Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traveling School Calls on City; Swedish High School Students Sail Tall Ship When They're Not Studying

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Traveling School Calls on City; Swedish High School Students Sail Tall Ship When They're Not Studying

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHEL DAVIS, The Times-Union

Nike Bergstrom and Sara Hansson sat leisurely about Monday during their midship watch aboard the Gunilla, chronicling their shipmates' comings and goings and soaking up the Florida sunshine.

These high school students are a long way from home, halfway around the globe actually, but for the next couple of days Jacksonville will be their classroom.

"It's really nice people here," Bergstrom said. She added that when the world is your classroom, learning becomes a fascinating experience, not a chore. "Instead of reading about the United States, we get to come here."

Bergstrom, 18, and Hansson, 19, are part of a traveling high school from Sweden that sails with 38 students aboard. The training vessel is docked downtown, just in front of the Adam's Mark hotel.

First-year students sail the tall ship Gunilla for three months from its home port in Sweden to points south. Their journey ends in North Africa, where second-year students meet the ship and sail to South America, another 3-month journey. Bergstrom and Hansson, third-year sailors, pick it up in South America, travel up the Eastern Seaboard, cross the Atlantic and sail back into their Swedish home port.

The students' last port call was Cuba, and the two were curious about the United States' relations with Cuba.

"It's so different" from Jacksonville, Hansson said. "It's two different worlds."

Between port calls, the students take the usual high school courses like mathematics, physics and biology sprinkled with lessons about world history and politics and economies. Bergstrom will be writing a paper on the United States' foreign policy as it relates to Cuba.

Tommy Eliasson, an instructor of social sciences aboard Gunilla for a third of the year, is a university student in Gothenbourg, Sweden, the other nine months.

"If you are in the university for too long, you get crowded with the books," he said. "It's good to go out and enjoy reality for three months."

During their six-day stay in town, students will shadow the locals, from business and city employees with the Human Rights Commission and Emergency Operations Center to high school students in Orange Park. …

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