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Woodbury student to spend five months in Sweden

Starting this month Noah Eckberg will be embarking on a new adventure - in Sweden.

Eckberg, who will be a sophomore at East Ridge High School this fall, will spend about five months studying abroad in Norrköphing, Sweden.

"It will be a life changing experience," he said. "It'll be an eye opening experience."

Eckberg got the opportunity to travel to Sweden thanks to his former next door neighbors who recently moved back to Sweden.

"While they were here they said if I ever wanted to go to Sweden and study with them, go ahead," he said. "It sounded like a great opportunity."

Since Eckberg is staying with his neighbors, he opted not to go through a student exchange program.

"I'm doing this all on my own," he said.

Swedish schools

Eckberg will begin school Aug. 20.

"I'll go to school there as a normal Swedish student," he said.

Schools in Sweden are very specialized in terms of curriculum, so Eckberg will be either attending an anatomy school or an engineering school.

"At first I thought it was my decision, but then I found out that they'll be putting me wherever they have space," he said. "I'm not really a huge science person, I like more social sciences."

During school, Eckberg will be taking classes in biology or chemistry, math, geography or Swedish government, English and Swedish.

Eckberg said all of his credits should transfer back to East Ridge.

"How it will affect grades is still yet to be seen," he said. "Hopefully it shouldn't be a problem."

However, Eckberg will have to keep up with most of his classes at East Ridge so he doesn't fall behind.

In fact, Eckberg will be taking an online world history class.

One unusual aspect of school in Sweden is that Eckberg will technically be in "first grade" since Swedish schools start back at one in high school.

Even though Eckberg has started studying Swedish with Rosetta Stone curriculum, he said he is a little nervous about the language barrier in his classes.

"It'll take me longer to do homework because of the language," he said. "I don't want the trip to be completely about school, I want to be involved in the culture as well."

Experiencing Swedish culture

Eckberg said he is looking forward to experiencing the Swedish people's outlook on life.

"Here it's more live to work rather than work to live," he said, "There it's the opposite - I'm excited for that."

In terms of Swedish food, Eckberg isn't too nervous.

"I've had Swedish food before; I don't like herring and that's the only thing I don't like," he said. "A lot of the food is different, but it's not as drastic as if I was going somewhere else - especially in Minnesota with such a Scandinavian heritage."

In order to prepare for his trip to Sweden, Eckberg said he has been studying the language, reading the Swedish newspaper daily and watching Swedish television.

"I'm trying to be as involved as I can from America," he said. "But really, the learning is going to come from being immersed over there."

Eckberg said he is also hoping to travel outside Sweden, and visit other European countries, during his trip.

He said he would like to visit Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and maybe even France.

Adjusting to Sweden

Eckberg said the trip will have its fair share of challenges, too.

He said he anticipates Swedish students wanting to speak English to him.

"Everyone is going to want to practice their English on me," he said. "But I've already learned how to say 'I want to speak Swedish' while I'm there."

Another challenge he anticipates facing is adjusting to living in a new household.

"I'll have a new set of siblings and new parents," he said.

Lastly, Eckberg said adjusting to the Swedish winters will be a challenge.

Sweden doesn't have nearly as extreme cold temperatures as here in Minnesota, but at times there will be only four or five hours of sunlight, Eckberg said.

Northern Sweden has no sunlight during the winter.

Eckberg said he is excited to leave for Sweden and experience everything he can.

"One of my pet peeves about the U.S. is that we're very into ourselves," he said. "We love America, but sometimes we forget that there's a whole other world outside the U.S., so I am looking forward to gaining a broader world perspective.

"I'm mainly focused on how eye opening it's going to be and how different it's going to be."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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