Risberged’s host family had seen her come through the gate, head straight for baggage claim and unknowingly miss out on her first American custom.
“As I grabbed my suitcase they came up and found me and said we just saw you walking past us with a big “Welcome Eline” sign,” Risberged said laughing.
The 17-year-old exchange student came from her home in Norway to Spanish Springs High School for her senior year of study. She said she has dreamt of becoming an exchange student in America since she was 14 years old, which was driven by the desire to find a new experience and perspective.
“I have always wanted to go somewhere and try something completely different and do it all on your own,” she said. “I like to see new things and go places. Since I was 4 years old, I have been traveling to different countries, because it is more common to go to different countries over there than it is over here because here it is more like going to different states. It just interests me and it makes me appreciate a lot where I am from.”
Risberged has branched out in her time at Spanish Springs High by attending sporting events, Homecoming activities and dabbling in Cross Country. She said she plans to play Lacrosse this spring, a sport not available to her in Norway, and she will continue to enjoy the spectacle the American high school displays in contrast to her school in Norway.
“I feel like there is a lot more spirit,” she said, “Because the walls are decorated with all these colors and people dress up on Fridays and just because where I am from we don’t have school sports, but we have sports in the communities. So it is a little bit different, but that has been a lot of fun.”
Risberged said Spanish Springs High School differs in many ways from her school in Norway, one difference being school selection is not based on proximity. High schools also have a career-based mentality in her native country, according to Risberged, and she compared it to being enrolled in a career academy throughout high school.
“In Norway you apply for high school kind of and you get into a high school based on your grades so some high schools are harder to get into than others,” she said. “It is not like you go here because it is closer to where you live.
“They also offer dance and drama and media. You can do things like that and start your career earlier so you get the credits toward what your career would be. I think that’s cool because a lot of people drop out because they get tired of school.”
Risberged said she will have another senior year in high school when she returns to Norway before she attends college. She said entering college immediately after graduating from high school is less common in Norway than America. In keeping with Norway’s commonality, Risberged said she will likely continue looking for different perspectives before she begins college.
“I will be working for half the year and saving as much money as possible and then maybe traveling or volunteering in Africa,” Risberged said adding that traveling or volunteering is something “to get a break from school” and it will help her “see something else and get a different perspective.”
Risberged said she has yet to choose a college in Norway to attend, but said she plans to study psychology and enter a career in therapy like her mother. When asked about one thing she plans to take back to Norway, aside from the English language, and share with her family and friends Risberged said a few American ideas stand out.
“It has been a lot of fun to experience Thanksgiving and Christmas being different in waking up the next morning opening gifts instead of at night,” she said. “Things like that and some of the new recipes I am taking home will be great.
“I will definitely appreciate more the health system we have over there because there is a lot of people here who cannot afford insurance, so that is something I am appreciative of.”
In the remaining months until her June departure from Nevada, Risberged said when she is not in school she watches Cougar sports, exercises at a local gym or relaxes with the many new friends she has made. Though she has visited America previously with her family, Risberged said she has enjoyed being able to visit Nevada and other cities with a non-tourist perspective and family.
“It was nice to go places with somebody who is from here because they showed me places that I would never see while being a tourist and I get a chance to see a lot of different things,” she said. “I definitely think more people should (become exchange students). It is a pretty great experience to have during life. People say ‘why did you come to Nevada’ because it is not a more common state, but I really like it a lot and it has been a great experience for me.”