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Three Generations of Exchange Students

by | Aug 19, 2023

The first generation of exchange students – Curtis Smith and Torbjorn Hogberg.

Little did Curtis Smith know in 1967 that his family’s relationship with Swedish exchange student, Torbjorn Hogberg, would result in a relationship spanning three generations that has extended to 2023.

Curtis Smith, son of C. Shaw and Nancy Smith, spent the summer of 1967 in Stockholm with Torbjorn’s family,. Torbjorn spent the following school year in Davidson with the Smith family.  Curtis’ siblings – Shaw, Nancy, Graham, and Mary Mig – became Torbjorn’s American family.

The next exchange came in the summer of 1993 when Albert (Torbjorn’s son) exchanged with Tate Gardner (Nancy Smith Gardner’s son). Like the first generation, Albert spent time in Davidson, and Tate spent time in Stockholm.

The next exchange students – Albert and Tate.

It was only three years later in 1996 when Julia (Torbjorn’s daughter) and Beth Gardner Helfrich (Nancy Smith Gardner’s daughter) were exchange students.

Since 1967, a strong relationship has developed between the Swedish and American families. They refer to the Hogbergs as their “Swedish Siblings.” Torbjorn has joined the Smith/Gardner/Helfrich family zoom calls and has returned to Davidson over the years for weddings, funerals, and Panther games.

This summer, the third-generation exchange took place between Zoe Helfrich (Beth Gardner Helfrich’s daughter) and Malte (Albert’s son). Malte was hosted in Davidson by Zoe’s family and like previous generations, he was welcomed by Zoe’s parents Tim and Beth Helfrich and her siblings, Miles, Cora, Levi, and Wilder. Zoe and Malte then flew to Stockholm for Zoe to spend time with Malte’s family.

And the next – Julia and Beth. 

Zoe, a rising freshman at Hough High School, shared some of the highlights from her summer experience. At first, Zoe felt apprehensive, afraid that it would be awkward hosting a fifteen-year-old Swedish boy in Davidson. She also didn’t know how she would respond to the differences she would find when she traveled to Sweden.

Zoe’s family showed Malte the sights of Davidson, including Main Street shops and restaurants (especially Summit Coffee), the Swimming Hole, and kayaking on Lake Norman.  A highlight of Malte’s visit to Davidson was a celebration of Swedish Midsummer.  Midsummer is the longest day of the year and has long been considered a magical night. The Helfrich family prepared traditional Swedish food and decorations, including fresh flowers and a maya (maypole).

And this generation’s exchange students – Zoe and Malte.

Once Zoe and Malte arrived in Stockholm, Zoe was immediately welcomed into Malte’s extended family that includes a sister, brothers, and cousins.  Zoe found Stockholm to be a beautiful city, unlike other cities she has visited.  She was surprised that there are not many skyscrapers for a city of almost 1 million. Malte’s family hosted a Fourth of July party in Zoe’s honor complete with hamburgers and sparklers. Zoe enjoyed Swedish food but was surprised that a typical Swedish breakfast might be a sandwich made with liver paste and an egg. Malte enjoyed hosting Zoe in Sweden and sharing his interest in chess, swimming, and climbing trees. Two highlights of the trip were visiting a cabin in northern Sweden with no electricity and running water and touring the Abba Museum.

After traveling to Sweden, Zoe has an increased interest in traveling. She may very well follow in the footsteps of her mother, Beth Gardner Helfrich, who traveled to Mongolia as a Davidson College student.

One very special part of the trip to Sweden for Zoe was visiting Torbjorn and seeing the Guest Book that Curtis, Beth, and Tate signed on their earlier visits to Sweden. This sounds like a family tradition that will continue for many more generations.

Nancy Smith, Shaw Smith, and Malte.


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