Denmark student returns to Dixon after 7 years
by Sauk Valley Newspapers
DIXON - On a whim, Kristine Feldung Damkaer arrived in Dixon from Denmark at the tender age of 15.
She had heard about an international travel program and thought it might be fun.
Now, 7 years later, she has returned, and credits her experience here for making her a more independent person who can't get enough of travel.
The 22-year-old from Frederiksvaerk, an hour north of Copenhagen, ended up in the Sauk Valley area because of an exchange the Dixon Rotary organization had for many years.
The program, now defunct, would send local students abroad and bring foreign students here to study for a year.
Damkaer had never traveled outside of Europe, let alone by herself. She also is the first to admit homesickness made the first 6 months difficult.
"I did get culture shock," Damkaer said. "I couldn't get over how big everything is."
After 6 months, though, the shy, tall girl from Denmark came into her own. Damkaer stayed with three different host families during the course of her visit, and by the time she had to leave, there were a number of people with whom she developed friendships.
"I felt like I could do anything after living in the U.S." Damkaer said. "I was surrounded by good people who said I could do it. They looked at me like I was the bravest girl they had ever seen."
One of those people was Bill Crowson, a Rotarian who met Damkaer through social activities. The two have kept in touch ever since. Crowson even visited Denmark a few years ago.
He said he was interested in keeping in touch with her to see what she would accomplish in life.
When he heard she was majoring in engineering, Crowson, the president of Allied Locke, offered her an internship at his company.
Damkaer arrived June 28 and will stay in Dixon once again, this time for 2 months. She is in her second year of studies as a global business engineering major at the Copenhagen University College of Engineering.
Damkaer is being mentored in all facets of operation to become more knowledgeable about the manufacturing process.
In October, she will travel to China as part of a university program. In February, she will go to Argentina to study for a semester.
"I got the travel itch. I had such a good experience here," Damkaer said. "What I like about America is just the attitude of the people. It's very laid-back."
Her mother, Arne Feldung, and her father, Karin Damkaer, still live in Denmark with Kristine's younger sister, Nikoline. They will come to visit her in Dixon later this summer.