America, Meet Norway: Audrey’s Adventures Abroad

Exchange+student+Audrey+Hansen+from+Norway+will+be+studying+at+Horizon+Honors+for+the+entirety+of+her+junior+year.

Manu Kondapi © 2013

Exchange student Audrey Hansen from Norway will be studying at Horizon Honors for the entirety of her junior year.

Manu Kondapi, Associate Editor

Founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult, Education First, or EF, is an international education company committed to breaking down barriers of culture, geography, and language in order to promote cultural integration and immersion. For almost 50 years, the company has led the world in international education, especially through its exchange programs for high school students.

This year, a Horizon Honors’ family is hosting its own EF student from Harstad, Norway. Ingeborg Hansen, known to Horizon Honors students as Audrey, will be spending the entirety of her junior year in Phoenix, Arizona, learning about American culture and experiencing the traditions and lifestyle of the American people.

Hansen became interested in the EF program at a young age; she was intrigued by the excitement of traveling on her own to a foreign country to improve her English and to experience a completely different culture. Last year, she applied and was thrilled when she learned that she would be living abroad for the entire year. When she first arrived in the states, she and several other exchange students attended orientation in Rhode Island and Maine to prepare for living in the United States. Following camp, the exchange students were dispersed across the country to live with various host families and attend school in cities nationwide.

Culture shock ensued as Hansen left her friends and family to experience the excessive American lifestyle- the larger portions surprised her, as did the desert climate of Phoenix and the variations in food, culture, and education. Norway’s school system is quite different from America’s: high school there begins in eleventh grade, in comparison to ninth here. Norwegian students sit in with one teacher throughout the day, instead of moving from class to class. In addition, though Hansen is 17 years old and would be considered a senior in America, this does not translate to Norwegian school standards. At Horizon Honors, she is enrolled as a junior, and she will complete her senior year when she returns to Harstad. For Hansen, the largest obstacle she has faced so far is adjusting to her host family. “Maybe not American living, but living with a family that isn’t yours is very difficult… Besides that, school here is really different.”

Over fall break, Hansen traveled to Washington DC and New York City with fellow EF students. She was able to reunite with her close friends from Norway and had quite the adventure touring the northeast. Hansen’s favorite American city so far is New York: “I can still remember the butterflies I had in my stomach when we could see the Manhattan skyline.” In addition, New York City resembles Europe much more so than Phoenix, so she felt right at home among the city’s skyscrapers. Hansen will continue to explore the country during her stay. Over winter break, she will travel to Las Vegas and Utah with her host family to go camping. And in March, she will participate in another trip hosted by her exchange program to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Hansen simply cannot decide on her favorite memory from her experiences abroad- “That’s a tough one…I don’t know, there are too many to choose from. But it’s all the little things that have made it up. I would say the small things often are what make good memories.” The food is certainly one of her favorite parts of her trip- she has become accustomed to buffalo wings and froyo, items unavailable in her hometown, and she loves trying all the new foods presented to her.

Hansen is extremely excited to see what the rest of the school year will bring; she will return to Norway in June, approximately a week after school ends. And before she leaves us, she plans to ensure that she experiences as much as the American lifestyle as possible, from attending dances and hanging out with friends to experiencing holidays such as Thanksgiving and traveling around the country.