Caroline Bernet

Sweden

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach Sunset, Florida
Host District: 2370
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Södertälje Östra


My Bio


Hej! My name is Caroline Bernet. I am so excited to spend my year abroad in the beautiful country of Sweden! My home consists of my mom, dad, sister, brother and four cats. I was raised in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Maryland before moving to the Jacksonville, Florida area. The weather here in Florida is very pleasant, and we live about 15 minutes away from the beach. In my spare time you can find me hanging out with friends, playing piano, volunteering at the local library, and spoiling our cats. My family has hosted many exchange students over the years and I’m so excited to become the daughter and sister of my own future host families in Sweden. Currently, I am a tenth grader attending a performing arts high school and study both classical and jazz saxophone. Through my experiences, I can see how valuable it is to be able to communicate with people through music, and can’t wait to have the same feeling as I learn Swedish. Not too long ago, my family had a chance to visit Stockholm briefly and I fell in love with the beautiful buildings, cobblestone streets, and the mix of old and modern architectural styles. Through my exchange, I am looking forward to gaining lifelong friendships, independence, and a new perspective of the world. Thank you, Rotary, so much for this amazing, life changing opportunity!

At the top of Fjätervålen (We could see mountains in Norway from up here!)

At the top of Fjätervålen (We could see mountains in Norway from up here!)

View from our apartment balcony!

View from our apartment balcony!

View in the forest my host grandparents bought!

View in the forest my host grandparents bought!

Nice stop for fika 

Nice stop for fika 

Cottage from my other host grandparents summer place

Cottage from my other host grandparents summer place

My host brother and I carved a pumpkin

My host brother and I carved a pumpkin

Drove by lots of reindeer during my trip to Fjätervålen!

Drove by lots of reindeer during my trip to Fjätervålen!

Rotary District Conference

Rotary District Conference

Autumn break

Autumn break

A Floridian enjoying winter. Wait no… October!

A Floridian enjoying winter. Wait no… October!

Cambridge with some of my classmates!

Cambridge with some of my classmates!

Skiing with my host family

Skiing with my host family

First real snowfall of winter in Stockholm

First real snowfall of winter in Stockholm

View from my host grandparents front yard in Fjätervålen (that’s the mountain we went skiing down)

View from my host grandparents front yard in Fjätervålen (that’s the mountain we went skiing down)

Ikea date (yes, Swedish meatballs) with two of my exchange friends

Ikea date (yes, Swedish meatballs) with two of my exchange friends

	 One of our last days of schools we did Christmas activities, with an Ecological theme. Here I am singing a Swedish Christmas song (with a new Ecological twist) with my class

One of our last days of schools we did Christmas activities, with an Ecological theme. Here I am singing a Swedish Christmas song (with a new Ecological twist) with my class

Christmas baking!

Christmas baking!

I am going to miss Sweden's sunsets

I am going to miss Sweden's sunsets

Dog sledding!

Dog sledding!

This was taken before eating traditional Sámi food; Reindeer with lingonberry jam

This was taken before eating traditional Sámi food; Reindeer with lingonberry jam

Skiing with exchange students

Skiing with exchange students

Building a snowman and igloo with siblings from my second host family.

Building a snowman and igloo with siblings from my second host family.

Meeting reindeer

Meeting reindeer

Journals: Caroline-Sweden Blog 2018-19

  • Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

    I have just started my ninth month of exchange, and it is truly crazy how fast time has started to fly by ever since January. I’m running out of weekends to meet up with all the amazing people I have met here in Sweden. As my classmates here discuss what classes they will take next year, I am reminded that my life in Sweden is ending soon. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in this void. I am excited to see my friends and family back in Florida, i’m excited for summer weather, and to really see how I have grown as a person as I adjust to my life in the US. However, I am not ready to say goodbye to my host family, exchange friends, and school friends. It’s a weird feeling to create this whole other life in just under a year, and then have to leave it all behind. Towards the beginning of my exchange, sometimes time would feel as if it was dragging. Now it feels like time is moving so much faster than usual--too fast.

    Halfway through January I changed to my second host family. Although it was nerve wracking to change families, it has been a good experience living with two different families. I really love my new host family and am so thankful to have been placed with them! Something I have realized while on exchange, is that the little things are truly what makes this year memorable. Yes, Rotary trips are amazing, but making sushi with my host family or dancing with my younger host sister are some of my favorites moments.

    I have had some awesome opportunities for trips these past months as well. Earlier in March I went on a trip to Kiruna, Sweden with other exchange students. Kiruna is located in the Arctic circle, and is the northernmost town in Sweden. In Kiruna I was able to go dog sledding, see the Ice Hotel and northern lights, learn about the Sámi culture (indigenous people of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia), and pet/feed reindeer! Although my feet and fingers were freezing most of the time, it truly was an incredible trip. I have also gone skiing with both my host family and just recently on a trip with other exchange students. The ski trip was actually my favorite Rotary trip. Being goofy with exchange students, eating three tubs of ice cream over three days, and watching each other fall down while skiing made for some priceless memories and pictures.

    I am not ready to leave Sweden, but I am excited to make the most of my last three months of exchange. As of right now I am waiting for warmer weather, but I can happily say the sun comes out more and flowers have begun to bloom :) My family is coming to Sweden to visit this Friday and I am so excited and proud to have them try my new favorite foods, meet some wonderful people, and just show them my other home.

    Click HERE to read more about Caroline and all her blogs

  • Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

    Hej hej! I figured I should write a journal to start off the new year. Happy 2019!

    It’s normal life over here. I go to school, take a dance class, meet up with friends, and eat way too many carbs and sweets. Some days I feel a little more homesick for no apparent reason, but I mostly feel quite content over here. I am about to switch to my next host family, which is nerve wracking but also exciting! I really feel at home with my current family, so I am sad to have to leave them, but I am looking forward to experiencing life differently with another family.

    School is definitely difficult. Although I have some really great and caring friends, I miss being able to understand the entirety of lectures and being able to complete assignments and tests. However, with the start of 2019, I’m going to try my best to change the way I feel about school. I am also beginning to help a class of 10-year-olds with English. Well more accurately, I will speak Swedish with them and they will speak English with me. It’s the perfect scenario, because speaking Swedish is much more difficult than understanding. I have already met the kids and they are super sweet, so I’m grateful for this new experience.

    To my surprise, I wasn’t terribly homesick over the holidays. It was exciting celebrating in a new way, and it definitely helps that I really enjoy spending time with my host family. During the holiday break we returned to one of my host grandparents house in Fjätervålen. I tried cross country skiing for the first time, and although I was quite terrible at it, I would love to be able to try it again when I get back to the States! We also rode snow scooters, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The sun was still rising, creating skies painted with pink. Look left--there’s a mountain covered with snow, glistering like crystals. Look right--there’s a typical Swedish red cottage surrounded by trees. I wish I could have captured it on camera, but some moments are best just to experience.

    I am almost at my halfway point through my exchange. Although it is the most difficult thing I have done in my life, I would not trade it in for anything. Sometimes it can be tiring to constantly pick yourself up again and again. It was like when I tried skiing (downhill) again. After falling for the hundredth time, I just wanted to lay in the snow and give up. Sometimes you can feel the same about exchange. However you find the strength in you--and I have certainly learned in these past 5 months that I am much stronger as a person than I ever knew-- and you pick yourself up again. Through struggles to express myself through Swedish, missing my cats, traveling to and from school in pitch black and freezing temperatures, I have definitely struggled on this journey. My best advice to the new outbounds is to talk to people! Talk to other exchange students, your counselor, Rotex, school friends! I also 100% recommend to journal, and don’t feel pressure to journal everyday. Just have a place where you can write down your thoughts, especially when you are feeling a rush of emotions. It is really inspiring to go back and read and see how much you have grown as a person. I think it’s really important to have an outlet to let all your feelings out, because I have found I can’t express how I am feeling as much as I need to.

    “Going through things you never thought you’d go through will only take you places you never thought you’d get to.” Morgan Harper Nichols

    I can’t imagine my life without exchange. I am so proud of the person I am becoming and I am looking forward to the second half of my adventure here in Sweden!

    Tack Rotary! Tack så så mycket familjen Bjerka! Jag kommer att sakna er! Ni är alltid välkommen till mig i Florida!!

    Mom and dad, I look forward to showing you guys my new home in April and giving you guys a big hug!

    Hej då och gott nytt år!

    Caroline Bernet

    Click HERE to read more about Caroline and all her blogs

  • Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

    The point of these journals is to show the feelings of an exchange student, however it’s incredibly difficult to describe my emotions. For example, the weeks seem to go by super fast, but at the same time, I feel like I have been gone from home for a year already. Sometimes I feel so exhilarated and happy. Like when walking through Stockholm as it snows--in October, or when one of my host brothers said he didn’t want me to change host families. Those feelings make for amazing highs, where I truly feel on top of the world. However, just like regular life, there are moments where I feel so empty and like I’m missing something. Sometimes it can be hard to take in that I still have 8 months on exchange. Not because I don’t love Sweden or my host family, but just because exchange is more emotionally and mentally draining then I could ever imagine.

    My favorite moments are either spent with my host family or with a really cool exchange student from Belgium that I met named Marie-Liese. My host parents are so caring, and my host brothers are so goofy and fun, so I absolutely love spending time with them. Marie-Liese and I love to meet up for fika breaks at cute little bakeries and then walk around Stockholm. However I think the long walks might start coming to an end because it’s truly starting to get cold, and yes she thinks it’s cold too, not just me the Floridian haha!

    Two really fun things happened in October. (Also my host family decorated the house with decorations and we baked Halloween treats, so it truly felt like October!!)

    Firstly, all of the first year students in my school went on a trip to England! We stayed in Cambridge and saw all the beautiful architecture, and one of the days we went sightseeing in London. Since my line or track at school is natural sciences (aka i have biology, psychics, and lots of math) we also visited a botanical garden and a science center. It was a great way to get to know my classmates better, and I really felt apart of the school!

    Secondly, I returned back up to my host grandparents winter house in Fjätervålen during autumn break. The week was filled with walks through snowy forests, lots of hot cocoa, and tons of board games played with my host brother, Vide, and my host grandparents. It was so cozy and fun! I also ate moose meat and it was really good!

    This past month has really made me think of a certain quote by the one and only Winnie the Pooh; "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." I miss my family back home like crazy, and sometimes all I wish is that I could be running into their arms at the Jacksonville airport, however I know that this year is not forever. I mean, I’m already 3 months in! That sounds crazy to me!

    To those currently in the application process, I wish you luck at interviews! You’re applying to an amazing program that truly transforms you as a person. I already feel so much stronger as a person, and I’m not even half-way through!

    Thanks for reading!

    Caroline Bernet

    Click HERE to read more about Caroline and all her blogs

  • Caroline, Outbound to Sweden

    Hej från Sverige!!

    From stopping to eat blueberries as I climbed up mountains with my host family, to having to stop in the road to let reindeer pass, my time here so far has felt surreal!

    I arrived in Sweden August 1st and I have enjoyed my first month here so much! I live in Stockholm, but the second day I was here in Sweden, my host family brought me to their grandparents winter house. It’s about 6 hours from Stockholm and their house is located right next to a mountain for skiing. (Fjätervålen) We walked through forests, bathed (a lot), climbed mountains, picked blueberries then made blueberry pie, went fishing, and saw lots of reindeer! Everything was so beautiful and there was a stillness and quietness in the air that was so beautiful.

    I really like my host family!! They are so fun, kind and welcoming and I am so happy I am with them! I have a 12 year old brother (Vide), 13 year old brother (Kasper), 15 year old sister (Lova) and then my host parents (Nicklas & Kristina). Lova just left for France, and although i’m so excited for her to start her exchange, i’m sad our month together is up!

    Another fun thing I did was go crayfishing with my host family. Although I didn’t participate in putting the dead fish in the traps, I did get to go out on the little boat and pull up the crayfish we caught from the water! We then had a party, which consisted of quiche, lots of bread and cheese, crayfish, and ice cream cake.

    As for school, I started August 20th and I’m in the natural sciences track. This means i have biology and lots of math, in addition to Swedish, religion, Spanish, P.E., and English. My class at school really feels like a community. I’m in the first year so everybody is new to the school and everyone seems to look out for each other. I have people to sit lunch with everyday and hang out with during breaks between classes. And we all bonded over feeling super sore after our first gym class haha.

    So how is school in Sweden different?

    -Schools have different programs. (At my school they have the economics track and natural sciences track.)

    -I have the same people in all of my classes which I love! It makes it easy to really bond and get to know people

    -Teachers commonly let students out of class 10/15 minutes earlier if they’re done with lessons.

    -I start/end at different times every day. (On Thursday I start at 10:10 and on Friday I get out at 2!!)

    -Everybody gets a laptop

    -Lunch is free, and they always have knäckebröd (hard bread) with butter set out, as well as vegetarian/vegan options.

    What else is different about Sweden?

    -Everybody is out walking, biking, bathing and enjoying the nice weather! This goes along with an important right in Sweden, Allemansrätten一or "everyman's right.” Under this, Swedes are granted the right to roam wherever they please in the countryside, forests, etc., as long as they respect the land.

    -Little kids have a lot of freedom/independence and you even see young kids finding their way to school by themselves via public transportation.

    -There’s bread/cheese/butter with almost every meal. (And I’m in love…)

    -People don’t drink as much water or just beverages in general. Maybe i’m just so used to having to stay hydrated in Florida, but it’s definitely weird using tiny cups, and not having free refills.

    -Fika really is a prominent thing in Sweden! Basically fika is where you take a break, drink coffee and eat sweets, and maybe catch up with friends. I’m always happy for a fika break!

    And Homesickness?

    Of course I have moments where i really miss my family, friends and cats, but I also know this year will not last forever and I need to appreciate and enjoy it as much as I can! It’s hard to have to say goodbye to all that you know, but the thing is you have so many hellos and new experiences waiting for you ahead. Yes there are days I wish I could be eating Chick-fil-a with my friends or making countless target runs with my mom, but i know those moments will be waiting for me when I return home. It’s also important to find a balance of communication back home. I don’t think you have to cut off communication completely, but also don’t go overboard every day.

    “We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

    Lastly I wanted to say thanks, tack så mycket, to Rotary for making my exchange possible! Thanks to Mrs. Paula/Jeff for all your passion, dedication and kindness you pour into this program. And of course thanks to all the support and love from my family and friends!

    Vänliga hälsningar,

    Caroline Bernet

    Click HERE to read more about Caroline and all her blogs

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