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Norwegian exchange student has yet to miss home

By Staff | Nov 21, 2010

Nils Alseth came from Norway to be a foreign exchange student at Blue Earth Area High School after he saw how much his sister had enjoyed her high school experience in Colorado. Ken (left) and Jean Wessels are hosting Nils during his time in Blue Earth. The couple is also hosting a student from Macau, China.

Nils Alseth had no nerves or reservations before coming to America, and, after being here for about three months, still hasn’t encountered any homesickness.

“I don’t miss anything right now,” the 17-year-old says.

Alseth is a foreign exchange student from Norway, and since moving to Blue Earth where he lives with Ken and Jean Wessels, he says there really hasn’t been much to adjust to.

Not only was Alseth not apprehensive about his trip to America, but neither were his parents.

He has a sister who was sent to Colorado when she was in the foreign exchange student program. And, with his parents already being familiar with the process of sending a child abroad, Alseth says they weren’t nervous about him coming. He only contacts his family about once a month, but Alseth will be seeing them before his time in the U.S. is up, because they plan to visit in April.

His family will travel from their home in central Norway, near Trondheim, a city of nearly 175,000. Since Alseth lives on a farm outside of the city, life in small-town Blue Earth hasn’t been difficult for him to get used to.

His parents, who are both native Norwegians, support their family of five children by farming, something that many rural southern Minnesotans can relate to. Alseth is the middle child, with one brother and sister older than him and one of each younger.

Back home, he fills his summers with swims in the river and his winters with cross country and downhill skiing. Now that he’s in Minnesota, however, Alseth has been taking part in many school activities to try new things.

He ran cross country in the fall, plans to join baseball or track in the spring and is an active member of the BEA Math League and Knowledge Bowl teams. Alseth also plays tuba in the high school band, and when he isn’t occupied with school activities, he can be found playing board games with his host family or immersed in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

While Alseth thinks Blue Earth Area High School and his school back home are very similar, there is one thing in particular that stands out to him.

“We have no free time,” he says about BEA, explaining that there are 15-minute breaks between every class at his school in Norway. Aside from that, both locations have schedules much the same, with classes beginning around 8 a.m. and ending at about 3 p.m.

The senior will be able to don a cap and gown at the end of the school year, but he’ll be receiving a certificate of attendance rather than a diploma, because Alseth will still have to attend the 13th grade after returning to Norway.

When he finishes his 13th and final year of high school, Alseth has his sights set on college, but doesn’t know what he’d like to major in or where he wants to attend. He says he’d consider attending college in the U.S., since there’s still a lot of the country he wants to see.

“The west coast, east coast — almost everything actually,” he explains.

As his time with the Wesselses continues, Alseth is able to cross more destinations off his list. So far, his host parents have taken him on short trips to northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago, and will head to St. Cloud for Thanksgiving.

“We try to get in all of our planned excursions,” Ken Wessels says.

An even longer excursion is planned after school gets out, if Alseth can stay with the family through June. A location hasn’t been finalized, but the Grand Canyon is on the radar. Taking a summer trip has become somewhat of a tradition for the Wesselses.

They have been hosting foreign exchange students for five years — nine boys total — and have had all of them get their driver’s licenses when they come to America. Since many overseas countries don’t permit driving until age 18, the Wesselses have students go through driver’s training so they’re able to get behind the wheel on the annual end-of-the-year vacation.

He may get a driving trial run come June, but Alseth will have to be patient until his birthday in August before he can legally drive in Norway.