Young Voices: A welcome home: The end of a year abroad

JOEL ABERG, Swedish exchange student 2013-14

In the beginning of the spring of 2013, I was told by my organization, EF, that my future exchange year’s destination had been decided. After years of preparations, it seemed like the endless paperwork finally paid off. I was randomly picked to spend my year abroad in Dundee, Minn., a place with as few as 68 inhabitants.

However, since my exchange year would be a huge contrast to where I usually live, Stockholm, I thought: “Why not; let’s go to Minnesota.” Nevertheless, due to a lack of high school sports and the issue that I would have had to stay in the same house as three other exchange students, I declared that I would prefer if EF could find me a new place.

At present, that decision was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

In late May, EF called me about the new place they had found. Apparently, there was a place in northern Oregon called Hood River, a place that through my Google research was dominated by windsurfing and fruit orchards.

But due to the lack of American geographical knowledge, to me, Oregon just seemed to be a state with borders to the famous state of California. But as time passed, Oregon gradually turned into so much more.

Time flew, and finally it was time for the biggest adventure of my life to begin. The 23rd of July 2013, I moved from the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, to this little, West Coast city, Hood River.

Today, almost 11 months have passed since that day. Therefore, I would like to reflect and share my thoughts before I leave Hood River, a town that I nowadays call my second home.

First of all, the year at Hood River Valley High School has been amazing. Crazy activities at the Homecoming Week, being part of the soccer and lacrosse team, study interesting classes, all the dances, being on the Prom Court, Luau, and Mr. HRV are all lifelong memories.

But, behind all of these events, there are a lot of efforts made from dedicated souls in our community. Therefore, I would like to thank all of the teachers and boosters at the high school for helping me through this year and doing their best to make me feel welcomed.

My exchange year had almost not begun before I was a part of the school’s soccer program. People told me the squad had potential to go far into the playoffs, something they proved last year when they reached state semifinal.

This year we aimed even further, a goal we achieved. Therefore, I would like to thank Jaime Rivera for letting me be a part of this team and for giving me the vital spot on the team as he gave me. Also, I really appreciate that all my teammates truly welcomed me into their little “family.”

Furthermore, I would like to thank the whole community of Hood River for supporting us all season long. Without your support, going as far as to the state championship at Hillsboro Stadium, would just have been a dream. Also, I would like to thank John Munk, Matt Luchsinger, and George Dolack at the lacrosse department for letting me play for them.

In school, during events, and in sports, I have made a lot of amazing friends. They have showed me the American culture and lifestyle. My friends have done so much for me. Together, we have done a lot of interesting activities. Also, they shared their interest in outdoor activities, something I will do my best to forward to my friends in Sweden. To all of you out there: Thank you very much, I will never forget you!

Last, but certainly not least; I would like to thank my host families for making this year so incredible. They have put a lot of time and made economical sacrifices so I could experience the best of Hood River and the U.S.

To live in a totally new family has been different, but primarily very worthwhile. However, they welcomed me into their families and we have been through a lot together. Without their love and acceptance, my homesickness would have been much worse and my experience not as amazing.

At the time range of 11 months, I have experienced things I never even dreamt of doing. Almost one year ago, Hood River welcomed me into their town, to experience a year abroad in their local high school. While here, I have gotten close to my host families and made a lot of amazing friends.

All together, the whole community of Hood River made my time here the best year of my life. It will be hard to leave, but I know for certain: I will be back here soon; to experience even more, with people I love, in the beautiful Hood River.

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