A Home 4,500 Miles Away

Ida+Andersen+proudly+shows+off+her+home+country+of+Denmark.+

Kaylie Klein

Ida Andersen proudly shows off her home country of Denmark.

Alexia Zitzke, Writer

The opportunity to travel is not one that everyone gets. In fact, not very many teenagers have ever been outside of the state, let alone the country. However, some students get the chance to not only travel abroad but stay a year in another county through the foreign exchange program.

This year, OHS is hosting three foreign exchange students, including Senior Ida Andersen. Andersen is originally from Denmark, a small country in northern Europe. 

Andersen claimed she was first introduced to the idea of being a foreign exchange student about three years ago when she heard about a three-week summer program.

“When I found out that you could be an exchange student for a whole year, it was something that I really wanted to do. I told my parents that I wanted to do it and I was determined to make it happen,” said Andersen.

The normal foreign exchange year is from August to May, but due to COVID-19, Andersen arrived in Ozark in September of 2020 and will be returning to Denmark after graduation in 2021. 

The process of becoming a foreign exchange student is a longer process than most expect. It consists of signing up to be a foreign exchange student, meeting with workers from the program itself, being approved, writing an application, and waiting for a host family.

A host family is the family whose home the student will be living in. The family provides a home, food, and any other necessities the student may have. Andersen was given her host family in January of 2020 to make sure she had time to get to know them before moving in.

“My host family is the best, I could never ask for a better one. When I got off the plane, they were standing there and waiting for me; it felt really good. I felt like I had known them my whole life and that they were my family,” said Andersen.

The foreign exchange program provides students all around the world with opportunities to study in other countries. They learn about different cultures, participate in different activities, and meet new people. Andersen stated that her favorite activity that she’s participated in was cross country.

“It was so much fun and I got to meet so many new people. I’m so happy that I decided to do it.”

Although being a foreign exchange student is an amazing experience, there are downsides. Andersen claims that one of the main downsides is being away from her family.

“It’s my first time being away from my family and friends. It was really weird, at first, to be in a new house with a new family. Especially now that it’s Christmas, it’s a bit weird to not be with my family during the holidays, but I talk to my family once a week,” said Andersen.

Andersen has found some ways to make the experience easier. She claims that being open, honest, and smiling has helped her in so many ways.

“If you are open, it gets much easier to talk to everyone. Smiling helps a lot, too; if you smile, it just makes everyone happier. Being honest can get you so much more. It also makes it easier for other people around me who are trying to adjust.”

Andersen claims she loves this program and is so glad she decided to participate. “If I had the chance to be an exchange student again, I would. I love being here; I love getting to know the culture of another country, to live with a family and learn about them, and get the opportunity to live in another country.”