From Sweden to Colome, Student Adjusts to Life in a Small Town

By Dan Bechtold, Editor

Friday was the last day of school in Colome and for Alice Rehnberg, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, it is bitter sweet.

She is going to miss all the friends she has made at Colome High School but is also looking forward to seeing her parents the end of May.

For Rehnberg, it has been a fun year at Colome. She has made so many friends and found the faculty and staff at Colome High School so willing to help.

Rehnberg has an outgoing personality that makes it easy for her to make new friends and feel included in school activities.


The student is from Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm is the capital of Sweden with about 2 million people. The city, located on the east coast of Sweden, stretches across 14 islands.

Stockholm is the cultural, media, political and economic center of Sweden.

While in Colome, Rehnberg’s host parents are Clint and Robin Nelson.

It is interesting to note that Alice’s twin sister, Sophie, is a foreign exchange student who has spent the school year in Texas. Two of their friends are also exchange students—one in Kansas and one in Nebraska.

Alice will leave South Dakota on May 28 to fly to Texas to meet her sister and her parents will meet them in Texas. The family will return to Sweden on June 11 and then spend a week in France on vacation. Alice says it will be a change to catch up on her French which she has studied since she was 12.

Alice’s father is a retired chef and her mother works for an Italian food company.

Alice was a junior at Colome High School but when she returns home this year in America does not count so she will have two years of high school left.

Student Travel Schools Foundation (STS) is the organization that Alice applied to be an exchange student. It is a Department of State sponsored high school exchange program.

Two years ago Alice and her sister decided their wanted to be exchange students in America. They attended a meeting and then had to fill out a lot of paperwork. “It took months before we knew we were accepted and the name of the host family,” she said.

Alice did not know anything about South Dakota. “That is what made me so excited,” she explained.

Now Stockholm has a population of over 2 million and Colome has under 300 so the change was a culture shock for the young student making her first trip to America.

Everywhere I went I met new people. It is not like that in Sweden,” she noted.

She says her family lives in a suburb of Stockholm which is about 50 miles from the city yet this suburb has a population of over 100,000.

At Colome, Alice has taken three art classes (I like art), algebra II, English and multi media.

In sports, she played basketball and runs track. In track she ran the 100, 200 and 400. However, in the first meet she hurt her knee has not been able to run.

Basketball was her favorite sport and she felt Kory Foss was a cool coach. “There are so many techniques to learn in basketball and for me it was hard to understand. I was not very good at getting the ball in the basket.”

She says school is very different in Sweden. Students go to the same school until they graduate from the 9th grade. Then they can apply for a different program. Alice chose a language program. In her school, there are 1,300 students in three grades. The school is on one of the islands in Stockholm. It takes her about 45 minutes to get to school each days. First she takes a bus into the city and then takes a subway to the school. She has two years remaining before she graduates. Then she would like to go to a university and do something that combines working with animals and travel.

School is in session five days week. However, class times vary depending on the day of the week. Some times a class will start at 8:20 a.m. and another class will start at 11 a.m. and there is an hour break during the school day.

The three basic course requirements in Sweden are math, Swedish and English.

In Sweden, there are sports but they are not connected to the school. She says soccer is big but it is more of a community team.

In her home country, Alice does horseback riding, something she has done since the age of 4. She says it is a competitive sport.

Seeing an organized school sports team in Colome was new for Alice. She loved going to football games on Friday night and seeing the students and community cheering on the team. “I was hoping I would come to a small town because I like the way everyone comes together in a small town.

In her school in Sweden, there is no homecoming so taking part in Colome homecoming was fun.

If they started something like homecoming in Sweden I do not think a lot of people would participate.”

While in South Dakota, Alice has been able to so some traveling to Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse. At Thanksgiving she traveled to Oklahoma with the Nelson family.

To keep in contact with her parents, she Skypes at least once or twice a week. She says it is hard to find a time to do it since there is a seven hour time difference.

Food is different for Alice. She says they have hamburgers and pizza at home but do not eat as much as Americans. “Americans eat a lot of meat. We do not eat meat at every meal with have more fish and vegetables,” said explained.

The foreign exchange student enjoys seeing new places. Every time she travels with the Colome team or the Nelson family there is a new town to see.

When asked what she will miss, Alice said the people and the community spirit of Colome.

Alice has been a good fit at Colome High School and tears may flow as she says goodbye to close friends.

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