EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the sixth in a multi-part series about Stephenville High School’s foreign exchange students. These students travel from all over the world and study as juniors at the high school.
STEPHENVILLE (February 21, 2016) – Lene Johanneson, from Norway, came to the United States to improve her English, gain new experiences, meet new people and learn how Americans live. She lives with the Rodriguez family and is actively engaged in different sports teams at Stephenville High School.
“I had a cousin and my aunt were also exchange students,” Johanneson said. “They had a great time when they were here, and I really wanted to experience the same.”
A week and a half before leaving, Johanneson learned she would be living in Stephenville.
“I was pretty excited because everyone wants to go to California, Florida and stuff like that,” Johanneson said. “I really wanted to do something different than what everyone else wanted to do.”
Johanneson quickly adjusted to American life, ran cross-country in the fall and is playing soccer and throwing the shotput for track this spring. She really enjoys the shotput because it is something she has never tried before and “it’s really fun to try something you don’t usually do.”
“I love it,” Johanneson said. “I really enjoy that we have sports in school, that kind of stuff. We are much more active in school and not only sitting behind the desk.”
One challenge Johanneson faces in school this year is learning Spanish. In Norway, Johanneson studied Spanish as her third language. But, the Spanish she knew was Castilian Spanish – or Spain’s Spanish – and students study Mexican Spanish in Texas.
“It was hard in the beginning,” Johanneson said. “When I came here, I was so frustrated (in class) just because the level here is higher because of all the Mexicans (who already speak the language). But, my Spanish so much better now.”
But, the biggest challenge for Johanneson this year is missing her family though it has been easier than she expected.
“Of course, it’s natural to miss home sometimes,” Johanneson said. “I love my house family, and I couldn’t ask for a better family, but at the same time you think about your friends and family at home. That’s probably the hardest thing, and that’s fine because that’s what I was prepared for.”
When Johanneson returns to Norway, she will complete her thirteenth – or senior – year of high school.
“I think the school system is very different,” Johanneson said. “We have much more freedom back home. We get treated like we are college students more. It’s more your responsibility to go to school and your responsibility to do what you have to do to get your diploma.”