Södertälje’s mayor Anders Lago gained notoriety earlier in the year following an address to the US Congress in which he explained the challenges his city faces in integration the thousands of Iraqi refugees that have settled there in recent years.
Back in April US Ambassador Michael Wood traveled to Södertälje to meet with Lago and members of the Iraqi community and learn more about what the US government could do to help.
“We recognize that Södertälje has done a great deal for Iraqi refugees and we wanted to help with the integration efforts there,” said US embassy spokesperson Robert Hilton told The Local.
The outcome of the meetings was the suggestion of holding what Hilton calls an “Opportunity Fair” for young people in Södertälje to help them learn more about the various options available to them for working and studying in the United States.
“Our feeling is that going to the United States is something that many young Swedes do, almost like a rite of passage,” said Hilton.
“Our hope is that the experience can them help someone along in the careers or studies when they return.”
The October 16th gathering, scheduled to coincide with the opening of Södertälje’s new city hall, will feature presentations and informational material from about a dozen organizations in the business of arranging work and educational exchange experiences in the United States.
There will also be a session on the practicalities of traveling to the US, including scholarship opportunities and visa application procedures.
Hilton stressed that the event is by no means meant only for members of the Iraqi refugee community, but is open to anyone interested in US-destined exchange programs.
“We wanted to do what we could to share information about these opportunities with a wider audience,” he said.
Södertälje’s mayor estimates the event could attract as many as 400 participants.
While Hilton admits that the embassy has undertaken efforts previously to promote opportunities for young Swedes to work and study across the Atlantic, it’s rare to have such close cooperation with a particular city.
“It’s the first time that I’m aware of there has been such a concentrated effort between and embassy and a locality,” he said.
Plans are also underway to arrange a follow up event in the spring of 2009 which would feature representatives from the US business community.