Multi-sport athlete Daniel Bouvin was at first uneasy about moving to Sedona for his senior year of high school.
A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, the Sedona Red Rock High School senior had never stepped foot on American soil before, did not know much about Arizona and was randomly placed in Sedona.
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Interestingly enough, Bouvin admitted to being emotional after seeing that he was placed in Arizona because he did not know anything about it. But as an avid golfer, once he saw that there were golf courses, and football and soccer teams at the high school, he quickly grew excited.
“I like it here,” Bouvin said. “I’m super happy I ended up here.”
His interest in going on exchange to the United States grew when his sister studied in Florida six years ago.
He was also interested in athletic life. In Sweden, like most European countries, sports and school are separated. One plays sports for a club outside of school and must balance the two.
Bouvin knew of the opportunity to go to an American high school and get firsthand experience with combining them.
He had played football in Sweden, but football is not a popular sport there, and not many people attended his games.
Bouvin liked the idea of playing at an American high school, where there is more interest and a higher level of play, and he enjoyed himself despite the team’s struggles.
In fact Bouvin, nicknamed “Sunshine” based on the movie “Remember the Titans,” liked the low number of players on the roster because it meant more playing time for him. Bouvin, an Arizona Cardinals fan, played five positions: Running back, linebacker, punter, kicker and even left guard. He scored three touchdowns on offense and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Now with a new nickname, the “Swedish Wall,” he suits up on the soccer team for fellow Swede, Scorpion soccer head coach Johan Lagercrantz, as a centerback. It is his first season playing competitive soccer since he played for his hometown club Särö IK as a 13-year-old, when he stopped due to growing pains.
Bouvin jokingly recounted how during games, he has talked with Lagercrantz in Swedish so that referees and opponents do not know what they are talking about. He also played European handball in his younger years, and was recognized for being the youngest person, at 17, to complete an “En Svensk Klassiker.”
It is a four-legged race that is completed throughout an entire year that includes a 30-kilometer run, 90-kilometer cross-country ski, 300-kilometer bike and 3-kilometer swim. He was inspired to do it by his father, who has done three, and with whom he completed it.
Bouvin also had scholarly reasons for coming to America.
“I wanted to learn fluent English and develop as a person, get a bigger and better perspective on life, and make friends.”
He talked about how eye-opening it was once he moved from a smaller to a larger city in Sweden, how people’s thoughts and opinions differed. He wanted to expand on that with his trip to the U.S.
Soft-spoken but at the same time outgoing and candid, Bouvin appreciates aspects of American culture but, naturally, misses certain things from Sweden. While his first host family made Swedish meatballs for him, he wishes that there was more accessible and regular public transportation.
In Sweden Bouvin can rely on taking a bus or train to go anywhere, anytime, and for free because he is a student. Here, he is stuck at any one place unless he can find a ride with his host family or a friend from school.
As an 18-year-old, Bouvin cannot enjoy the same freedoms he could in Sweden, unable to go out for drinks or to nightclubs with friends as he is traditionally accustomed to doing.
But he was surprised and happy with the openness that Americans have shown him. Bouvin happily mentioned how people he had never talked to approached him, something he says would never happen in Sweden.
After speaking only once, his peers would give him high-fives and continue to talk to him.
Bouvin also likes how classes are mixed in American schools; in Sweden, students are in the same classroom with the same classmates everyday.
“Here I meet new people the whole time, I think it’s fun. Here everyone is born in different years, it’s fun to hang out with different people of different ages.”
After graduating this spring he would like to attend an American university to study industrial economy. However, he would need to find a scholarship to pay for his studies. The alternative is a free education in Sweden, which is funded through taxes.