Ashley Clinton
2012-13 Outbound to Sweden
Hometown: North Bay Village, FL
School: Miami Arts Charter School
Sponsor: District 6990, FL
Host: District 2370, Sweden
The Rotary Club of Älvsjö


Hej! jag hetter Ashley och jag har varit här i 2 månader. (Hey I'm Ashley and I've been here for 2 months). School started about a month ago and I have this nice little routine, gotten used to yogurt on cereal, the weird cheese slicer, and eco-friendly family....I’d say things are going well. Swedes in general are pretty shy and won't come up to talk to you. You have to go and make the conversation. Pretty much everyone I’ve met has asked me: “Do you like Obama or Romney?”, “Do you have a driver’s license?”, “Do you ”, “Is it really like Miami Vice?”, and “Can you have someone send us red cups?”. It's actually really funny hearing all their theories about the US and Miami. Swedish school is really stress-free compared to American schools. No bells, no hall passes, you just get up and go; it's great! You also have a different schedule every day. It's not block schedule or anything, there is no real structure period system or standard break length. It’s actually like college. 

I could really get used to being able to get wherever I want by bus and/or train. 

I am so happy that I get to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Stockholm. Living here is like living a Miley Cyrus movie! (I'm serious). I live in Älvsjö the little suburbs but I'm 3 train stops from the city, it's AMAZING. I am so in love with the city that is Stockholm. On my 3 hour breaks I go into the city maybe do some shopping and eating. By the way did you know there are 4 H&M's on one block? It's insane! Anyway, my 18th birthday is tomorrow and I'm so excited. My host family has this whole week planned for me. I really am so thankful to have been placed with such a loving family. I have a host sister who's 17 and a little brother who is 15, and I get along with them so well! It's like I've lived with them for more than 2 months.
It's fall now and it's getting colder, I don't know how this Miami girl is going to handle the winter. We shall see!

Hej då!

February 4, 2013

There's no combination of words that can describe the past 6 months in Sweden, but I'll try.

I am so mind blown by the amount of knowledge you can instill in your brain in six months. Now, I'm not perfectly fluent in Swedish but I can understand about 89.9% of the conversations going on, and I feel like I can literally do anything. Being here for just six months has changed my whole perspective on life. I thought that I knew everything I wanted to do regarding college and things to do when I come home from exchange, but now I just feel like the complete opposite of everything I was for. You never really know yourself and what you want in life if you don't go out into the world and truly see if your opinions and plans can be altered or influenced, because mine sure are!

Being here for 6 months has changed my whole life, and it's halfway done. I have had the best host family that anyone could ever ask for. I truly believe I am part of the family and I know I will have this relationship with them for a lifetime. My friends here in Sweden have now opened up to not only me fellow Stockholm exchange students but my Swedish friends at school. They are about the best group of people I have ever met and they're so helpful with school and the language that I can count on them for anything.

Furthermore, I have come to consider Stockholm as my home city and I never want to leave. I thought I understood it, but I didn't I only understood the idea of it, how this one single year could change my whole life and it's something that I will hold with me forever and I can't thank Rotary enough for making this possible. I love everything about my host country and my city. You walk down the streets and you just feel like it' not real, like it' a movie. Being here IS surreal. I've come to love the city of Stockholm so much that I defend it against all the other cities with a rivalry against it. Stockholm is considered the Capital of Scandinavia and I couldn't agree more. When I think about going home I start to cry knowing I will not have all the things Sweden has to offer back home.
I think my turning point here was when our "oldies" from Australia left and we got a new batch of Aussie's and I've got especially close to one and I felt like I've lived in Stockholm all my life when I gave him a tour of the city, knowing it like the back of my hand.

So advice to the to-be exchange students, enjoy every minute of it, never take it for granted and never say no, say yes to everything. Try ANYTHING!

May 26, 2013

Living here for 10 months I have come to appreciate things that I took for granted back home like the hot sun, and the cool beach of Miami. I now know why Swedes light so many candles at dinner time, to keep it cozy and have some light in the dark time of the winter. Sweden has taught me to really appreciate home and the things I have there, but also be so curious to want to try new things and see the world from another perspective. I now only have a mere 59 days left in Stockholm and I want to cry because I have never been so in love with another country as I am with Sweden. Exchange is an opportunity of a lifetime that cannot be described in words or pictures, as much as you sit there and read through other people's journals. Because there's a certain feeling you get in the moments you have here and only other exchange students can understand it. You can't stop time, you can only think on the many memories; having bonfires wit h all the exchange students in Stockholm, getting lost in a Stockholm suburb on your way to a party because the streets all look the same, gaining weight from meatballs and numerous fika and waiting outside at 2am for 2 hours in the freezing arctic wearing nothing but pajama shorts uggs and a down jacket with another american exchange student because you thought you saw the Northern Lights, when in fact it was just the sun rising, but nothing had ever seemed more beautiful than that.

Saint Augustine said "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." This quote is what I have lived by my entire life, and having the opportunity to leave my home country and travel to Europe has let me read more than one chapter of my book and surely bring me more to come in the future. Travel makes you modest, and you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. This year abroad has really opened my eyes and saved me from making choices that I didn't want to make, this year has taught me so much about myself. I'm not sure what I'll do, but I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale. So I thank Rotary for giving me this chance to go abroad and I thank the Rotary club of Älvsjö for hosting me this year and for putting me with two amazing families and giving me the opportunity to take your country in fully, experience all the culture and live like a tr ue Swede.

Jag älska Sverige ! Tack för en fantastiskt år. De här inte hej då. Du och jag vi ses igen, Puss puss :* <3