Jakob Iken and Sebastian Hogvall have enjoyed their time away from home.
Since August, Columbia Falls has been home for the pair of exchange students as they have attended high school here while learning about the United States and its culture.
Iken, from near Hamburg in Germany, and Hogvall, from Oslo, Norway, both say the transition from their urban home to the more rural Columbia Falls was not an easy one, but both both also agree it was well worth it.
“I wasn’t really sure about Columbia Falls before I got here,” Hogvall said. “I am not from a small town and all I could judge it from was pictures on Google. I have been really happy with it.”
While in Columbia Falls, Iken stayed with the Martin Family, Jenny, Jeremiah, Julia (13) and Ben (12) while Hogvall made his home with the Wanner family, Wendi, David, Dillon (17) and three additional children who live outside the house.
“I thought it was going to be hard to adapt to living with a new family and being in a new place, but it has been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” Iken said.
During their time here, the pair became fast friends as they navigated their way through their new school and surroundings.
While both said the transition into their new school was not an easy one, Hogvall said it was a bit easier for him since he got to know some of the other kids during soccer practices before the school year began.
In fact, Hogvall said that soccer in America was one of the biggest surprises he found during his time here.
“I thought people were going to be a lot worse at soccer over here,” he said. “I was wrong. They were a lot better than I thought.”
Both students got to see more than just Columbia Falls during their time away from home, including taking in a Griz football game in Missoula, visiting Glacier National Park, a road trip to Portland and even a trip to Mexico during spring break, but both agreed on their favorite activity in America - skiing on Big Mountain in Whitefish.
While skiing may have been their favorite activity, both said they found traditions in America that they will bring home with them.
“We don’t have Thanksgiving back home, so I get to tell my family all about that,” Hogvall said.
As for host mother Jenny Martin, she said that her family had been wanting to host an exchange student for some time, and this year was the perfect opportunity.
“I liked having teenagers around more than I thought I would,” she said. “They are funny and interesting and they have a different perspective. It has been so much fun showing them Montana and the United States. I think we would like to host again a couple more times.”
The students came to Columbia Falls through the AFS Intercultural Program, which places exchange students in numerous countries around the globe. Those interested in taking part in the program can visit www.afs.org or contact Bruce Aronson at 406-250-4248.