Marie Valsgaard embarks on her American dream

Starting in Copenhagen, Denmark, stopping in London, and waiting a long five hours in Philadelphia, sophomore Marie Valsgaard eventually ended up in Grand Rapids.

After numerous plane rides, Marie—one of FHC’s exchange students—embarks on her new journey of experiencing the American dream. 

“I wanted to see a new culture and a new way of learning,” Marie said. “I chose America because I’ve seen so much about it in movies, and I wanted to experience it through my own eyes.”

Marie is finding beauty in Michigan but is also noticing the drastic differences between her lifestyle back in Denmark compared to here. 

The buildings and ways of transportation here are far larger than what Marie was expecting. Along with these small shifts that have caught her eye, Marie has already gotten to live some pleasurable moments. 

“I [went] to Grand Haven and enjoyed it,” Marie said. “We went on a sunny day and walked along the beach and the pier. I’ve been to Sky Zone too, and that was fun. I’ve also visited Frankenmuth, Michigan, while on a camping trip.” 

Although going to Grand Haven was something new and intriguing, Marie found camping very enjoyable–back at home, she enjoys a number of those trips with her grandparents. 

“My grandma and grandpa have a camper,” Marie said. “We use it a lot in the summer. Sometimes we go camping for [an entire] week, and I love it.”

It’s the familiar moments like this that help with being away from home. Being an exchange student might come with challenges, but Marie has the wonderful opportunity to stay with the Sturgis family and meet new people at FHC to guide her through her year here. 

I chose America because I’ve seen so much about it in movies, and I wanted to experience it through my own eyes. ”

— Marie Valsgaard

Being part of an American family has exposed Marie to American culture and traditions, such as eating in the living room, having breakfast by yourself, and holidays like Halloween. 

“At home, I’m used to always eating with my family at the table for all meals,” Marie said. “I’m a huge family person–I love my family. Here, it’s normal to eat breakfast and dinner alone. My host family has dinner together most nights, but sometimes, we eat in the living room instead of at the table. It’s cozy, and I’m all snuggled up eating my dinner and watching a movie.”

The time spent outside of school has been wonderful for Marie, and while focusing on the changes in her education, Marie is excited to learn in a new environment.

“I became an exchange student because I was getting tired of doing the same thing for the past 10 years,” Marie said. “I wanted to try something new.”

Back in Denmark, Marie usually has classes that are every week–not daily. There are some subjects that are every day, but that’s mostly core subjects like Danish, math, and science. As for extracurricular activities, like school sports, Marie’s school in Denmark has none; they are all considered club sports.

“It’s a lot different here,” Marie said. “The schedule is the same every single day. [At home], students stay in the same classroom; it’s the teachers that change rooms. A [graduating] class is 20 to 30 people, so you’re a lot closer with all of your classmates.” 

Being new to a school, let alone a whole country, can be scary, and Marie knows that. She is holding on to the last conversation with her family as courage, for it will hopefully give her the strength and bravery to move forward through the rest of the year. 

“I was scared, happy, and excited because I know they are going to be there when I get back,” Marie said. “I know they love me, and they are going to follow my year. They are going to miss me just as much as I’m gonna miss them, but I knew what I was coming here to do.”

As she hasn’t been here for too long, this trip has already made her appreciate home a lot more, and as the school year continues, Marie wants to keep making new friendships and taking her unforgettable memories with her home.

“I‘ve realized how much I appreciate and love my family and friends back home,” Marie said. “I’ve been around them my entire life. When you are away from them, you understand the impact they have on you and how amazing they actually are. I want to try a lot of things, [like] meeting new people and making new friends–I want to have an amazing time here.”