Claude Kelly has only been in Stockholm for three months but already has a packed social calendar. The Texan relocated with her husband and six-year-old son in August, arriving just two weeks before the school term was due to start. She barely had time to recover from the jet lag before school was underway.
“I didn't even have time to process the move,” she tells The Local. Fortunately, help was at hand in the form of Stockholm International School's parent-teacher association (PTA). The primary mission of the school-based organisation is to involve parents in the school's activities from fundraising to sports events. It also welcomes newcomers to a ready-made community from the moment their child enrols at SIS.
And if Claude is anything to go by, it's doing a pretty good job.
Photo: Claude Kelly (right)
“The community here is amazing! It's helped me a lot. There are days when I'm not even home. The other day I went to running club, then book club and fika, then I picked up my son and took him to a playdate. It's constant go, go, go!”, she laughs.
Co-President of the PTA Philip McCrae explains that in any given year there are around 25-30 parents who are actively involved with 200-250 more dipping in and out. Much of the activity centres around the school's ongoing Nepal Project, a student-run (and parent-supported) project to raise funds for students at a Nepalese primary school.
But there's also the social element. Using an online tool called Classlist, parents can instantly share news and tips amongst themselves. There's always someone to answer your question or invite you for fika, a real boon for families who are new to Sweden.
Photo: Philip McCrae, Co-President of the PTA
Philip explains that the PTA sends out all comms to parents through a digital communications tool which is also where members can set up and join different clubs. There are currently 12 clubs including a book club, running club and ‘Stockholm Night Out' for when parents need a child-free tipple.
“We have been very focused on and consistently prioritising that there's a big, broad range of activities for parents. I think it's a great way to get them connected in some way to the broader SIS community,” says Philip.
Claude is a testament to the PTA's success and has fully embraced the school's community. While her son is taking part in activities like chess club and soccer, she has no shortage of things to do herself.
Photo: PTA members enjoying a fika together
“I've basically signed up for everything! But it's up to you. It's just amazing to come somewhere new and have all this available,” she says.
Something Claude has found particularly useful is the PTA's custom ‘Welcome to Sweden' booklet. Developed by a long-standing member of SIS's PTA with significant support from the school, the booklet helps with everything from getting a cellphone to opening a bank account.
“It's the perfect resource that's helped me a lot. If I can't find someone to ask during fika then I go through the book. I have a dog and didn't know where to take him to the vet, it can be daunting. I'll get texts from Telia and I can't figure out what it says but everything's in the book. There are so many avenues for help.”
The multitude of clubs and the Welcome to Sweden booklet are just a snapshot of the help that SIS provides new families. The school has every base covered to help newcomers settle in, including a buddy system that pairs incoming parents with an existing family as well as two information sessions at the start of the year.
Photo: PTA members
It's a welcome relief for many parents who gain confidence knowing that they won't be alone following the relocation. The ready-made support network and social life make Stockholm feel like home from the moment you land. It's certainly worked for Claude, who has enthusiastically thrown herself into school life.
“There were some days when it was lonely and I just wanted to stay in but these activities force you to get out. I can't express enough how much it's helped.”
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Stockholm International School.