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Exchange student learns school is easier, more food is fried in U.S.
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Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent
Foreign-exchange student Marit Malen, who is attending Geneseo High School for the 2012-13 school year, points to a map of her native country, Norway.
GENESEO -- When exchange students leave their homelands to study in the United States, they bring customs from their own culture, and they return home with many American traits.

Marit Malen, whose homeland is Norway, chose to spend a school year in the United States to learn more about American culture.

"I also am interested in different parts of the world," she said. At 17, she already has traveled to London, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Malta and Spain.

"The people here are very nice and make me feel very welcome," she said of her 2012-13 exchange period, during which she is attending Geneseo High School. "I think it would be harder for a student from the U.S. to come to Norway."

In addition to her native tongue, Miss Malen also speaks fluent English and some German.

Her home is in Hovin on the western coast of Norway, outside of the larger city of Trondheim.

She said the population of her hometown is about 5,000. Her father, Kjell ove Malen, is an engineer, and her mother, Mariann Ler, works in the medical field.

Even though a typical school day in Geneseo is "much different" from one in Norway, Miss Malen said she is enjoying her visit in Geneseo and the U.S.

"School is much easier here than in Norway," she said. "Here, I am in classes like foods, managing lifestyles and interior design. In Norway, we don't have classes like that. We study all major subjects like social studies and geography."

After she completed 10th grade in Norway, Miss Malen and her parents were able to choose where she would attend high school. She is enrolled in a public school and has had English classes since she was in third grade.

"Where I come from, school is pretty serious, but we don't have all these strict rules like needing passes to go to lockers and passes for everything. It is much more strict here at this school," she said.

Her goal is to "be a cop," she said, adding, "I want to be a cop in the big city. It sounds interesting to work on crime and investigations, and I might like to be a detective."

She said if there is an opportunity later in her career, she would like to return to the United States.

She plans to serve in the military for one year after graduating from high school. She will have one year of school to complete when she returns to Norway.

"I have to be 21 to go to the police academy. So if I am in the military, it will give me more experience to get in," she said.

Miss Malen commented on the vast difference in foods between the U.S. and Norway. "There is much fried food here," she said. "I think we eat a lot healthier, mostly baked foods and fresh vegetables."

She did say she really likes Mexican restaurants and Mexican food. "It is more expensive to eat out at restaurants at home."

Even though there are no dress codes at her school in Norway, she said young people "dress pretty much the same here as in Norway. We don't wear cowboy boots, and we only have skinny jeans, not the wider, loose-leg styles that some wear here."

Even though gym is included in the school curriculum at Miss Malen's school in Norway, she said there are no organized school athletics. She plays soccer and belongs to a club team. During her exchange year, she is playing on the girls' spring soccer team at Geneseo and is part of an indoor soccer league at the River's Edge in Davenport.

In Norway, her extracurricular activities include dance, which she refers to as "street dance, like hip-hop." She said, "I started dancing in eighth grade, and I dance year-round. We learn dances for a revue we put on in June."

There has not been much time for her to be homesick, and she said, "On weekends here, I go out with friends or spend time with my host family. They're really good about taking me to see things like concerts, baseball and hockey games and other places in the Quad-Cities."

Her host parents, Tom and Andrea Timbrook, have two children, Steven, 18, and Skylar, 11.
The Timbrook family will travel with Miss Malen when she returns to Norway in June. They also have planned a trip to Florida during spring break to introduce her to Disney World and Universal Studios.

"We want her to have some truly American experiences while she is here, and maybe opportunities she might not get again," said Mr. Timbrook, who is copy desk chief at The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.

-- Location:Northern Europe, bordering the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Sweden.

-- Population:4,707,270 (July 2012 estimate). No. 120 in the world.

-- Languages:Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities.

Source: CIA World Factbook.

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