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Danish students given insight into veterinary care in U.S., will soon return the favor for Ridgewater students

Helle Noergaard, a veterinary tech student from Denmark, left, and her teacher, Daniel Keller, discuss their experiences working with the vet tech department at Ridgewater College in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Seeing a cat declawed was a new experience for Danish veterinary nursing students visiting Ridgewater College.

“We don’t do that in Denmark,” said Helle Noergaard, one of a group of nine Danes visiting Ridgewater last week and this week.

The students are observing the Ridgewater veterinary technology program, accompanied by Danish veterinarian Daniel Keller. The two programs have different names but train the same types of technicians to work with veterinarians.

It was good for the students to see the declawing, Keller said. “That’s why we’re here, to see what’s different.”

It can be good for the students to see different treatments and learn different opinions about veterinary care, he added.

This is the third year of the exchange between Hansenberg College in Kolding, Denmark and Ridgewater.

Dr. Al Balay, the head of the Ridgewater program, said the exchange has been beneficial for everyone involved. Students from Ridgewater will be going to Denmark next month.

“It’s such an enjoyable thing for all of us,” he said. “It’s one of the key things that is making our program different from others.”

Along with attending lecture and lab classes and observing surgery, the students are packing many activities into their stay.

They have visited animal shelters, gone to a play at Ridgewater. By the time they leave, they will have toured dairy, horse and poultry farms. They’ll visit a turkey hatchery and go to a horse show, a research facility and the Mall of America.

The Danish students are staying with Ridgewater vet tech students, so each has done different things with their hosts. A host who owned horses took one riding, another went shopping in Alexandria at a huge western shop. The group has gone bowling and to a movie. (They liked “42.”)

“Things are cheap over here compared to Denmark,” said Sofie Paulli, who said she brought along an empty suitcase she plans to fill with purchases.

The students said they have seen a number of differences between the Danish and American programs.

Ridgewater’s program involves two years of classroom work with hands-on training and then internships. Denmark’s program is split between intense 10-week classroom sessions broken up by working at veterinary clinics, offering greater amounts of hands-on training.

“In some ways, they are ahead of us,” Noergaard said, but in others ways they aren’t. The Danish students said they think they learn more things on the job, while the Americans are in classrooms.

The visiting students said they have enjoyed their visit, but they prefer their own system over the American one.

In Denmark, large animal and small animal care are different programs. At Ridgewater, one program covers caring for large and small.

The way American classes operate was a surprise to them. “I haven’t seen a raised hand,” Paulli said. “They all talk at the same time,” added Anita Klejn.

But while their classes are more formal than here, they noted that the American students address their veterinarian instructors more formally.

Carina Hoffmann said they use their computers in class more than Ridgewater students seem to.

The Danish students are anxious to have the Ridgewater students visit them. They look forward to cooking for their new friends and giving them a chance to do more hands-on work in veterinary clinics.

Other students on the trip are Line Gaarsdahl, Ina Graver, Michelle Joergensen and Jane Egtved.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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