Foreign exchange student shares perspective on gun violence in America


Courtesy of Robb Stanley

Junior Caitlin Stanley (right) welcomes Hugo Adolfsson (left) to Atlanta with a sign after three connecting flights from Gothenburg, Sweden to Atlanta.

Connie Erdozain

Within the first month of the school year, the Midtown community was affected by an unprecedented amount of gun-related incidents. Having never experienced gun violence, foreign exchange student Hugo Adolfsson shares a unique perspective on the events.  

Adolfsson was born in Sweden and moved to Switzerland when he was 4 years old. After graduating from high school in Switzerland, Adolfsson decided to try foreign exchange in the U.S.

“I’m finished with school; I could basically go to college now, but I don’t want to do that,” Adolfsson said. “So, I just thought, ‘let’s go to America, do an exchange here and have a year to think about what I really want to do.’”

Adolfsson’s mother, Pernilla Adolfsson says that the exchange trip will help build Adolfsson’s development as a person.

“Having the opportunity to see something else, learn new languages and meet new people is very, very good for [him],” Adolfsson’s mother said. “I think he needed that, he needed some change.”

Since the beginning of his stay in the U.S., Adolfsson has noticed significant differences between Switzerland and the U.S., especially with gun control. 

“In Switzerland, there are restrictions where you have to be in the army for six years, and after that, you can use a gun legally,” Adolfsson said. “Almost no one has any gun laws where you can use guns and just buy them if you feel like it.”

Adolfsson said he disagrees with the gun laws in America and thinks they need to be changed.

“I think the gun laws should be terminated completely, but I’m guessing that’s not gonna happen,” Adolfsson said. “There should be a law where you shorten the amount of guns that you can have and what type of guns you can use. You shouldn’t have to pull out an assault rifle just to feel safe.”

An active shooter shot and killed two people and injured a third person in Colony Square, just a few blocks from Midtown High School on Aug. 22. Adolfsson said that the shooting worried him. 

“I was just thinking in my head because I actually walked home that day,” Adolfsson said. “I was just hoping no one would come with a gun. I was just thinking which way I would take if [the shooter] comes. I had to plan a bit before.”

After the school shooting threat posed to Midtown through social media, Adolfsson was one of many to not attend school.

“[I was] kind of sad because we had to stay at home because of someone just sending out a threat,” Adolfsson said. “Just that already is alarming enough to everyone staying [home], or at least most of the people staying home.”

Junior Caitlin Stanley is Adolfsson’s host sister, and says she felt ‘uncomfortable’ explaining the situation regarding the shooting threat to Adolfsson.

“Explaining that to him on Thursday morning was a weird conversation for sure,” Stanley said. “We were trying to explain that while Americans are sort of known for this kind of thing, this isn’t normal for us.”

Adolfsson’s host parent, Robb Stanley, expresses concerns about gun related issues and the school shooting threat. 

“I’m his parent for a lot of purposes over the next year,” Stanley said. “So, I hate that those things are happening.They made me worry; they made me scared but not any differently because he’s an exchange student than they do for any other kid at the school.”

Pernilla Adolfsson says that she isn’t overly concerned about the situation.

“Since we’re not used to weapons so much, I guess for us, it’s a little bit more difficult to understand that a lot of people [in the U.S.] own a gun or weapon and keep weapons at home, but we just need to learn and kind of accept and understand how it works where you are,” Adolfsson’s mother said. “I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of it …I  just hope that the school and the community takes responsibility and finds a good solution to keep the students safe.”

Stanley wants Adolfsson to have a good experience in the U.S. and at Midtown.

“What I don’t want him to do is go back to Switzerland and tell all his friends that America is nothing but a bunch of guns,” Stanley said. “We’ll both learn through that whole process. I hope he comes to appreciate that there are a lot of great things here in America so that his impression of Americans perhaps has changed in a positive way as a result of the experience.”

Despite recent incidents, Adolfsson said he has enjoyed the school year so far and is looking forward to the rest of his experience as an exchange student.

“I’m here to experience new stuff,” Adolffson said. “It’s more that I am here to witness all the good stuff of America, so, [I] kind of just shoved it to the side and accepted that there are guns here and tried to live on with it.”