BY H. TAYLOR-SINGH
Brittney Botelho travelled across the world to Sweden for a year long exchange program with Rotary Youth, coming back to MDHS to complete her Grade 13 year of highschool.
We chatted with her about everything from a typical Swedish lifestyle to Ikea.
Inbound Exchange Students to Sweden 2014.
What program did you exchange through? How did it work?
I did my exchange through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program (the Milton Rotary unit). The procedure began with what is called a “short form process” where I wrote some information about myself, my volunteer experience, grades and other interesting things for The Rotary to get to know a little bit about me. After that was finished, I was called for an interview and selected to represent Milton for the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.
I was then given the “long form” where I had to fill out health related information and write a letter about myself for my soon-to-be host families. The next step was a weekend in Bolton with all of the other outbound exchange students, where we were tested with various activities to determine our personality and how we interact with others. This was an important step due to the fact, that none of the exchange students were able to pick their own country. It sounds like an unappealing aspect of the program however, after going through this process I realize that it was one of the best things that could have happened.
The next step in the process was going to Wanikita (the same place MDHS students go for Wilderness North in grade ten) for four days with both the inbound exchange students and outbounds for the second set of activities. We took part in both indoor and outdoor experiences such as snowshoeing, skiing and even sleeping in a Quincy. This was so that the Rotarians of the “District” could narrow down which countries they thought would suit our personalities best. The last step was announcement day, where all of the outbounds and inbounds were invited to Burlington where we were presented with our countries.
Did you pick up any Swedish slang whilst living there? What’s your favourite word?
In Sweden, the slang is generally relative to where you live. Due to the fact that I lived about ten minutes from Norway, the slang of Strömstad was highly influenced by the Norwegian population in the area. However, I have two favourite words that are actually used in all areas of Sweden and are the pride of the Swedish languages. These are the terms “fika” and “lagom”. The word “fika” is the act of going and getting something to eat and/or drink with close friends. In Sweden, people will leave work or school to “fika” no matter the time of day. The term “lagom” is nearly impossible to translate to English. It is a word that roughly describes something being just right. Not too much but not too little. It is not a word for perfect and not a word for satisfying. This word can be used to say how something is or how someone feels. In Sweden everything is “lagom”.
Explain a day in your life in Sweden.
Due to the fact that I lived with three different families, my day changed with each household that I was in. The problem with trying to explain a day in Sweden is that their school system is very different than ours and so there is no regimented pattern that you follow. One day I would go to school at 8:45am, the very start of the day and end at 1pm, but the next I would start at 10am and go home at 3:30pm.
Overall my day in Sweden consisted of biking to school, staying for the time that was scheduled and then biking home with my host sister(s). This was the only constant pattern between all of my host families. After I was home I would either meet with friends or spend time with my host family. Sometimes this consisted of going hiking, having “fika”, shopping or just taking a walk around town.
How does your life differ between Milton and Sweden?
In Canada, whenever you have to do something outside of your house the first place you head is to your car however, in Sweden everyone turns to their bike. Sweden is one of the countries with the highest number of bikes per capita and thus their everyday life was very different from ours. Using bikes makes many different areas more accessible and creates a form of independence for people of all ages.
Another difference between Milton and Sweden is the landscape. In Sweden the architects will create buildings, roads and bridges around the natural landscape in the area however, in Milton the motto seems to go “If it’s not flat, we’ll make it flat!”. Where I lived the homes were built into the side of cliffs and on top of extremely high hills all surrounding the sea. The architects in Sweden take the time to consider the environmental impact that they have on the world and in turn have created a country where every town is picturesque.
What’s one thing you did in Sweden that is unheard of in Milton?
During “Midsommer Celebrations”, a Swedish national holiday, we danced around a giant maypole, which is a big cross with two circles decorated in many flowers. This festivity is very different from anything found in Canada as the participants dance around the pole in what the Swedes call a “froglike fashion” while wearing flower crowns and singing about bears and other wild animals. This is a fun holiday to celebrate the longest day of the year that includes lots of dancing, singing, eating and laughter. If you could, would you move back to Sweden? Why or why not? If I could I would move back to Sweden in a heartbeat. Sweden is a beautiful country with amazing people and great food. I absolutely loved it!
MidSommer. Stromstad, Sweden 2015.
(This is very important) Did you go to Ikea?
I did go to Ikea while I was in Sweden however, the important thing to note is the difference between why people go to Ikea in Canada as compared to Sweden. The Swedes go to Ikea, just like Canadians, with the intent to buy furniture, however, they also go all the way to the blue and yellow store just for dinner. In this Scandinavian country Ikea is both a popular restaurant and a cheap furniture store.
Would you recommend this exchange program? Why?
I highly recommend this exchange program to anyone interested in travelling abroad. This particular program allows students to form relationships with natives to a country but also with other exchange students. It provides a great platform for future networking and is full of new experiences from start to finish all run by Rotary International and they are included in the overall price. Another reason why I would recommend this exchange program is because it is extremely affordable for anyone interested in travelling. The Rotary International Exchange Program teaches students about how to represent our country in the world and form lifelong friendships while doing so.
Stromstad, Sweden 2015.
Photos courtesy of B. Botelho.