Dec. 23, 2001
Most people go home for the holidays. But Linnea Liljestrand, a freshman on the women’s basketball team, is bringing home to her this Christmas. Liljestrand’s parents Lars’gunnar and Birjitta and sister Klara will make the nearly 10-hour trip from Stockholm, Sweden to Tallahassee and will spend about 12 days with Linnea.
“Since I was not able to be home for more than a couple of days, they decided they wanted to come see how it is here,” Liljestrand said. “They haven’t seen Florida State yet. They want to see where I’m living and how everything is and meet my teammates and my coaches. The fact that we don’t know exactly what we’re going to do is exciting. We’re just going to go and be with each other, which is the most important thing.”
Linnea hasn’t seen her family since August, when she made the move to America to attend Florida State and play for the Seminoles. It’s the longest she’s ever been away from home and away from her family. She talks to them once or twice a week, but still, it’s not like being able to see them.
“I once went to England for four weeks for a language exchange program, so this has been the longest I’ve been away from home,” Liljestrand said. “It’s been harder than I thought it was going to be. I miss my friends and my family, but people are very friendly here, like on campus and when I first got here, everyone wanted to help out.
“I’m just so excited to see them (her family). I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like to be away from them for so long, so I am so excited. I can’t believe it.”
Although just a freshman, Linnea is 21-years-old. A talent on the basketball court, Linnea just wanted to play college basketball and get an education and she wanted to go to America for the experience. She had friends who played for Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, so she knew a little bit about women’s college basketball in America and she knew she wanted to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. She also wanted to live somewhere warmer than Stockholm, so Florida State seemed the perfect fit. She emailed FSU Women’s Basketball Sports Information Director Tina Thomas late last spring, and she forwarded the message to Assistant Coach Theresa Gernatt, FSU’s recruiting coordinator. Linnea made an official visit to Florida State over the summer.
“For me to get from door-to-door when I was on my visit was 18 hours,” Liljestrand said. “It was crazy. It was pretty stressful, because it was during camp. So everybody was busy with that. So, I got to see what it would be like when I got here. It wasn’t like everything was perfect. I felt like that even though they had so much to do, they really cared and the team seemed really nice.”
Liljestrand committed to FSU a week later and since her arrival, she has flourished on the court and in the classroom. She earned a 3.5 grade point average in the first semester and now plans to major in graphic design and business. She has also been a valuable member of the team, playing in all 12 games and averaging 6.4 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Her family will have a chance to see Linnea play as the Seminoles travel to Clemson on December 30th and host North Carolina on January 2nd. But first, they’ll get to see what she’s been up to the past five months.
“First, I am going to walk them around campus and show them my dorm room, where I go to class, where I practice and the stadium,” Liljestrand said. “Then when I have to be back for practice, we’re going to do stuff around Tallahassee like go to Wakulla Springs and the Seminole Reservation and maybe go to a beach if the weather is nice.”
But let’s not forget, it is Christmas break and the Seminoles do get a few days off. So how are the Liljestrand’s going to spend that time?
“I want to go to Disney World,” Liljesrand said with a smile.
Spoken like someone who’s adjusting just fine to her new life in America.