My Year With A Norwegian Exchange Student
During the school year my daughter decided she wanted to have an exchange student from a foreign country stay with us for the school year. There was talk about doing this in her high school and she came home one day all excited. I didn't think we would be able to do this as we lived in an apartment and did not have very much room. We already had a teenage son a daughter and a dog.
We had to fill out a questionnaire to see if we even qualified, then we had to be interviewed by the board of the exchange student committee.
I had to check this out and go to a meeting to research this sort of thing. What if we couldn't understand them, what if the kids didn't get along with this stranger? So many things to consider. We gave in and got a girl from Norway. She was two years older than our daughter and that would put her in the senior year of high school.
Hilde from Norway
What followed was a very interesting year. Hilde was the girls name and she wanted to get involved in every sport the school had to offer. In Norway, they did not have half of the sports in high school as the USA has. My daughter was already involved in many after school activities and we were running from one to another a few days a week and on weekends.
Hilde made so many friends right from the start. Between our own kids and now Hilde there were constant people at our house. My husband and I both worked full time and we never knew who and how many people would be at the house when we got home. It was chaotic but fun.
Being an exchange student, Hilde was involved in meetings with some other students in some of the surrounding school areas.
For Hilde's 17th birthday, we gave her a surprise party. We invited some of the exchange students from other countries that were staying nearby. We had seven countries represented in our apartment for Hilde's "Sexy and 17" birthday Party. She named it that!!! Today she still calls it that and told her family all about it.
What do you make to eat for all these people from different countries? I decided to order a six foot submarine sandwich and salads, not knowing then, this would stay in her head after all these years. The girls had a great time and most of the time I had no idea of what they were saying. We just shook our heads and smiled.
Hilde did graduate that spring with the class and she was so excited. With all the activities she was into, and believe me, she was into everything; there were end of season dinners and awards banquets, etc. Of course being her host family, we were invited to everything and actually got to sit with the principal and superentendent of the schools.
Everyone knows how much fun and gags kids like to play on each other, well, not known to us, a bunch of the girls told Hilde that a particular hand jester meant HAPPY BIRTHDAY in America!!! We had no idea what was going to happen next. One of the teachers got up to give out the awards for the girls field hockey team. Everything was going nicely until she started talking about Hilde. She mentioned that one day at school all the girls on the team kept saying NOW HILDE NOW....with that, Hilde gave the teacher that hand jester as she knew it was the teachers Birthday...After all, the girls told her it meant HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
We were so shocked we slid down into our seats...The principal and superintnedent couldn't stop laughing.
Hilde went to the prom with a classmate and a few weeks later after graduation she went back home to Norway..
Visits Back to USA
In 1995 Hilde came back to attend her American sisters wedding. We kept it a secret from our daughter. Hilde brought her Norwegian Formal Attire and the night before the wedding Hilde and her husband showed up at the hotel we were all staying in. That was a very exciting moment and we all decided to have her wear her Native Formal Wear and walk down the aisle after the bridesmaids. It was just beautiful.
2011, 25 years later, Hilde's entire family came to America for a nice long visit. Hilde's husband and 3 chidren, her parents and her brother and his family. The parents and kids have never been to the USA and were so excited and especially to meet the family that their daughter calls her American parents!l
Trying to arrange a meeting place was very trying as we now live over 2 hours away from New York City, where they were staying. Again, we didn't know what to do about eating, etc and didn't want to be tied down to a resturant as we knew we would make lots of noise and there were a few young children that didn't want to sit still for a few hours. After much research and emailing Hilde in Norway, we decided to have a picnic. I asked her for food suggestions as I had no idea what the family likes or dislikes. Of all things, she wanted THE 6 FOOT SUB AGAIN!!!
She said they have nothing like that in Norway and her family had no idea what she was talking about all these years. We had lots of things to go with it. The day was beautiful and being a weekday, the park was empty so we had the whole thing to ourselves. There was a playground for the kids and it was so great seeing out Norwegian grandchildren playing with our American grandson.
Her parents were so great and we could all understand each other. Hilde has not changed at all and her English was still great, she said "I am an English Teacher in Norway". My son and daughter were there along with one of my grandsons.
After that beautiful day, Hilde and her family went to California for a week to stay with a girl she met at school here many years ago. Her parents and brothers family went on a cruise out of NYC. They have never been on a cruise before and it happened they were going on our favorite Norwegian ship, the Gem, so we gave them lots of suggestions and ideas.
This was one of the most memorable experiences in my whole families lives as well as Hilde's familys.