By Sara Tischauser
Traveling to a foreign country and experiencing a different way of life can be exciting and maybe a little scary.
Veda Butters from Denmark, Copenhagen, is spending the school year in the Seymour Community High School. Veda is experiencing life in a new culture and also having an experience that may bring her closer to her parents.
Veda’s mom, Nanna Bøndergaard Butters, was a foreign exchange student in Seymour from 1990-91.
“We had an exchange student living with my family in Denmark from the U.S.A. a couple of years earlier and that made me want to do the trip the other way,” Nanna said about her decision to be a foreign exchange student.”
Nanna said she didn’t have a choice of where in the United States she would get to go as an exchange student. But she came to enjoy her time in Seymour. While she was in Seymour, Nanna met her future husband Shaun Butters who was a student at Seymour High School.
“We met at school,” Shaun said about meeting Nanna. “As far as I remember we only had one class together. I guess that through the first months [we] were just casual acquaintances. Eventually our respective groups of friends began to overlap and we started spending more time together-at parties and such.”
Now, Veda is having her own experience traveling abroad and studying at a new school after finishing her school in Denmark.
“The school I used to go to is located at Noerrebro, Copenhagen,” Veda said. “The school is called ‘Det Frie Gymnasium’ and I graduated after my ninth year, which is where school ends in Denmark.”
Shaun said he thinks Veda’s experience this year will help bring the two of them closer together.
“On a personal level, I consider it to be great that Veda has the opportunity to experience and learn firsthand about the environment I grew up in-the very different forces shaping my perspective on the world,” Shaun said. “I’m quite sure this will provide us with an opportunity to become even closer.”
While Shaun said he has tried to explain what his life was like, he said it was sometimes difficult.
“Many things are difficult to describe with words alone,” Shaun said. “I have throughout my 23 years in Denmark found it difficult to connect the two worlds, or to keep the connections alive and active in the lives of Veda and her brother. I am now confident that, upon her return, Veda and I will have an improved ‘shared knowledge’ of things such as small town life, the very different ways of being (and being treated as) a young person in a rural, conservative part of the world, the very different ways an institution such as high school shapes ones views of the worlds, views on oneself as well as one’s attitudes towards life.”
While Veda has been to Seymour about five times previously, she said this time is a little different.
“It is different in the way that I’m not here with my parents, but ‘on my own’ so now I get to look at Seymour from my own perspective,” Veda said.
During her year away from home, Veda said she thinks she will really grow from her experience of living in Seymour.
“I hope that I am more aware of who I am as a person at the end of this year,” Veda said. “I also hope that I get to know more about my interests, skills, strengths and weaknesses and so on. And I hope to get a bigger perspective of life and how different two different environments can be from each other and compare what I like from each.”
Nanna said some of the differences she experienced when she was an exchange student in Seymour was the different school system and American traditions like homecoming, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now, Veda is experiencing some of those same things.
“All the small things, such as going to football games, cross country meets [are] outstanding experiences itself, because these are things that we don’t have in Denmark,” Veda said.
While Veda said she does miss her family, friends, cat and “rugbroed” (a type of bread) she is enjoying her experience.
“I love being here, I made the right decision taking a year abroad,” Veda said. “And I really recommend it to those who are considering being an exchange student for a year.”
Nanna agreed that experiencing life in another country is something everyone should have the opportunity to do.
“I am grateful to feel I have two homes in the world, and in that sense also to feel like I always have more than one perspective on the two countries-Denmark and U.S.A. – and their cultures, political systems, traditions, etc.,” Nanna said. “I actually think everyone should have that possibility.”