By David Fleet
Emilie Schultz speaks almost perfect English, can discuss American politics, loves animals and can golf.
Schultz could very easily pass for any American high school student.
However, the 16-year-old Goodrich High School senior is from the Scandinavian country of Denmark and arrived in August as part of the American Scandinavian Student Exchange (ASSE). Founded in 1976 by the Swedish government to organize student exchange programs between Sweden and the United States, ASSE has grown to now include 35 countries.
Schultz, who lives with the Schall family of Atlas Township, will return to Denmark this summer.
“We speak Danish, it’s our national language,” she said. “We start learning English in the third grade so most people are bi-lingual. Many speak German, too, but it’s a lot harder to learn than English.”
Born in Copenhagen, Schultz moved when she was 3 to Aalborg, a city with a population of about 200,000 located in the northern section of the country, an hour inland from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Her father, Thomas, is an attorney and her mother Inger works at Scanico, a manufacturer of industrial freezing equipment. She has an older brother Frederik, 17.
Her parents drive German-made Audis, but Schultz cannot get a license until she is 18-years-old. She rides her bike or takes mass transportation to the mall to hang out with friends.
“Here in Goodrich you have to drive everywhere,” she said. “You really have to drive to get around—there’s few options.”
Denmark, almost entirely surrounded by water, is ranked fifth in the world in export of fish and fish products.
“Denmark is a fish country—but I really don’t like fish at all,” laughed Schultz. “Mom cooks it every week, too. Shell fish is ok, but that’s it. Here, American food is great, but it’s very fattening. There’s cheese on everything. For example, macaroni and cheese, it was the first time I’ve ever had it before. I’ve had pasta many times, but then you put cheese on it.”
Schultz is very aware of American politics—learned from the internet.
“Honestly, we are somewhat skeptical of Trump the new president,” she said. “I don’t want to say anymore on that.”
Healthcare issues and paying for college are less of a concern in Denmark, she said
“Or income tax is very high, sometimes over 50 percent of income,” she said. “However, our healthcare is paid for and we can go to college for free. Americans worry about all of that, I can understand why, too— it’s very expensive.”
Schultz will graduate with the class of 2017. Schultz completed her studies at Gl. Hasseris before she left for the United States. When she returns she’ll have three years more of high school.
“We don’t have the electives like they do here,” she said. “I love taking theater, art and anatomy—it’s really not like school, but gives me a chance to learn something new that I might not have the opportunity. School is much more challenging in Denmark.”
Schultz will consider a career as a veterinarian.
“The opportunities here are many,” she said. “The people are way nicer then I expected and I’d like to come back someday, maybe for college. I really miss my family, but I will miss everyone in Goodrich when I leave because I’ll probably never see them again.”