Skandinaviska Institutet

Petter, Kalifornien

What were your reasons for applying as an High School Student?
I applied mostly because I wanted the experience of something new and different. But I also applied to push myself into a new challenge that I would have to face by my own.

Tell us about your host family, siblings or no siblings, relatives to the family: 
My host family consists of 3 brothers, a mom, and a dad. They’re quite close with each other and they like spending time together, however, two of my host brothers only live with us every other week. I don’t think about it too much because I still see one of them in school everyday and the town I live in is so small that chances are you’ll see people you know outside.

Describe the area you live in: 
I live in a small town called Mariposa, which is close to Yosemite National Park. It’s also a mountain town meaning it’s literally on a mountain, I think the altitude is about 2000 ft (ca 600m) above sea level. Coming from a larger city it’s interesting to live where there’s only one school, one food market, and running into people you’ve gotten to know all the time. After a while you start living life the same way your friends do, which in my opinion is the best cultural experience.

The weather here is different, in the summers it can reach really high temperatures and it rarely rains so it’ gets very dry which is causing a lot of fires in California. Now, during the winter we’ve had a few colder days, not really freezing but close. However, some weeks we still get high temperatures in the high 60s ( ca 20 grader celsius).

What does a typical day look like, how do you get to school and home after school?
Typically my host mom takes me and my host brother, who’s a sophomore by the way (I’m a senior), to school. A few times I’ve taken the bus, but I prefer to be taken by car because the buses are very crowded and noisy.  First period starts at 8 everyday except for Fridays when it starts at 9:10, and the length of my classes varies. On Mondays I have all periods for an hour which is 1-6, on Tuesdays through Thursdays I have block schedule which means I have 4 of my periods for 1,5h each. On Fridays I have all my periods but they’re only like 40 minutes each since I start an hour later.

Did you get help to choose subjects in school? Which subjects did you have to take? Which other subjects have you chosen? Are you happy with your choices? 
I picked my subjects before I left Sweden through my host mom. She briefly described what they were and she went to the school councillor and told him my choices. The second semester I switched out a few subjects just by talking to the same councillor. The only classes I’m obligated to take are Civics/Economics and English, other than those I’m free to pick whatever I want.

Since there are a lot of wildfires in California, some school offer a ”Fire Science” class. For the first semester, first and second period, I learned skills of a firefighter and got to work with equipment including fire engines and PPE (utrustningen brandmän bär). I took physical education for third period, drama for forth, which is a lot of stage action. Lastly I had civics for fifth and English for sixth period.

This semester I switched out fire science for Education&careers for first and second period. I’d describe this class as a cozy get-together where the teacher gives you noodles and soda every morning while talking about his life as a teacher. My third period is now AGfoods; it’s a class where we literally just make food and eat it when we are done. Overall my schedule is ridiculously easy, I haven’t had a single bit of homework since I got here and as long as I’m on time and participate in class I’ll get an A. But this is how I designed my schedule, you could pick chemistry or math or something else if you want to challenge yourself a little more.

Tell us about any activities you participating in or are planning to join? Give examples of what is offered.
Different sports have different seasons so you can do more than one while you’re here. For instance, football and volleyball is in the fall and once that season ends, winter sports begins. The only problem is that you can’t do two sports in the same season. I play soccer right now which is a winter sport, but so is basketball so I wouldn’t be able to play both if I wanted to. The other winter sport right now is wrestling. There’s also a season in the spring which I think includes track, swimming, golf and baseball.

Tell us about any travelling you have done or are planning to do:
I’ve been to Yosemite National Park a few times, it’s a really cool place with amazing nature. So far I’ve also been on the coast multiple times; in LA, Oakland, San José and San Francisco. I was also here during the solar eclipse and my host family drove to Oregon to see it better, that was a unique experience. For Christmas I went to New York and got to see the city, but also upstate NY.

What have you gained during the year?
Most of all I’ve gained courage and independence, because even though I have a lot of friends and a family over here – I’m still away from my home. So you adapt and learn a new way to live life, with new routines and new people. The sooner you accept that change the easier it gets. Obviously my English is probably also better compared to the first weeks, however I don’t really notice a difference. Verbally, I handle the language faster now because I no longer think in Swedish. Even when I’m by myself I think in English, which is quite interesting, it’s some sort of habit I’ve gained I guess.

What has been the best experience so far? 
Even though I’ve been to world famous places like Yosemite, LA and NYC, I think my best experience is right here in Mariposa. Every time I walk into ”Stage Stop” (a local gas station) and buy a 44oz soda (1,3L) – I feel so American. I’m not making fun of the fact that it’s a lot of soda, but you can’t get a cup that will hold 1,3L anywhere in Sweden while you can get one here for 2 USD. It reminds me that I’m far from home and I find it funny, which makes it a good experience every time.

How have you been spending you pocket money?
The pocket money I do spend is mostly on school lunches off campus. I normally don’t prepare a lunch at home because I prefer eating out with friends. Lunch is anything from 3-10 USD a day depending on how hungry I am, but I often bring fruit or energy bars to school too because soccer practice is everyday right after school. Other than school lunches, I have used some of my money for clothes and other shopping whenever I go to a bigger city.

What has been most challenging so far? 
My biggest struggle was the transition from freedom to less freedom. My host parents are less likely to let me do things like going to a nearby city over a day or something. Parents in Sweden are typically less strict on their kids about freedom, in Sweden I basically only let my parents know where I am and then I’m on my way. Here, I need to ask for permission and check in more often. It was honestly quite annoying and sometimes it still is because I can never just walk out the house and then text them where I am, but the more they know me the more freedom I’ve gained.

Write anything you can think of that you feel could be of help to students coming after you!
Trust the progress. My first two weeks I had trouble making friends because I kept switching periods and met new people all the time. Once I learned peoples names and talked to them, I realised they were actually a lot more friendly than I thought.

Write a short message to exchange students thinking about joining Skandinaviska Institutet / ASSE:s High School program:
These 5 months have been the best months of my life, I don’t think I can describe the feeling of being apart of a new culture and get to experience it like one of the other high school kids. It has opened my eyes to so many things and I’ve probably seen more things than many do in a lifetime. Paus your life in Sweden and see a new perspective on life and this world.