This archived article was written by: Kristen Zuricchi-Mize
When going to a new country, you never know what to expect. It’s a pretty big step for anyone, especially a teenager. Siri Wiersen, from Norway, is part of the Foreign Exchange Aspect Foundation Organization.
“I didn’t choose where to go besides the U.S. So for all I knew, I could end up all over, from Hawaii to Alaska. I could have chosen a state or region, but I’m glad I didn’t. I love it here! I live with a host family in Spring Glen and I am graduating from Carbon High this year. To get all the credits I need, I’m also taking a college class,” Wiersen stated enthusiastically.
Wiersen mentioned that Norweigans start learning English from a young age. She said, “We learn how to speak English in school when we are 6 years old. So we basically learn how to read and write English at the same time we learn how to read and write Norwegian.”
Coming up with enough money to move to another country is not always an easy task. Wiersen worked during the summer to earn money she could use when she travelled to New York City for a preparation camp. After that her general expenses are covered. The flight from Norway to the United States was about 15 hours long.
Wiersen has noticed some big differences between her school system back home and the one we have here in the United States. “The school system is very different. Our high school is 11th-13th grade or 11th-12th grade. It depends what program you attend. You can go into health, electrical worker, mechanical worker, etc, and then the high school will give you an education. Those are the two-year programs, the general studies are three years, and they prepare you for college.
In her country, she said a student can decide if they want to attend high school or not. Students can decide to take a year break after junior high and then go back to high school, or they can start working right away and never go to high school. This means that everyone in high school can choose to be there so everyone is motivated.
Wiersen said that high schools in Norway are not as strict as they are here but higher grades are harder to achieve in Norway. She said her grades are better here even though she worked harder in Norway.
Wiersen uses Skype and Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family. “They ask me questions about the school, my host family and friends, how Americans are in general, if all Americans are fat and eat only fast food, and if everything is as we see in the movies, like if I had lunch at the bathroom my first day of school,” Wiersen said.
Meanwhile, with all the questions from back home, Wiersen gets a lot of questions from the new people she has met during her time in the states. “Some people ask me if I know how to speak Norwegian. Others have asked me if I ever run into polar bears or if it’s snow all year around in Norway.”
Wiersen arrived in the states in August and will return home in June. “The time passes so fast though, I can’t believe I’m halfway done already!”