Thousands of kilometers away from her home in Norway, local Rotary exchange student Augusta Sophie Gronli has found a great learning experience of Canadian lifestyle and rural life in Stettler.
“I have enjoyed my time here in Stettler with my host families so much” said Gronli, a Grade-11 student at William E. Hay Composite High School, who arrived here last August and will leave for home on July 15.
“It has been so much better than what I thought it would be.”
“I have enjoyed getting to know lots of people.”
While traveling as an exchange student fulfills a dream of a lifetime, her time in Stettler and Alberta gives her many memories.
“I now have many memories for a lifetime,” said Gronli, 17 years old, who lives in Norway, about a 20-minute drive east of Oslo, in a small town of Sanvika in the region of Barum.
She ultimately wanted to participate in the Rotary exchange as an opportunity to build her skills in the English language.
“I wanted to participate in this student exchange so I could learn the language better, be more independent and experience another country,” said Gronli, who has learned English in Norway where English as a foreign language course is compulsory in schools from grades 3 to 11.
“It’s very good to be able so speak English and use it when I apply for a job.”
“It really didn’t matter where I went, I just wanted to learn English better,” said Gronli whose first choice was to the United States.
“I have family in the U.S., so I can now communicate with them better.”
Stettler has been an experience greater than she expected it would be in her first visit to Canada.
While the school day in Norway has just one subject all day, here in Stettler, classes of several subjects complete the schedule.
“Here, I get to meet more and new people,” said Gronli.
Although extra-curricular school sports is not offered in Norway, she loved the opportunity at William E. Hay school to play girls’ volleyball and basketball.
Back in her home country, the curriculum is more specialized than here, with 15 different classes alone in media and communications, she said.
“We write lots of features and do lots of photography,” said Gronli, whose home school has about 800 students from grades 11 to 13.
As part of her involvement with the community, Gronli sings with the Gracenotes choir and she traveled to New York City, New York with the choir to participate in the Heritage Music Festival the first week of May.
“Going to New York was certainly an exciting time,” said Gronli.
Closer to Stettler, she has also connected with other exchange students around Alberta, in Calgary, Banff, Waterton Lakes and Kananaskis.
“It’s very fun and I get to meet other young people from many different countries and we share our experiences and support each other,” said Gronli.
“I know I have friends from all over the world.”
Touring the Rocky Mountains was certainly a welcome sight for the young lady from Norway as she was introduced to some familiar geographical features, like mountains and hills, abundant in her home country – unlike in much of east central Alberta.
“I was surprised how flat the land is here,” said Gronli.
“When I heard about Canada, I thought it would have lots of mountains.”
“Some people say it’s boring because it’s so flat, but for me, it’s so different because I’m so used to mountains in Norway.”
Although the Stettler area has more people than she expected, she has felt very welcomed.
“Everyone knows each other here and that’s new for me,” said Gronli.
Far from family and home, she has missed some things from Norway.
“I miss going to the café with my friends and I miss the ocean.”
Reflecting on life in the two countries, she said Canada has an overabundance of junk food and public transportation is more common in Norway.
“There are no public buses here, but buses are everywhere in Norway,” said Gronli.
“If I want to go somewhere back home, I take the bus.”
Rotary Youth Exchange students spend up to one year living with a few host families and attending school to experience a new way of living, serve as an ambassador who teaches people about their home country, culture and ideas.