Having always wanted to visit America, Michelle finally arrived in Mitchell, South Dakota, in 2003. This was thanks to an opportunity for students from Northern Irish Universities to attend various colleges throughout America for one year.

“After a nervous interview, I was accepted for the Business Education Initiative. The second interview entailed selecting which school I would like to attend. There were approximately 150 universities that were possibilities for my placement, which I researched online. During my interview I indicated I would like to go to St. Petersburg, Fla. I don’t think I need to say why I wanted to go to Florida. However, the main interviewer, who was a very enthusiastic American, basically said no. Through further discussion, we narrowed it down to Boise, Idaho, Billings, Mont. and Mitchell, S.D. My degree was a bachelor’s of primary education with an emphasis on art and design. With this in mind, the American interviewer jumped on the Corn Palace and said, ‘oh, you’ll just love the Corn Palace. It is amazing, and with your artistic background, you’ll just love the Corn Palace.’ And so I sat there thinking to myself, I have no idea what this man is talking about. I really had no comprehension of what he was talking about, until I saw it. I also said, ‘that would be so ironic if I went to Mitchell’ because at the time my maiden name was Mitchell, so I would have been Michelle Mitchell in Mitchell. I think I engrained it in their minds because that’s where they ended up sending me.

“I Googled “South Dakota” because I had no idea where South Dakota was or what it looked like. Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills came up in my search results. When I would talk to people about where I was going for a year, they were not very familiar with South Dakota, but they did know about Mount Rushmore. It was the Black Hills though, that were the big thing – probably anyone that was 40-plus knew of the Black Hills because of a song Doris Day sang in a movie, which included the line, ‘Take me back to the Black Hills of Dakota.’ So all these older people, they didn’t know South Dakota, but they knew the Black Hills, and they would sing this song to me, which left me thinking once again, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Michelle started at Dakota Wesleyan University in the fall of 2003. Michelle’s adventure would lead her to Karl Kroger, who she eventually married after long distance dating and a long distance engagement. Due to the immigration process, they also spent their first year of marriage apart. Eventually the couple settled down in Pierre, where Karl is a pastor and Michelle is a teacher’s aide at Washington Elementary School.  

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