NSA students return from Norway

Published 9:32 pm Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nansemond Suffolk Academy students returned from Norway this week. The students participated in a foreign exchange program in which they stayed with Norwegian families and learned about their culture and history.

Eleven Nansemond Suffolk Academy students returned Monday from a visit to Norway as part of a two-week exchange program.

“It’s been going on for many years. It’s a tradition with our school,” said Martha Maurno, who served as one of the faculty advisors for the trip. “It’s something that the kids here have enjoyed and teachers have enjoyed.”

While taking part in this school tradition, students learned a great deal about traveling abroad, independence and the culture of Norway. Through the exchange program, they also developed lifelong friendships.

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“We got really close when they came to America,” junior Sarah Simms said. This trip gave her a chance to visit her new friends.

Simms and fellow junior Brook Starling decided to participate in the exchange program after hearing other students explain throughout their years at NSA how much fun it was to participate. Starling said she hopes to return this summer to visit her friends.

This is a great way for the students and teachers to network with others in Norway, Maurno said.

While in Norway, students visited Oslo, Moss and Bergen. They toured the cities and visited museums, a fish market, their host student’s schools and more.

While there, the students learned about the history and language of Norway from Norwegians. They were immersed in the culture and observed the structure of Norwegian families while staying with their host families, Maurno said.

“The way they live is so much different from here,” Starling said. “They’re very healthy.”

The school structure is different there than it is here. Students there keep their phones on their desks, send each other text messages in class and call teachers by their first names, Starling said.

“I learned to be more independent and open to other cultures and people,” Starling said. “I actually tried new foods.”

Simms learned to become better at small talk, meeting new people and talking with people who didn’t know anything about her or where she was from.

She said her favorite part was the nationalism that everyone displayed. The girls explained that they were in Oslo on the day that Norway won a ski tournament.

“Everybody was covered in everything Norwegian,” Simms said.

Starling’s favorite part was visiting Bergen, because it was so beautiful.

The biggest challenges they faced were that things were expensive, and it was hard to keep track of their money. They also said that not speaking the language was a challenge for them. But they got used to not being to understand anyone after a while, they said.

“The students enjoy it,” Maurno said.

To go on the trip, students had to have good grades. They had to demonstrate good character, write an essay explaining why they wanted to go and provide a teacher recommendation. Students whose families hosted Norwegian students were given preference over those who did not.

“It was a really good experience, and I would recommend it to everyone at NSA,” Starling said.