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Junior Sofie Uhlir (left) battles for a rebound during a JV district matchup against Hirschi. Uhlier, an exchange student from Stockholm, Sweden, chose to play basketball during her year at Graham High School to try a new sport. Svea Johansson (right) plays soccer in her hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. She plays defense at home and has played several roles on the Lady Blues. She enjoys the opportunity to represent the school rather than the club play she is used to.
Leader photo by Mike Williams, Contributed photo by Jordan Redner

Two exchange students make most of time in Graham

Home games are not truly home games for two Graham High School students this year. Two Graham High School juniors are staying in Graham for the  school year as foreign exchange students. Sofie Uhlir and Svea Johansson, both from Stockholm, Sweden have moved to Graham and are participating in athletics while in the city.

Uhlir, a member of the junior varsity Lady Blues basketball team, had not played basketball before coming to Graham and has picked up the sport rather quickly.

“I just wanted to try a new sport,” Uhlir said. “I’ve played a sport called handball in Sweden that’s kind of similar. It’s been fun. I was a bit tired of playing handball. But, this has reminded me that I like it and that it’s fun to play team sports. It’s been fun to try something new.”

Uhlir said she was familiar with the sport and knew what it was, but had not watched a basketball game in her life prior to her arrival in Graham.

“It was hard at first,” Uhlir said. “Especially with all of the basketball terms. I had no idea what they were all talking about, I was just doing what everyone else was doing. Now I have learned a lot of new stuff and it has been fun. I finally think I pretty much know what we’re doing.”

Uhlir and Lady Blues JV basketball coach Sarah Curd learned later in the season that they both had at least one thing in common. Curd was an exchange student in South Africa during her junior year of high school. She says it has been a joy having Uhlir on the team.

“Going into it knowing that she didn’t know how to play basketball, I didn’t know she had never played,” Curd said. “She just looks around at what everyone else is doing, figures it out as quickly as she can without getting discouraged. Seeing her just willing to try, you just knew she was going to catch on. I can confirm that Sofie has come so far and has learned so quickly. She’s making moves that weren’t instructed for her, so she’s getting a good feel for the game. It’s fun to see that progress. I’m sure glad that we have her. She has contributed tremendously.”

Joining Uhlir in the exchange program in Graham is fellow Stockholm native Johansson. Johansson plays as a member of the Lady Blues varsity soccer team for coach Misty Mills.

Johansson can and has played multiple roles for the Lady Blues and has scored one goal and has one assist this season for the Lady Blues. Last month, she was named to the all-tournament team at the Stephenville tournament for her defensive role.

Soccer has been the way Johansson has engaged in the Graham High School community to make friends. In Europe, teams are formed as clubs outside of school, so the ability to represent her school is a new experience.

“I got a lot of friends through soccer,” she said. “We play soccer every day. I have something to do every day now and I don’t stay home.”

Johansson has been playing soccer for eight years and was able to take on a leadership role with the team.

“She fit right in with the girls,” Mills said. “They’re great about welcoming people into the program. It’s really been fun and exciting to have someone with her knowledge of soccer and what she brings to the rest of the team. It’s been neat to watch those girls learn from her. She’s kinda quiet but she’s a leader on the field. She’s got some talents that she doesn’t always tell me all the time. I can put her really anywhere on the field. She has to start on defense (...) with her knowledge she takes leadership back there and helps get everyone in position.”

Johansson entered the exchange program without having a place in mind where she wanted to spend a year. She said with an open mind she can have a great year with no expectations and have no disappointments.

Both students say that when looking back they will enjoy the time spent with new friends and their host families. Uhlir said the biggest surprise is how much people depend on cars and how hard it is to get around if you do not drive. Johansson has enjoyed a wide variety of food in America but enjoys Chic-Fil-A the most. Both were surprised about how big a role politics plays in people’s lives, but have enjoyed getting to know a wide variety of people and learn everyone’s different views. Both students offered the same advice for future exchange students. Be open to going wherever an opportunity opens up. Have no expectations and take advantage of everything that comes your way.

The Graham Leader

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