Norwegian exchange student Peter Agdestein and his visiting family have been welcomed by open hearts and open doors in Minden and Sibley.
Peter began his junior year at Minden High School in the fall and lives in Sibley with his host family Sharon Hennigan and her son Colby.
Friends of the Hennigan's, Jerry and Cindy Madden, have also hosted exchange students. The Madden's have not only opened their home to Peter's father Simen, and 11-year-old sister Anna, during their week visitation, but they are also hosting a party for the Agdestein family. The social gathering showcases southern hospitality and is also a venue for Simen to meet Peter's teachers, coaches and friends of Minden High School.
"The school system here is completely different," Peter said. "We don't have sports in school. The soccer team is not connected to the school. Here, you support your team and there are so many people that come to the games."
Jerry said education in America is completely different than in Norway.
"They don't have senior rings, prom, letter jackets – it's completely different," Jerry said.
"I think, in my opinion, that Minden is ideal for exchange students," Cindy Madden said. "It is a small town America feel that the kids are looking for. The town is big enough that school can have activities and prom, but it isn't so big that there aren't 2,000 in the high school where he can make friends and get involved. We have traditional American values, and he gets to see what American families are like."
Being an exchange student has meant life experiences said his father Simen.
"We are very, very grateful to the American community in general," Simen said.
Simen, is a well-known chess coach and has won the title of grandmaster chess champion at the age of 18. He was also a former professional football player who represented the Norway national football team.
Simen was the former coach of Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is a 23-year old chess grandmaster, reigning World Chess Champion and the number one player in the world.
"I started coaching him when he was nine years old," Simen said. "He won the grandmaster at 13."
Simen said Carlsen has also played chess against Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.