Norway is a mere 4,372 miles from LaGrange. Julie Sandbraaten would sign off on that.
She is a native of Norway, the Scandinavian country, which is famous for glaciers, mountains, snow skiing and the long Viking ships of yesteryear. But as of last summer, Sandbraaten has been getting Americanized, on purpose.
She has been taking a course in country living, southern style. Sandbraaten, a teenaged adventurer, is a foreign exchange student at Troup High School. She is a junior at THS, and she is enjoying the radical change from her normal routine in her native Norway.
“I like the southern hospitality here. I like the fried chicken and the biscuits. I like the people here (in LaGrange). They hold the door open for you. I’m experiencing a lot more,” said the 17year-old Sandbraaten.
She is stepping out of the box. She is coming out of her Norwegian shell as a foreign exchange student, and actually she comes by that naturally.
“It’s in my genes. My dad was a foreign exchange student in Indiana,” said Sandbraaten.
She is enjoying seeing the world, and she looks forward to the educational experience at Troup High five days a week. Sandbraaten is taking U.S. history, American literature, algebra, journalism, floral design and weight lifting.
“I do my homework. I write essays. I make all A’s. School is so different here. In Norway we have 90-minute classes,” said Sandbraaten.
As a sidelight and somewhat of an indoor activity, she is also going the athletic route. Sandbratten is a swimmer, and a fast one for the Troup High Lady Tigers.
She swims the 50-yard freestyle, the 100 freestyle, the 100 backstroke and several relays for the Lady Tigers. Sandbraaten takes her swimming as serious as her studies.
“I have never done sports before, but I thought I’d try swimming. I like being in the water, and I’m an okay swimmer,” said Sandbraaten. “I’m exercising a lot, and I’m learning my strokes and breathing techniques. You have to want it, and my teammates are nice.”
The Troup High swimmers enjoy Sandbraaten’s company and her streamlined strokes. “She is amazing and really fun. At first she was kind of shy, but now she is bringing so much life (to the team). She is pretty good. She goes as hard as she can. Julie is tall and long,” Lady Tiger sophomore Tessa Pacelli said of the 5-foot-11 Sandbraaten.
Along with making straight A’s in class, Sandbraaten is also cutting time in her swimming events. She has shaved eight seconds off her 50 freestyle time. Sandbraaten has also chopped 11 seconds off her 100 freestyle time.
She has been on the clock at 35.96 seconds in the 50 freestyle and 1:26.96 in the 100-yard freestyle. Sandbraaten is looking to do more, and she pays attention to the clock.
“I like our whole group. We cheer for each other at the meets, and I like our team spirit. I’m going to miss this,” said Sandbraaten, who will go back to Norway at the end of the school year in May.
But until then she will be a student/athlete with an after-school emphasis on swimming for the Lady Tigers, and Troup High head swimming Coach Jami Briggs thinks Sandbraaten does make the Lady Tigers better and faster.
“Her strokes are getting more refined. She is willing to try, and she is getting better. She is determined, and Julie likes competition,” said Briggs.
Julie Sandbraaten also likes being a student at Troup High School.