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New Faces: A Norwegian's first weeks

Ane Aas (third from left) joins her host family, Deb and Brad Blomberg and daughter Emily, for a year as a foreign exchange student. Both Aas and Emily are seniors this year at New York Mills High School. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

Ane Aas arrived in New York Mills from Norway three weeks ago to begin her yearlong journey as a foreign exchange student. As she learns of the American way, she finds some differences surprising.

In an interview last week, Aas and her host family, Brad and Deb Blomberg and daughter Emily, shared how they have adjusted so far.

Both Aas and Emily are seniors at NY Mills High School. School in Norway is much different, Aas said, with only core classes offered. She said school is going "mostly good" so far, with just the occasional language barrier problem.

Aas said she came to America mainly to perfect her English. She has been leaning English since she was eight, but describes her skill with the language as "not very good." She felt immersing herself in America would be the best way to strengthen that skill.

Of course, getting a taste of American culture was another push for Aas to come here - along with her desire to try something new.

Her first impression so far: America is "very strict."

Aas said Norway does not have curfews or dress codes. For this reason, she was surprised to learn that the high school dress code forbids short shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops. Also, a citywide curfew has kids in NY Mills off the streets before 11 p.m.

Back in Norway, it was normal for teenagers to socialize every night of the week, instead of just weekends. Aas said she was out with friends most nights until 1 a.m., just hanging out.

Norway is sandwiched between Sweden and the Norwegian Sea in far western Europe. Aas's home is 15 minutes outside of Kristiansand - a city of 80,000 people located in the southern part of the country.

While Aas has found America strict in some ways, she finds it very free in others - like sugar content.

"There's even sugar in your bread," she said with a shocked laugh. Back in Norway, the bread is hearty and brown, full of whole grains and corn. In fact, the bread is so filling that students often eat just bread and an apple for lunch.

Another thing Aas has noticed is that, "everything is much bigger here." She said American products are ounces bigger than in Norway.

Americans tend to be friendlier then Aas was expecting. She said it still surprises her when, "suddenly people talk to you out of anywhere."

The activities Aas is used to participating in, such as soccer and handball, are not offered here. So instead, she decided to try her hand at volleyball and also plans on joining the musical.

There is one thing that doesn't call for an adjustment period: the climate. Minnesota and Norway are very similar in climate, although Norway winters are typically shorter.

The seven-hour time difference between NY Mills and Norway often makes for random conversing with her family. She utilizes Skype and other social media connections to stay in touch with her mom, dad and two older brothers. Her mom is a teacher and her dad is a rehabilitation manager.

When Aas returns home at the end of the school year, she will have one more year of school before graduation. After that she hopes to travel the world - after working for six months or so to raise funds. After a year of fun, she plans on buckling down and going to college.

Deb Blomberg said hosting a student "is a good experience for other people to try." She added, "We like Ane."