SWEA: The Swedish Women’s Educational AssociationMarch 22, 2016
Moving abroad or taking a sabbatical is one of those things that’s on most everyone’s dream bucket list. But often, in addition to leaving our current jobs, the difficulty in finding one’s footing in a foreign country is another hurdle that keeps most from checking that item off the list.
Imagine if you could move abroad and have a built-in network for finding a job, housing and even a group of people who spoke your native language and shared your culture? It’d make that move a lot more likely, wouldn’t it?
Enter SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association. SWEA is a global network of roughly 7,500 Swedish speaking women in more than 70 chapters across 30 countries and five continents.
Founded in Los Angeles in the 1970s by Agneta Nilsson, SWEA’s mission is just to provide a sort of safety net for Swedes moving abroad all over the world. Fulfilling that mission naturally makes SWEA the largest organization outside Sweden promoting Swedish language, culture and tradition.
It started in 1978 with a Christmas Fair held by Nilsson in L.A. Nilsson, whose family moved to Los Angeles in the 70s began collecting addresses and business cards of fellow Swedes she met along the way. She missed home and interacting with fellow Swedes, so she decided to host a Christmas Fair, inviting those whose information she had collected. The event was a huge success, and SWEA was born.
“For me SWEA is a home away from home,” says Minna Madzunkova, a California resident and native Swede who now serves as chapter president of SWEA Los Angeles. “We celebrate Swedish holidays, arrange interesting seminars and support other Swedish organizations.”
SWEA’s events have grown to include things like a Swedish film festival (held by its Virginia Beach chapter) as well as philanthropic efforts including awarding three $10,000 scholarships per year. A volunteer organization called SWEA CARE lends a helping hand to older SWEA members, who for instance, need someone to drive them around for errands or appointments. Perhaps the biggest SWEA event is the annual SWEA Sweden Dinner, where the Swedish Woman of the Year is honored.
In addition, SWEA helps Swedes abroad find jobs, nannies of simply a group of Swedes to hang out with.
“SWEA chapters all around the world have an array of possibilities in terms of types of events you can attend or projects to support,” said Madzunkova. “It’s great to have a strong network of supportive women who share my culture. The friendships I formed during these years are invaluable and I’m grateful to be part of such a wonderful organization.”
How do you join?
It’s pretty simple – just find the chapter located closest to you by visiting swea.org, and visit the chapter’s page to fill out an application. There’s a small annual membership fee. The only requirements for membership are that you need to be at least 18 years old and speak the language fluently – all of the meetings and lectures are held in Swedish.
Want more SWEA?
If you’re considering joining or want to learn more, visit the SWEA international page at swea.org. The organization also publishes a biannual magazine. You can find full issues to read online here: http://sanfrancisco.swea.org/swea-magasinet/.