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Hei fra sommerleiren! (Hello from summer camp!)

For 17-year-old Cris Larson, the summer in Duluth is just beginning. He's just completed six weeks of nonstop work at Skogfjorden (which translates to "forest fjord"), the Norwegian camp part of the Concordia Language Villages just outside Bemidji.

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17-year-old Cris Larson holds up his name tag with his Norwegian name "Haakon." Larson spent the first six weeks of summer as a staff member at Skogfjorden. (Photo by Ellie French)

For 17-year-old Cris Larson, the summer in Duluth is just beginning. He's just completed six weeks of nonstop work at Skogfjorden (which translates to "forest fjord"), the Norwegian camp part of the Concordia Language Villages just outside Bemidji.

Although he goes by Cris in Duluth, at Skogfjorden his name is Haakon. Haakon means "son or descendant." It's also been the name of seven kings of Norway.

Skogfjorden isn't just a typical summer camp. Although located on a lake with multiple cabins and camp-like activities, the goal is to increase language proficiency and to learn about culture. However, like a traditional summer camp, it's always hard to leave when the time comes.

"I think summer camps in general are just really good for kids because they are a break from the normal routine and they kind of shake things up a bit," said Larson. "This camp is actually really valuable. It's like summer camp with a purpose and that purpose is to learn Norwegian and learn the culture and see what life is like over in Norway."

The first time he arrived at Skogfjorden, he was only 7 years old and since then, he has learned a great deal. This year, his 11th summer attending Skogfjorden, was his first time as a staff member.

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"Going from being a villager (camper) to a staff member kind of left me feeling a sense that I was growing up a little bit," said Larson.

He wasn't a full-time counselor, but he had a unique job.

The associate dean, Randi Buckley, approached him at the end of last year's camp to see if he was interested in watching her 4-year-old son next summer while at camp, so he returned this year as "barnevakt" or babysitter.

"I've watched him grow up the past 10 years at camp and when I brought my 4-month-old son to camp a few years ago, I watched him interact with my son in a very kind and gentle way," said Buckley. "Cris is very bright, he's a whole lot of fun and he's someone I can trust. I mean, you don't trust just anyone with your child."

Although keeping up with 4-year-olds can sometimes be difficult because they're constantly on the move, Larson managed very well.

"Each day we would just hang out," said Larson. "Sometimes we would do camp activities and sometimes we would go for walks or just watch movies."

Larson is one of many children that have embraced language through the Concordia Language Immersion Program. He is mostly fluent just from spending part of his summers at camp.

"I've learned everything I know about the language from this camp and right now I am mostly fluent, but my goal is to be able to speak without hesitating. Next year I'll for sure go back and be a full time staff member," said Larson.

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To keep up with the language in the other 10 to 11 months he's not at camp, Larson reads.

"I try to read as much as I can," said Larson. "Right now I'm reading 'The Hobbit' in Norwegian."

Larson has been exposed to Norwegian culture since birth because his father is part Norwegian, Since attending Skogfjorden, his love for the country has only grown. With the goal of becoming a full-time counselor at Skogfjorden in the near future, Larson is well on his way.

"His passion for all things Norsk drives his personality and it spreads like wildfire throughout the program," said Ross Dybvig, member of the Skogfjorden staff. "His ability to get others excited about activities and ideas is something that cannot be taught in a classroom, but rather unique to the owner, and is an incredible trait to have when working with kids. Watching Haakon grow, learn and even teach has proven to me that he has the capability to be on staff."

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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