Being an exchange student in a new country far from home would be difficult enough for most high schoolers. Add in playing varsity sports and it can be overwhelming.
But not for Emilia Svaerd-a junior exchange student from Sweden-who qualified for the Class AAA state girls' golf meet last Monday, June 3, as part of the Rosemount Irish girls' golf team. She finished tied-for-fourth at the Section 3AAA meet with a two-day score of 18-over-par (162).
Svaerd, 17, is from Karlskrona, Sweden, a city in the southeast part of the country on the Baltic Sea. She came to Rosemount in mid-August as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program and has stayed with two families, Mandy and Greg Baune and Amy and Matt Eppen.
Svaerd said that when applying for the program, she had to rank destinations and write a letter about herself. However, she had no choice in where she went as the students in the program are placed randomly.
"When I got my placement in the North Star district and looked it up, I thought it (Rosemount) was in New York City somewhere," she said. "But a few weeks after when I figured out that it was in Minnesota, I got kinda disappointed because I wanted to go away from the cold winters. But after some research I found out that the Mall of America is here and some other cool things and I have really enjoyed my time here."
She said her first impression of Minnesota was that it was not that cold outside, but that also most people do not eat with knives here. She also said that at first, the language and classes were the biggest adjustments.
"The language was hard in the beginning and also school, especially that the schedule looks the same every day," Svaerd said.
But since then, Svaerd said she has picked up plenty of new english terms, loved meeting new people and really enjoyed the state fair. Though the program does not allow the exchange students to have visits from home, Svaerd said that whenever she missed her family or friends talking with them would help. Outside of them, the things she misses most are public transportation and the food.
"We just eat way more potatoes in Sweden," she said.
A leader on the course
Svaerd goes home in July but still has plenty to do before she leaves, including playing in the state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club on Tuesday, June 11, and Wednesday, June 12. She came to Rosemount an experienced golfer, having started golfing at six-years-old with her parents. However, she almost did not go out for the team and was on the verge of giving up the game entirely.
"I kinda wanted to quit golf but my parents and I decided that I should try to play golf in the US anyway," Svaerd said. "I will continue playing in Sweden when I go back. In Sweden, it is not a lot of girls playing golf where I live, so I mostly just play with boys. We don't have sports connected to school as here, either, so in Sweden you have to play for a club."
That was another adjustment for Svaerd, having sports connected with school, which she said she views as a positive due to how many more kids play sports here than in Sweden.
Svaerd said she did not know what to expect when she joined the Irish girls' golf team and it came as a surprise when she immediately became a major contributor on varsity. At the team's biggest tournament of the season outside of sections-the Emerald Greens Invite that Rosemount hosts each season-Svaerd led the team with an 18-hole score of 81. Just a week later she shot a 77 at Heritage Links Golf Course in Lakeville at Rosemount's third South Suburban Conference meet of the season.
At the Section 3AAA meet-also held at Bunker Hills, the site of the state tournament-Svaerd said she had no idea she had qualified for the state meet until her round was done and she checked the online leaderboard.
"I was happy and excited because my goal was to go to state, but also nervous because I know that it is a lot of good players that play at state," she said. "My drivers have been really good at sections, which is good because the long game has always been my strongest part of the game."
In preparation for state, Svaerd said she has worked on what did not go as well at sections, as well as practicing her pitching and spending plenty of time on the range.
"I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience at state, and it would be a bonus if I played good," she said.
Svaerd doesn't have much time left in the U.S., but she plans on taking full advantage of her remaining weeks.
"I have one more month here before I'm heading back," she said. "I'm going on a trip to the east coast with the other exchange students in the same program in a week, which I'm excited about. Before I leave I really want to celebrate the 4th of July! I will really miss my host families, my new friends and the golf team."
The Irish girls as a team finished third out of 11 teams at the Section 3AAA meet. They finished with a total team score of 702, 348 on day one to advance and 354 on day two. Rosemount was just 12 strokes behind second-place Woodbury. The section champion was Simley with a 682.
Svaerd led the team with 81s on both days for a total of 162. Sophomore Nidhi Sunkam tied for eighth and just barely missed out on making state. She shot a day one 81 and day two 87 for a 168. Senior Renee Boldus shot a 186 (91-95) and a stroke behind her was fellow senior Lauren Ebeling with a 187 (96-91). Seventh grader Lily Vincelli shot a 190 with identical rounds of 95 and junior Sam Sable went 99-97 for an 196.