Culture Exchange


Photo credit to Micaela Davidson at Reminder Photography

Fiona Miller, Reporter

Spanning close to 973 miles from tip to tip, bordering the Baltic and North Sea, and resting between fellow hosts of the Nordic culture, Norway and Finland, is the country of Sweden. A short way north of the center of Sweden, on its Eastern border, is the city Uppsala. In August of 2014, Uppsala sent one of its own to America, exchange student Simon Aagren, who currently attends Woodland Park High School as a senior.

America and Sweden have their unique distinctions. Take the school system, for example. “We get paid to go to school. We also get free lunch, but you have more school spirit here [in America],” Simon explains. In addition, schools in Sweden primarily focus on academics, not so much on extracurricular subjects. “You guys do a lot more school activities. Our sports are not connected to school in any way.”

“I live in a bigger city, so we can walk around more. Here, it’s like everyone knows each other.” Uppsala has an area of about 19 square miles, nearly four times the size of Woodland Park. The cultural dissimilarities do not end there. Here in the United States, earning a driver’s license can be a big day for teenagers. However, such a common occurrence for Americans is not as necessary in Sweden. “We don’t get a driving license, because there’s public transport everywhere.” Certain variants between America and Sweden stood out more than others to Simon. A few of these differences include cheap food, free refills, school spirit, and social interactions. “Here in America, you’re way more open to talking to strangers. We’re pretty antisocial in Sweden.”

When asked what occupied his time in Sweden, Simon was quick to answer. “I played a lot of games, and I hung out with friends. I also drew a lot, and I trained in taekwondo.” Leaving Sweden for a year did come with sacrifices. Simon had to leave behind friends, family and a familiar lifestyle. Also, as a senior, Simon is unable to be with his friends back home for graduation. “I’m missing all of the graduation parties and stuff. It’s kind of sad.” So why choose to come to the US? Simon thought for a moment before replying. “It’s more like why not. It’s cool to experience another culture, and to see how the school system here works.” As with the Panther Perspective’s other featured exchange students, Simon was not able to choose the state or city in which he would attend school for a year. “It was a random placement. I just got lucky to be placed in this state. It’s a beautiful state, with all the mountains and such.”

If you have considered participating in an exchange student program, Simon would recommend that you go through with it. “I would suggest going on a trip like this when you are still young. If I had waited one year longer I wouldn’t have been able to try and see the American high school with my own eyes. But it is a great experience, you learn a lot about other cultures and you become way more independent.”


All Swedish Facts Courtesy of