BY GABRIELA BERGER
Marthe Reiersen, a foreign exchange student from Norway, arrived to Weston on Aug. 13. After hearing her sister’s experience with the program, Reiersen decided to participate in the foreign exchange program with Emily Floyd from Orlando, who is currently staying with Reiersen’s family in Norway. The foreign exchange program between Reiersen and Floyd consists of them having a whole year experiencing each other’s home country.
“Honestly, you learn information about the family and what they value and think is important, but mostly you have to be appreciative and grateful,” Reiersen said.
Reiersen is currently staying with the Freedland family. For a family to house a foreign student, the family has to go through multiple steps: picking an organization, investigating the family’s background profile for any crime and a house search.
“The process is very precise on the required listing for a foreign exchange to go to the host family’s home,” Reiersen’s host father Michael Freedland said.
Reiersen said the Bay is different from her school in Norway because in Florida, students have four years in high school, but in a Norwegian high school students have three years of high school.
“I love Florida, it is very hot and humid, but it’s so absolutely beautiful, I have 200 Palm tree photos on my phone,” Reiersen said.
Reiersen’s older sister Ana did the exchange program during the 2012-2013 school year at North Kitsap High School in Washington. Both Ana and Marthe were placed under The Rotary Organization for the Foreign Exchange Program to Washington and Florida.
“When my older sister came back from Washington we all saw how much she grew on it, how it made her more outgoing and how much she learned,” Reiersen said. “I also wanted to experience a new culture and learn as much as I can just like she did.”
Reiersen said she recommends that her classmates participate in a foreign exchange program based on her great experience.
“Being put in a family you don’t know might seem scary to a lot of people, I know some people might call me crazy,” Reiersen said.
Reiersen said she feels less comfortable in Florida than she did in Norway, because she cannot drive and has to depend on her host parents and friends to drive her to destinations.
“You meet so many people with so many stories, and you learn to adjust fast to the atmosphere and I’m constantly excited for what I will learn next,” Reiersen said. “I’ve been here for two months, so I can imagine what I’ll learn in the next eight months.”
Before Reiersen arrived at the Freedland’s household, Blake and Ashley, her host parent’s children, were ecstatic for her to arrive to gain knowledge of Norway and Reiersen’s background and lifestyle in her home country.
“Blake and Ashley were excited to know the cultural lifestyle and have read some of Marthe’s application and Facebook page for a general picture of her before she arrived,” Mr. Freedland said.
Mr. Freedland said as the year continues, the Freedland’s are getting educated about Norwegian culture, including trying the traditional dish called Kjottkaker (meatballs). He is considering hosting another exchange student in the future, closer to the time when Ashley gets into her teenager years.
“Yes, I would definitely recommend the program to other people, it is a huge commitment and a huge responsibility, but it’s a positive experience. The family gets to learn the culture and get exposure to Norwegian knowledge,” Mr. Freedland said.