International adventurers enjoy Powell’s kindness, enthusiasm

Posted 1/26/23

Ine Kollstad enjoys the orange panther signs that lead you down Bent Street, “They’re cute,” she said.

Rem DeVries likes the enthusiasm for school sports, and their two …

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International adventurers enjoy Powell’s kindness, enthusiasm


Ine Kollstad enjoys the orange panther signs that lead you down Bent Street, “They’re cute,” she said.

Rem DeVries likes the enthusiasm for school sports, and their two companions in the program agree that meeting new people is a big draw. 

This year that universal desire for human connection led four teenagers from around the world to Powell’s doorstep.

Kollstad, Kokoro Baba,  DeVries and Nathan Dupont are all enjoying their time as foreign exchange students at Powell High School. Before the 2022-2023 school year their educational and social experiences were set in Norway, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium. 

These four students registered for foreign exchange amongst hundreds of other students vying to adventure nationally. DeVries said out of these masses roughly 250 students are chosen based on interviews, English proficiency and lack of criminal record.


Ine Kollstad

Kollstad wanted to come to the United States, but Wyoming was not originally in the cards. Kollstad, who is from a coastal city in Norway, wanted to go to the West Coast. She even paid for a preference through her foreign exchange program. But students go where there are families that match their profiles. So she traveled to the Big Horn Basin, which is definitely not the West Coast. Kollstad doesn’t seem to have regrets — so far she loves the community.

“I’m from a bigger city and the first thing I noticed is that the people are really nice and I feel like it is a close knit community which I really enjoy,” Kollstad said.

The lack of public transportation has taken some adjustment, but where that fails Kollstad has found excitement in school spirit and sports. 

“The school spirit is very different in a good way,” Kollstad said.

In Norway sports are not school affiliated, students participate through clubs for that sport, which changes the dynamic.

Academically, Kollstad has experienced longer school days but more class choice in Powell. In Norway the schedule changes from day to day and there is less homework emphasis. 

If Kollstad had it her way she said she would want a happy medium between the two school experiences.


Kokoro Baba

Kokoro came to Powell from Nagasaki, Japan. Like Kollstad she had her fingers crossed for a coastal city. Now that she’s here she has fallen in love with the wildlife. Unfortunately she was unable to see Yellowstone before its winter closure but she has seen deer, moose and elk while taking mountain drives. Her favorite? The deer.

Baba said she is also a fan of the Wyoming school system, where she is able to choose her own classes.

“In American schools teachers are in each class and students go to each class but Japan is the opposite,” Baba said.

Baba said her favorite part of the foreign exchange experience has been making friends along the way, particularly at the foreign exchange orientation. 


Rem DeVries

DeVries wanted to learn internationally and make new friendships after being inspired by his sister who did a foreign exchange in Wisconsin. When she came back she found an American football club outside of her village. 

DeVries did not have a location preference but he did want a host family with children.

“I wanted to get a family. I’m a social person, I like to talk, I like to be with people,” DeVries said.

He added that he is happy with his hosts who he calls “great parents” and a “good family.”

The people of Powell have made an impression on DeVries through their kindness and enthusiasm for school sports.

“I love them. They are very nice here,” DeVries said.

In an academic sense DeVries said Wyoming is very different from the Netherlands. Back home DeVries’ schools allow schedules that are more student-led, which he said is best suited to him. 


Nathan Dupont

Dupont could have gone from Belgium to Houston, Texas, instead he came to Wyoming when given the option.

“I didn’t want to be in a big city like Houston,” Dupont said. “Because I think it’s hard to make friends if it’s too big in scope so between Texas and Wyoming, I didn’t know, I just looked at the pictures and Wyoming looked beautiful.”

For Dupont, who is used to Belgium’s urban scenery, this was a positive change even if the weather is a little jarring.

“It’s interesting for an experience but I wouldn’t like to have this every winter,” Dupont said of the record low temperatures. 

Dupont, who is a member of the Panther swim team, also said he really enjoys the sports environment in Powell. 

“I wanted to do a bit of sports here, because your system is very well made,” Dupont said.

Of the schools, Dupont said that Belgium schooling is much harder. Students do not take the same classes everyday and they must make a schedule between 28 and 34 hours. This can mean that a student is taking more hours of one subject each semester over another. Dupont also said that classmates are often the same and it can be easier to make connections.

If Dupont had a choice between school systems he would prefer finding a happy medium much like Kollstad. In his ideal school he would have the academic rigor of Belgium with the athletic freedom of Powell.