The warmth of the sunshine and squirrels chasing after each other in the green grass welcomed international student Elina Sjöberg and her family as they took their first stroll through Bidwell Park.
“Walking around Chico, and especially Bidwell, this time of year is a lot different from Sweden,” Sjöberg said. “First of all, you call this winter? In Sweden this is spring!”
Sjöberg is a senior music major with an option in music industry at Chico State. She is participating in the Direct Exchange program, which she said is an agreement between schools where a student from Chico State exchanges places with her at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden.
“I always wanted to go to the U.S. to study, but I always postponed it, and I saw this as my last chance to actually do it,” Sjöberg said. “I am going back home to Sweden to graduate this summer.”
Chico State is a good match because she really wanted to go to California, she said. However, this isn’t Sjöberg’s first time in America.
“I’ve been here a few times because my aunt lives down in Berkeley,” Sjöberg said. “I’ve seen Los Angeles, San Francisco and the coast.”
Sjöberg knew she wanted to study music at a young age, she said.
In Sweden, her major is music and event management, which is pretty similar to the music industry major option offered at Chico State.
“I really love music, and I really want to work with it, but I can’t sing,” Sjöberg said. “I can’t play an instrument, so I decided let’s work with it instead. Because when I go to concerts I’m like, ‘Oh my God! I want to work with this somehow.’”
Sjöberg already notices several differences between her university in Sweden and Chico State.
“This campus is one campus more or less, and every school building is at the same place,” Sjöberg said. “In Sweden, it’s spread out over town.”
Students in Sweden don’t take classes during the whole semester. They might take one class for a month or two before taking another course, she said.
“We only take at max two classes simultaneously,” Sjöberg said. “Here it’s like you go to school every day of the week depending on which sections you have and take five different classes at the same time.”
While studying at Chico State, Sjöberg is working with Chico State School of the Arts Productions.
“I’m looking forward to see how they work and to do this because it feels like you are doing something in school, but you get the practical experience,” she said.
A major cultural difference Sjöberg is experiencing between Sweden and Chico is the people, she said.
“The other day, I talked to one of the music industry students who spent a semester in Sweden,” she said. “And he said that the big difference is that here people are like, ‘Hi! I want to get to know you,’ and are really open to you in the beginning.”
In Sweden it’s the opposite.
“In the beginning people are like, ‘Hmm…who are you,’ and they have some kind of wall,” she said. “But then the more they get to know a person the more the wall comes down.”
Sjöberg is living with three American students and is excited to make Chico her home for the next four months, she said.
“I was kind of familiar with American culture before, but I think I want to get used to the studying and how all the classes work and everything,” Sjöberg said. “To me, I think it’s going to be a lot to do at the same time that I’m not used to since our systems are different. But I’m excited to meet a lot of people, take walks in Bidwell and work with SOTA.”
Nicole Santos can be reached at [email protected] or @Iam_NicoleS on Twitter.