Emma Sands is taking a gap year between high school and college, and she’s spending it in Sweden.
This month, she leaves for Orebro, a city of about 100,000 west of Stockholm.
Sands, who graduated from Waupaca High School in May, will be a Rotary exchange student.
It was about a year ago that she began to think about being an exchange student.
“It was probably the end of last summer. Everyone was thinking about picking out colleges,” she said. “I wanted to go on an adventure.”
Sands talked to Henry Veleker, who is a member of the Waupaca Rotary Club, and to others who had been Rotary exchange students.
“I looked into it and thought, ‘Why not?'” she said.
Sands applied to be an exchange student, went through the interview process and was accepted.
When it came time to rank which countries she most wanted to go to, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden ranked one through three.
“I have family in Norway and Sweden. I’ve never met them,” she said. “I’ve grown up making lefse. My family is very Scandinavian.”
Sands sees the Scandinavian countries as being a unique part of Europe, saying that Sweden is environmentally proactive.
“I was told I will probable bike or walk everywhere – even in the winter,” she said.
In Europe, it is common for students to take a gap year before beginning college, and Sands has sent out some college applications in preparation for a year from now.
She has already been accepted at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is working on her application to the University of Colorado at Boulder, which is her dream school. “It’s an amazing area and has a great music school,” she said.
During her time in Sweden, she looks forward to learning the language.
Her host family has three daughters. One of them is her age. She will be spending a year in Canada as a Rotary exchange student.
Sands is the daughter of Chris and Diane Sands. She has one sister, 21-year-old Gretchen, and one brother, 16-year-old Erik.
“Both of my parents traveled a lot during college, so they thought it sounded like a fun idea,” Sands said of being an exchange student. “My dad spent time in both Sweden and Norway.”
While in Sweden, she will attend an upper secondary school.
“It’s not required for them to go, but if they don’t, they can’t go to university,” she said. “It’s the equivalent of dropping out of high school here.”
There are different schools within the school, and she will attend one that is focused on the arts.
“I’m kind of nervous about going to school. It will be in Swedish. I will be going to language camp when I get there with the other exchange students. That will help with the language, and my host family will help,” she said.
In school, she will take Swedish as a second language, and she is excited to learn about World War II from the Swedish perspective.
She will write about her experiences and can be followed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sands also expects to have the opportunity to go on several trips with other Rotary exchange students and to travel with her host family.
“I think during the trip, I will figure out what I like and don’t like, what I want to do more and who I am without Waupaca,” she said.