by Cori Hilsgen
Bo “Bowie” Vilhelmsen recently returned to the Sartell area for a visit.
In 2010, Vilhelmsen was a 16-year-old foreign exchange student from Denmark who stayed with the Tom and Tami Johnson family of Sartell. He was hosted through the “Youth for Understanding” program.
Vilhelmsen returned to Sartell for a two-week visit with his American family and friends. He said he enjoyed coming back to his American hometown and that it feels like home.
“I have some great memories of this area,” Vilhelmsen said. “I told people in Denmark I was going to America and they asked if I was seeing the ‘Big Apple’ or ‘LA’ and I would reply I was going ‘home’ to Sartell, Minn. It is my number-one destination for vacation. People in Sartell are so nice and friendly.”
During his visit, Vilhelmsen experienced the St. Joseph Parade on July 4 and the St. Cloud fireworks. He said the fireworks were “very impressive.”
Vilhelmsen has visited some of his favorite restaurants, such as Granite City and Panera in St. Cloud. He has also gone for bike rides in Sartell to see the “beautiful streets” and area.
Vilhelmsen returned for a walk through the halls of Sartell High School, which he said brought back many good memories from his year as an exchange student.
Vilhelmsen recently sat down with St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who has also hosted exchange students. He said he visited with Kleis about cultures and political systems.
“I think St. Cloud is fortunate to have a mayor with interest and knowledge of cultures,” Vilhelmsen said.
He said the YFU organization needs families who are willing to host other foreign-exchange students so they (and host families) can experience many of the things he has been able to.
“There are some great people in this area and I believe they would be awesome host families,” Vilhelmsen said.
“What I like about the YFU program is they screen and interview the students and families to make sure everyone has a great experience,” Vilhelmsen said. “It’s a neat thing to do and the student grows as a person, while the host family definitely grows as well and discovers a different culture.”
Vilhelmsen said there are children waiting in European and Asian countries to be placed and hosted through YFU by American families.
Vilhelmsen said he really enjoys Sartell and the people, so he will probably come to visit again.
“It’s my hometown and I’ve become somewhat attached to it,” Vilhelmsen said. “I would love for other exchange students to have the experience of the St. Cloud area and come back to visit like I did.”
Vilhelmsen said he has learned much from his year in Sartell and has brought those experiences back home with him so he can apply them to his daily life. He said he has come to realize his exchange year’s end was only the beginning of a new perception of his world and the world around him.
Because of his exchange experience, Vilhelmsen said he returned to Denmark more confident and has taken more initiative and leadership for group projects at his Denmark school. This has resulted in good grades in his classes.
“The American Dream and the can-do spirit of your people have helped me to achieve goals in my life back home,” Vilhelmsen said.
He said anyone who is interested in hosting a foreign exchange student through the YFU program can contact 612-817-9530 for more information.
Bo “Bowie” Vilhelmsen recently returned to the Sartell and St. Cloud area for a visit. In 2010, Vilhelmsen was a foreign exchange student who stayed with the Tom and Tami Johnson family of Sartell. During his recent visit, Vilhelmsen said he spoke with St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis about cultures and political systems.