Mention the name Jonathan Esselin around Lake Highlands High School and you might get some blank looks. But if you call out “Swede!” to the kids at school, they’ll hoot and holler for their favorite foreign exchange student.

Jonathan is from Umea, a coastal town in northern Sweden. It’s no wonder he’s enjoying American food – “we eat a lot of moosemeat back home,” he told me. “My favorite is pizza. We don’t eat fast food where I’m from.”

Jonathan, 18, is classified as a junior but will have two more years of high school when he returns home. After that, he’ll take two years off before college. “It’s normal in Sweden to travel a year and work some before going to university.”

He doesn’t have trouble communicating – he calls his English “okay” – but he says life here is a lot different. “Everyone in America is so friendly,” he says. And of his host family, the Doggetts, “They are perfect,” Jonathan says. “I couldn’t have gotten a better family to stay with.”

“He could be our son,” said Carol Doggett, who hosts him during his stay. “We love having him here. He’s like a brother to Turner (an LHHS sophomore soccer player). He hasn’t had any problems fitting in at school – all the kids have embraced him.”

“For Christmas he made us a special meal of Swedish meatballs,” Carol added, “and he went on our family trip to California to see Los Angeles and enjoy the beach. Years from now, I hope he’ll return for a visit so we can catch up.”

Jonathan misses his parents but says he keeps up with them via Skype every three weeks. And Carol emails links to our soccer updates here (“His mom cried when she saw the video of him scoring a goal.”) They’ll come to Dallas for a visit in the spring, and they look forward to meeting his new friends.

Jonathan plays center midfield for the Cats, making a strong contribution in preseason matches. He’s missed a few games while nursing an old knee injury, but he hopes to get back to scoring goals for the team very soon. Take a moment to meet and welcome Jonathan, wearing #6 on his jersey, at tonight’s game against Sunset at Sprague Field on the Kimball High campus, or at the Berkner game Tuesday at The Boneyard.