My experience as an exchange student in America

September 16, 2022

Departure and arrival


Agnes Sorensen

July 31, 2022 – Saying goodbye to my family at Copenhagen Airport before leaving Denmark for a year. I was nervous, tired, and sad about leaving my family, but mostly excited for my exchange and to meet my host family.

When I was driving home from the airport with my new American family I was tired but very excited and hot. I felt a bit sick after a long flight, not enough sleep, and saying goodbye to my life in Denmark, but I knew that this was what I had waited for for so long. 

I now started to actually realize the fact that I was in America, and I would be here for a whole year, which was just as exciting as I thought.  

One of the first things I realized was how hot it is here compared to Denmark, but also that people are very friendly. An airport man said, “How are you?,” and I thought, “Thank you so much for asking.” People do not really ask in Denmark, and they seldom say, “Excuse me.”  

Another thing that also shocked me was how loud the toilets are when you flush them. I am right there, do they need to be so loud? Everything is also way bigger here: cars, houses, Target.

When being open minded and saying hello to people most welcome me and say, “That’s so cool.” 

I heard about the Rotary Youth Exchange Program through my grandfather, and thought, “When can I leave?” I thought living in another country for a year, getting better at English, meeting new people, and getting a second family in the U.S. sounded amazing. I could have a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime experience by “living the American dream.” 

The process of becoming an exchange student is long and a bit stressful with applications, interviews, immunizations, papers, documents, and visa. There is a lot of waiting time, but it is definitely worth it. I remember when I was told my location, and how I screamed with excitement. 

Something that was really hard was saying goodbye to my friends and family. I had a weird feeling when I said, “See you in a year.” At that moment at the airport, I realized that my exchange was happening right now, which was a crazy feeling. 

I am finally here and I absolutely love it. Most things are different, but I am slowly getting used to it. I love the fact that I will spend the next 10 months here.

High school

High school here is great but a lot different from Denmark. Back home, I usually have my classes with the same people in the same classroom except for science and PE. There are about 450 students in my high school in Denmark, so Starr’s Mill is pretty big and I see new people all the time. 

My first day of school was a little bit confusing when I had to find my way around. I could not find my classes without constantly looking on a map. I had never experienced “the pledge” before, which was different but cool. 

I feel like most students are helpful and friendly. I feel like I am getting to meet and talk to a lot of new people, but honestly it is difficult to remember everyone’s names. This has helped me to feel welcome even though I come into their lives as “the new girl.”  

It was also different calling my teachers Mr. and Ms./Mrs., because I usually call them by their first name in Denmark. 

I really like all my teachers. They are all supportive and understanding, because I go to school in my second language and not Danish. I do feel like my English has improved since I got here and it is easier to follow along in my classes besides the southern accents. 

I like that I do get time in class to do the assignments that I have to turn in. In Denmark, I usually have to do my assignments at home. I take a lot of electives, because I do not get academic credits for being here, so I do not get tons of homework, which is really great.

Another thing is the restroom pass rule. If I have to use the restroom here I have to get a pass, which I fully understand. Most teachers just let me go in Denmark. 

The yellow American school bus is quite iconic, so I was very excited to ride it the first time. It was cool, but hot and jumpy. 

Tests. Wow. American teachers like to give tests. Let me just leave it like that. 

I really like that sports are a part of school here. The people of one’s team will be at the school, which makes it easier to know people around. Sports are separated from schools in Denmark although we do have a class where we do different kinds of sports. 

Besides all the differences I do really like being here. I feel like I am starting to get a routine and a feeling of American high school.



Agnes Sorensen

A lot of kids go trick and treating at houses decorated with Halloween themes in Highgrove. As an exchange student, this was my first experience with the American Halloween and people go all in.

Halloween is an American holiday, which is spreading around the world. As an Danish exchange student in the United States, this was my first “real” Halloween experience. 

Halloween has started coming to Denmark, but I never went trick and treating, so on Halloween night I went to Highgrove to get the full experience.  

I was impressed by how the kids dressed up and even their parents would have outfits that might even match. Some high schoolers even dressed up with their cool and even scary costumes. 

I liked the family-friendly costumes with princesses, superheroes, fairies, etc. but the people who dressed up as clowns or were wearing fake blood were really cool as well. 

Everyone was really nice when they went out trick-or-treating. Kids were yelling “Happy Halloween” and a lot of people asked me how my first American Halloween was going, which made me feel very welcome.

People go all in. I mean ALL in, which I actually did not expect. People had the spiders, skeletons, gravestones, and clowns as props, which was really cool, but the most impressive prop was definitely the fake smoke. This gave an extra touch to the scary factor. 

I went on a golf cart drive in the Highgrove neighborhood, where I could see all of these props. Wow! People do so much and are extremely dedicated, which is really cool, because it is not like that in Denmark. 

Something that surprised me a bit was that nobody dresses up for school. Halloween could have been even more cool if it was a thing to dress up for school, so Halloween was not only at night. 

When the kids came trick-or-treating I thought they would actually say “trick or treat,” but most did not. They usually said “thank you,” and I feel like everyone was really polite to each other. 

 Something that disappointed me a tiny bit was that Halloween was not as scary as I thought it would be, but it was probably because I was in a family neighborhood. There were a few houses where the person handing out the candy was scary and did not say anything and even another house with a clown. 

At about 9 p.m. families started packing up and getting inside, which was earlier than I thought it would be. 

I will definitely take my friends and family from back home back to Peachtree City, so they can experience Halloween. I really liked it. People were more dedicated than I thought they would be.

Key differences between two countries


Agnes Sorensen

View of the capital city Copenhagen. The Danish cities are in general older and have the classic European style. After being here for about five months, I have been asked a lot of questions about what is different. I have tried to come up with a few of them.

I have been in the United States for more than five months now, which has led to a lot of questions about the differences between Denmark and here. It is difficult to name all of the differences, but here are some of the most interesting contrasts.


“You speak Dutch, right?” I understand why people might think that because it starts with “d” and sounds familiar, but I speak Danish, which is very different. People have also asked when I learned English. I have had English for a long time in school, because it is mandatory to learn, but really movies and shows helped me a lot. 


I know that a lot of the bigger American citizens have great public transportation, but at home we have opportunities all over the country even though you might have to wait for a long time in a smaller town. Also, a lot of Danes bike to work, school, and grocery stores, especially in the cities. 

Politics and taxes

We have a representative democracy and parliamentary system, which means we have a prime minister, Mette Frederiksen. Our taxes depend on our income, and they typically amount to 50%. This sounds like a lot, but Denmark has free education and universal healthcare. 


In Denmark we have a monarchy, which means we have a queen. Queen Dronning Margrethe ll has been on the throne for over 50 years. This is clearly different from here. The queen’s political powers are minimal, but she can sign laws and designate ministers.  

Football vs. fodbold

Sports are really big here. No, extremely big here. A lot of people have a big heart for football and have asked me if it is a thing in Denmark. The biggest sport in Denmark is “fodbold,” a form of soccer. People get really into it during the World Cup and the European championships. 


I got here on July 31, and it was really hot. The Danish summer can be as hot as here but that would probably mean a heatwave. The typical weather during the winter is rain, snow, wind, darkness and cold. Sometimes we can experience all four seasons in only one day. 

Denmark is a small country in Scandinavia in Europe. Its area is 16,580 sq miles and we have 1,419 islands. Our population is about 5.843 million. Our capital is København (Copenhagen). Greenland and the Faroe Islands are under the Danish kingdom.

From strangers to true family


Courtesy of Agnes Sorensen

My second host and I at a Georgia game. I have been on the student exchange trip for more than six months. Throughout the experience, I will live with three different host families.

Time. The time has gone by so much faster on my exchange than just being at home in Denmark. I have experienced so many new things, met so many people, and I am just living a life in a year. 

When I arrived in Georgia this past summer, I went home with strangers: my new host family. I had previously exchanged emails with them and had a Zoom call, so I felt like I knew them a little bit. I cannot truly describe how it felt to arrive in a new country, meeting the people I was going home to live with. 

Through the exchange program that I am currently doing I will live with three host families. This means that I get three totally different experiences. I am currently living with my second host family after meeting them a few times. 

Now, six months later I have gotten new families across the globe, which I am extremely grateful for. 

With each new transition of host families, we had to get to get to know each other. My parents raised me to be polite, which I truly was in the beginning, but at some point we started making jokes and had these moments and I felt very happy to be here. I would never have had all of this if I never took that flight and got the experience of a lifetime.

When you step into family as a stranger, everything is very different and it takes time to get settled in. The first couple of times I had to go get a snack, make my lunch, or ask to go to the store was weird. But at some point It started to get normal and my new life in America came together pretty quickly, because I felt very comfortable with each of my families. 

Whenever I felt like I had something that made me nervous or scared such as a presentation, my approach currently is, “I flew across the world all by myself, so I can do this.”

‘I flew across the world all by myself, so I can do this’.”

— Staff Writer Agnes Sorensen

There has also been a difference between my first host family and second besides the members. When I first arrived it was more like getting a better grasp of understanding English and arriving in a totally new country. Whereas my second host family experience was more like getting to know them and their routines better. I will be moving in with my third host family soon, which is very exciting but sad to leave my second family. 

Being so far away from my friends and family back home has of course led to some homesickness. Honestly, I thought it would have been a lot worse than it has been, because it has not been a huge problem for me so far. 

Christmas was definitely the hardest because Christmas here is very different. We celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24 with great food, family, dancing and singing around the Christmas tree and presents. 

When you are “forced” to live with a family you eventually get really close with them and  learning new things about each other everyday is much easier. A host family is more than just hosts for you, well three for me. They are a new family that cares incredibly much about you and you even more for them. I will forever have this bond with them and have a second home right here in Peachtree City, and they will have a cool opportunity to come and visit me in Denmark.



Agnes Sorensen

My home in Denmark. Being away from home for so long may lead to homesickness for some, but it has not been that difficult for me.

One thing that I was really worried about before I left Denmark was homesickness. 

How hard was it going to be not to see my friends and family for one year? I have had an amazing exchange so far with great host families, friends and experiences, which I think has played a huge part in not feeling as homesick as expected. 

Even though it has been great I am not going to lie there has been some hard times. Christmas was hard for me, because I was so far away from home and Danish traditions. It has been weird, when my whole family or friends have gotten together and obviously I was not there.   

Another thing that triggers homesickness is thinking about how long it is going to be before I see my family and friends again. The first time I realized this was actually in the airport, when we were saying goodbye. 

I have not seen my family and friends for seven months, which is a long time but the time has never gone by faster than it has here. Therefore, it has not felt like that long. 

Before I left I was told to be careful with having too much contact with my family and friends back home and to be present here in Georgia and not always being on my phone to FaceTime to prevent homesickness. Despite this advice, I have experienced that FaceTiming, especially my parents, has helped me not to get homesick. 

I have also felt a little bit of FOMO when there have been events at my high school back home or all my friends have gotten together.”

— Staff Writer Agnes Sorensen

I have also felt a little bit of FOMO when there have been events at my high school back home or all my friends have gotten together. I do not feel “left out” anymore because I really like being here, but I still have this feeling that I really want to be back home for something. It is weird to know that everyone else is living the life that I will get to live. 

Everyone gets physically sick, so it was no surprise when I did. I thought that I would miss my parents taking care of me when I was sick but I actually did not. My host families have taken such good care of me, which has made me so happy. 

I have had a different kind of homesickness that I never thought about having. When I have moved to different host families I would miss my former host family even though I really liked being with my new one. 

How do I deal with the bit of homesickness that I have had? This might sound weird but just to be able to cry it out has helped in that moment. Otherwise, talking to someone about it and being busy has helped. It is a good idea to distract myself and to get out and do something.

Being away from home for almost a year might sound scary, but I quickly got used to my new life. I realized that even though I missed my friends and family back home it did not have to develop into homesickness. 

If you are thinking about doing an exchange program but are worried that homesickness will be a problem for you I will say just do it. Take an amazing chance that will change your life forever.

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