After a day of traveling, we have finally made it to Oslo, Norway. Although we had a great time in Stockholm, we cannot wait to see what is behind the next door. So far we have attended several environmentally friendly communities and buildings, an open preschool, parental leave discussions, a youth center, and much more. Out of all of these visits, my favorite has been the youth center.
The youth center was started several years ago, in the hopes that it would give children, especially immigrant children, a safe place to go and socialize. It was built inside of an old warehouse that now holds several dance studios, a large cafe, three gyms, two indoor skate parks, hang out rooms, and a "quiet room" where students can go to be alone, pray, etc. The other cool thing about this youth center is that it is connected to a high school. Because of the connection, the high school has been able to set up a program that allows students to focus on a passion in addition to their other studies. Passions can range from basketball, to dance, to skateboarding. There are periods in the students day where they come to the youth center to work on their passion, which later acts as a graded course. This concept is something totally new and exciting that a many of us felt would be an awesome addition to places like the Twin Cities or Rochester, Minnesota.
After a busy week of traveling throughout Sweden and touring places like the youth center, we got the opportunity to relax and spend this past weekend with a host family. Ellen Larsen and I (Kennedy Helberg) spent our weekend with Marie Nilsonne and her daughter. This was the experience of a lifetime as we got to look at family dynamics and discuss current issues in society with regular Swedish citizens. Ellen and I enjoyed our Friday night getting settled and discussing what we thought Sweden was doing right surrounding parental leave and education. We enjoyed hearing Marie’s opinions and what she thought could be done better. Marie often referred to the US, reminding me of the influence we have throughout the world and the responsibility that comes with it.
On Saturday morning, we started with a ferry ride to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The Vasa Museum is home to an enormous ship that was pulled from the ocean almost fully intact. We learned that the ship only made it 1,800 km from Stockholm before sinking in the Baltic Sea. Shockingly, The Baltic’s polluted water is what preserved it so well. After finishing up there, we made our way to the Stockholm Castle. As we walked through the castle, I contemplated why anyone would need 5 gallons, each one for a different occasion, in their house while Ellen dreamt about how good of a princess she would be. We finished our day meeting up with Samantha Clements and Neve Heimer-Lang and their host family to see the “Nutcracker” ballet and grab a quick dinner.
On Sunday, Ellen and I went walking around Gamla Stan (Old town), Stockholm, shopping and taking pictures. For lunch, we went to The Liffey Irish Pub where we ate the best fish and chips either of us has ever had. After lunch, we continued our shopping. We finally finished our night eating a family dinner with Marie and her daughter. This was the highlight of my time with the Nilsonne family. Ellen and I got the chance to talk about Luther and explain the music ensembles, athletic programs, our majors, and social life on campus. It was so exciting to answer questions and share/explain all the things we get to do there.
Sweden has taught us the importance of caring for youth and providing spaces for them to grow as well as reminding us how much our country influences the world. This reminder of our influence is something we are able to take with us as we set out into our own community(s) to make a difference.