Danish exchange students starts school in Paynesville

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 9/8/99.

Sine Janum In becoming an international exchange student, one of Sine Janum's motivations was to experience American culture. "In Denmark," she explained, "we only hear about the United States in movies and television and that's it. This is a great opportunity to actually see it."

Her point is illustrated by the reaction when she was informed by Youth For Understanding (YFU) International Exchange that she would be spending the 1999-2000 school year in Minnesota, which her friends only knew from a reference in a popular television program. "All my friends said that was the home country of Brenda from (Beverly Hills) 90210," said Janum.

Her host family for the year will be Tim and Sheri Wegner of Paynesville, and she will be attending Paynesville Area High School. She arrived in Paynesville in early August and had a chance to meet neighbors and friends before school started. She also went to Valleyfair and a softball game with the Wegners and celebrated her 17th birthday.

At school here, Janum will be a senior. (Due to differences in school structures, when she returns to Denmark, she will have two years of high school left.) Her courses here include German, design, English, and math classes. One of her goals is to improve her English during her stay in Paynesville.

In Denmark, she has studied English for six years already and German for four. "We have lots of language possibilities in Denmark," she said, "because it's such a small country."

Janum has already joined the volleyball team at PAHS. She has fun playing the sport and enjoys making friends and being with them, but the approach to sports is much different than in Denmark. In her country, she said that sports were not as competitive and not organized by a school. There, a team might practice only twice each week, instead of everyday after school.

Janum's home in Denmark is in the north part of Jutland, the main peninsula. She said her hometown, Nibe, is a small town like Paynesville, though slightly larger. Her father is a doctor, and her mother works as a secretary. Her older sister spent a year in North Carolina as an exchange student in 1996.

Janum isn't too worried about being homesick, even though this is her first trip to the United States. Last summer she spent three weeks on an exchange program to Ireland. Even better preparation is that for the past two years Janum has attended a boarding school 50 miles from her hometown.

Minnesota winters don't worry her either. "I have heard some stories, but I like the cold, so it's okay," she said. Denmark, she said, is not as cold as Minnesota in the winter and not as warm in the summer.

One worry she had was living on a farm. "I think it was a bit scary at first," she said. She's grateful that the Wegners keep no animals on their farm and that the smell is fine.

She will be staying with the Wegners for the whole year. "Sheri and Tim are really nice to drive me to town if I'm going somewhere," she said.

Janum likes Paynesville so far and has been impressed by the friendliness. "People here are very nice to me,"Ęshe said. "I think people are much more open. They start talking to me."

"That's nice," she added. "People seem interested in me."

Janum will return to Denmark on July 7 next year. After school is out in Paynesville next June, she may join a YFU trip to either New York or Los Angeles.

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