Glenn Van Dyke
2006-07 Outbound to Sweden
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
School: Episcopal High School
Sponsor: North Jacksonville Rotary Club
Host: Karlskrona-af Chapman Rotary Club
District 2400, Sweden
Hey, or rather Hej! My name is Glenn, I'm 16 and a sophomore at Episcopal High School, and next year I will be living in Sweden. I was born in Monterey, California before my family and I moved back to Jacksonville. I have a sister who is 27 and brother who is 25.
I have played the guitar for 5 years and music is my passion. It’s a great way to relax and I play every chance I get. As far as sports go, I surf, play soccer, and run track. They are all very different and I love that about them. I've surfed since I was 6, played soccer since I was 4, and just starting running track this year. I also love to take pictures. Sunsets, sunrises, unsuspecting friends who are sleeping, you name it and I’ll take a picture of it. It’s great to have memories of friends that you can look back on and wonder what you could have possibly been thinking to let someone have proof you dressed up ridiculously while doing something crazy.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to spend next year as an exchange student in Sweden! Not only will my year abroad make me fluent in a different language, but I’ll learn so much about a different culture. Not to mention I’ll be able to take pictures of Swedish sunsets, Swedish sunrises, and Swedish unsuspecting friends who are sleeping. I can’t wait for my year in Sweden! It’s going to be so different (cold), but I know that the year will be amazing. Adjö för nu.
August 25 Journal & Pictures
OK so I have officially been here a month. In some ways I can't believe that its already been a month and then again it feels like I have been here so much longer.
OK wow...let me sum up my month. So the flight was fun as far as flights go I suppose.. I watched Finding Nemo and slept. When I got off the plane in Amsterdam I'm pretty sure people must have thought I'd been visiting one of the notorious cafes we have all heard about because I'm pretty sure I was walking through the airport with this giddy grin on my face. I was so excited.
I started really getting nervous on the flight from Amsterdam to Copenhagen... I started thinking like will I like my family, will they like me, what do I say... it was really nerve wracking but I took a deep breath and listened to the flight attendant try to speak to me in Dutch and I was just genuinely excited. The first time I saw my family was when I walked through Customs which was really just a door that had 'customs--nothing to declare' written above it. I never even had to show my passport. I recognized them right away from the pictures they sent me... I later on learned that they didn't recognize me at first because from my picture they said they thought I was on the larger side. haha I got a kick out of that when they told me.
Meeting them was a really cool experience. I mean it's like you talk to these people on the internet for months and months and then to meet them in person is like wow...this is real. They introduced themselves officially and gave me hugs and then we left to go pick up my host sister at her horse riding training camp in Skåne. Well actually before we went to go pick up my host sister we made a stop at a Danish bottle shop. A Danish bottle shop as my host father explained it to me is a shop in Denmark where most Swedes go and bring their empty beer bottles to get them refilled and buy more beer because it is less expensive in Demark than in Sweden. So I can officially say that my first experience in Europe was driving from Denmark to Sweden with a car full of beer....o how wonderful. =).
I think I truly lucked out with my first host family. From the first moment I met them, we all just sort of clicked. In the car there were no awkward silences and I felt very comfortable with them. In the car they would ask me about Florida and stuff I like to do and I asked them about Sweden and then they would try to explain to me where we were even though it did absolutely no good. Then they would talk to each other Swedish and I would try really hard to understand and that didn't work out too well for me either. But we got Tove from her training camp and headed to home in Karlskrona.
The drive was amazing. Everything is so beautiful....the countryside is breathtaking and everything is really...well amazing. then we entered Karlskrona. This town is incredible! It's like a bunch of islands kinda put together. The downtown is right next to my island called Hästö and on my island there are all these hills and the houses are on the hills and they all overlook the Baltic Sea. My house is on top of a hill and in my backyard there is grass and a small garden and then you walk down some stone stairs and you are on the dock on the sea. It's so hard to explain and my explanation does it no justice at all. All I can say is... it had me at hello... haha a cliché is definitely appropriate for trying to explain how incredible it all is.
On about the third night I was there, my two host brothers Jonatan and Oskar, Oskar's girlfriend Michaela, their friend Adrian from Belgium, then two neighbors Viktor and Johan and I went down to the dock and played poker all night. it was so much fun. The coolest part was that we went down there at about 9pm, watched the sunset around 10:30, then watched it rise again at about 3:30. I was in awe. It was so strange but so cool. That next weekend there was a huge festival in my town called Sailet. There were all these rides and good food in the town and lots of parties and such. It was an awesome time!! I met a lot of Swedes then.
Since I have been here I have decided that my favorite Swedish word is kackerlacka which means cockroach. And the only other thing I knew how to say in the first couple of days was stor haj which means big shark...so throughout the entire Sailet every couple minutes my host sister would be like say it.. and that was my cue to yell either kackerlacka or stor haj...it's amazing how many friends you make and and meet when people think you're slightly crazy. But after talking to me they knew I wasn't crazy, at least not too crazy and they too joined in on the fun of making me yell strange words and watching me embarrass myself. It was so much fun.
That's also where I was introduced to Swedish candy which by the way don't even get me started about. It's so goood. I swear I could own stock in those pieces of sugary goodness haha. It will be the death of me. Candy is in all stores except of course clothes stores and every time we pass by it I have to run because it is so tempting and it will make me fat haha. My host dad sees how much I love it and he has created this idea of making a Swedish candy store chain and opening it in America. I told him he would make a lot of money.
The Monday after Sailet I left to go to Language camp with a bunch of other exchange students in Ronneby. That was a lot of fun. We stayed in a hostel and learned Swedish and of course...ate candy. We went into town a lot for shopping and fika which is Swedish coffee break. We ate pizza too...but Swedish pizza is different than American pizza. You can't order it by the slice.. you have to order the entire pizza, but you can eat all of it because it is a lot thinner and not nearly as greasy. The food in general is really good. A lot of fish and meat, and you eat potatoes with almost every meal. They are so good.
I have only been here a month and I have fallen in love with everything Swedish. Everyone is nice and open, and when I say open I also mean literally because the Swedes enjoy being naked. Everyone in my house likes to walk around in their underwear even the girls. It was kinda shocking at first but now it's just kinda like ehh... nice bra. haha. On the night I mentioned earlier where we watched the sunset and then rise again... all the guys decided to go swimming... and by swimming they mean skinny dipping. I did not accompany them mainly because the water was quite chilly and it was a windy night so just thinking about being naked in that water made me cold... also the fact that I had been there 3 days and I thought I should at least wait a little longer before taking part in Swedish nakedness. But everything here is so amazing. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about how lucky I am to be here. I am enjoying so much living everyday and I can't wait to see what this year unfolds.
September 20 Journal
So almost two months and I already feel like I have lived here my whole life. I know my way around town, I have my own group of friends and I can even understand when people talk to me in Swedish. It's amazing how in such little time you can feel like you have always been here.
I've been in school now for almost 4 weeks. The school is so different here. Mondays are the only day that I must wake up before 8 o clock and finish at 3. Tuesdays and Fridays I wake up at 8 and finish at 11 and Wednesdays and Thursdays I wake up at 9 and finish at 1. It's so amazing. I can relate it more to college, how you have maybe a couple classes a day and then you're free to do whatever.
I am in the economic class at a school called Af Chapman. I take a business administration class and then the usual math, science, Spanish, English, and Swedish of course. I am also taking a bartending class which they offer as an elective... of course I'm not drinking the product =), but I'll be the life of all the parties ;)..just kidding.
I've made so many friends at school. For the first week it was kind of like people would invite me to go places with them and then there would be one person who was comfortable enough with their English to speak to me, so they'd all ask questions for a little bit and then it would just be me sitting there listening to them speak. But now everyone is more comfortable speaking English with me, and I have become more comfortable speaking Swedish with them. I have found that the more I try to speak Swedish with people the more comfortable they are around me.
Even though my Swedish isn't excellent everyone is so helpful and they all correct me when I say something wrong... which is pretty frequently. The other day we were sitting in class and I raised my hand to say that I had a question which in Swedish is jag har en fråga. But the way I pronounced it was with a u instead of the å sound so what I really said was I have a wife. Everyone laughed and then someone explained that I needed to make my mouth more round when I pronounced fråga. It was funny. Things like that are common, but it is a good way to make friends because people see that you are trying. Everyday I can tell that my Swedish gets better... it's like a puzzle that I finally have some pieces to.
The weather is getting colder now. It's not cold yet, but being from Florida some days I already have to pull out my winter jacket. My family laughs at me as they all walk around in tank tops jeans and maybe a light jacket. They all say they cant wait to see me when it is actually cold. I'm sure it will be amusing... I'll waddle around and not be able to move like the little kid in A Christmas Story when he walks outside in like a thousand jackets.
My host brother left for California two Tuesdays ago. I miss him already. The house is so quiet without him even though there are still like 3 other kids here. He is quite the character. We went bowling for his farewell party. He liked to run up behind you and scare you when you were about to bowl. That called for an amusing game.
Two weeks ago we had a kickoff dance thing at this club called Kino. It was so much fun! There were like almost a thousand people there and we were all shoved into this club and it was a blast. Back home at most dances it will be like all rap music and at first no one will dance and then finally someone will be the first to go onto the dance floor... but here there are no inhibitions. You go and dance to this techno European pop which by the way is surprisingly catchy and everyone is out there from the beginning. Me and a couple of friends went over to this one girl's house to get ready together. That was fun. They all did my hair and makeup. Also at most dances or proms back home there is always an after-party, but here there are no after-parties...you go to a förefest which means before party. My host mom was telling me about this and how even adults do it before they go out. It's almost like a tradition she said because alcohol is more expensive when you to the restaurants or pubs so it's cheaper to have a couple of drinks before you go out. I thought that was interesting. This dance was also on a Thursday night. I though that was pretty crazy.
After that I went to a Rotary camp in Ljunby. That was a lot of fun. At language camp during my second week here there was kind of a prank war that started between the newbies (those of us who came during the summer usually Americans, Brazilians, etc..) and the oldies (those who came in January usually from Australia and New Zealand). During language camp on the last night the oldies ran into all the newbies' room and attacked us with hair mousse. It was great, so this time I brought 4 cans of whipped cream and it was payback. One Australian girl had her birthday on that Saturday so we tied her up with duct tape, whip creamed her, taped her to the flag pole, tied a Swedish flag around her and sang happy birthday to her in Swedish. We had fun.
This past weekend was also a Rotary camp but this time in Kristianstad. It was with some exchange students living in the Copenhagen district in Denmark... and guess who was there... RAMSEY!! haha. It was crazy seeing him there, we started talking about how it's such a small world. We went on a 30 km hike and it took like 7 hours. It was really pretty. All the forest was gorgeous.
I have joined a soccer (fotboll) team here called Karlskrona FF. They are very good and I'm happy to be playing with them. Plus the exercise is good to work off the candy. =). But it's hard to get fat here... I mean you walk everywhere. I must walk like 6 miles a day. It's crazy but it's nice. Sometimes I'm walking home from the bus stop or wherever and it's like sunset and I just look around and think about how amazing this is. I think in the states you kind of take for granted little things around you like trees or flowers or water because you kinda just hop in your car and go, but here when you walk through it everyday you can really appreciate it. I am looking forward to the seasons changing. Some of the leaves on the trees have started changing colors and with all the trees around here it's going to be so pretty when they are all different shades. I am still loving every minute of my life here and as of now I never want to leave.
December 8 Journal
I have been in Sweden for 4 months and so far it's been the best 4 months of my life. So much has happened since my last journal (I guess that could be because I've been lazy and haven't written one in awhile). Everything in Sweden still remains amazing.
Where to start....so for Halloween my mom sent to me a package with some masks and orbit gum and some Halloween things, so my host sister and I wore the masks around and bought candy at the store and watched scary movies, it was a lot of fun. I've also had some tests in school, two in naturkunskap which is like science and one in this business administration class, but I don't understand that class so let's just stick with the science one. I actually passed which I was proud of... the grading here goes like this...MVG is A....VG is B...G is C....and IG is fail. I got a G so I was excited!! and on another project I had to do about the influenza virus I had to write like 4 pages in Swedish...it was hard but I got a G+ on it so at least I'm passing :). I kinda feel bad for my teacher when he has to read my attempt to write 4 pages in Swedish trying to use big words and sound smart...you know how it is when you write papers.
OK so the day after Halloween we had our first snow!!!!! I was sooo happy... I swear though the neighbors probably think I'm insane because I would like randomly just go outside and stand in the snow and take pictures...what can I say, I was excited!. It melted though within like a day but pretty soon it should start snowing and sticking.
The other weekend I went to Stockholm with my family. Stockholm is incredible! There is absolutely nothing like it. It's so gigantic and beautiful and crazy cool. We stayed with some friends of my host family and they were so nice... the mom, Annika, was so funny. We were like walking through the town and there were all these American tourists around and a whole bunch of them came up to us and tried to speak you know like the Berlitz travel Swedish to us to ask where they find bathrooms or different shops were and Annika like freaked out shoved me forward and started talking like a mile a minute in Swedish about how I should make friends with them haha it was kinda funny... she's hilarious. Stockholm was awesome. We went into the American store and Annika made me explain pretty much everything in the store and the way it tasted. It was funny, but they were missing a lot of things. The clothes shopping there is soooo good. I didn't really get a chance, but I'll for sure be returning in the near future haha.
Wednesday before Thanksgiving I went to Osby to visit my friend Iris and Jo from the states and we made Thanksgiving dinner for like 14 people. It was soo much fun. Iris lives on this gigantic farm so we went out on the four wheeler and took a tour of the huge amounts of land her host family owns...it was soo pretty. (of course none of us were uhh driving the four wheeler.) The weekend after Thanksgiving we had a going away weekend for the Australian exchange students who leave in January. It was a lot of fun, but kinda sad. We went swimming in the Baltic at night which by the way was extremely cold, but oo so fun. Well actually it wasn't really swimming, it was like one two three sprint down into the water and then trying to get out so fast you actually feel like you're running on top of the water. It was awesome though.
The following week I made a late Thanksgiving dinner for my host family...they admitted that they were slightly skeptical especially when brought out the sweet potato soufflé with marshmallows on it...haha it was so funny my host mom Maria kept asking me, "now are you sure you eat this with the turkey" - haha she was convinced that it was some kind if dessert because it was so sweet. This past weekend we went to Göteborg... aka Gothenburg. We went to the amusement park there called Liseberg. But it's not an amusement park like you'd picture one in the states. They have a lot of rides but most of them were closed for winter. There are tons of typical Swedish shops and big carousels open for the winter. They also have it all decorated with all these lights and I have to say it was probably the prettiest thing I have seen. It was incredible! All the trees were like covered in lights and yeah all I can say to it is wow. I felt like I was in some sort of story book where everything is perfect and any minute like old fashioned music would start playing out of nowhere and everyone should start ballroom dancing. haha...it was amazing.
The days now are so short too. The sun starts to set at like 3 and it's completely dark by like 3 45. And the weather now is just getting colder and colder...pretty much everyday it's a few degrees colder. I kinda like it. It's so different from what I'm used to. I cant wait for the snow. I have already told my host siblings that as soon as I can I'm going to throw snowballs at them. I've been practicing a little by scraping the frost from the freezer and throwing that sometimes...just to keep them on their toes. Haha it always ends in all of us running around the house laughing so hard we can't breathe. The other day Michaela (my host brother's girlfriend who lives with us) and I were making lussekatter which is a traditional Swedish Christmas pastry and let's just say all the dough that we were covered in could feed a small country. It all started with the "think fast" or "tänk snabbt" game and it escalated from throwing flour to smearing dough in each other's faces. My host dad walked in the kitchen looked as us both and just shook his head haha...then he got the camera and and sent pictures to my parents...he thought it was funny. Michaela and I were laughing soo hard the whole time my host dad was convinced we had snuck into his wine cellar. Which we hadn't... we just get horrible cases of he giggles occasionally when neither of us can look at each other because we will just start to crack up. My family also loves Christmas songs...one of their favorites is Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and they always make me sing it because I add in the lines, you know, like "like a light bulb" and "like monopoly" and stuff...it's become my job. When we were in Göteborg we were staying with my host aunt and uncle and Maria and Tove (host mom and sister) made me sing it at dinner....like three times in a row.....haha I never thought so many people could get that much of a kick out of one song, it's soo funny. I have also successfully learned my first Swedish Christmas song...it's so catchy between that song and Rudolph I could be my own traveling Christmas caroling squad.
As of now, I speak only Swedish with my friends and speak only Swedish at home. Well unless they are explaining what a phrase means...I understand pretty much everything and I can hold a conversation pretty well. I'm still working really hard to become fluent...it's so frustrating sometimes when I know what to say I just cant put the words in the right order...but I'm getting there.
In about two weeks there is a big party for Lucia; it's like a Christmas tradition where a girl in the town gets voted to become Lucia and she wears a white dress and has a crown of candles on her head, and then of course all the kids go to this gigantic party at a club here with lots of Swedish techno to celebrate haha. It'll be fun.
Well in November I should have changed host families but considering my current host family and I have become quite attached to each other I am staying with them. I'm so glad too. I didn't want to move... We have too much fun in this house. I can't even explain it, they really have become family.
We have so much fun together haha and the house is literally never quiet. I love everything about my life here...my friends, my family, the weather, the language...everything. I love who I am here and as everyday comes and goes I just want to scream STOP!! at the top of my lungs and just freeze time and stay here forever.
January 21 Journal
I remember reading a journal of an outbound kid last year who had this really accurate illustration of how an exchange year goes by. The first months it's like you're holding this big heavy block by a rope very easily over a hole and as the months go by the block gets harder and harder to hold and it starts to slip right through your fingers. I can say I have some massive rope burns. It's almost halfway through the year and, yes, six months is a very long time, but not if they go by as fast as these first six months have.
So let's see, the past month has been more than incredible. Christmas in Sweden is so beautiful. For school we have this thing called avslutning, which was like the end of the term and we all went to Aula to listen to Christmas songs. The choir all walked in singing a song called Sancta Lucia which is very traditional Swedish and one girl is dressed as Lucia with a crown of candles. These girls who were singing were amazing!! They were so talented, it was soo good. This one girl sang that Halleluiah song by Jeff Buckley and I swear like everyone in there had goose bumps.
After that it was Christmas vacation yay! In the states like everyone puts lights all over their houses and and Santas in the yards but here they laugh at us haha. Pretty much every Swedish house has candles (well, lights that look like candles) in every window of the house and then they hang julstjärn (Christmas stars) in some windows. It is soo pretty! It was so much fun going for a run around Christmas as it was getting dark and looking at all the houses with the stars and the candles and yeah it was wow. That's pretty much the only word that comes to mind. Christmas trees are also different here. We didn't put our Christmas tree up until the 23rd of December. It was the cutest tree I have ever seen. It was short and slightly lopsided and it was perfect!
In Sweden as with most European countries we celebrate Christmas on julafton (Christmas eve) the 24th. You get to open your presents then and you eat and the food is excellent. I am obsessed now with sil or pickled herring. It is sooo good! I could literally eat that everyday. There's a whole bunch of different kinds too, like the stuff it's marinated in, onion, mustard, tomato, svartvinbär (I have no idea what kind of berry that is in English), and tons more. We also ate meatballs, the other kind of fish I cant remember the name of, Prince Johan sausages, a type of potato casserole, potatoes, honey baked ham, and yeah...soo good!
On juldagen, Christmas day, you get to eat again but since my family lived in France for a couple years a while ago they have a French Christmas dinner/late lunch. That was very good too. My host dad cooked everything. I tried duck liver paté ... it was very good. And of course cheeses. My host sister and I made this ridiculous movie that day too...It's quite amusing I must say! it's on Youtube if you search for torn mime and then like on the third page you'll see it. If you're brave enough to sit through it haha.
I had to move into another family for two weeks on the 25th because my family went to the states to visit Jonatan my other host brother. A friend of mine from Australia lives with them so we had fun. We went to Copenhagen for the day but ended up missing our train due to a mishap involving a check and a restaurant so we pretty much stayed awake all night in the train station. Wow was that an adventure to remember.
New Years here was very fun. We went to a friend's house and went into the jacuzzi and sauna and then went into town to watch fireworks and meet up with more people. I had no clue that sooo many people lived in my little town. We went to the dock for the fireworks and there were masses upon masses of people there. I was stunned. The fireworks were so beautiful. Its something I'll for sure remember for always.
Thursday was my birthday. I can honestly say best birthday ever!! I was woken up by my entire family attacking me at 7 am with breakfast in bed and loud Swedish singing. It was soo cool!! It was such a surprise, and it's a good thing I sleep with clothes on. haha. My host brother Oskar's girlfriend Michaela lives here too and her birthday was yesterday so we celebrated both her birthday and mine on Friday. It was so fun. Tove (host sister) made me a cake in the shape of guitar. It was such a good birthday...!! I also pretty much chopped off all my hair then also. My neck is now cold.
All I can really say is, I love Sweden, it makes me smile! It has become home.
March 12 Journal
I know I missed another journal...I'm sorry. But hey I blame it on whoever gave February 28 days.
Spring time is just beginning in Karlskrona. It's weird to think about it because here it's starting to get warmer - well "warmer" around 43 degrees F and on Saturday I'm heading north to go skiing where it is about 5 or 6 degrees F.
OK... February was a very fun month. We have this break from school called Sportlov and the president of my Rotary Club invited me to go skiing with him and his two kids. We went to this place called Sälen. It was soo much fun!! I've been doing a lot of snowboarding here. It's very addicting. We were in Sälen for a little over a week. It was so amazing and soooo cold. I actually got frostbite in one of my toes. but it's fine now. It was white and I couldn't feel it... I was so proud too! haha I know that's not quite a good thing but I was kinda excited bc I had never been in such cold weather...In Florida frostbite is what you hear about in stories from your great grandfather saying well in the war I walked twelve miles without my boots....and then there I was with this frostbite thinking there's no way someone could walk 12 miles without boots and only get frostbite in their big toe... because I had like 3 pairs of socks and snowboard boots and still got it. it was fun, definitely a highlight.
On the last day in Sälen, Sanna, the daughter of the family I was with, and I decided to switch. She borrowed my snowboard and I used her skis...just for the morning though. I didn't fall at all on the skis, but a couple of times my legs had like a mind of their own and would go into a straddle position a little too far away for comfort... I'd be like ow ow ow ow all 30 m down the slope. O and then there would be these like little kids on skis who were about as tall as half my leg and they'd be like spinning around and swooshing here and there and were so good... Sanna and I decided we were going to throw snowballs at them. We didn't... we refrained... but we resented them. Sanna and I also decided that she should stick to skiing and I should stick to snowboarding. So we went up the mountain and into the snowpark with ramps and stuff that we'd been playing in and jumping in all week and on the last day I went up on a rail and ate it and like banged my knee on the metal. It's still swollen and bruised and it's almost 3 weeks later haha. Of course on the last day, I mean what did I expect. They have this commercial here on TV where all these people are in a grocery store and no one can move around because they all have casts and then it says, like, welcome to the post sportlov sale...ha ha get it because everyone goes skiing over sportlov and then they fall and have casts. I think it's funny.
My host sister turned 18 the weekend I got back from skiing. It was fun. and that's all I have to say about that haha. =). And I leave for Åre on Saturday for some more skiing fun! hopefully this time I wont fall...maybe I should bring some knee pads. The good thing about falling when you go skiing is you just shove some snow down your pants and then you're good to go. Very convenient.
I cant believe how fast time has gone here. I was thinking about it the other day but only for like 2 seconds because (1) I was slightly hungry so my thought patterns changed and (2) I can't think about it. Everything here is so perfect and the thought of having to leave in four months makes my stomach like drop. It's a weird feeling. I remember when I first arrived and seeing everything in the car ride to my town and instantly falling in love with everything. I am still in love with everything... probably more so. This is the best time now. It truly is where you can just sit back and relax in all the hard work you put in the beginning to learn the language and get to know everyone and then get to know the town and culture. I know the language, I know the people, I know the culture... these last months are going to be the best yet and I know I am for sure going to make them the best.
This is home. To all of you who are just beginning your adventure... just know it's the best thing you will ever do in your entire life, and live every minute of it even in the minutes when you're still in the states. It's all part of it.