This past fall, three new students enrolled in the Redwood Area School District with the understanding that they would only be part of the program for the 2018-19 school year.

Those students, Stian Vralstad of Norway, Preben Ulvang of Norway and Rikard Wilkens of Sweden, were visiting as part of the exchange student program, and after completing the current school year have now returned to their homes.

Each of them felt their experience in Redwood Falls as part of Redwood Valley High School was a positive one, as they were not only able to learn more about the American culture and education system but also made friends they plan to keep in contact with in the future.

Vralstad said he was able to experience some new things, including playing football for the first time.

Vralstad added he enjoyed visiting the Mall of America and going to Chicago, and before he went home also had the chance to spend some time in Florida.

This coming August, Vralstad will return for his final year of school. While his long-term plans are up in the air, Vralstad said he knows that after school he will be joining the military for one year.

Although the military service is mandatory, Vralstad said he wants to do it. No, he said, not everyone is selected, but everyone must apply to serve, adding 50 percent of the applicants are selected. Vralstad said he wants to be part of the military, because he thinks it will prepare him for what he thinks he wants to do later in life. 

“I am thinking about working for the police,” said Vralstad.

Vralstad said he is going to miss the people he has met and the school spirit he has experienced at RVHS. That, he said, is a big difference between school in Norway and in the United States.

Vralstad wanted to thank his host family, his coaches and teachers and the friends he made who helped him achieve his goals and make his time in Redwood Falls something he will always remember.

Preben Ulvang said he has appreciated learning the American lifestyle and culture, and before going home was able to make a trip to the Grand Canyon with his host family.

For Ulvang, having the chance to be part of the sports programs was something he enjoyed, adding he really liked being part of the track team this spring.

“I liked going to meets and meeting new people,” Ulvang said, adding everyone he experienced during his time in the United States was very friendly.

Ulvang will start school again in August and said he plans to spend his summer months readjusting to life in Norway and spending time with friends and family.

After school, Ulvang said he hopes to become an electrician.

For Ulvang, he knows it is the people he has met that he will miss most, adding he wanted to thank his host family and everyone at the school for their support.

While Vralstad and Ulvang returned home soon after the school year ended, Rikard Wilkens stuck around until the middle of June, as he was competing in the state tennis tournament. He ended up placing second in the Class A state singles competition. It is being part of the tennis program that Wilkens said he enjoyed most during his time at Redwood Valley, although he also appreciated playing football and hockey during the school year.

Wilkens said he also enjoyed his speech and theater and government and economics classes, adding he learned a lot from them.

Wilkens, who calls Stockholm home said living in a smaller community was a great experience, because he had the chance to meet so many more people.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do that in a bigger city,” he said.

As a big sports fan, Wilkens was able to attend a professional hockey game and an NBA game, adding he was able to meet Karl Anthony Townes, which was a lot of fun.

Wilkens was no stranger to the United States when he arrived last fall, and he intends to make plans of other trips in the future.

“My goal is to visit all 50 states,” said Wilkens. “So far I have been to 16.”

Wilkens said he was really surprised at how close people in the community were.

“Everyone seems to know who you are,” said Wilkens, adding he liked just being able to hang out with people and visit their homes.

Wilkens said he met the goals he wanted to accomplish when he arrived as an exchange student, and he will miss the people he met along the way.

Wilkens will have to repeat the school year he just finished and has three years of school left.

After he completes that requirement, Wilkens said he is considering becoming a commercial pilot but is also looking at the possibility of becoming a lawyer.

Wilkens said during his time before the next school year starts he plans to play a lot of tennis, to play some golf and do some fishing.

Wilkens said he wants to come back to Redwood Falls, adding he would like to be at the graduation ceremony for next year’s seniors.

There are so many people Wilkens said he wanted to thank, but he especially wanted to recognize his host family, his teachers and coaches and the friends he made.

“It has been a lot of fun,” he said.