Imagine leaving home, saying good to loved ones, and becoming immersed in not only a strange and different culture but a foreign language. To study different cultures in a foreign language class provides us one thing, but being physically placed in that culture is something else entirely. This is something foreign exchange student Scott Sylvester-Hvid did when he left Denmark to come study in the U.S.A.
Living with a host family, the Baumeyers, and taking classes for his junior year Scott is getting the full American high school experience here in Lewis Center amongst the Pioneers.
“The day of Scott’s arrival was very exciting and memorable. We met him at the airport and he was so tired from all of his travel but filled with adrenaline. Our first stop was Steak N Shake. It was so much fun to talk to him in person for the first time,” Sylvester-Hvid’s host-mother, Stacy Baumeyer, said.
Sylvester-Hvid, natively a Danish speaker, is taking all of his classes in English just like his American classmates. “School is hard enough for people who speak English as their first language; I can’t even imagine how hard it is for someone who speaks English as their second language,” Lexi said.
Though challenging, the language barrier has proved for some humorous scenarios. “It was funny trying to describe words to him that he didn’t know yet. For example, he pointed at ‘lettuce’ on a menu, not knowing what it meant,” Sylvester-Hvid’s host sister, junior Lexi Baumeyer said.
Besides the language barrier, another change for Sylvester-Hvid was adapting to how we learn in America. “I wasn’t expecting so much homework because we don’t really have homework in Denmark, but (Americans) [learn the same things] as we do in Denmark,” Sylvester-Hvid said. Luckily, it seems as though he is taking it in stride: “He has done an amazing job adapting to all of the work that goes along with attending American school and is always ready for a challenge,” Lexi said.
Schools in Denmark also vary from American ones in the aspect of timing. “One class could be 45 minutes and another could be two hours,” Sylvester-Hvid said. Another notable difference between the education systems of the U.S. and Denmark is choosing. While there are various electives and difficulty levels to choose from at Orange Scott said they don’t have this choice of classes in Denmark.
It hasn’t been all work though. “I’ve gained so many friends in another country and people are so kind here,” Sylvester-Hvid said. Some people have really connected with Sylvester-Hvid while he has been in America. “I’m going to miss him; he’s a cool dude. He gives a lot of interesting perspectives to conversations you might not consider,” Sylvester-Hvid’s friend, senior Zach Schroeder, said.
When people meet Sylvester-Hvid, the most common reaction is to ask him questions about the culture. Sylvester-Hvid sometimes enjoys joking with people when they ask him seemingly obvious questions about Denmark. Schroeder said Sylvester-Hvid joked with him by saying “they hadn’t invented dogs in Denmark” when asked if pets were common.
The differences between Sylvester-Hvid’s life in Denmark and in America have been the most different in regards to athletics, however. “We took him to a baseball game and he told us he thought it was boring. He went to a football game one Friday night and said he didn’t understand any of the rules, but he had fun,” Lexi said.
The experience has left a large influence on both Lexi and Sylvester-Hvid. “Scott has been a perfect fit to our family,” Lexi said. Senior Nick Baumeyer, Sylvester-Hvid’s host-brother, said, “Scott has changed our family dynamic in a positive way for sure. He adds a funny and high energy personality to our family and it’s a lot of fun having him here.
“Everytime we eat is a memorable experience. He just eats, and eats, and eats and we have no clue how he gets it all inside him. It’s really funny when he eats about as much as the rest of our family combined.”
The Baumeyer’s have completely embraced Scott as the newest member of their family, referring to him as a brother. “Scott has been such a wonderful addition to our family. We are so happy he is here with us for the year. Nick has never had a brother so it’s fun to see them bond over video games and working out at the gym. Hope and Scott act like true siblings and love to push each other’s buttons, which is even funnier to watch since Scott is twice her size!” Stacy said.
The Baumeyer’s have taken it upon themselves to expose Sylvester-Hvid to as many American things as they can before he leaves. “We took him to a Columbus Crew game as well as an OSU football game which were both really exciting. Scott doesn’t know the rules of football, as they do not play it in Denmark, so we have enjoyed telling him all about it. We plan to head to Cedar Point soon as well as taking him to Nashville, Chicago and Atlanta,” Stacy said.
Sylvester-Hvid in return has shared much about his Danish culture with the Baumeyer’s. “Since Scott arrived, we have learned so much about his Danish culture,” Lexi said. “Denmark is a country governed by democratic socialism. They seem to do a better job of sharing the country’s wealth and teenagers seem to have quite a bit more freedom in Denmark, although they can’t get a driver’s license until they are 18. It is legal to buy alcohol at 16 and to drink at an age if their parents allow,” Stacy said. “The largest difference is the lack of air-conditioning there,” Nick said.
Sylvester-Hvid looks fondly on his time in America. It has been “the experience of a lifetime,” Sylvester-Hvid said.