Swedish Connection
Pepperell High School’s Swedish Connection
Posted on 11/18/2011

A Swedish mother’s connection to Floyd County Schools from 1985 has drawn her daughter to the Rome area in 2011. Swedish Exchange Student Josefin Eklund is attending Pepperell High School this year through the International Cultural Exchange USA Exchange Program. It was 26 years ago that Josefin’s mother, Johanna Eklund, walked the halls of Pepperell High as a junior. It is a much different looking Pepperell High School that Josefin is experiencing because the old 50’s building her mother attended has been replaced by a new modern facility. The building looks different but much about the experience from mother to daughter has remained the same. One common element of their time in Lindale is the host family. Carla Clemones and her family are hosting Josefin’s stay. But Clemones’ role is more invested than just host mother. Clemones was also ‘host sister’ to Johanna Eukland during her stay in 1985. Clemones is a 6th and 7th grade math teacher at Pepperell Middle School and the mother of 3 children. 

Josefin is from Tyresö, a small town south of Stockholm, Sweden, where she completed her first year in the gymnasium – what the Swedish call high school. She has studied the English language from the age of nine. At Pepperell, she is in junior classes. Here for the experience, Josefin will receive no academic credit for her time spent in school. “Swedish exchange students only travel to different countries for the chance to experience a different culture,” Josefin said.

Interested in music and drawing, Josefin is enrolled in an art class where she has re-created the protagonists from the popular phone app Angry Birds. She has also enjoyed working with clay in art class. Along with art, Josefin is studying American History, American Literature, Physics and Foods during her time at Pepperell High. “Foods is my favorite class. I like the teacher and I have made many friends in the class, she said.”

Josefin found the football season at Pepperell interesting. “Soccer is more popular in Sweden,” she said. “I didn’t really know what was happening on the field but I was interested in the band and the cheerleaders - especially since one of my host sisters is a cheerleader.” 

“Johanna contacted me and asked if I would have Josefin stay with us and I gladly told her that we would be happy to have her,” said Clemones. She wanted to share her experience of international friendship with her children. After Johanna’s stay in the United States in 1985, Clemones continued their friendship and even visited Sweden to attend her friend’s wedding. The two families have also vacationed together. Josefin recalls a trip to Florida when she was around 5 years old. “I have great memories from that time, she said.” “My favorite part about having Josefin here is that my girls are getting to know their ‘sister’ well and they are now becoming friends,” Clemones said. “It brings back memories of the times that I had with my Swedish ‘sister’, Johanna.”

Story by: Katherine Clonts, student intern from Armuchee High School