Steamboat Springs Swedish exchange students visiting Steamboat Springs are discovering the United States is about more than Big Macs and celebrities - a widespread perception in their home country.
"When you're talking about America, it's all junk food," Swedish eighth-grader Sara von Sydow said Friday at Steamboat Springs Middle School. "But it hasn't been that way."
"Most of what you hear about America is Hollywood stars," added fellow student Ingrid Radell. "But when you come to the U.S., you don't meet Hollywood stars."
Sara, Ingrid and six other students from the Swedish city of Sollentuna - about 15 minutes from the capital of Stockholm - arrived last month and are here for three weeks as part of a middle school exchange program now in its 13th year.
The Swedish students have had a busy schedule since arriving in Routt County. Their stay has included three ski days at Steamboat Ski Area - with two more scheduled, tubing at Howelsen Hill, soaks in Old Town and Strawberry Park Hot Springs, chicken wings at The Tap House, presentations about Sweden to local students, activities at Saddleback Ranch and more.
"You get really tired all the time," Ingrid said with a smile.
"But it's so much fun," Sara added. "It's worth it."
And as it turns out, the group has seen some stars.
On a trip to Denver, some of the students met professional hockey great and Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forsberg - a legend in his native Sweden.
"It was so cool," Swedish student Daniel Wessberger said of the meeting. "He was very nice. : I met Joe Sakic, too."
The Swedish students also attended a Denver Nuggets basketball game and sat so close to the action that they high-fived players running onto the court.
Swedish math and science teacher Marie Backlund, who is coordinating the trip along with Steamboat social studies teacher Sally Howard, said she has enjoyed the little things during her trip to the U.S.
"I really got to see how it is living in a smaller town and being a part of normal living," Backlund said.
Steamboat students will soon get to experience normal living in Sweden. From April 21 to May 12, the group will visit Sollentuna, where the Swedish students will return the favor of hosting guests from overseas.
The Steamboat students may have to change their diet.
"You eat more meat and barbecue here," Swedish student Viking Bjrk Fristrm said. "We eat more potatoes and fish."