Fanny Wiman

“Almost every house in Sweden is red,” Fanny Wiman, an exchange student from Sweden, tells the second grade students at Milford Elementary during a short presentation she gave on Jan. 14.

Fanny Wiman remembers the first time she saw a sign for Runza.

“I thought, Runza? What’s a Runza?” she said. The popular bread pocket dish became a one and done type of experience, but her transition from Sweden to the United States brought along other changes.

In Sweden, Fanny lived in the suburbs outside of Gothenburg, the second-largest city in the country, comparable to the size of Lincoln.

It used to take her two hours to get to school, but she never had schoolwork to do when she got home. Nobody gets homework in Sweden.

When she heard she’d be coming to Nebraska, she didn’t know what to expect.

“When I Googled Nebraska, nothing really came up, except the Lincoln Stars. I got excited because I play ice hockey back home,” Fanny said.

Six months after her initial encounter with Runza and making new friends, she said she is happy to be here.

Has American high school been what Fanny expected?

“My favorite movie is High School Musical, and I thought, what if it’s just like the movie? It’s exactly like High School Musical, except we’re not dancing on the tables.

I can find all the characters in people here and it’s so obvious,” she said, laughing.

Despite the change in scenery, Fanny said living in Milford hasn’t been entirely different from living in Sweden.

“It snows, it’s cold and it’s rainy. The weather changes from one moment to the next. Exactly like where I’m from,” she said.

The differences, according to Fanny, become clear in the details.

In Sweden, almost everybody drives a Volvo, a Swedish car brand, or a Tesla, she said.

Students in Sweden don’t have extracurricular activities in school. Sports and clubs are done through private organizations.

She’s taking advantage of the extracurriculars offered here by participating in Key Club, show choir, the spring musical and learning to play basketball, which has been challenging.

“I’m trying not to use my hockey skills in basketball because I can be a little bit aggressive sometimes,” she said.

Fanny said that by the time Swedish students are 16, they are expected to choose the type of career they’d like to study. She said she chose hospitality and tourism, which she studied for two years before coming to Milford.

Ideally, she said, after she graduates from high school here, she’d like to attend Minnesota State University at Moorhead and study history.

Fanny’s plan is to combine the two, tourism and history, so that she can work at a museum. She’s started on that track by taking a college-level intro to teaching class at Milford.

“I chose hospitality and tourism because it helped me learn how to talk to people,” she said. “My mom’s always been a teacher, so that got me interested in studying history.”

If she could have any job

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in the world, Fanny said she’d like to travel around the world on adventures and find new history subjects to learn about.

“I want to be Indiana Jones,” Fanny said.

Fanny’s mom is also the one who gave her the idea to participate in the exchange program. When Fanny’s mom was a high school student, she was an exchange student in Alabama.

“When I told my mom about my plans to stay here (in the U.S.) after high school, she said ‘You go girl. Live your dreams,’” Fanny said.

Some of the challenges Fanny has faced are often school related, like geometry.

“Math is really hard because the vocabulary is so different and the way we’re taught is different than in Sweden,” Fanny said. “My easiest class is English, which is kind of weird.”

As the second half of her stay in Milford stretches before her, Fanny said she’s looking forward to attending prom.

“I don’t really like wearing dresses, but I’m really excited to participate in prom, which is so American,” she said.

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