Route J-1


Reflections: Scandinavian Exchange Students Share Their Experiences

Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 at 3:19 pm.

By Jessica Laus, Internships & Training Coordinator, America-Scandinavian Foundation

Four J-1 Interns and Trainees reflect and share highlights from their exchange experience. Read their stories and share in their personal journey.

Meet Lisbet Fritze Christensen,
Danish, trainee at BIG in New York City

Lisbet with her coworkers at BIG

What did you like most about your stay in the United States?

I really love New York as a city and all the different people who live there. It’s so much more diverse than Copenhagen. Whenever I’m back in Denmark, I feel like everybody looks the same and talks the same. Here in New York everybody looks different, dresses different, speaks different, and has a totally different history and background. It’s really been an eye opener. People are very open and I have felt very welcome in the city. I also love that there are so many nice cafes and restaurants and that people are very social. Everybody in the city is busy, which makes appointments very flexible and open. There is always room for one more and if you cancel last minute because you have to work its totally fine – it’s less strict and more inclusive than in Denmark.

Meet Annastiina Marianna Virkkunen,
Finnish, intern at Swagger Media in Houston, Texas

Annastiina at the rodeo in Texas

What have you learned from your internship?

Working for a small business teaches you skills you can’t learn anywhere else. During my program, I became comfortable working in a fast-paced environment where you need to be able to change your priorities based on the situation, deal with ambiguity, and work in a very self-motivated way. At times it is stressful, but at the same time very interesting because no two days are the same. In a small company you also see the results of your work which is very motivating. I think one of the greatest lessons for me was to realize how well my personality fits in an entrepreneurial environment. 

What do you do in your free time?

I go to local cultural events whenever I can. My absolute favorite activity was attending the rodeo. I have never seen anything like it before! I also try to do anything that I can’t do in Europe, such as hiking at Brazos Bend State Park which has alligators roaming around and seeing American comedy shows. I also spent time exploring the local food scene. Houston is packed with great restaurants, and if you do a little bit of research online and talk to the locals, you can find some really great places. One of my favorite cuisines, Mexican, is especially popular in Texas.

Meet Astrid Kaalund-Jørgensen,
intern at the
Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa

Astrid in the museum’s antique Ford Model A during Tivoli Fest

What skills and knowledge have you gained from your internship?

I am more confident about my museum management skills. Not only have I gained valuable insight into how museums and non-profit organizations work in the United States, but also received extensive hands-on training in museum work: strategic planning, communications, development of outreach programs and events, and exhibition research, development and installation/de-installation.

What did you like most about living abroad?

I am grateful that I have gotten a chance to really experience the rural Midwest and not just as a tourist, but in the way you can only experience another culture, if you make it your home for a while. Being able to experience the truly unique cultures of the US is something that I will never forget.

Meet Ville-Pekka Hermanni Tolonen,
Finnish, intern at Arcusys Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts

Ville-Pekka (center), along with fellow interns, on a trip to San Francisco

How will your exchange experience impact your life?

My exchange experience will make me a much more marketable candidate in the Finnish job market, especially in the Information Technology field. My internship allowed me to gain firsthand knowledge working with US markets and has helped me better understand how the whole selling process of an international information and communication technologies solution (ICT) is handled.

What did you learn about US life, society, or culture?

I really do like that Americans are so open and that it is really easy to start a conversation with them! It was eye opening to get to meet and talk to so many different people and learn about their cultural differences.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange


G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

Read More