Cultural exchange

Norwegian exchange student shares experience of the U.S.


Photo by Yasmin Haq

Junior Maren Stavne is an exchange student from Norway

Junior Maren Stavne likes to hang out with friends, find the best food and read a good book. Despite that, she isn’t exactly a normal American teen; in fact, she’s not American. She’s an exchange student from Norway.

Stavne first arrived in New York, then flew down to Texas three days later on August 13. She has been living with host parents and attending Hebron as a junior for the current school year. Stavne plans to complete the year before going back home to Norway on June 10.

“When I was in fifth grade, a girl from where I live went [to the U.S.], and my dad  [knew] her family,” Stavne said. “So she went, and then I really wanted to go. But my parents were like, ‘Oh no, you have to wait till you’re 16.’ So I waited, and then I applied.”

Stavne said one of her favorite things about America is the food, especially pizza.

“I have to take home some recipes to have my mother cook,” said Stavne.

She is living with host parents Sariah and Shane Norton. This is their second time hosting an exchange student.

“My other friends that are exchange students, they have problems with their host family, and I don’t have that, so I’m really grateful,” Stavne said. “They’re really nice and kind.”

Sariah said one of her favorite experiences with Maren was during Christmas. Maren showed them Norwegian traditions; for example, singing Christmas carols while holding hands around a tree and having a “Santa” pass out gifts to the kids.

“We had a really cool Christmas experience with Maren where she invited us to her religion,” Sariah said. “So some of the Norwegian traditions that they had were really fun. We enjoyed that a lot, and I would say that I would love to take those into my own family’s traditions as well because they were really fun and family-oriented.”

Shane said the Norwegian culture was something he had not experienced before, and so it was interesting to learn about. Previously, their first exchange student was German.

“It’s kind of different with our first exchange student because I have a little bit of German in me, and so I know a little bit about the German culture,” Shane said. “But I think it’s more interesting to learn about the Norwegian [culture].”

Back in Norway, Stavne has two younger brothers, 15-year-old Ola and 8-year-old Peder.

“I would say me and my 15-year-old brother are closer because we’re closer in age, and we had a lot of fun growing up even though we fought a lot,” Stavne said. “My 8-year-old brother, he’s like little, but I’m friends with him too.”

In Norway, Stavne lives on a farm and only has one neighbor. She said that the two restaurants they do have are both 50 minutes away, and the population is about 2,000 people.

“At my school we had like 64 people total, but my grade was the biggest and we were 17 students, and there were five girls,” Stavne said. “So we were best friends with everyone, and I still talk to almost everyone in my grade from elementary school. It’s really nice.”

Stavne makes sure to keep in touch with her family back in Norway. She Skypes them about once or twice a month, and she gets on Facebook with her mom frequently.

“I miss my family a lot, and I’m excited to see them again, and to see my dog,” Stavne said.

Stavne said she plans to visit again, and that the experience as an exchange student in the U.S has been fun. She said she’ll be sad to leave at the end of the school year.

“I’ve become more independent I would say,” Stavne said. “I was independent before I came here, but know I’m more. I’m more accepting, and better at speaking English.”