Guilford High School graduate living in Denmark shares her coronavirus experience

The coronavirus is the closest thing to a worldwide shared experience since World War II. There are very, very few areas of the world that aren’t being affected in some way by the virus and COVID-19. The Rockford Register Star is reaching out to Rock River Valley natives throughout the world to how their lives are being altered.


Kelly Nesbitt Kristensen, Guilford High School graduate, Class of 1996. Kelly taught English and German at Belvidere and Belvidere North high schools for 13 years before moving to Viborg, Denmark in 2016 to teach those subjects. Now, she’s back in school studying marketing while also writing a blog - mynewdanishlife.com - and maintaining a YouTube channel called My New Danish Life — youtube.com/mynewdanishlife.


How did you end up there and in that profession? I moved to Denmark in 2016 because my husband found a new job in Denmark. He is Danish and was thinking of returning home. I got a job as a teacher shortly after moving to Denmark, since I had always been a teacher.


How long have you lived there? I have lived in Denmark for four years.


When did the coronavirus begin affecting your life? It started to affect our lives in the first weekend of March. We were supposed to meet with my husband's family to celebrate my son's birthday, but since two of my sister-in-laws are pregnant, they didn't want to risk it. No one had the virus, but it started to feel that we were all at risk.


My brother-in-law had just returned from a trip to the U.S., and his wife was afraid that he might have brought something with him from the plane. People started talking about how the virus was spreading to more and more places, and we thought that it could be anywhere. It was really hard to tell if people were just suffering from a normal cold, asthma or corona.


What is life like for you now? Our prime minister went on the TV on Wednesday night, March 11 to urge all those who can to stay home. This was specifically targeted towards those in school and those who could work from home. My husband has a job where he can work from home, and because I am a student, I started doing all of my lessons online. I have two children, ages 10 and 7, who also had to stay home and do their school work at home.


We get almost daily emails from teachers with ideas, but my husband and I are the teachers now. It has been difficult to juggle teaching them with my school schedule, since my husband is pretty much working the whole day in our spare room.


I have only left my house once since March 11th to go for a bike ride. Otherwise, I have gone for walks in my neighborhood. My boys go outside to play most days even though it has been very cold lately. We don't let them go anywhere, and our government won't let more than 10 people be around each other. We started the quarantine pretty early, and since people in Denmark respect our government, they do as they are told. It has really helped the situation in Denmark. We still have grocery stores open, but it is pretty much like the U.S. Many places are closed.


How long is your government saying this is likely to last We are actually starting to see a decline in cases in Denmark, so our government is hopeful that we will be able to "come out" by the end of April. We don't know details, but the prime minister just made a speech saying that she is hopeful. I don't know where we would go, since many of our neighboring countries aren't as lucky.


What do you miss doing on a daily basis that you never thought you'd miss? I really miss going to class. My school is still requiring that we do all of our assignments, and since Denmark likes to do almost everything with groups, we have had to meet online. It would be much nicer if we could meet in person, but that won't happen for a few more weeks at least. I also miss going out to stores. I have asthma, so I don't want to risk being around others and getting sick.


Are there any positives? I have absolutely no free time. I am busier now more than ever and envy those who are bored! I would love some downtime, but because we had to cancel our study trip to Amsterdam, I have a lot of learning to do on my own.


With teaching my boys and studying, I haven't had much time for anything else. My days are filled as if I was working a full-time schedule. I do enjoy teaching, and it has been nice teaching them. We also have more time to spend with each other, since all of their sports and social activities are cancelled. We are finding time to make more cakes and cookies. It has been nice, but it would be better if I wasn't so busy with my university program.


How do you think life might change when this is over? I really don't know. I feel that it can be very comparable to a terrorist attack. People will be cautious for a bit, but I think that life will slowly go back to normal.


I don't know when people will be able to travel like they did since there are so many countries that don't have this under control. We were planning a camping trip to Croatia this year, which it doesn't look like it will happen. We like to travel, so this is very sad for us, as I am sure it is for others who have to cancel travel plans. It is just better to be safe than sorry. We were supposed to spend Easter in the Netherlands, but not now. I really hope we will be able to travel again like we did, but I think people will need to start being more cautious of things like this virus in the future.


Alex Gary is a freelance correspondent