Living the American life

Living the American life

Ingrid Chang

Foreign exchange student junior Anne Christensen takes on life as an American teenager.

The first day of school is never easy: especially when you’re at another high school, immersed in a different language and culture and 5,432 miles away from home. Three weeks ago, junior Anne Christensen left her home in Aalborg, Denmark, in exchange for a life experience and a year’s worth of an American lifestyle. anne.jpg

Rather than enrolling in a traditional foreign exchange program, Christensen came up with the idea on her own.

"It’s kind of a tradition in my family. My mother went to the U.S. about 30 some years ago and my sister went three years ago," Christensen said. "Since I was a little kid I wanted to go to the U.S., so it’s been planned my whole life."

Currently, Christensen is staying with senior Suzanne Stern. Christensen was supposed to stay in San Francisco, but due to some circumstances, her host family wasn’t able to have her. To solve the problem, Christensen’s mom called Stern’s Methodist church in Palo Alto and contacted one of the church’s choir directors, who Christensen’s mom had connections with.

In January, Stern knew that Christensen was coming for the next school year but the plan wasn’t finalized until only two months ago. However, Stern already knew Christensen. In mid-July, Stern went on tour to Denmark for a church drama ministry and during that time, Christensen hosted Stern for a week.

It was Stern’s first time in Denmark, but surprisingly it wasn’t Christensen’s first time in the U.S.

"It kind of feels like a second home country to me because I’ve been here a lot," Christensen said.

Since she was young she has been to the U.S. about 17 times. But this visit is nothing like all her other visits.

"It’s different [from vacation] because I have homework and I have to spend a lot of time on homework," said Christensen. "But it will definitely get better by time. I’m looking forward to [improve] my English, [to] find new friends and [to] learn about [U.S.] culture and history."

Christensen isn’t the only one gaining from this experience. Stern is also taking the hosting experience as a learning opportunity.anne_2

"I love hosting exchange students; if I could be one I would," Stern said. "It’s the closest thing I could [do] to be one. I really like the experience thing with cultures and seeing what their similarities and differences [are] and learning new languages."

At MVHS, Christensen is learning and gaining new experiences every day. But a convenient advantage is that she doesn’t have to worry about her grades because none of the credits she earns here will transfer to her school in Denmark. In Denmark, the education system works differently.

"We have middle school from kindergarten to ninth or tenth grade. Usually you go out at 9th grade but if you feel like you need one more year in school you would go [on] to 10th grade,"  Christensen said.

Since Christensen doesn’t need that one more year in school, she’s using that year to study in America. Once she returns to Denmark, instead of going to a college, she will go to a gymnasium where she will study for three more years before going off to study for a specific profession.

For the time being, she still has a year before continuing her studies in Denmark. Now, she’s just living the American life as an American teenager.