase because my mind knew I was leaving, but I subconsciously did not know what was happening. We put my heavy suitcases in the car and I said good bye to my dog, Andy, one last time. When my family and I arrived at the airport everything happened very quickly… we checked my bags and said goodbye before going through security. There were no tears, at least none my end, because it wasn’t a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘see you later…I’m already anticipating our next hug’. Within minutes I was through security and at my gate where I met Grace, another exchange student from Minnesota on her way to Sweden. As we flew across the world to start a new adventure, we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen from above the clouds.

I had no problems while traveling, and within 12 hours I landed in Stockholm and opened the doors to my host family and my Rotary counselor. They were very welcoming and they took me to their apartment in their area of Stockholm, Hammarby Sjöstad, which can be translated to “Lake City”. It is a beautiful, residencial area with newly developed urban housing that surrounds a lake.

Throughout the first week I explored the area by my apartment and parts of central Stockholm. The first days I was with my host mom, Sara, since I did not know anything about the layout of Stockholm, but by my third or forth day I was on my own, finding my own way throughout all Stockholm via metro and busses. My favorite sight was Gamla Stan, the Old Town, a small island where Stockholm was founded in 1252 A.D. and is the largest and best preserved medieval city in Europe. I also participated in the Stockholm Pride festival with another exchange student living in the Stockholm area.

After a week and a half in Stockholm I spent a week in Sundsvall, a town in the northern half of Sweden, where I had an Introduction Camp with the other Rotary Exchange students that will also be spending the year in Sweden. There were twenty three of us at our camp, representing seven different countries (11 from America, 2 from Switzerland, 1 from Mexico, 2 from Brazil, 4 from South Korea, 1 from Taiwan, and 2 from Canada). Everyday we had approximately seven hours of classes covering rules, Swedish history & culture, and a little bit of Swedish lessons while the rest of the time exploring Sundsvall. It was an amazing opportunity to meet the other students who lived all throughout Sweden. All of a sudden I didn’t feel alone in my experience; I now had a big family that would support each other through our ups and downs as the year continues.
When I returned to Stockholm I spent the rest of the week exploring more of Stockholm and the surrounding areas while the weather was nice. A few exchange students who lived near me in Stockholm joined me at Gröna Lund, the small theme park in central Stockholm. My host mom and host brother, Anton (13), took me to Vaxholm during the weekend, an old town in the Stockholm Archipelago. The traditional Scandinavian houses were beautiful to look at as we walked through the streets.

I began school at Östra Reals Gymansium that Monday. It is taking some time to get adjusted to the school, my classmates, and my classes which are all instructed in Swedish, but I know I will get used to it soon.

At the end of August I went to Åre Wild Camp with another 40 Rotary exchange students in Sweden. Most of us were new arrivals, but there were a group of students from Australia and Thailand who arrived in Sweden in January. Throughout the weekend we mostly hiked and kayaked throughout Åre, where the largest ski resorts in Sweden are located. It was great to see all of the other exchange students again as I have grown very close of many of them through out the month. It was also great to be outdoors, enjoying Sweden's beautiful nature before the weather gets cold.

I have had a wonderful first month in Sweden and am very excited for where the rest of the year will take me.

Thank you for your love and support for this adventure of mine!

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The world's cultures have grown to be a passion of mine. I have wanted to experience and be a part of as many of the world's beautiful cultures as possible during this short period of time called Life.

I am Carolyn Wrightsman, a high school student from Minnesota in the United States of America. I am taking my first step to assimilating into one of the world's cultures beyond my own as a North Star Rotary Youth Exchange student to Stockholm, Sweden.

I am thankful for all of the support from my family & friends. You made this journey of mine possible. I am very happy to have a place where I can describe and share my wonderful experiences abroad.

I am not afraid to walk this world alone.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.

I will not fear the world, but embrace it.