Exchange student visits Cresco

—Thomas Rasmussen brings family to second home
CRESCO - He spent less than a year in Howard County, but Thomas Rasmussen took lots of memories with him when he returned home to Denmark after graduating from Crestwood in 1992.
The foreign exchange student had a wonderful experience living with the Jim and Penny Hughes family of Cresco, and he wanted to share that feeling with his wife, Stinne; children, Fredrik, Ida Marie and Freida; and parents, Hanne and Torben. 
Thomas graduated with the Class of 1992, which had its 30th reunion this past summer. He still has conversations with some of his classmates and was sorry he missed the reunion but was happy for the family reunion.
“I wanted to take my family to Cresco to see where I went to school,” recalled Thomas. The Rasmussen family were welcomed by Jim and Penny for their two-week-long vacation in the United States. They came to Cresco, Minneapolis and New York City. 
While in Cresco, Thomas stayed with Jim and Penny, while the rest of his family stayed at the Elwood on Elm Bed and Breakfast. (The Hugheses have pets, of which Stinne is allergic.)
“It’s been great to be back in Cresco . . . to wake up in my room. Other foreign exchange students have borrowed my room,” he joked. He said not much has changed. Most of the houses look the same.
Why Cresco?
Thomas graduated from his school in Denmark in 1991. “I applied to become an AFS (originally American Field Service) student. I knew I wanted to go to the U.S. I didn’t know what state I would go to. Sometime that summer I got papers from Jim and Penny and had two weeks to decide.”
Penny explained, “The AFS organization does a good job of matching families to students.”
“I’m more than happy that I landed here in Cresco,” said Thomas.
One of the requirements to be an exchange student is to give presentations to different groups. “I visited men’s groups, women’s groups and others. I did a lot of speeches. It was hard at first, but I liked meeting people and sharing about Denmark,” Thomas explained.
Another thing students are encouraged to do is participate in activities. As a soccer athlete overseas, Thomas was happy to be able to compete at Crestwood in football and track. 
“When I first arrived, I watched [classmates] playing American football. I saw those big guys running into each other, and thought, ‘That’s not something for me.’ Then I saw they were kicking. I can do that!”
He also ran track, finishing fifth in the state tournament’s 100-meter dash.
Cresco vs. Denmark
“We have traveled all over Europe,” Thomas commented. “Freida asked, ‘Where do people in America go on vacation?’ It is hard to explain. We live in a small kingdom with a queen. And America is so much bigger.” The countries of Europe are more the size of states. While in Cresco, Thomas and his two oldest children were able to tour the high school, where he spent many hours in class and participating in sports. 
Frederik said, “It was nice seeing an American high school. The people are very nice and very open.” He was surprised at some of the classes, such as robotics and learning construction.
Thomas added that in Denmark, students have to learn three languages. They start studying English in first grade, German in fifth and then can choose between French or Spanish.
Ida Marie noticed that American teenagers are more open and friendly. In Denmark, they are a little more reserved.
Freida and Stinne toured the junior high. Freida mentioned how different it is that classmates also play on the same sports teams. In Denmark, sports are not sponsored by the school.
When Thomas returned home to Denmark, he took a little bit of Iowa with him. He wore his letterman’s jacket to a Fourth of July celebration (an annual event to thank Americans for their help during WWII). “Suddenly some big U.S. Marines came over to look at it.” He brought them some memories as well.
Exchange Students
Both the Hughes and Rasmussen families have embraced the AFS program.
While Thomas was in the U.S. with the Hughes family, his parents hosted a girl from Japan. In addition, his sister spent a year in Los Angeles and is now sponsoring a student from Thailand. 
Stinne was also an exchange student, living in South Carolina.
Thomas returned to Cresco two times before this trip. Once in 1994 and again in 1995. Jim and Penny visited the Rasmussen family three times since those visits.
Trip to remember
Rasmussens had a great time in Iowa. The landscape is much like Denmark. They went to the Mississippi River and Prairie’s Edge Nature Center one day and visited Decorah and Driftless Region another.
On Wednesday, they went to Mason City and Clear Lake. In addition, they visited two of the Hughes children, Jolene, who lives in Mason City, and J Lee, who lives in Garner. 
They then went to Minneapolis to sightsee and visit John. The Rasmussens flew to New York City from there and then back to Denmark.
The exchange student learned a lot during his year-long visit to Cresco over 30 years ago. He came to the United States with plans to be a pilot or banker. But while playing sports, he watched Jim, a physical therapist, doing treatments on Thomas and others. He found that is what he wanted to do with his life. 
After he returned to Denmark, he started junior college and then joined the military. He is now a physical therapist, just like his American dad. And, Jim and Penny were there to celebrate that graduate as well as the one at Crestwood.
“My year here has influenced me a bit. I found my chosen career; I got to play sports and was able to participate; and the friends that I made here are still friends,” said Thomas. And for a bonus, he has an extended family.
Hugheses foreign exchange students
CRESCO - The Jim and Penny Hughes family has sponsored four foreign exchange students over the years.
Two of them started their year with another family:
• Naowarut Charoenca of Thailand in 1975-76
•Jacques Noel of France in 1983-84
Two stayed with them the entire year:
• Thomas Rasmussen of Denmark in 1991-92
• Dan Koivulaakso of Finland in 1997-98
Penny said, “We keep in touch with all our students. Our students from Thailand, France and Denmark have all visited Cresco with their families. We, in turn, have traveled at least three different times to visit all of them in their homeland.”
The couple and their family enjoy their extended international family and look forward to the next visit from them or another trip to their country.


Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

Sign Up For Breaking News

Stay informed on our latest news!

Manage my subscriptions

Subscribe to Breaking News feed