Junior Silke Berge travels frequently. She has visited Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, Thailand, Argentina, Greece, Greenland and Italy, some of those countries multiple times. This has been her first time as an exchange student, and she has noticed many differences between Denmark and America.
“Copenhagen is a big city, kind of like New York City,” Berge said. “Everyone lives in apartment buildings, and you can walk everywhere. You don’t need a car. Here, everyone has a car. There is also a lot of open space here. (Bismarck) is small but a good community.”
Berge’s interest in being a foreign exchange student in America was sparked by her interest to learn more English and from the news she has seen from America. In Denmark, the national language is Danish. Berge began studying English in school in third grade. She has also studied German since seventh grade.
Berge compares the size of her school in Copenhagen to Century, except her school consisted of grades preschool through high school.
“Here, people take school more seriously,” Berge said. “It makes us sound like slackers, but we didn’t really get homework or do as much there.”
According to Berge, school spirit doesn’t really exist at her previous school.
“There’s no school spirit in Denmark,” Berge said. “I mean, of course, we care about our school. But nothing like here. School sports aren’t very big; we never went to watch games. Soccer is pretty big, but only professional. Here, people are, like, proud of their school, and that’s really cool.”
Berge attended her first football game in September.
“It was cool,” Berge said. “We don’t have that type of thing in Denmark. People don’t watch school sports.”
Among other differences, Berge has noticed that people dress more informally here.
“Here, people wear sweatpants and leggings to school, but, in Denmark, that would be really weird,” Berge said. “I like it though. It’s comfortable.“
Berge has also noticed a few quirks, such as the coffee culture.
“People like Starbucks and coffee more here than in Denmark,” Berge said. “We drink coffee there, but we drink more tea.”
After this year, Berge is considering a four-month foreign exchange program in Spain, a country she visits almost every year.
“Everything here is so different; I really like it here,” Berge said. “Most people seem so interested in me and where I am from, and a lot have really made me feel welcome which I am so grateful for.”
Junior Beatrice Caressa says she is excited to spend a year in another country.
“I wanted to come here because I have always dreamed about living in the USA,” Caressa said. “My first impression of Bismarck is really positive. I really like the city, which is not too small and not too big,. The only thing I need to get used to is the weather.”
Junior Sierra Schaan is friends with Caressa and met her because Schaan’s mom is friends with Caressa’s host mom.
“And, we’re practically neighbors,” Schaan said. “We’ve hung out a couple times, and she’s stayed at my house. So I guess we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well.”
Schaan described her new friend Caressa as super nice, sweet and a good cook.
“But she’s also very funny. We went to Wal-Mart one night, and she said it was beautiful. And while my sister and I laughed, she explained that there aren’t any stores like that in Rome,” Schaan said.
Schaan said, although Caressa is from another country, she is still very similar to American students.
“I think she has some different styles of fashion, but still very cute,” Schaan said. “Overall, I think she’s a lot like us, and definitely fits in with the American kids.”
Caressa said the students of Century are very welcoming.
“They’re very friendly,” Caressa said. “I really look forward to see the snow, and I’m waiting for Christmas because I really love it.“
Junior Ivy Lee, from Taipei, capital city of Taiwan, is here as an exchange student for the experience of it. Her first impression of Bismarck, when she arrived in August, was the temperature.
“It’s too cold,” Lee said. “Also, (Bismarck) is a little bit small.“
In Taipei, Lee lived in an apartment above a store with her family. Public transportation is very common, and people do not have much need for cars, according to Lee. Big city life is home for Lee, and Bismarck is a dramatic change. In Taipei, Lee has a younger sister, and she reminisced about her family back home.
“I miss them, very much,” Lee said.
The schooling systems do not share many similarities, according to Lee.
“We have one classroom,” Lee said. “Different teachers travel to our classroom, and the students stay in one room. We also can’t choose our classes. And we have different classes every day, not a set schedule like it is here.“
According to Lee, in Taipei, students who are athletically inclined have a separate class that focuses more on sports and less on academic schooling. For Lee, academic classes that were easy in Taipei are more difficult here, because the classes here are taught in English. Lee’s first language is Mandarin Chinese. She also reflected on being a new student at Century.
“The students here are not mean, some just aren’t very friendly,” Lee said. “Just because I can’t chat well in English yet doesn’t mean I’m shy.”
In her free time, Lee said she enjoys playing the recorder and reading. In Taipei, she enjoyed going to night markets with her friends. She says she is excited for her year as an exchange student at Century. She says she is also excited for winter, because of the snow.
“I have never seen snow,” Lee said.
Mo I Rana, Nordland, Norway
Junior Helly Myrstad decided to try foreign exchange so she could experience a new culture. She picked America, and the foreign exchange agency chose North Dakota as her exchange location. In her hometown of Mo I Rana, with a population around 25,000, Myrstad’s school is very different from Century.
“It was pretty boring, mostly an academic school,” Myrstad said. “The classes were just subjects, like math or French. Here they have choir, band and a lot of different elective classes.”
According to Myrstad, school here is much more social. She has noticed the school spirit and the commonality of student involvement in extracurriculars.
“In Norway, after school, we don’t have much activities to do,” Myrstad said. “I like to hang out with friends and exercise.”
Although Myrstad enjoys Bismarck and her host family, it isn’t the same as her family in Norway.
“I love my family. I really miss them. But still, it’s nice to get away for a while. Here, I have two host sisters, and one host brother. They’re fun, and it’s nice to have them around, like when I’m doing stuff like homework,” she said.
Myrstad began learning English in the first grade; she does not remember much about learning English.
“We were so young when we learned; I don’t really remember if it was hard,” Myrstad said. “I still have an accent though, and my English is not as good as I would like it to be yet.“
Myrstad has quickly become friends with Taletta Eie, another Century exchange student from Norway.
“It’s good to have someone to speak the language with and express myself better with,” Myrstad said. “It helps me to not forget Norwegian. I’ve only been here for little over a week, and I’m already forgetting some.”
Myrstad said her experience at Century has so far been eye-opening and enthralling.
“Everyone is really nice here,” Myrstad said.
Fiska, Rogaland, Norway
Junior Taletta Eie’s first impression of Bismarck is different than most.
“Everything is so big here,” Eie said. “The grocery stores here are so big. You can buy everything in one store like Dan’s. we don’t have that in Norway. We have a fruit shop, a vegetable shop, a meat shop.”
Eie, who is from a smaller town in Fiska, Rogaland, Norway, with a population of about 25,000, says Century is a much larger school than she is used to. Her previous school had about 400 students compared to Century’s roughly 1,500 students. But according to Eie, the students here are very kind.
“Here, people are very friendly, like they will introduce themselves to me,” Eie said. ” In Norway, people are a little colder, they’re not mean but they keep to themselves more. Like if there was a foreign exchange student in Norway, people would not really befriend them.”
In Norway, school was more informal.
“Students can sit on their laptops and not pay attention in the classroom, ” Eie said. “The teachers say it isn’t their responsibility to make us pay attention, it’s our responsibility to if we want to.“
Eie was inspired to try foreign exchange by a friend who went on an exchange. She says she is enjoying her experience here, but she does miss her family and friends.
“I miss having friends I can just go to,” Eie said.
In Norway, Eie was involved with Thai boxing, a type of boxing that allows the use of kicking and elbows. Here at Century, Eie joined the girls’ cross-country team.
“I never ran cross country in Norway, but I joined here to get involved and meet people,” Eie said. “It’s hard, but I like it.”