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If it weren't for apple Following the Westelius family’s immigration journey from Sweden to the U.S.

By Justine Ha

During the summer of 2012, a family of five trudged into the compact Linköping City Airport with their life packed into just 13 pieces of luggage. Fueled by a mix of fear and excitement, the Westelius family pushed their stacked airport cart into the flight check-in booth and awaited their 5,370-mile journey to America.

Prior to the move, Carl-Johan Westelius, the father of senior Isak Westelisus, was working in a small Sweden-based technology company. After it was bought by Apple Headquarters in early 2012, everyone at the Swedish company was given job offers at Apple in America. Due to their initial apprehension of moving to the U.S. after been given the job offer, the Westelius family visited California in order to get the feel of what living in America would be like. After that trip, they were eager to take this moving opportunity to America.

At the time of the move, Isak was a 9-year-old devastated about leaving meaningful aspects of his life behind — including his Swedish school friends, extended family and his beloved childhood cats. In contrast, his mother, Brita Westelius, was mostly energetic and excited for their journey. Brita notes that the security from Apple and her inquisitive nature helped fuel her fearlessness when it came to immigrating to a new country.

Photo courtesy of Isak Westelius | Used with permission

“My parents always told me I was a curious kid,” Brita said. “With some planning, I can just say that being curious has been very rewarding [and] I think [being curious] constantly brings joy to my life ... When it [came] to immigrating to America, we felt supported by this huge company that was taking us over. I’m not sure we would’ve [moved] if it weren’t for Apple — their support is what helped us overcome the first shivering moments of organizing [our] life again.”

Both Isak and Brita’s first impression of America was that “everything was massive” — the cars, infrastructure and roads. After initially landing in America, Brita says one of her first conversations was with a worker at an American car rental company at the San Francisco International airport.

“One of the workers said, ‘You can choose any of those cars from that line’ and we picked a car that would be considered a smaller [vehicle for American family standards] but it was normal for Swedish families,” Brita said. “A guy suddenly started running towards us saying ‘Oh, no! You can’t have that car — it’s far too small for you guys.’ He ends up bringing us a [e]x[tra]-large jeep style car with two back rows and plenty of room for our luggage in the back. It’s like I [would] fall out of the car every time I got out because it was so high up.”

While adjusting to life in America, Brita emphasizes the difference between parenting and schooling cultures in Sweden versus America. She notes that due to the high quality of public transportation available in Sweden, it was easier to raise kids; thus, both parents in Swedish families were encouraged to work. As a mother of three, Brita comments on the necessity of getting more involved with her kids’ daily routine in America compared to Sweden.

“My plan when coming to America was to get a job right as we moved, but I realized that wasn’t possible,” Brita said. “I had one child in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school, [and] I had to take them to school myself since there were no buses or services for them to get to school. American culture was totally different when it came to the practicalities of being a mom — I’m glad I didn’t have a job at the beginning since it was a big adjustment to learn.”

Photo courtesy of Isak Westelius | Used with permission

Similarly, Isak faced a learning curve when experiencing the differences between American and Swedish culture. As a first-grader, he was especially confused with the lack of freedom during recess or in class. He remembers moments of frustration from this cultural change as an elementary school student.

“When I first moved, I was so anti-America,” Isak said. “I remember coming back from my first day of school and I told my parents ‘Mom, Dad, I want to switch schools’ based on absolutely nothing. I [also] remember at [recess] during elementary school, instead of [playing in the playground], I would lay face-down in the tanbark near the play structures as a form of protest.”

Although Isak and his siblings moved to America as young children, his parents were firm on keeping Swedish traditions alive in their household. Isak says that not only does his family try to maintain their Swedish culture, but they also make memories when they travel back to Sweden.

“[My family and I] speak Swedish at home all the time,” Isak said. “I also do fencing for Sweden Internationally so I’ve been able to connect with other Swedish fencers … My family and I also try to travel to Sweden every year. I remember [coming back to Sweden and] attending a Christian camp to talk about Jesus… and [visiting] friends from Linköping.”

Photo courtesy of Isak Westelius | Used with permission

After adjusting to life in the Bay Area, both Brita and Carl-Johan began the process to get green cards. After enduring through a three year process, they were able obtain citizenship. Brita emphasizes her gratitude for the “easy” process for the entire family.

While Brita and her husband had been unsure of the amount of time they would spend in America after immigrating, they currently have no intention of moving soon. She emphasizes the message of being flexible in situations that come in one’s way.

“Our family and friends back in Sweden thought we would maybe stay [in America] for two or three years but we’ve passed [over eight now],” Brita said. “We [ultimately] have to be adaptable — my husband still loves his job and Isak is still in [high] school but I don’t know if he wants to stay in [America for college] or move back to Sweden [since college is free there] … Ultimately, I don’t know. It will be easier to say what our plans will be in two to three years when Isak decides where to live. So, we’ll see how everything goes.”