Mads Høeg-Mikkelsen: A Dane studying America in Athens
Mads Høeg-Mikkelsen watches American football back in Denmark and enjoyed the new experience of attending a college football game at Peden Stadium. He was stuck by the theatrics of the event — the cheerleaders, cannon blasts, marching bands and competitions.
“The hype around sports teams is nothing like Denmark,” Høeg-Mikkelsen said. “It seems as though Americans are almost afraid of getting bored at sports events. … (In Europe) we basically just go for the sport.”
Football isn’t the only thing about America that has contrasted Høeg-Mikkelsen’s life in Denmark. He has been in Athens as an exchange student at Ohio University since August and continues to find surprising insights as he immerses himself in American culture.
Høeg-Mikkelsen is a student at the University of Southern Denmark working on his masters in American studies after gaining his bachelor degree in the same area. Although he has been studying the country and it’s culture for over four years, this is his first trip over the Atlantic. This move has allowed him to change his perspective of the U.S. and change how OU students view Denmark.
Høeg-Mikkelsen, who is 24 years old, grew up in a very small town in the southern central part of Denmark called Ulbølle before attending university 30 miles away in Odense, which is the nation’s third largest city. He’s always found the U.S. to be “extremely interesting.”
“Everything that goes on in the world, the U.S. has some kind of steak in it,” he said. “The important thing about learning about America for Danes is that so many things in Denmark are dependent on how America works.”
The American studies classes in Denmark have become increasingly more “Americanized,” Høeg-Mikkelsen said. There is a heavy lens of viewing American culture through gender and race, but he would enjoy learning about different aspects of American life.
Most Sundays you can find Høeg-Mikkelsen at the morning service at Christ Lutheran Church on Mill Street. Most Danes are not religious so churches are often empty, but the Athens church is filled up every week with a close-knit congregation, he said.
Religion is an area under taught in the Danish, American-studies curriculum.
“(American studies is) a field where I feel there is something to be done,” he added.
“There’s got to be more to America than just gender and race.”
Høeg-Mikkelsen’s been happy here in the U.S. and been surprised by his lack of homesickness. It’s new for him to experience America another way than just reading about and studying the country, and there are some aspects of the culture where he has trouble assimilating.
Two weeks after arriving to OU, he got in trouble for sitting in the living room of his residence hall reading a book around other international students.The problem was the other students he was hanging around with were drinking beers.
“In Europe, we are used to drinking everywhere,” he said.
It was also a “culture shock” for Høeg-Mikkelsen to find some of the students to be less mature at OU. He suspects the fact that students in the U.S. start college at a younger age than in Denmark to be the cause for the differing maturing.
Another truly-American moment for Høeg-Mikkelsen was during the the Involvement Fair on College Green at the beginning of the semester. He saw a recruiting sign from the OU College Republicans that said something to the effect of “America is the greatest nation in the history of time.”
Although some Americans may believe that sign on College Green, Høeg-Mikkelsen thinks Americans could learn from some Danish ideas.
Danes pay some of the highest taxes in the world, and Høeg-Mikkelsen thinks the way Americans look at all taxes being bad “is not a healthy way of thinking about government.”
“I think you learn a lot by talking to people who are not like you — who are different and think of things differently — not only makes you see their perspective, but it also makes you think of your perspective,” Høeg-Mikkelsen.
With the exploration of understanding others in mind, Høeg-Mikkelsen has an American bucket list item in mind that may not be on the list of many tourists in the U.S.
The destination for Høeg-Mikkelsen is the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which “brings the Bible to life,” according to its website.
“This whole evolutionist-creationist discussion in denmark is not a discussion at all,” Høeg-Mikkelsen said. “That would really be getting away from what I’m used to.”