Foxboro exchange student reunites with family after decades | Local News

Over three decades, they kept in touch and became as close as family, despite being 3,500 miles away.

For Rebecca Murphy, of Foxboro, her experience as an exchange student helped shape her life goals and created an extended family overseas.

Murphy was an exchange student during the 1990-1991 school year at Marie Kruses Skole, a private school in Farum, Denmark. Even after her stay, she remained connected to her host family —parents Kirsten and Jens Kaas and their daughter Stine Kaas Elin, who live in Farnum.

Over the years, Murphy and her host family in Denmark have kept in touch in several ways, including a recent reunion in person in Denmark.

“At first, we mostly wrote letters and occasionally called — but only on special occasions as it was very expensive to make international calls. But it’s so easy to have instant communication now,” Murphy said.

The family and Murphy have also been able to visit each other many times over the years.

Murphy said she really enjoyed her stay with the family 30 years ago in an experience that shaped her life going forward.

“I appreciated the opportunity to live with a family and attend a local school. I was able to really experience the culture and get a different perspective on the world,” Murphy said. “It’s very different to live with a family than, for example, living in student housing during a college study abroad experience — which I did in college during a semester in Prague, Czech Republic.

Murphy was a Peace Corps volunteer in Poland for two years after college, and in many ways, she said, having had the experience of living in a local community as an exchange student in high school prepared her for living in small communities during that service as well.

“I fell in love with Denmark while there as an exchange student, and having a close relationship with my host family has helped me continue to improve my language skills, learn more about the culture, and give me a special connection that I might not otherwise have,” Murphy said.

She said by having a host family, her family and her children have also been able to go to Denmark and be introduced to the history, culture, and language in ways more than being a tourist would normally allow.

Recently, Murphy was in Scotland for a professional conference and went to Denmark as a side visit because it’s relatively closer to travel from Scotland than from Massachusetts and this visit gave her a chance to see her host family for the first time in a few years.

For her host mom, Kirsten Kaas said having time together with Murphy and being part of a family all together has been the best part of hosting an exchange student. Kass said Murphy’s Danish was not very good three decades ago, but it has improved a lot since then.

“We still stay in touch and are involved in each other’s lives and families. We are family. Rebecca’s children call us by the Danish names for grandmother and grandfather on the mother’s side: ‘mormor’ and ‘morfar’ and we say that they are our American grandchildren,” Kirsten said.

Kaas said they might not talk all the time, but when they do it’s as if no time has pased

“We stay in contact and share many big events like weddings and birthdays and other celebrations with each other even as our families have grown over the years.”

Kaas said she enjoyed sharing places around Denmark with Murphy.

“The best memory we have is that while we were learning about each other we were also meeting many new people. And we always enjoyed sharing Danish culture and sights,” she said.

Murphy, who has a doctorate in education, is an international education specialist, researching educational systems around the world and providing comparative assessments of the different curriculums, assessment scales, and programs. She has a consulting company that advises schools and other organizations about how to help immigrants and refugees with educational experiences from outside the United States get their education recognized for further study or work opportunities.

She also works as a part-time education counselor at The Literacy Center, in Attleboro.

“I like to think that my career in international education began when I was an exchange student,” Murphy said. “I found my life’s passion for travel and international education, and the family in this house became a second family. I have been so fortunate to return many times and bring my siblings, beloved friends, and children along the way.”

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