Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories about former foreign exchange students who spent time in Redwood Falls and the experiences they have had since returning home and how they are dealing with the current issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Axel Persson left Redwood Falls at the end of the 2017-18 school year, he knew that he was taking a little bit of America back with him to his home country of Sweden.
“I feel like there is a small American part of me now,” explained Persson.
Persson is currently doing his last year of secondary school, and he is hoping his grades will be good enough to go to the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark to earn a degree in international business.
Persson believes he is a much different person now than he was before his visit to Minnesota.
“I am happy to have gotten to know people and a culture that I can learn a lot from,” explained Persson, adding he thinks he is much more understanding and thankful now.
Living in Redwood Falls for several months has also made Persson more invested in what is happening, in everything from sports to politics. Persson added he has been cheering for the Vikings, Twins and Wild, and he will be following this year’s election.
According to Persson, “Swedish politics is like watching paint dry” compared to politics in the U.S., and he said the same goes for sports.
Persson has been back to Redwood Falls, adding he and another former exchange student, Folke Bjorkman, have visited friends and family.
“I will be back soon,” Persson added.
Persson said he has quit playing hockey, but he has started a small soccer team with a couple of his friends. He has also started a small business selling sports clothing and filming and making videos for other businesses that want them for advertising.
While his plans are still up in the air, Persson thinks after college he would like to start a business, or he might move to the United States to further his education to earn an MBA.
Persson said he first started hearing about COVID-19 pretty early when he was visiting Hong Kong in early January.
“Back then it wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t think much of it,” explained Persson.”It wasn’t until the major outbreak in northern Italy when it became a real concern for Europeans.”
Persson said he is currently taking classes online, adding he is washing his hands a lot. He does not get to see his grandparents, but outside of that not a lot has changed.
According to Persson, “the Swedish government has been very liberal with the restrictions. Basically everything is still up and running, except professional sports and some big events like festivals.”
Still, Persson thinks people are taking responsibility, and many businesses are using zoom and other online applications to work from home. Nothing is shut down in Sweden like it is in the United States, explained Persson.
Swedes have a ridiculous amount of respect for personal space, added Persson, so the people there are automatically pretty great at social distancing.
Persson is practicing limited social distancing.
“I still hang out with friends and move around like normal without thinking too much about it,” he explained.
As an example on a recent day he went with some friends to play tennis and poker.
However, Persson said he is more cognizant of strangers and is trying to keep some distance between himself and them.
He also said that is particularly true among the elderly.
Persson said he is not concerned for himself, but he is a bit worried for the well-being for people he knows who are sick, as well as the older generation of people in Sweden.
“Take care and stay healthy,” he added.