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Experiencing America

Swedish exchange student enjoying time in Craig

Kristin Akerstrom traveled to America to improve her English. She chose to visit the Colorado area so she could ski. But the Swedish exchange student has been so busy, she’s only had a chance to reach one goal so far.

“I’ve had something almost every weekend,” she said. “I have a season pass, but I’ve been having fun with other things.”

Akerstrom, who’s from Säffle, Sweden, applied and was accepted to be a part of Rotary International’s exchange student program.



“I had regions I could choose and I wanted the Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska region so I could ski,” she said.

Other activities have kept her off the slopes.



In the fall, Akerstrom was a part of the Moffat County High School dance team. In the beginning of December, she participated in the State Spirit Championships.

“I was on a dance team in Sweden but it was a different kind of dance,” she said. “The competition was a lot of fun and a new experience.”

As the dance season ended, Akerstrom began practicing with the girls swim team. She hadn’t swum competitively since fourth grade.

“We don’t have teams at my school in Sweden,” she said. “You have to join a club outside of school, and everybody plays soccer or hockey.”

In addition to her extracurricular activities, the exchange student is a part of the P.E. 3 class at the high school. That class travels across the region to participate in outdoor activities. One of those activities this semester included a trip to Moab, Utah, to mountain bike.

“It was a challenge,” Akerstrom said. “I had to push myself because I never had to bike on things like that in Sweden.”

Akerstrom said there aren’t a lot of differences between Säffle, a town of 16,000, and Craig.

“There are a lot more cowboy hats and country music,” she said. “Things are also a lot bigger in America. The school, the houses, the cars are all bigger.”

Similarities include: “Within two days everybody knows what each other did over the weekend, pop music and having a Christmas tree.”

Akerstrom’s first language is Swedish, but she said that TV programs and music in her country are mostly in English.

“It was hard for me to complete a full sentence when I first came,” she said. “It’s getting better now.”

Her host mother, Sue Goodenow, checks her homework.

“Sue has helped me with my English a lot,” she said.

Akerstrom will switch families after Christmas break. Changing families is a part of the Rotary’s plan to give the student as much experience as possible while here.

Program rules don’t allow exchange students here to drink, do drugs, date or drive.

“I understand and respect the rules,” she said. “I can’t drive until I’m 18 in Sweden anyway.”

Akerstrom said she has had to make adjustments in her classes.

In Sweden, high school students sign up for specific programs, similar to selecting majors in college.

“In school, I’m in the technical program,” she said. “I take a lot of math classes. It’s preparation for something like engineering.”

The newest class for her this year was biology.

“I’ve never had something like biology,” she said. “I like learning about that subject because it’s different.”

Akerstrom receives no credit in school back home for this school year.

“I have to redo my junior year when I get back,” she said. “But I think it’s worth it.”

She said she also hopes to return to America.

“I’d like to come back and experience more of the country,” she said. “Maybe I can work here.”

As for finally getting to ski, she said, “I think I get to do that over Christmas break.”


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