Danish Student Brings Outsider’s Perspective to VHS

With her blonde hair and welcoming smile, if you came across her in the halls, you would think that she was a student at VHS. If you had a brief conversation with her, you would think she grew up in the United States.

But a longer conversation will reveal that Ida Helk is actually a foreign exchange student from Copenhagen, Denmark and has been learning English for less time than most VHS students have been taking his/her foreign language. In fact, she only took English twice a week for six years. When asked how she learned to speak so well, she said that she learned a lot of her English from watching television and movies. “I love Gossip Girl and the O.C,” Ida gushed.

She came to VHS with the International Weekend Club and is currently residing in Morristown, NJ. In sixth grade, it was her idea to be involved in an exchange program. After saving money for the tuition, Ida chose AFS, American Field Service, as the organization which she would use for her study abroad.

Even though she is an exchange student, Ida makes the most of her high school career here in the states. Ida, who loves to dance, is a cheerleader at Morristown High School. She likes how there is school sponsored teams, because in Denmark there are no school sports. Instead, she takes dance classes separate from her school.

Besides her activities outside of school, Ida enjoys her Forensic Science class that she takes at MHS. In Denmark, kids take very general courses like geography, chemistry, and math. Plus, students only go to school for ten years so she has already graduated and this is an extra year of school that she decided to take. When she returns to Denmark, Ida plans on going back to school for another three years, which she calls “more serious high school,” to prepare herself for college where she plans to study business.

Aside from a new school, Ida has to adapt to living with a new family and says that “family life is the hardest to adjust to.” She noticed that in America, we spend more time with our family than people in Denmark. We always eat as a family, but in Denmark Ida either eats or sleeps over at a friend’s house. Despite not spending a lot of time with her family, Ida is surprised by how much she misses her parents and three brothers. “I have gotten a lot stronger,” Ida explains about being away from her family.

Ida, along with many foreigners, has a very strong opinion of the American people, but a very unique one. “In Europe, people are hard on the outside but soft on the inside. It’s hard to make friends, but when you do, they are forever.” She feels the opposite goes for Americans. We are very soft on the outside and only actually like a few of the people who we call our friends.

Though she is unsure if she will return for the US for an extended period of time in the future like she is doing now, Ida thinks that this exchange program had been very influential in her life and she encourages other students to jump at any opportunity that he/she has to travel abroad.