“You more or less come and go as you want,” said Catrine Sigstadsto of her home country, Norway. In fact, her only knowledge of such things came from watching movies about American schools.

“Everybody thought it was a big joke,” she said.

Bathroom passes aside, the three students, Sigstadsto, Bernardo Neves from Brazil, and Vanessa Wirzberger from Germany, have adjusted well to life in Duxbury. They’ve participated in all aspects of DHS life –– Neves was on the swimming team, Sigstadsto was a student aide and Wirzberger traveled to Disney with the DHS band –– and all three walked with their classmates in the graduation ceremonies on Saturday. All three have picked up English extremely well. However, when you’ve grown up watching American teenagers in movies and TV shows, it’s hard to come across the pond without some preconceived notions.

“The cheerleaders aren’t as popular as I thought,” joked Wirzberger.

It was the first extended stay in America for all three students, who admitted that getting used to their new families and surroundings wasn’t easy.

“Speaking English 24 hours a day was pretty tiring,” Neves said.

But they soon learned to love their new home. Neves said he was impressed by “the respect people have for each other” in Duxbury. Wirzberger marveled at the school spirit at DHS.

“It’s this little cute, kind community,” said Sigstadsto.

Although many of the day-to-day aspects of school life are similar, all three exchange students said students at DHS enjoy more academic freedom.

“In Germany, you don’t get to choose what classes you want to go to,” said Wirzberger.

“You have everything together in one school,” added Sigstadsto. “In Norway, if you want to do art you have to go to an art school.”

It was tough for the students to single out a particular favorite memory from the year.

“The whole thing,” said Neves, laughing. “I’m a simple guy.”

But all agreed the experience had a profound impact on their lives.

“I think the whole year just changed me,” said Wirzberger.

“I’m never going to take family and friends for granted again,” said Sigstadsto.

Duxbury has a long tradition of hosting AFS students. The first exchange student came to Duxbury in 1969, and the local AFS chapter is active to this day.