School day jitters

By Sue Staton

Community columnist

Nearly everyone who has ever gone to school has had a few moments of anxiety starting the first day of a new year. Some even got it in kindergarten, entering first grade, going from elementary to junior high school and then starting into high school. For others some will be leaving home and going into college. All are exciting times in one’s life.

Now, I want you to imagine the jitters you might feel if you were going to school in a completely new school, new city, new state, and even a new country. That is what Johanna Osteroem from Gothenburg, Sweden will experience on her first day of school at George Rogers Clark High School this week.

Johanna admitted to me she is becoming very nervous thinking about it the closer it has become. Johanna is an exchange student staying with the Rufus Cravens, Jr. family. She is happy with her host family which is a plus for her.

Other than her host family she has met only a few others. One is her United States history teacher. I had the privilege to meet her one afternoon at the Walgreen Pharmacy. Having lived here nearly all my life I knew she was not a local. Then when I heard her speak I tried to guess what country she was from. She told me she was from Sweden. I had been to Stockholm, Sweden before and knew I had heard her accent from somewhere.

When she told me she was an exchange student I became excited and explained to her that my husband and I had hosted an exchange student from Indonesia one year and it was a wonderful experience for us and her. I let Johanna know she was with a wonderful family.

I asked her if I could interview her for my article and she agreed. So, here is what I have learned about Johanna from my interview with her. I asked her if she had a brother or sister in Sweden and she said she had a brother who was fifteen years old.

I asked Johanna when she got here and she told me she arrived in Winchester on July 29th. She had been to the United States in 2019 where she spent a month learning more about the language and customs here. She was in Long Beach, California with EF exchange students from around the world. She was supposed to have gotten to begin her year in 2020 but due to the Corona virus pandemic she was unable to do so.

I remembered every country I had been to that all the countries spoke some English and could understand us, because it is taught in all the schools in other countries. She said she had been learning English since the third grade in Sweden. I then asked her what word was the hardest word to learn in English and she told me, jewelry was hard for her to learn. She told me the teacher in California helped her so much with that word. It was then I asked her what attributes did her favorite teacher have. She told me she was kind, open, and helpful and the teacher in California was her favorite teacher. Though she never said it, I would think another attribute this lady had was patience.

Johanna told me the people in California were very friendly to her. I asked her in comparison to California how did Kentucky people so far compare to them and she said Kentuckians were friendlier. I was so happy to hear that and I have to agree.

When I asked her what was the strangest or most confusing thing she has seen in the USA, she told me it was drive through banking. The other thing was trucks. They have neither in Sweden.

As in most other countries an exchange student has to make up the school year they spend in the United States. Even though Johanna is eighteen years old she will be a freshman this year. Actually I think that is a good thing because it will not be so hard on her. When we had our exchange student she took the junior year of school the same she would have been in her country. She never complained but I knew it was so difficult at first for her.

Johanna said her biggest fear is not getting to be on the dance team at GRC. I hope she gets to. She does artistic ball room dancing in Sweden and I could tell it was a passion for her. 

I asked Johann what the time difference was from our time and that of her home in Sweden and she told me there is a six hour difference between Winchester time and Gothenburg, Sweden. 

The thing she said she will miss the most is her Mom’s Swedish meatballs which is also her favorite Swedish meal. I was a little shocked to learn that her favorite food is Thai food. The Swedes make all their own pasta from scratch. Johanna said she does like Fazoli’s and Arby’s here. 

I am hoping Johanna has a wonderful year here in Winchester. I told her I would say a prayer often for her. She seems to be a beautiful young lady both inside and in appearance. I wish her the best.