Exchange student looks back on a very good year

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

In a few weeks, Agnete Ericksen, known to her American friends as Agnes, will experience one of the most bittersweet moments of her young life: She’ll say hello to her “real” family and good-bye to the family that’s hosted her during her year-long exchange at Central High School.

One of three foreign exchange students in Elkader this year, Agnes, will leave here June 3 and travel with her family to Chicago, New York City and Florida before the Ericksen clan returns to their home in Norway.

“Seeing my mom and dad and spending time with them will be awesome,” Agnes said, “but I will miss my host family, a lot. I will never forget them!”

Agnes was hosted by Bryce and Shannon Durbin and their son, Link. With their encouragement and support, she became involved in many school activities, including basketball, track, cheerleading and music.

“All the things I did, we don’t offer where I’m from so that was a reason that I tried out,” Agnes said about her extra-curricular activities. Her school doesn’t have anything like prom, either. She went and lists it as one of her favorite memories.

The Durbins, who love to travel, made the decision to host an exchange student after determining that they were too tied to their home right now to travel themselves.

“We decided to reverse things and bring a traveler here,” Shannon explained. The experience was a rewarding one for them, which Shannon attributes, in large part, to an easy meshing of personalities and Agnes’ “wonderful attitude.”

“She was easy-going, fun, honest and trustworthy,” Shannon added.

For her part, Agnes’ praises the Durbins’ openness.

To ensure a year she wouldn’t forget, the Durbins included Agnes in a family trip to San Francisco and a holiday outing to Mall of America. They took her to Dubuque to see President Obama and also to Mall of America.

“We had to stop whenever we saw a Starbucks but other than that, (trips) were not super necessary for her,” Shannon said. 

Topping the list of things Agnes said she’ll miss is the Durbin’s young son, Link.

“To have a little brother for a year has been awesome,” Agnes said, whose own brother, Simon, is nearly 21.

The interaction between Agnes and Link is something that Shannon will miss, too. Hearing Agnes sing and dance with Link in her room is a special memory.

Hosting an exchange student is not without challenges but, overall it’s an experience the Durbins would recommend.
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