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International Travel: Teaching 4-H'ers Even More Life Skills

by Jessica Lawrenz | 4-H Youth Development Agent

The Kansas 4-H International Exchange Program provides opportunities for 4-H members to build skills and knowledge in global citizenship. It is truly a “Learn by Doing” experience! The mission of the program is to help young people and their families understand the importance of knowing about other countries and their cultures, instill positive cross-cultural attitudes and skills that enhance mutual understanding and acceptance of all people, expand the opportunities for young people to experience global citizenship responsibilities in today's interdependent world, increase life skills of self-esteem and confidence through adapting to new situations, learn languages and communication skills, and increase global awareness.

Two of our own Johnson County 4-H’ers had the opportunity participate in the Kansas 4-H International Exchange Program. Maddie Anderson and Nathan Anderson of the Lucky Clovers Club in traveled to Norway this summer for one month.

For more information on the Kansas 4-H International Exchange Program, click here.


Q: Why did you choose to do this program? How did you find out about the program? How did you choose Norway and what were your other choices of countries, if any?

  • Maddie - I found out about the State’s 4-H International Exchange Program through a class I took at Discovery Days in 2019. I thought that it sounded fun, so I applied for the program! I was accepted for the summer 2020 trip, but that was cancelled due to covid, and I was finally able to go this year. The countries that you can apply to are Costa Rica, Japan, and Norway and Finland alternate every year.
  • Nathan - I’ve always been interested in visiting other countries. I originally chose to go to Romania because of how similar their language is to Spanish and because it would be a unique experience, but that trip was cancelled because of the war in Ukraine. I was allowed to choose another country, so I chose Norway because of the nature and how similar their language is to English.


Q: What was the process to be a part of the program?

  • Nathan - I had to submit an application and answer questions about why I wanted to be a part of the program and what my goals were. Once I was accepted, I had to raise money for the trip and attend a few meetings to prepare all the delegates from Kansas for their trips.
  • Maddie - To be a part of the program, you fill out paperwork including information about yourself, your interests, why you want to do the program, and your top choices for the country you want to go to. Then, you go through an interview process and find out if you were selected a few months later.


Q: What would you say were your top three best experiences?

  • Nathan - My three best experiences were visiting Norwegian 4-H camp, visiting my host family’s cabin, and going on road trips. I met a lot of people at 4-H camp, and it was interesting to see similarities and differences between Norwegian and American 4-H. I also got to see a lot of mountains and forests at my host family’s cabin and on the road trips we went on.
  • Maddie - My best experiences in Norway had to be going trout fishing with my host family when it started pouring rain on us, going on a road trip to Finland with my host family, and going on walks and hikes with my host sister and the dogs.


Q: What were your most challenging obstacles?

  • Nathan - The most challenging obstacles for me were the language barrier and the fact that I didn’t know anybody close to where I was staying. Fortunately, almost everybody I met spoke English, but I often heard people talking amongst themselves in Norwegian, so I sometimes didn’t know what was going on. I was also not used to being in an environment where I didn’t know anybody, so it was a bit difficult for me to adjust to that and start talking to people.
  • Maddie - The most challenging obstacle had to be not understanding the language. While most people in Norway spoke English, I wish that I had known more Norwegian than I did.


Q: What is one life-changing thing or new life-skill you learned?

  • Nathan - I noticed that I became a lot more open to trying new things than I used to be. I used to try to avoid doing things I wasn’t used to, but going on an exchange trip and adjusting to life in a new place made me more open-minded.
  • Maddie - A life-changing thing that I experienced was really taking in nature. The weather was very nice when I was in Norway, so my host family and I spent a lot of time outside. By being outside so often and enjoying nature, I will be trying to go outside more in my free time.


Q: Name one thing that was unexpected or took you by surprise.

  • Nathan - I was surprised by how long their handshakes are. Normally, handshakes in the US are short, but whenever I introduced myself to someone or someone introduced themself to me, they shook my hand for the entire time that the introduction lasted.
  • Maddie - One thing that took me by surprise is the fact that the sun did not set where I was staying because we were so far north in Norway. I stayed up until 3 AM talking with my host sister on the first day, and it looked like daytime outside because it was so sunny.


Q: What was your biggest take-away from the whole experience?

  • Nathan - My biggest take-away from the whole experience was that the world is a big and diverse place, and I want to see as much of it as I can. I’d recommend this exchange program to anyone.
  • Maddie - My biggest take-away from the experience is that it’s important to learn about different cultures. I learned so much about life in Norway that I would not have known if I didn’t participate in this program.


Q: What would you tell others that are interested in the program?

  • Nathan - Be open to new experiences and try to put yourself out there. Since you’ll be in a different country, you’ll have different experiences than you would in the United States, so you should try to enjoy them while you’re there. You’ll also meet a lot of new people, and it might be hard to make new friends if you don’t put yourself out there.
  • Maddie - If you’re interested in this program, I would definitely recommend it!! It’s so fun, and it’s such an amazing opportunity to travel and meet new friends!