Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories about former foreign exchange students who spent time in Redwood Falls, the experiences they have had since returning home and how they are dealing with the current issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Amanda Hjelmeland Nes the drive from her home in Stryn, Norway to Bergen takes about five hours.

What that means is she is currently that far away from most of her clothing and other personal items.

The former Wabasso Public School exchange student, who called Redwood Falls home during the 2017-18 school year, is living at home with her family.

Hjelmeland Nes who finished her 13th year of high school following her year in Minnesota, is studying leadership and organizational psychology in Bergen. Now she is isolating as a result of coronavirus-related mandates. 

According to Hjelmeland Nes, the exchange experience made her a lot more outgoing

“I met so many amazing people that I will never forget, so I’m very grateful I got to experience spending a year in Redwood Falls,” she added.

Hjelmeland Ness made a return visit in October November 2018.

“We have relatives in Fargo/Roseau, so I went there for a wedding and drove down to visit my host family,” she explained.

Hjelmeland Nes heard about coronavirus pretty early when it hit China, adding there are Norwegian reporters in several countries, so they were getting information regularly.

“I was visiting my family for the weekend when it hit Norway,” added Hjelmeland Nes. “Bergen is one of the cities it hit the worst here in Norway, so I haven’t been able to go back to get clothes and other necessities from my apartment.”

Schools closed right away. So now virtual classes are being offered, and she is doing finals at home.

People who can are working from home, and several stores are closed.

According to Hjelmeland Nes, most people have responded well and are doing what they can to help. People are staying at home and are keeping a one to two meters distance when at stores.

Hjelmeland added right now she is focused on staying healthy.

“The family and I are all healthy and doing everything we can to slow down the spread,” she explained. “We live at an amazing location. The woods and mountains are right outside our doors, so we are spending a lot of time outside.”

Everyone working in grocery stores, transportation and health care is doing an amazing job, she added.

“People have lost their lives and many are barely holding on. So I’m hoping everyone is doing what they can and helping those who can’t risk getting the virus,” she added. “I’m hoping everyone is staying healthy and safe in this special time. I am sending prayers and love to all of you.”