European Travelers Visit Region 8

June 6, 2004 -- Posted 5:30 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- Northeast Arkansas is welcoming a few visitors who have traveled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, with passport in hand, to try some catfish and walk along cotton fields.

They're here to learn about American culture as part of an organization that's getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

"I think I've learned that the term southern hospitality is just not an empty word," said Swedish Traveler Helena Sjostrom.

In reality, these five Europeans from Sweden are part of a group study exchange through the Rotary Foundation. They're here for four weeks to better understand American culture, and to learn more about how business operates in this country. This morning's adventure took them to the Craighead County Jail. There they observed the American criminal justice system at work, noticing it runs slightly different than their own.

"We lock them in one by one and they are surrounded by concrete walls," said Swedish traveler Lollo Lundkvist

But for these Europeans, getting a tour of the jail is not the only thing they signed up for.

"Arkansas isn't so well known back home before President Clinton," said Lundkvist. "One of the ideas of this trip is peace and understanding and I think we understand a little bit more about this state after this trip."

And the same holds true for Arkansas Rotarians. Some of them just returned from their trip to Sweden.

"I think they'll tell you they had an experience that can't be bought from a travel agent or anywhere else because of the nature of the tour and the hospitality that they were exposed to while in Sweden," said Bob Warner with the Arkansas Rotary Club.

The group from Sweden will be making a few more stops in Region 8 before leaving, a few will spend a day in New York City.

As for the Arkansas Rotary Club, they're already making plans for an exchange in Norway next year.