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Exchange student praises U.S., BEA friendliness

By Staff | Nov 15, 2008

Lene with her host family, above, left to right; Teá, Travis, Addison and Tami Armstrong, with Lene.

If you haven’t been able to keep up with your soaps and other TV programming, you might consider a trip to Norway.

Norwegian foreign exchange student, Lene Sollie, was surprised to discover her favorite American soap opera, ‘Days of Our Lives,’ on Norwegian TV is actually four to six years behind the current episodes being aired here.

As if that wasn’t enough of a culture shock, so were the number of cars being driven in the U.S., and the fact people drive everywhere instead of walking, even for very short distances.

“The hardest thing I have had to adjust to in the U.S. is to find someone to drive me everywhere,” Sollie says. “I really miss taking the subway.”

In her hometown of Oslo, population 500,000, she is used to public transportation which includes the subway and trains. People there pay a monthly fee of $70 to ride the subway.

The young Norwegian has undergone other adjustments as well while in Blue Earth. Sollie’s host family is Travis and Tami Armstrong and their daughters, Teá and Addison. Lene has enjoyed being an only child, but admits she sees the fun in having two little sisters.

Lene is the daughter of Elisabet and the late Alf Sollie. Her mother is a home health nurse in Norway.

Sollie states her mother is also quite the adventuress, as she enjoys mountain climbing and has climbed most of the mountains in Norway. Her most recent conquest was the climbing of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet.

Sollie and her mother have shared many adventuresome summer holidays together. They have traveled to Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Italy, and Tunisia.

“I love Greece,” says Sollie. “But my favorite city is Copenhagen. It’s a big city, but it has amazing architecture. There are so many different colors of buildings,” she says.

Copenhagen is also a nice place to shop she admits, but Norwegians must take a ferry to get there.

The young traveler also speaks fondly of her own homeland.

“Norway is a very modern country. It contains some of the most beautiful nature in the world,” she proudly says. “The fjords are beyond description in their beauty.”

Having lived in Minnesota for a few months now, Sollie has noted some similarities to her homeland such as the seasons and music.

“The only difference in music between the two countries is country and western music,” she says. “We don’t have it.”

As for the cost of items, there is quite a contrast she notes.

“The food is really cheap here,” admits Sollie. “For example, a 20 ounce block of cheese would cost $12.00 in Norway and it’s not even half that price here. Also, pop is less expensive in the U.S.”

Items more expensive in Norway include clothing and $5 per gallon gasoline. But Sollie explains that people in her homeland are paid better wages and can afford these prices.

A typical teenager, Sollie enjoys shopping and says styles are similar. The biggest difference in fashion is more related to big city versus small town in the way people dress.

“We have no big department or chain stores like you do,” says Sollie. “Our stores are all single specialized businesses.”

“The best thing I have noticed about the U.S.,” states Sollie, “is that the people are so open and friendly. Random people say ‘hi’ to you. In stores, the clerks are so nice. This doesn’t happen in Norway,” she adds.

Other observations she has made while living stateside include Halloween. She says that it is not a big deal in Norway, but it was really fun here. Also, portion sizes of food are much larger than she is accustomed to at home.

Since Sollie is a vegetarian and is used to eating a lot of Mediterranean food, her host mother’s eyes were opened to a new way of preparing meals.

“We try things together,” says Tami Armstrong.

Sollie has also tried new foods here and has discovered macaroni and cheese is by far her favorite. Prior to living with the Armstrongs, she had never tasted it before.

Another difference Sollie notes involves driving. In Norway, a person can get their driver’s license when they are 18. Hardly anyone does though, because they can’t afford to pay $4,000 for it. Therefore, they go ‘pretty green’ she explains.

“The U.S. election has been a big deal since last Christmas,” says Sollie. “Norway does not have a president. We trust our King. Our Prime Minister is our most powerful person and he is elected. We have seven different political parties and tend to vote for a party rather than a person like you do in the U.S.,” she says.

“We think whomever you elect is not only the President of the United States, but the most powerful man in the world,” she adds.

As for the major differences between the school systems, Sollie explains the Norwegian school day is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., but they can remain at school until 8 p.m. if they need help from a teacher. Their school term is from mid-August to late June.

Her school is very modern. She says students are provided with their own laptop computer, but must purchase their own textbooks. These books may be kept by the student or sold back if they wish.

Sollie has studied the English language for eight years. This is a required course. Other classes she takes in Norway include math, science, gym (physical education), social studies and Norwegian.

Kindergarten does not count as part of the Norwegian education. Grades one to seven are considered as elementary, eight to ten is junior high and grades 11 to 13 are high school.

Schools are located close to the area in which one lives she explains.

“I travel about half an hour by subway to my school – Elvebakken Videregaende Skole,” she says. It has an enrollment of about 1,000 students with 30 students in each class. The grades are never mixed she explains.

“We get to apply to nine different high schools after we finish junior high,” Sollie explains. “We must send our grades from the last semester of junior high to these schools before we are selected for admittance,” she adds.

“We stay in the same classroom and the teacher comes to us,” says Sollie. “I am not used to running to a locker between classes like you do here.”

Another big difference is in testing. Teachers do not give multiple choice tests in Norway. All tests are essay and the teachers expect long, comprehensive answers.