OPINION: The High School Swede that y’all need

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MARKUS AAMISEPP, Intern@kystandard.com

The most exciting thing to tell people in Bardstown about myself is that I am from Sweden. It is an excellent conversation starter, even despite the fact that people usually start asking unanswerable questions, which can make things awkward, and freeze fragments of the ice that just moments ago had been broken apart.

I came to Kentucky and Bardstown in the beginning of August. All I had heard about Kentucky was that it had fried chicken, horses and people with blue skin living in the hills. My intention was to go to high school for a year and experience all that came with it. That might leave you wondering why I now am writing for The Kentucky Standard. I will tell you this later in the column, but first, I will talk a little more about one of my favorite subjects: myself.

The phenomenon of traveling abroad for a long period of time as a teenager is often questioned by people here, often followed by something similar to “I would never leave my family for a whole year.” I usually laugh, make a joke about me not having the trait of expressing emotion, and therefore not missing my now-abandoned Swedish mother, father and sisters, only to start reflecting on the fundamental decisions that I have made, and message my family members that I still love them.

Adapting to “Bardstownian” culture has been compelling. I am from Stockholm, which is the capital as well as the largest city in Sweden, with a population of about 1.5 million. Moving to a mostly rural area and having friends wanting to take you out hunting for deer, instead of having an espresso at some hipster café after school, is quite the transition.

The question that I most regularly am asked, is how people are “over there” in Sweden. Well, how are people over here in the U.S.?

It is a burdensome question to answer, especially as I am a naïve city boy, who stereotypes everything to make my life easier. We have the Eskimos in the north, the basic — yet weird — people in the middle, and the conservatives in the south, who by the way have an incomprehensible accent, which sometimes I even doubt they understand. The Kentuckian equivalent would be like inserting a steaming and hot boiled potato in the mouth of the most heavily accented country bumpkin from Nelson County, and making him do conversation. You would be more prone to understand a linguistically taught parrot on crack.

As football season ended at Thomas Nelson High School, me having hurt my shoulder implied that I couldn’t do any more sports for the year. I tried different post-school activities that did not place demands on my body and my wimpy shoulder, such as napping on the living room couch, freestyle rapping in the shower, and inventing new sandwiches. At last I grew fidgety and thought to myself what I loved to do most, and made the conclusion that my “Swede feeder” (one of my many delicious self-invented sandwiches)-days were gone. I wanted to write.

The interest to write had always been there, and I have always written in my free time, even if most of it was in Swedish. The curriculum in Sweden actually demands students to start practicing writing from an early age, and as other students cried in agony, I just happened to love it.

I am very excited to be an intern for The Kentucky Standard for the next six months, prior to my long and depressingly unbearable 14-hour flight home.

I will try to not be too incongruous to this office and paper, which can be difficult due to my odd Swedish ways of handling things, like hugging people in inappropriate situations, and being startled and confused every time a stranger randomly waves to me at Walmart.


Markus Aamisepp is a Swedish exchange student attending Thomas Nelson High School who is participating in a co-op educational experience at The Kentucky Standard.