Feb. 5, 2004
To see junior Linnea Liljestrand, she’s looks like your typical college student. She wears the typical clothes and does the typical things. But Liljestrand’s background is anything but typical. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Liljestrand had only been to America four times before enrolling at Florida State in 2001. And it was the convenience of email that got her to Tallahassee. Liljestrand emailed the Florida State sports information office inquiring about the possibility of playing basketball for the Seminoles and the message was forwarded to Coach Theresa Gernatt, the program’s recruiting coordinator, and that got the ball rolling. Convenience, however, was not something Liljestrand was used to growing up in Stockholm. In fact, something as simple as shopping really took planning.
“At home, you don’t go to shopping malls,” Liljestrand explained. “You go down the street and go to different stores around town, like boutiques. You walk around for more like an hour to get to all of the places. You have to take the subway to different places and different stores. You really have to plan your time. They have started to build some malls lately, but it’s more for movies and stuff like that.”
The convenience of living in the United States was not something that Liljestrand was able to take full advantage of when she first got to Florida State, but that’s all changed now.
“My freshman year, I couldn’t go anywhere because I didn’t have a car,” Liljestrand said. “So I couldn’t do anything. In Stockholm, we just took the subway or the bus everywhere. Now that I have a car, I can go and do whatever.”
Liljestrand speaks fluently in three languages: Swedish, of course, as well as French, which she studied for five years, and English, which was part of the curriculum.
“I started taking English-speaking classes in school when I was 10,” she said. “Everybody starts at school when they’re 10, but I learned it mostly from watching movies and listening to music.”
So it wasn’t the language barrier or moving to another country that were Liljestrand’s biggest fears when she first came to FSU, it was becoming a part of a new team.
“My biggest fear was how well I would get along with my teammates, because on my team at home we were all of best buddies and we hung out 24-7,” Liljestrand said. “We just all started playing together and became best friends.”
Helping ease the transition was that most of Liljestrand’s closest friends also came to America around the same time. Other members of her basketball team went to such schools as Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Minnesota, Georgetown and South Carolina.
“It’s definitely nice that some of my old teammates are also in America,” she said. “That’s a big part because sometimes when it’s hard, it’s nice to have people who will understand and make it okay.”
For the most part, however, Liljestrand has adjusted to living in America just fine.
“I don’t know, but I think I am really Americanized compared to my family because when they come visit, it’s like a different world,” Liljestrand said. “I just have to explain everything to them. It just kind of happened without me knowing it. Plus, all of my friends from home have also become Americanized. I don’t know how to explain it, but it suits me better. It’s easier for a young kid like me to become Americanized than it would be for my parents, because I hang around friends and I see what they do everyday and I do those things, so naturally it would happen.”
Like a typical college student, there are times that Liljestrand really misses home, but she’s had the opportunity to spend the past two summers in Stockholm while playing ball with the Swedish national team.
“I don’t miss home too much,” she said. “I miss skiing and I miss Christmas but I don’t miss home especially when it’s nice out and I can go to the beach. When I do go home over the summer, it’s not hard to adjust. I’m home for one day and it feels like I’ve been home forever, because everything is just the same. Things don’t change really.”
Liljestrand enjoys shopping and going out to eat and considers herself a “movie maniac,” which are the three things she does most often in her spare time. While there are several differences between Stockholm and Tallahassee, like the size of the cities, the biggest difference for Liljestrand has been the food.
“Stockholm is a lot bigger city than Tallahassee,” she said, “and the food is a huge difference. I really have to watch what I eat here. First of all, there’s a lot of cheese and fat, but there’s also a lot of good food. At home, you don’t eat as much fast food because you cook at home but the fast food you do eat is healthier usually. It’s like sushi and the Mexican food at home has less cheese, less fat.”
Going to school in America has also been different.
“It’s harder in that we take five different classes at one time here,” Liljestrand said. “At home, you take one class full-time. You focus on one subject for like the whole semester. It’s harder in that way because you get more in depth, but it’s easier because you just have one subject to focus on.”
The subject Liljestrand is studying is business and her dream is to one day own a marketing and advertising business with some of her Swedish friends who are also living in the United States. Just where this may occur, however, is still up for grabs.
“I want to open my own company with a few of my friends from home,” she said. “I know I want to move to a big city like New York or in Italy, but I want to go back to Sweden for a little while first.”
For now, though, Liljestrand is living the college experience to the fullest and enjoying the process along the way. While her fear of getting along with her new teammates was never realized once she became apart of the Florida State program, she learned quickly that hanging out 24-7, like the old days, wasn’t going to be possible.
“We all have so much stuff to do on the side,” Liljestrand said. “When we are together, it’s all about team and basketball, but when we are apart, we are all very busy with school and other things.”
That’s life in America!