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West Carthage family welcomes ‘home’ foreign daughter

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WEST CARTHAGE — When it comes to the Blondins, family is family — even if it is from a connection initiated years ago for only a matter of months.

Susanne and George Blondin recently welcomed “home” former foreign exchange student Ingeborg Johanna Barth. Mrs. Barth had lived with the Blondins the second half of the 1996-97 school year when the Norwegian came to Carthage Central High School through the American Field Service.

The Blondins had previously hosted a student when their son, William, was in school and accepted Mrs. Barth when her original placement did not work out. The Blondins and the young Norwegian hit it off and have stayed connected ever since.

While attending Carthage Central, Mrs. Barth was active in sports, participating on the girls soccer, basketball and track and field teams as well as skiing with a group.

She also shone as an artist under the direction of teacher Robert Renaud, winning a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art Show.

Looking back on the time spent as a foreign exchange student, Mrs. Barth said it was a good experience.

“I learned a lot about how to be a Norwegian in a different country. I learned to take care of myself. I learned a lot about myself. I learned about people and how they look at the world,” she said.

The year after graduation, Mrs. Barth visited the Blondins and, in 2008, the host parents visited Norway.

“I love these guys, they were so accepting when I stayed here. They are like a second set of parents,” Mrs. Barth said.

“If we hadn’t hosted Ingeborg we would probably have never gone to Norway,” said Mr. Blondin.

Mrs. Blondin said it was good for the entire family to host a foreign exchange student.

“You all learn flexibility,” she pointed out.

Mrs. Barth said she had wanted to visit sooner but life — namely husband, Thomas, and their children Sara, 4, and Erik, 2 — got in the way. However, her family joined her in her recent visit back to the States.

Although there is a language barrier, little Sara made her wishes known to her American grandmother and learned some English during the visit.

While in town, the Barths were treated to American foods not found in Norway.

“I miss the subs, pizza and doughnuts,” Mrs. Barth said, adding, “Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have doughnuts ... I like them so much.”

While in the States, the Barths also visited New York City, with relatives in South Carolina, with high school friend Julie Green Thesier and Blondins’ daughter, Cherise. Mrs. Barth now works as a social worker and family therapist.

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