At the meeting, Shay Smith was presented with a Paul Harris Fellow award, but as of the day of our meeting she was a Paul Harris Fellow +1!  The donation was courtesy of both her and her husband Mike as they were both in the Soviet Union in the early 90's and were moved by what Rotary is doing in the Ukraine.  Thank you Shay and Mike for your generous donation to the Foundation.
Last week, we had the pleasure of hearing from a Rotary Exchange student, Ellinor Bengtsson, who is staying in Wilber this school year.  Her first home was with Brad Kalkwarf’s family where she’s stayed for the past two months, but now lives with Shannon and Ken Furstenau to gain a different perspective on the area and home.  She will stay with Shannon for a few months, then finish her school year with Brad's family again.  Elli’s father is a Rotary member in Sweden which is where she heard about the exchange, but from a young age, her mother has instilled a desire for her to travel and study in the states.  Her mother and brothers studied in San Francisco, and it was important to both Elli and her family that she travel to the United States as well.  She lives with her parents Louise and Folke Bengtsson and she has three brothers: Bjorn, Vidar, and Fritjof.
In Sweden, she lives in Knivsta which is a town of about 18,000 and 30 minutes from the capital, Stockholm.  She goes to school in the 4th largest city in Sweden, Uppsala, about 10 minutes away from Knivsta.  For music, she likes to listen to both national artists and international artists including American artists.  Her favorite sport to play is Handball, but there’s also soccer, hockey, and floorball (which isn’t as rough and aggressive as handball, so it’s not preferred).  In Sweden, sports aren’t attached to the school so anyone can play at any age!  School is a little different than in the United States.  Upon entering high school (grades 10-12), they choose a focus for what they’d like to pursue as a profession, and her “class” of students pursuing similar professions are who she has all her classes with for those three years.  In her class, there are about 36 students.  Elli has chosen psychology as a focus and would like to be an investigative police officer working with crime psychology. 
Her current host family Shannon and Ken have a son, Carter, currently staying in Solna, Sweden (a suburb of Stockholm)!  While he isn’t staying with Elli’s parents, he’s taken the train a few times to visit her family on some weekends.  Similar to Elli’s mother, it’s important that her son travel and experience the world.  He asked if it was possible to study abroad while in high school and they looked into options.  Many of them were between 25 and 30 thousand dollars so she asked the guidance counselor what their options were.  The counselor suggested Rotary Exchange, and the rest is history!  They got in touch with someone in Lincoln, there was still time to apply, and they began researching!
Pictured Left to Right: Shannon Furstenau, Elli Bengtsson, and Shay Smith
Thank you Elli and Shannon for sharing about life in Sweden, and your involvement with Rotary Exchange!