By Jenny Schouppe
News Report Staff
Ludvig Landgren grew up listening to stories about his father’s and step-brother’s experiences when they traveled to the United States for foreign exchange programs.
His father, Dick, spent time in Idaho going to school and playing soccer. He went on to receive a scholarship, which later led him to play soccer professionally.
His step brother, Maxi, also participated in a foreign exchange program. He spent time in 2006 in Ohio experiencing all of what America had to offer.
Ludvig knew from a young age that he would want to follow in their footsteps and experience traveling and then living in the United States, even if it was only for a school year.
“They both had a really good time and experienced a lot of things they wouldn’t have experienced back in Sweden,” explained Ludvig. “It definitely inspired me to come here.”
When the timing was right -- when his school and soccer schedules allowed him -- he started looking into programs in which he could travel to the United States. He eventually settled with a program known as “EF Student Exchange”.
He was then placed with a host family -- Amber and David Wendt, of Teutopolis, and their son Gage -- and then he prepared himself for the adventure of a lifetime.
Ludvig grew up 20 minutes outside Sweden’s capital of Stockholm where he claims to have had the “typical childhood”.
He would go to school and participate in soccer and would hang out with his friends. He also enjoyed spending time eating his favorite traditional Swedish dishes like fish, meatballs and potatoes.
His lifestyle has not changed much since coming to the States at the beginning of the school year. He has been enjoying his time as a member of the Teutopolis varsity soccer team, in which he has made many friends. When he’s not in school, he’s with his friends and commonly enjoying his favorite American food -- pizza.
The 16-yeard-old Swedish native has experienced somewhat of a culture shock though.
The school system was a big change for him to adjust to.
Here in the United States, school starts and ends at the same times on a regular basis. But according to Ludvig, schools in Sweden have start and end times that vary from day-to-day, similar to college courses.
Another difference was that Ludvig had the opportunity to pick certain classes he wanted to participate in this school year. In Sweden, youth pick a line of work -- similar to choosing a major while in college -- that they are interested in pursuing and are assigned courses based on that field of study.
Ludvig chose to focus on the field of Economy, in which he plans to later pursue when he moves on to college.
Also, based off of curriculum, Ludvig is considered a senior within the school system here in the States, but is only a sophomore back in Sweden. At the end of the school year, he will participate in the graduation ceremony but will still have two years of schooling back in Sweden before he can move on to college, which typically takes three years to complete.
Another surprise that Ludvig experienced was the clothing that some students wear to school.
“In Sweden, kids dress up in nice clothes to go to school. But here, I see kids come to school in their pajamas,” Ludvig said with a laugh.
One thing that has been easy for Ludvig has been making friends.
“Americans are very good at talking and socializing,” said Ludvig. “Being a part of the soccer team has also helped. They are like family to me.”
Soccer has always been a huge part of Ludvig’s life
Unlike the United States, Sweden does not have “school teams” and has only club teams that play all year round. That makes it more of a challenge for some youth in Sweden to join a team, according to Ludvig.
“Not as many people in Sweden play soccer,” explained Ludvig. “It’s easy to join a school team that plays for a season over here, but it’s harder to join some of the teams in Sweden. Plus a lot of kids can only participate in one sport because they go all year long.”
Luckily for Ludvig, he was able to join a team and has played ever since he was six years old. His dad would coach him and it became something that the two bonded over.
“Soccer has provided me with a lot of memories,” said Ludvig. “I’m happy I’ve had the chance to experience soccer both here and back in Sweden. It shows me that soccer can really bring people together, no matter where you’re from.”
Ludvig knew he wanted to play soccer during his time here in Teutopolis, so he joined the high school soccer team and started as a midfielder for the Wooden Shoes. He eventually became a very integral part of their team, scoring twice in the 2-0 win over Altamont and then scoring three goals, helping the Shoes beat St. Anthony to win the regional championship last Friday.
“It was one of the best memories I’ve made so far,” said Ludvig. “It was great getting to help my team win because they really have made me feel welcome and part of the team since day one.”
So far, he has experienced a lot of what he came to experience and he credits his host family for letting him experience what Teutopolis has to offer.
“They are great. They told me that ‘If you are old enough to fly across the world, then you are old enough to make your own decisions and make it home every night.’ They don’t have a lot of rules and regulations,” said Ludvig. “They have been there if I need anything, but they also have given me freedom to experience what I want while I am here.”
So far, he’s experienced traveling, new foods, a new school system, American soccer and has made many friends. And that’s just the start. Ludvig will experience his first Prom this spring and plans to continue to learn and experience as many new things as he can.
Ludvig will be leaving for Sweden shortly after graduation in the spring, but claims that he will greatly miss the people he has met here in Teutopolis.
“I’ll miss the people. I’ve made a lot of good friends here and it will be sad to leave. But, hopefully, we can stay in touch. I’ve been lucky to have been accepted early on, which has allowed me to make so many good memories.”