Norwegian student renews ties with Iowa family after 20 years

2013-08-20T21:00:00Z 2013-08-21T03:14:03Z Norwegian student renews ties with Iowa family after 20 yearsBy LAURA BIRD, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

SHEFFIELD, Iowa --- Anniken Vinje of Hommelvik, Norway, as an 18-year-old exchange student spent four weeks one summer with Fred and Edna Eberling and their children.

"I liked it. They were very kind."

Now, 22 years later, Vinje is back in rural Sheffield visiting the Eberlings. This time, though, she has a husband, John Robert; three children, Sindre, 18; Elias, 15; and Maria, 9. Her parents, Alf and Edel Albrigtsen of Ballangen, Norway, are also on the trip.

"I've been wanting to come for a long time," Vinje said.

She stayed with the Eberlings in 1991 through the Lions Clubs international student exchange program. She was their second exchange student out of nine over the years.

Vinje enjoyed the experience so much she kept in contact with the Eberlings, at first, through letters and Christmas cards, then email. Last year she connected with Eberling's son, Corey, on Facebook.

She bought plane tickets last fall.

The family arrived about two weeks ago and spent a few days in New York City and a week in Chicago before heading to Sheffield for a week.

"It's not very different," Vinje said. "It's nice and quiet."

The biggest difference is Fred and Edna Eberling moved to town and Corey Eberling, his wife, Amy, and four children live in the farmhouse.

"My room is now a boys' room," Vinje said.

The families have been catching up.

"It was good to see her again," Edna Eberling said.

They've also been sharing cultures, according to Corey Eberling. Vinje's children are learning about baseball, softball and American football. The Eberling children hope to pick up a game called cannonball before their Norwegian friends leave.

"The kids have been having a blast," Amy Eberling said.

Vinje's family has also been enjoying local foods including sweet corn, a casserole prepared by Edna Eberling and s'mores for the first time.

"They were too sweet for me," Vinje said.

Sindre, her oldest child, though, liked the s'mores and ate enough for the whole family, according to Vinje.

The Norwegian family also visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and Hampton's Summerfest celebration. They hoped to see some Norwegian settlements but ran out of days.

"I would like to come at least one more time," Alf Albrigtsen said.

He and John Robert Vinje said seeing where Vinje stayed was nice.

"She had told us all about this area when she came home," Alf Albrigtsen said. "She took a lot of pictures."

Corey and Amy Eberling now say they hope to visit Norway.

"It's on the list," Corey Eberling said.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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