Far from Home, but Not Alone

Ali Parkhurst

Sofie Mattiessen, a Junior attending West High this year, is originally from Denmark, a country in Europe containing less than 6 million people. Mattiessen has been given the opportunity to experience life and high school in America, this means making a lot of changes to her daily life. 

For Mattiessen, the most difficult things to adapt to in America have been “from trying to make friends at school to having classes in another language. It’s also very hard to adapt into a new family and home without thinking that your old home was better. As an exchange student I think it’s just really important to have no expectations for your new life and just completely let go of the previous lifestyle because if you hold onto it your stay will not be good. I think personally for me though the hardest thing was to adapt into a new school system and having to speak another language constantly.” Mattiessen’s native language in Denmark is Danish.

Even though the change from Denmark to America has been difficult for Mattiessen, she says the most exciting parts include “learning and living in a new culture, especially in the school… So far it has been really great trying out for sports, going to homecoming, meeting new people and trying out new subjects. It is super hard, but very fun to experience.” Mattiessen even joined the cheer team at West and has plans to go out for soccer and possibly tennis in the spring. She is also looking into joining the art club.

Mattiessen says her favorite part about West so far has been “how great the school spirit is. I see people walking around with school and school sport t-shirts all the time, and people always show up to sports games, especially football games cheering, supporting and yelling for their friends and classmates.” She says she loves the spirit everyone here has for their school and teams. 

While West might be an exciting experience for Mattiessen, she also reflects on what she misses back home. She notes that she had not prepared herself to not see her family everyday, and that has been a big change and something difficult to process. However, she has also gotten to meet new people here too. “People are very easy to talk to and very open. That is something I have noticed about a lot of Americans. I have also met a few other exchange students which have been great, so that I have someone to talk to about my problems who might also be going through the same things with their school or host family. There are also a few great teachers that I am really happy to have and are very nice and welcoming to me as an exchange student,” said Mattiessen.