BY JEANINE BIGGS
For a lot of people, college means adjustment. Whether that be moving away from mom and dad or living with strangers for the first time, adjusting to new surroundings is difficult. As far as students at UT and other universities around the country, often times going away to school means moving a few hours or a few states away from your hometown. For international students that adjustment is intensified greatly. Moving away from home to a new country with a different culture and new people was something senior Caroline Frykgard went through in 2014.
Coming to UT from Stockholm, Sweden, Frykgard came to Tampa with adventure on her mind. Coming from a country where it is expected of high school graduates to choose what they want to do with the rest of their lives and go right into it, Frykgard wanted time to do what many American college students do, figure it out as you go. Playing soccer, Frykgard was in a unique situation as an international athlete.
“With soccer you kind of automatically make new friends because you become a part of that team, you hang out everyday playing soccer and get to know each other and then you build off of that,” Frykgard said. Playing a team sport means a group of automatic friends. Having people to lean on that share your interests and passions can be the difference of striving and adjusting in school or getting lost in the shuffle. Even with the built in support system, the goalkeeper struck a bond with her non-soccer playing roommates as well as fellow Swedes.
“It’s always that connection when you are not at home in your own country and you see someone from your country, like Sweden, it’s automatically like ‘Oh my god, hello!’,” said Frykgard. “I actually met this girl from the golf team my freshman year, the second semester, and she was from a town 30 minutes away from me in Sweden, so we became friends and we have lived together ever since.”
Although the adventure includes a new place and new friends from all different backgrounds, there’s still a sense of comfort and normality when there is a person who understands the culture and language from your home country. For Frykgard and fellow international teammate Seline Haland, who is from neighboring country Norway, that mutual bond has been the catalyst of a strong friendship.
“As Caroline and I are the only two Scandinavians on the team, we became friends pretty quickly,” said Haland. “She helped me a lot as Florida is far away from my home and it is nice to talk to someone with similar background as me. Being able to speak Norwegian/Swedish with her is also something I appreciate.”
Adjusting to new friends, new surroundings and different weather wasn’t the only thing that Frykgard had to deal with, the game of soccer that brought her here was a change in its own right. The game itself may be universal and unchanged, but the season itself and the circumstances surrounding it was something very different at UT. With the soccer season at UT being based around a semester’s schedule, the games are condensed to twice a week. In Sweden, the season lasts from April to October with games once a week. The difference of schedules and time between games has produced both pros and cons for the 5’9 goaltender.
“If I play one game and there are things I want to change or think about, I can quickly think about them and do that in the next game and see if that helps,” Frykgard explained. “Obviously, a longer season you have more time to take care of your body and heel. Here, you don’t have that time. If you get injured, your season can be over since it’s so short.”
From playing time to more day to day things, adjustment was the name of the game. American students may get sick of the food at school but in reality they are eating the food they grew up on and are comfortable with. For Frykgard and many other international students, something as basic as food could make a world of difference for them. Large portion sizes that are probably double what a normal person is supposed to eat, the abundance of restaurants and the amount of times a week that a person will go out to eat at the different varieties of restaurants was something that differed greatly from life in Sweden. But like a lot of other students at UT, the weather was the most difficult thing to get used to. As a Nordic country, Sweden doesn’t experience the months of summer weather that Tampa does. For Frykgard, the laid back vacation like atmosphere will be something she will miss the most when she ventures back across the pond.
“I will miss the way I can just put on shorts and a t-shirt and simply go to school, I would miss dressing casually, because Sweden is a more dressy culture. You could probably compare it better to up north,” said Frykgard.
Nearly four years after her original journey to UT, Frykgard is getting ready to graduate in December and head back to Sweden in order to start her life. Her time playing soccer in school wasn’t merely a way to make long lasting friendships as she is going to pursue professional soccer in her home country. The opportunity to “figure it out” and explore the world around her gave Frykgard the chance to focus on what she loved to do, make friends and find what she wants to do with her life.
“Do whatever makes you happy because the time you spend doing something is so valuable and wasting time on things that don’t make you happy is not worth doing,” said Frykgard.
Jeanine Biggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org