Andrea Gotfredsen: Far From Home

By Summer Creeden

This week I interviewed Andrea Gotfredsen, a ninth grader here at East Greenwich High School. However, unlike most EGHS students who have lived in the United States for their entire lives, Gotfredsen’s first few months at school were also her first few months in the country. Prior to living in the USA, Gotfredsen was born and raised in Denmark. Denmark is one of the nordic countries, and is located next to Sweden and Germany. Gotfredsen came to the United States in September with her father, mother, and older sister when her father’s job at Ørsted (a Danish green energy company that primarily focuses on wind power) transferred him to work here in Rhode Island. She and her family will be returning to Denmark in August 2021. Her very first day in the country was September 14, 2020, which was the first day of school. However, because Gotfredsen had to quarantine for 14 days, she could not attend in-person school until the end of September. In this interview, I asked Andrea Gotfredsen about herself, her life in Denmark, and her transition to living in the USA.

For her entire life leading up to now, Andrea Gotfredsen lived in Roskilde, Denmark, which is only a thirty minute car ride from Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. Roskilde is home to the Roskilde Festival, which is one of the largest music festivals in Europe. According to Gotfredsen, people come from all over Europe every year to her hometown to attend the Roskilde Festival.

While they are pronounced differently, her English and Danish names are the same. From a much younger age than American students learn foreign languages, Gotfredsen has been studying English in school. Interestingly, watching popular American television shows like Friends and The Vampire Diaries with English subtitles also helped improve her English skills. Although she is now almost completely fluent in English, Gotfredsen explained how exhausting speaking and listening to English all day at school can be. By her last period she says that she is visibly tired to the point where her teachers notice. Thankfully, she says, they have all been very understanding of her situation. Gotfredsen also has some experience in German, and is currently enrolled in Spanish class at EGHS. 

In our interview, I also asked Gotfredsen if she played any sports. Sports are a large part of American high school culture, but it seems as though this may not be the case in Denmark. Unlike in America, school sports do not exist in Denmark. To play a sport, one must join a club or premiere team that is completely separate from school. Back in Denmark, Gotfredsen played a sport uncommon to Americans. It is called handball. Handball is a team sport similar to soccer, but instead of using feet to play, players use their hands (as the name implies). Players pass a ball around with the focus of throwing it into the goal of the other team. Matches contain two periods of 30 minutes, and the team that scores more goals by the end wins. Unfortunately, there is nowhere in the states for Gotfredsen to play handball, but she hopes to try out for the high school basketball team this year, which she suspects will be the most similar to the sport she already knows and loves.

It is well known that Denmark’s education system is one of the best in the world. When asked about the differences between school in the USA versus in Denmark, Gotfredsen had an interesting answer. As it turns out, students in Denmark rarely (if ever) are assigned homework. She says that she and her fellow classmates were always given enough time to finish all of their work in school, so when it came time to go home, she could truly be done with work for the day. While Gotfredsen agrees with most American students in saying that homework can be annoying, she also understands why teachers assign homework. She believes that she is actually learning a lot more this way, so she finds it helpful. Another interesting difference between the two education systems is that in Denmark, students will call their teachers by their first names. Gotfredsen says that this way students and teachers can establish a closer relationship with each other. She also says that she and her classmates get very close because similarly to American elementary schools, students are only in one class all day everyday, while various different teachers rotate through classrooms. This means that Gotfredsen would be with the same small group of students all of the time. 

Starting over at a new school was tough at the beginning. Gotfredsen had left all of her Danish friends behind and had to make new American friends here. So far, she says, everyone has been very kind to her, and she has been finding people at school to talk to and hang out with. She also has some favorite classes and teachers that she has met in her first weeks at East Greenwich high school! She particularly enjoys her art class with Mrs. Rogers as her teacher, and PE class with Mrs. Harvey. Although she finds the class to be a bit confusing for her because she does not yet know very much about American politics, she also really likes her American Democracy teacher, Mr. Petrucci. 

Moving to a new country is a big deal, and it would take a lot more than getting used to the massive portions of food served in American restaurants before Andrea Gotfredsen could truly understand American culture! Overall, Gotfredsen has been enjoying her time in the United States, and is still excited to experience more before she sadly must return to Denmark. After this Thanksgiving break when we return to school, if you and your friends see her in the halls, be sure to give her a friendly hello!

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