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Swedish student enjoying American experience

When Alex Arrhen decided she wanted to study abroad, she knew one thing - she was going to America. What she didn't know is exactly where in America.

When Arrhen got the notice that she had been placed in New Richmond, she was a little hesitant.

"I looked on Google maps and when I saw it (New Richmond), there were no cars on the street. It looked like an old, empty town," she said.

The 17-year-old said her attitude changed when she read the letter from her host family, Nathan and Rachel Warner.

"They seemed to be so good for me," she said. "After I read their letter, I didn't care so much about the town."

Arrhen arrived in New Richmond on Aug. 24 and was pleasantly surprised.

"I've met a lot of good people," she said.

Arrhen said her mother also spent a year studying in America when she was a teenager. While she didn't push her daughter to follow in her footsteps, Arrhen said hearing the stories from her mother's experience made her want to go.

"And I really like American movies and I wanted to experience that life," she said. "I'm the kind of girl who likes to experience a lot of things and keep busy."

So far, Arrhen's said she's enjoyed the American lifestyle.

"I'm really looking forward to prom," she said. "We don't have prom in Sweden and I can't wait to go dress shopping."

She's also playing tennis and basketball through the school, she said. In the spring, she hopes to try softball.

"We don't have sports at school," she said. "You have to go out in the community and there can be (waiting lists). You might not even get to play."

Arrhen said she's also looking forward to spending Christmas in America.

"My family travels a lot so we don't have many traditions," she said. "Yesterday (Sunday) we decorated the Christmas tree and that was a lot of fun."

Arrhen said being away from home for months hasn't been as hard as she expected.

"I missed them a lot at first," she said. "But now, when we Skype and they say they have to go, I just say, 'OK, I have to go too,'" she said.

She said she gets to talk to them every other week and keeps up with her friends through Facebook.

Arrhen said there have been some challenges in adapting to New Richmond.

The biggest challenge is transportation, she said.

"I told my mom I wanted to go to Minneapolis this weekend and she told me I should take the bus," Arrhen said with a laugh. "I had to tell her there are no buses here. You have to go to Minneapolis to take the bus."

Arrhen said she was also surprised by how politically correct people are in America.

"We talk about things more in Sweden, like sex and gay things," she said. "Sweden is also more open about politics and religion."

Her classes have been similar to those in her home country; however, Arrhen said she's really enjoyed serving on the yearbook committee.

"We don't have yearbooks in Sweden," she said. "That's been a lot of fun. I like to take photos."

She also enrolled in the school's creative writing class and had the opportunity to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Creative Writing Festival where her work was critiqued.

"That was a lot of fun too," she said.

Arrhen will stay in New Richmond until June, when she travels back to her home country. Until then, she said she's looking forward to experiencing more of the American lifestyle.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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