To say that Mette Rostad had her mind set on coming to America as a foreign exchange student is an understatement.
The 17-year-old from Rissa, Norway, was so determined to do it, that she raised the $13,000 U.S. needed for the trip herself. She did it by saving all her birthday and confirmation money and working nearly every day for a full year in a shoe store.
"I only took about six or seven days off from work at the shoe store during my summer holiday from school," she says. "Otherwise, I worked every day."
Three of the days she took off were to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to meet Perry and Peggy Olson of Blue Earth, her soon-to-be host parents. The Olsons were in Denmark visiting one of the six previous exchange students they have hosted.
Rostad was very happy to learn the Olsons were from Minnesota.
That is because not only was Rostad determined to come to the U.S., she wanted to come to Minnesota in particular. Besides the fact that she has relatives who live in Minneapolis and Pelican Rapids, there was another reason.
You see, she has been here before performing on stage.
"In 2008, when I was 12, I was part of a traveling theater group," she explains. "We performed a play written by a famous Norwegian author, who is from my town."
The play was about Norwegians leaving their homeland and coming to America. It was called "The Immigrants." The traveling acting troupe performed it in Minneapolis, Fergus Falls and Fargo, N.D.
"I played a little girl living in a sod hut," Rostad recalls. "I had to cry real hard when our cow was taken away."
Rostad's younger sister, Ingrid, also was part of the troupe. She was 10 at the time.
"She played the part of a house santa (little elf) and she just had to run across the stage in costume," Rostad says. "So, she had a free trip to America just to do that three times."
It is not the only time Rostad has been on stage. She has also performed in the play "The Last Viking," by the same author, Johan Boyer.
"In that one I had a big part and had to give birth on stage," she says. "I had to scream a lot. It was the funniest part I ever did."
Besides loving theater and drama, Rostad has also enjoyed competitive wind sailing, gymnastics, soccer and hand ball in her hometown in Norway.
Here in Blue Earth she has taken up dance at Dancers Unlimited and is a member of the Buccaneer cross country team. She plans to join track in the spring.
"I absolutely love it here in Blue Earth," she says enthusiastically. "My town is even smaller, so I think Blue Earth is pretty big."
Same thing for Blue Earth Area High School.
"In Rissa I go to a high school that is only three grades and has just 175 students," she says. "So Blue Earth Area seems big to me."
Size is not the only difference in her schools. In Norway, students stay in the classroom and teachers move around. Here, the students move and the teachers stay in the room. Plus, they didn't have the same classes every day and had more class periods. Her eight subjects were covered sometime during the week, but not every day.
"And I didn't have any homework in Norway," she says. "There is a lot of homework here; I have a couple of hours every night."
Not that she minds too much. Rostad loves school and is a good student. Her classes at BEA include chemistry, advanced algebra, American history and digital media.
"I love math and science," she says. "And I have never studied American history before, so it is very interesting."
So far, Rostad has been having too much fun to even miss her family back in Norway. That family includes her father, Ivar, and her mother, Grethe, besides her one sibling, Ingrid. Both of her parents are engineers her father for a company called Star Information Systems and her mother works at the City Hall in Rissa.
Rostad's small town is famous for an incident that happened in 1978.
A "quick clay slide" took out houses and barns, much like mud slide, or flooded river. There is a video of it that can be found by Googling the event.
It happened just 20 meters from Rostad's house and there is a boulder in the front yard that was deposited there by the slide.
Rostad says her family also owns a cabin in the mountains that they all love to go to.
"It is about a 45 minute drive to get there," she says. "But then you have to hike in for 45 minutes to get from where you park to the cabin. In the winter we cross country ski to the cabin."
There is no electricity or running water and the family has to pack in all of their supplies. But, Rostad says it is a very nice place and that, while she may not miss her family so much, "I miss my mountains."
It may be that the Norwegian girl has been too busy here to spend much time missing home.
So far she has been to the Mall of America and the Black Hills, she has been water skiing, four-wheeling and driving the Olson's Polaris RZR all over. You have to stay out of the way when she drives, Perry Olson says, because she likes to go fast.
"And I can't wait for snow so I can go snowmobiling," she adds.
This weekend she is going to Chicago with her host mom, Peggy, and fellow Norwegian student, Ina Aasheim and her host mom, Michele Stindtman. They plan to eat and shop. Peggy was surprised that the two Norwegian girls knew more about Chicago than the two American women.
Rostad is excited about the trip.
"It will be fun," she says. "I am just having the best time living here. I love everything about the U.S. and Minnesota and Blue Earth."
Her favorite thing so far?
"Homecoming," she says, excitedly. "It was so much fun dressing up and being on the stage and I love going to the Buccaneer football games."
There is little doubt that this exchange student thinks her year in Blue Earth was worth every penny it cost her and was worth every hour of working in the shoe store.