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Student from Denmark adjusts to small town living

By Staff | Oct 12, 2014

To make the transition between a private high school and a public high school can be difficult for many students. The rules and the standards between the two school systems can differ greatly, confusing anyone who makes the switch.

However, Emilie Benn stergaard did not only transfer from a private to a public school she crossed the Atlantic Ocean to attend high school in the United States.

Benn arrived in Minnesota at the beginning of August from Odense, Denmark, her hometown. However, she didn’t come to Blue Earth when she first arrived she went to Welcome.

“I?had a different host family in Welcome, so I was supposed to go to the Martin County West school. But, that didn’t work out so I got removed and then I got in to this school,” Benn explains.

Normally, exchange students must be 16 years old or older to attend Blue Earth Area High School, but an exception was made for Benn, the youngest exchange student at only 15 years old.

“I?had to find a family to live with before school started because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to withdraw once school had started,” Benn says.

Luckily, Damian and Tina Prescher of Delavan agreed to serve as her host family even though they hadn’t signed up to house an exchange student.

“For her to come live with us was a different arrangement than the rest of them,” Tina Prescher explains.?”We had about a five-day notice.”

Friends of the family recommended the Preschers to the leader of the exchange program. The next few days were a jumble as arrangements were made, but the Preschers knew that hosting Benn would be a wonderful experience for their family.

“She looked kind of cute, so we took her,” Prescher said jokingly.

Though the process to enroll Benn into BEAHS was stressful for both the Preschers and for Benn, the arrangement worked out very well for everyone.

Living with the Preschers, Benn has nearly the entire basement to herself where she can spend time with friends or study for her classes, which takes up much of her time.

“I?figured I could go and take a lot of difficult classes in one quarter because everyone says they are so easy over here. They’re actually not that easy,”?Benn laughs.

Her class schedule for the first quarter includes biology, American history, advanced algebra and choir. Benn admits that next quarter she may opt to take on an easier class load.

“I?have to calculate everything in my head all of the time when people talk about miles instead of kilometers, or feet instead of inches,” Benn says. “If someone says I’m five-foot-five, I have no idea what they’re saying.”

Although metric conversions are often on her mind, that doesn’t seem to bother the student who hopes to become a doctor.

“I?have my diploma now, but if I want to be a doctor, I have to take this mix between high school and college for one to three years. I’m choosing the three year option, and then afterward I’m going to university,” Benn says.

Her time spent attending BEAHS doesn’t count toward her schooling in Denmark, but she wanted to experience a new culture and lifestyle during her year off from school.

The Preschers also want to make sure that Benn is able to get a taste for living in the Midwest. So far, they have taken her to Iowa and they plan to take her to the Wisconsin Dells over Christmas break.

Indeed it seems that she will experience much of what the Midwest has to offer, but Benn was not expecting she would be living in Minnesota when she first signed up for the exchange program last March.

“?I?was hoping to go to one of the Southern states because I have some family down there,” Benn admits. “The climate in Minnesota and Denmark is very similar, so I thought I’d be going somewhere completely opposite. I?just had the idea that I was going to this warm, Southern state.”

Although Benn wasn’t placed in a Southern state, landing in the middle of farm country has provided her with a new perspective on the United States.

“When I thought about America before, I thought about skyscrapers and big buildings. I didn’t think about these small towns and I didn’t even know there was a place in this world that was like this,”?says Benn, who is used to living in a large city.

This isn’t the first time Benn has traveled to the United States. A few years ago, she and her family came to the U.S. to visit family in Washington.

“We started in Washington and drove to L.A.,” Benn says. “It was very beautiful.”

She has also done a lot of traveling in Europe, both for school and with her family.

“In my graduation year, my class and I went to Budapest in Hungary. It’s in Eastern Europe and you don’t really go there for vacation, you go there for the history,”?Benn said.

As an avid traveler, she decided to sign up for a trip to Hawaii.

“The program that I?went through offered vacation packages and I wanted to go to Hawaii,” Benn says.

She will visit The Aloha State during one of the winter breaks.

In the meantime, Benn would like to try out for track and field in the spring and she has also shown interest in joining Knowledge Bowl.

“Even though I probably can’t answer every question, that’s okay. It sounds pretty fun,” Benn says.

She is looking forward to making more friends and to simply learn what it is like to live in America.