Louisa Eskelson '21 was invited to give a speech at the recent ASSIST dinner. Stoneleigh-Burnham was one of the founding ASSIST schools, and as such has been welcoming one-year exchange students through the program for 50 years.
What follows is Louisa's speech, first in text format and then as a video.
I am delighted and honored to be speaking in front of everyone here tonight.
My name is Louisa Eskelson, I am fifteen years old, and I come from a town in Sweden called Borås. I am spending this year at a small girls boarding school, named Stoneleigh-Burnham, in Western Mass.
Approximately a year and four months ago, I was about to have my ASSIST interview in the library of a small town in southern Sweden. To be honest with you I was really really nervous. My mom later told me that she had secretly followed me to make sure that I did indeed go into the library and didn’t bail at the last minute. Fortunately, I did end up walking in there... and looking back, applying to ASSIST was the best decision I have ever made. The biggest thing I have learnt from my experience here in America, through ASSIST, is that you won't grow and change if you don’t step out of your comfort zone, try new things and challenge yourself; don’t be scared of change, embrace it. And stepping into that interview was my first step to a year that I will always remember.
After I arrived in America at Stoneleigh-Burnham School, I tried to be as open as possible, trying out new things and taking every opportunity to try something new. I joined the debate and public speaking team, tried volleyball as my fall term sport and took IB Higher Level Chemistry which in the end didn’t kill me as I thought it would and instead I love it. I could share a ton of stories with you, but that would take way too long, so instead I decided to share one story of trying something new, facing the unexpected and never giving up.
Not so long ago, when spring term started, I decided to try a new sport since it was the last trimester before I would return back to Sweden. A lot of people suggested trying softball, which was a sport I hadn’t heard much about previously. The only thing I knew was that it was similar to baseball and involved (as I later found out was false) a “soft” ball. As my background was more on the figure skating, dancing side, I thought this would be a nice challenge. I ended up getting hit in the face by the mentioned “soft” ball during the second day of practice, receiving a huge black eye and a concussion. However, I didn’t give up and, after recovering from my concussion, I returned to softball. This past Wednesday, we won our first game and got to ring the victory bell.
Moving on, I would like to thank ASSIST for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I am part of an amazing school, a place that I have come to truly appreciate. It feels great to be sitting in the bleachers or being on the field yourself, hearing people screaming their lungs out and cheering. It doesn’t matter if we win on the field, what matters is that we cheer and support one another no matter what.
Over the course of the year I have had many great experiences with my host family, and they have become a second family to me. I can still remember how we in the beginning of the year made s'mores outside the house; it was my first real American experience. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break with them, and all of them are filled with memories I will never forget. I got the privilege to see many parts of the US, and my host sister has become the big sister I always wished I had.
I think that this is something that makes ASSIST so great, ASSIST puts so much effort matching people to a school that really suits the person, I am sure that we all love the place we came to. However it is up to us to take initiative and make the best out of the year. I now have life-lasting friendships, a huge family here in America, a tight connection to ASSIST and I have learnt more about life and myself in a year than I ever thought I would. Who knew that I was a peanut butter addict?
Time has gone by too fast, and now it is almost time to sit on the plane and go back to Sweden. It is weird, because I am leaving to go home, but at the same time I am leaving my newly found home.
Thank you all, thank you ASSIST for making all of this possible. Remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone!