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Itasca Community College Updates: Danish Exchange Students Arrive, Minnesota North College Moves Forward

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Danish Students In-Studio at KAXE
From Left to Right: Andrea and Gustav, Itasca-Odense Exchange Students; Jacob Nyborg, Faculty at Mulernes Legatskole, Odense, Denmark

A group of Danish exchange students have been attending classes at Itasca Community College and living in Grand Rapids for the past week. Two of these world travelers, Andrea and Gustav, stopped by the KAXE/KBXE Morning show to chat with Heidi and Kari. They discussed their impressions of life here in Grand Rapids thus far and why cultural exchanges like this one are so important to them. The students are here as part of ICC’s Itasca-Odense Exchange program, an international education opportunity in partnership with Mulernes Legatskole in Denmark. Mulernes faculty member Jacob Nyborg and ICC Provost Dr. Bart Johnson, joined in the conversation as well. To hear the whole conversation, including some updates on Minnesota North College from Dr. Johnson, click the player above.

With a whole world of possibilities available to them for study abroad, the students from Mulernes came to Grand Rapids to experience something unique. Part of their program is to take classes at ICC, and they’re learning things they couldn’t anywhere else. “I’m taking Native American History and Wildlife Management,” Gustav said. “That’s quite interesting because it’s so different from what I can study in Denmark. Our wildlife is kind of boring, kind of bleak, in Denmark. And it’s interesting to learn about the Native people too.”

I took Class Act, which is foundations of teaching,” said Andrea. “That and general Psychology. We have that in Denmark too, but it is so interesting to see how it is different here than back home.”

Along with the regionally-specific coursework, ICC and Grand Rapids provide other benefits for the students. Nyborg, the Danish faculty member leading the group, said “the appeal of a more rural place is that you don’t get the same nature like this in Denmark, all sorts of open ranges. And everything is a lot smaller in Denmark. Comparatively, you could say that all of Denmark fits into the Arrowhead region. Everything here is new and exciting and a learning experience all the way.”

All that excitement and difference can take some getting used to. “Everything here is so big. The roads, the cars. The portion sizes in restaurants,” Andrea said.

Size differences aside, the exchange students are learning a lot about the people of the USA and Grand Rapids. So far, they have lots of good things to report. “We have met a lot of nice people so far,” Andrea said. “And now our jetlag is gone so we can experience the whole new world here. We heard about Minnesota Nice, and we are not used to that in Denmark. Everybody is so nice and welcoming. Students at ICC have invited us to things, bonfire and bowling with some of the students, and we’re going to experience a maple syrup farm. And today we are going to do volunteer work, so that’s going to be nice. We hope to meet a lot of nice welcoming people and then we can help somebody."

Along with studying new subjects and meeting new people, the Itasca-Odense exchange program provides an opportunity for students to expand their world-view and grow outside the classroom. “The overall appeal” Nyborg said, “is that the students can come to another country and experience everyday life and get a sense about how you get an education [at ICC]. This is a great opportunity to give them this experience.”

The exchange program will be offered for ICC and Minnesota North students to travel to Denmark as well. According to Dr. Johnson, the benefits of world-travel and educational exchange are great. “It’s a life-changing experience for people who go on these exchange programs,” he said. “They can stay living in the community, and their viewpoint on people changes as a result. And I appreciate our community that much more having spent some time in another country. I appreciate so much more what we have here.”

Dr. Johnson also provided some updates on the progress of Minnesota North College and ICC commencement ceremonies. The main Minnesota North College roll-out is taking place in the Fall, and everything is on schedule. Dr. Johnson is excited about how the merger will impact the region. “MN North College will enhance our region because it will help us to act regionally. We can do a whole lot more when we work together,” he said. “Now we'll be looking at enrollment, workforce needs and employment opportunities, and educational needs regionally. It is a whole different perspective. We’ll have more flexibility to move the programming to where it’s needed in the region.”

ICC graduation and commencement ceremonies are scheduled for May 12.

If you’re interested in learning more about the ICC-Odense exchange program, click here.

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Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.
The music director at KAXE since 2014, Kari (pronounced Car-ee) Hedlund reviews music on the daily. She also hosts New Music every Wednesday (2 and 10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon), along with the KAXE Morning Show on Thursdays.
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