Danish students experience Norfolk

April 15, 2018 GMT

Twenty-two Danish students have been getting a glimpse of life in the Midwest.

The students, who attend College 360 — a business school in Silkeborg, Denmark — arrived in Norfolk on March 13. Their last day on campus is April 20. During their six weeks in Nebraska, they’ve been attending classes, living in residence halls and participating in activities at Northeast Community College.

They’re accompanied by Ole Tormod Bøndergaard, senior lecturer at College 360. He’s teaching a business economics class while here at Northeast on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

The students are a part of a three-year business program in Denmark that includes a study trip to the United Kingdom and United States, Tormod Bøndergaard said.

Northeast President Dr. Michael Chipps was acquainted with College 360 through its former president, Torbin Jessen, so that’s how Pam Saalfeld, Northeast’s director of the Center for Global Engagement, said discussions began to bring the students to Norfolk.

While here, the students are taking the average course load of a Northeast student — about 15 credits. Each is taking two business classes, which are related to their course work in Denmark, and then a variety of other classes — from Criminal Investigation to International Relations to Intro to Mass Media.

“For me it’s really different,” student Mathias Staermose said. “There’s not as much work in school, it’s more homework. The teacher will make you read 40 pages and then in class it will be small talk. In Denmark, we do a lot more in classes.”

Staermose said he’s also used to less testing, and Tormod Bøndergaard said e-books are used regularly, whereas textbooks are primarily used in the United States.

But a few of the students — including Staermose, Matias Voldby Drejer and Julie Sorensen — have gotten some interesting hands-on experiences in Northeast classes.

For example, Matt McCarthy’s Criminal Investigation class has students pursuing careers in law enforcement learn how to investigate simulated crime scenes. The students investigated a staged domestic violence scene at Northeast’s Law and Public Safety Training Lab on Wednesday.

The progression of education in also Denmark differs. While the 22 students are all of similar age to Northeast students, College 360 is technically between the high school and college level in the United States. Once the Danish students finish their business program, they will pursue their bachelor’s degree and then possibly their master’s degrees.

The food and transportation in the United States have been among the other big adjustments for the students.

Tormod Bøndergaard said America’s food is more greasy and sweet, whereas in Denmark the food is more natural. The group was surprised at the number of fast-food restaurants in Norfolk because Silkeborg — a city of about 50,000 — has just a few.

Public transportation in Denmark is the standard, so Voldby Drejer said getting around Norfolk has been difficult since they don’t have cars. They’ve become familiar with the four Uber drivers in Norfolk, and are thankful for friends they’ve made on campus who are always willing to give rides.

“Being in a dorm room with students and having a daily routine at school, you meet people,” Staermose said. “So we talk to more Americans than we would if we had just been in class with all Danish people. That’s made the experience better.”

Tormod Bøndergaard said it’s been great for his students to experience something different than what they’re used to. The students have also traveled to Kearney to visit the Archway and the Buckle, Inc. headquarters and took a separate trip to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

But the Danish students aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from their stay in Norfolk, Northeast students are, too.

“For 22 students to be in our classes with our students, that’s touching the lives of many, many more of our Northeast students,” Saalfeld said. ”... So they’re getting a look at a different culture, too.”