Danish couple visit their former exchange student

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 9/2/97.

In 1987, a young film student at St. Cloud State University set off for an eight-month stay in Denmark as part of the university's study abroad program. When he returned to the United States, he brought home more than just a new knowledge of this northern European country. He also began a ten-year-long correspondence between his family at home and the family he lived with in Denmark.

It's taken ten years, but on August 14, after much planning, Else and Bent Thurkelsen of Aalborg, Denmark, arrived in Paynesville to spend two weeks visiting Donny Koshiol and his parents, Rosemary and Milton.

During their time in Minnesota, the Koshiols introduced the Thurkelsens to various Minnesota sites.

The most incredible place for the Thurkelsens was by far, the Mall of America. They were amazed that anyone would put an amusement park inside a building. The Thurkelsens took pictures of the ferris wheel and the park to prove to their friends in Denmark that they saw such a thing. "They won't believe us," said Bent.

Bent, who works in an accounting field, and Else, who is a librarian at the public library in Aalborg, found it interesting that many American families have two cars. Most Danish families own only one car because of the price. Generally, for every $1000 the vehicle costs, the buyer pays $600 in tax.

For this reason, after the Thurkelsen's two sons were grown, they decided not to repair their old car. When commuting to work each day they, like most other Danes, ride bicycles, and with the money they save they are able to take two vacations a year.

The Thurkelsens commented that everything in Minnesota seems so much bigger than in Denmark. For instance, brooms are two to three times larger than brooms in Denmark, but perhaps the most noticeable, were the mosquitoes. Bent mentioned they were much bigger here than in Denmark.

While staying with Rosemary and Milton Koshiol, the Thurkelsens enjoyed learning more about Minnesota culture and history, and brought a piece of European culture to share with the Koshiols. In 1988 when the Berlin Wall was torn down, signaling the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, Else Thurkelsen's brother was in Berlin. The Thurkelsens brought a fragment of that wall to the Koshiols to share a piece of history that affected not only Europe, but the entire world.

Return to Archives