For one week a group of six families found themselves surrounded by the North Woods of Minnesota and immersed in all that is Swedish. Annika and Shawn Crosby took their children, Axel, age 6 and Cecilia, age 7 to a Swedish family week at Concordia Language Villages.
Cecilia had attended a one-week session at Sjölunden the summer before as a six-year-old. Through photographs posted daily on the Village’s production site, Annika, Shawn, and Axel kept an eye on Cecilia’s progress and activities throughout the week. Her excitement was evident as she chattered about the trolls and led her family through all the site’s wooded trails the day they came to pick her up. Her enthusiasm contagious, the whole family signed up for language camp the next year.
“Loved the meals!” were the first words from Annika as she thought back to her time at Sjölunden. The meals are served family-style at long wooden tables either in the light and airy dining hall or out on the veranda. Families can sit together, but they are also encouraged to mingle. The food, as it is Swedish and perhaps not familiar to everyone, is introduced one dish at a time through a skit. Like everything else at the Language Villages, mealtime is full of song. “So fun,” said Annika playfully, “with the singing, banging on the tables, skits beforehand, getting to know the staff and kids at mealtimes, trying all the delicious food.”
The Village has the aura of a close-knit neighborhood – not something you find too easily anymore. Kids can really roam free, go back to their cabin, play games. Parents and kids feel comfortable in this newfound freedom. Probably the thing about family weeks at the Villages that makes the experience unique is that common thread of language that pulls everyone together.
For many of us, strong, fond memories can be traced back to our school days. Perhaps you were in a choir, or played soccer. The group of people you interacted with was incredibly diverse. What brought you all together for hours of practice was the love of song or the love of the sport. At the Language Villages, families come together to share in the love of culture, communication, and global perspective. The Crosbys still keep in touch with a family from Washington, D.C. whom they met at camp. A few of the families were from the Twin Cities, expanding their interaction with the Swedish community there. “It’s nice for me also,” said Annika, “as I spent a good deal of time in Sweden growing up. The setting, traditions, and language at Sjölunden bring back memories of those times.”
Time is split about half-and-half between group activities focused on language and free or family time. After a long day of running around, painting, singing, and eating, most find the evenings sitting around the campfire something special. Song, story-telling, star-watching become a peaceful means of ending the day. Annika recalled, “The troll stories by the campfire - the location, scenery, atmosphere - were so perfect!”
The Language Villages have created opportunities such as family weeks and adult programs in response to the many parents and adults who write in wanting to experience what the summer youth program offers the young. “These times are memorable because we would never experience the same at home, or anywhere else for that matter,” concluded Annika.