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No surprises here for Danish student Laura Nielsen

By Staff | Nov 9, 2009

Pastor Mark Wilms, Laura Nielsen, and Lynn Wilms

There were no surprises when Danish foreign exchange student Laura Mundus Nielsen showed up in Blue Earth to spend the year attending Blue Earth Area High School.

She, and her host parents, Rev. Mark and Lynn Wilms of Blue Earth, have known for nearly four years that it was going to happen.

The reason there were no surprises is that they have known each other for some time.

Laura’s older sister, Julie, stayed with the Wilmses four years ago when the couple was living in St. Charles.

Plus, Laura and her sister Julie came to Blue Earth two years ago to visit the Wilmses and see their new home, and tour Blue Earth Area High School.

And, if that is not enough familiarity, the Wilmses have traveled to Denmark and stayed with Laura, her sister, brother and parents.

“Our families have been friends for some time,” Laura says. “I knew when my sister was here that I also wanted to come to Minnesota and stay with Pastor Mark and Lynn.”

Now that she is 17 and finished with high school in Denmark, she is able to make that desire come true. Since the Wilmses have been hosting students for many years, they also have known for a long time they would be hosting Laura this year.

Laura is from Elsinore, which in Danish is known as Helsingor. The city of 80,000 is 1 1/2 hours north of Copenhagen and on the narrow channel separating Denmark from Sweden.

Elsinore is also famous around the world as the setting for Shakespeare’s play, ‘Hamlet.’

The Kronborg Castle is in Elsinore, and is the setting for ‘Hamlet.’ which has been performed in the courtyard there many times.

Laura says her father, Lars, is a tax fraud investigator, and her mother, Dorte, is a tax accountant.

Her big brother, Mikkel, 24, is an auto mechanic. Sister Julie, 20, is attending university.

Laura herself wants to return to Denmark and attend a school to study economics and become a receptionist.

“Our high school just goes through 10th grade,” she explains. “After that you choose to go on to gymnasium – a type of school that specializes in a certain area. From there you might go on to university.”

She says students have to apply to attend a school after 10th grade, and they may or may not be accepted.

Laura has been studying English since fourth grade, and is very fluent in the language.

At Blue Earth Area she is taking art, choir, biology, world cultures and other classes.

“In Denmark the students stay in one room, while the teachers move around,” she says. “I think the classes here are probably easier, except they are hard for me because I have to do everything in English, which is sometimes difficult.”

She says she has made some friends at BEA, but that it is hard because most students here already have a group of friends.

“I am the same way in Denmark,” she says. “I have the same group of friends I have had for many years, because we have been in the same class all through school.”

She says hanging out with her friends is one of her favorite pastimes. She also likes to work out and listen to music.

“I love pop, R & B and soul,” she says about her music favorites.

Laura has also traveled a bit in her life. Besides a previous trip to Minnesota, she was on a five day trip to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, while on her way here in August.

“I just love New York,” she says. “It is such a big city and so exciting.”

While here she hopes to also go to California and see Hollywood, but isn’t sure that will happen.

At home in Denmark, her family has vacationed in Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Greece.

Laura says she is looking forward to snow, and hopes there will be a lot of it this winter. But she isn’t so sure about the cold temperatures which may be coming.

“We have snow in Denmark but it doesn’t last very long,” she says. “It also never gets real cold in the winter, or real hot in the summer.”

Other differences she has noticed in the U.S. is the price of items.

“I love to shop, and the prices for clothes and shoes here is so cheap,” she says. “At least compared to Denmark. I have already bought a lot of clothes.”

Television is different from home, but she says she loves watching American TV, especially reality shows.

Food is different, too. Everything here is so rich and full of fat, she says, compared to Denmark.

“But I like a lot of it,” she quickly adds.

She says the houses here are so much larger than at home, with bigger yards. The roads are also much straighter in Minnesota than the curvy ones she is used to in Denmark.

Laura says she misses her family, and says she knows it will be difficult to be away from home at Christmas.

“Christmas is a special time in Denmark,” she explains. “We eat a lot of the old kinds of Danish food, sing old songs and I will miss it a lot.”

She also misses her boyfriend in Denmark, who is 18 and works as a carpenter.

“But I think he misses me more,” she says with a smile.

Luckily she is able to keep in touch with friends and family by calling home, using the internet for e-mail and Skype, a program for free video and audio connections.

She says she is happy being here, and glad she decided four years ago to follow in her sister’s footsteps and come live for a year in the United States.

“I liked Blue Earth when I came here to see it two years ago,” she says. “I like it even more now, living here.”