Hello there! My name is Angel Jones and I’m going to be an exchange student! My hometown is the quaint beach city of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. I am proud to have called it my home for the last seventeen years. I attend Spruce Creek High School (home of the Hawks!) and have aspirations of becoming a doctor one day.
I am most definitely a Florida girl inside and out. I adore the beach and warm sunny days that make you just want to melt. I can most likely be found at the beach surfing and sunning almost any day over the summer. If not there, I am with my friends having endless amounts of fun.
I am the epitome of a “people person.” Laughing and smiling are two of my most favorite hobbies. You can say I am outgoing and a positive attribute to any situation. I encourage others to have a good time with whatever the circumstance may be. I am strongly active in the culinary and visual arts. Cooking and food are a great pastime I partake in regularly. As well as drawing and painting, which have always been passions of mine since I can remember. They are all ways which I can express my self and emphasize my individuality and personal imagination.
For school related hobbies, I enjoy being active and participating in physical enduring sports. In past years, I have been on the cheerleading squad as well as Track & Field. This year, I decided to be adventurous and join the Swim Team. It was a lot of fun and I loved it, even the gallons of water I swallowed everyday in practice. At school, I am a member of about five different clubs. I feel it’s important for the students to be active in their school’s student body and really give voice to problems or changes the kids want to happen. I mean, if you do not put your mind and heart into it, how is anything supposed to get better?
With this opportunity of a lifetime, I plan to have the “time of my life.” I am going to make every day count, with not a moment to waste. Every experience from here on, more so than others, will be cherished as those which can not be replaced or duplicated. The trip for me will not only end once I return home, but instead will continue the moment I step off that plane back home.
October 5 Journal
Well, hello there everyone =) I must apologize for not updating my journal sooner, but if only you knew how busy and occupied I have been, you would certainly understand. So to compensate, I’m going to do my best to fill you in with everything that I have gone through in the last 8 weeks. We can just call this the “crash course” of an exchange student in Denmark, ja? Okay well to begin, I think I’ll show off my Danish speaking skills and give you my introduction I have memorized quite well…
“Hej alle, Jeg hedder Angel Lee Jones, og jeg kommer fra Florida i USA. Jeg er sytten og min fødselsdag er 27. martz. Jeg kom til Danmark tredje august og jeg elsker det nu. Jeg bor i lille byen af Svendborg på Fyn. Min familie i USA er min far og mor og mig og tre hunder. Jeg savner dem meget men jeg har mange sjovt her. Jeg kan godt lile at stege og at tage billeder og at gøre kunst og at være med venner. Jeg elsker min familie og bedste venner og Danmark! Jeg hader mennesker hvem smiler ikke og edderkopper. Mest af alt jeg elsker min liv!”
Okay, okay, now that I’m done showing off, I will translate all of it for you…
“Hey everyone, my name is Angel Lee Jones, and I come from Florida in USA. I am seventeen years old and my birthday is March 27th. I came to Denmark the third of August and I love it now. I live in the little city of Svendborg on Fyn. My family in the USA is my dad and mom, me and three dogs. I miss them a lot but I am having a lot of fun here. I like to cook, to take pictures and make art, and to be with friends. I love my family and best friends and Denmark! I hate people who don’t smile and spiders. Most of all I love my life!”
And that is me folks, in Danish! So, as you can see, I haven’t just spent the last two months making tons of friends, feasting on wonderful food, and having an amazing time all the time. Although I have done all of that, I think I have learned a lot as well. I have decided to split this journal entry into sections, making it well organized, better to understand, and easier for me to write and remember. So first up, I’ll go over the basics of my exchange so far; including Denmark in general, family life, school, language, fashion, cultural differences, problems I’ve faced, life back home, and highlights of my exchange scattered throughout. Let’s get started shall we?
Denmark in General “Danmark i generelt”
Denmark in general is a glorious, gorgeous, greatly under looked country. It seems that every picture I take of every place I go is postcard perfect. Everyone I meet is friendly and welcoming. I feel that the Danish people in general, are very accepting. Those who I have met are all very interested in me and my exchange.
It is quite easy to get around in Denmark. It being a fairly small country, almost everything is accessible by train or bus. The currency is in kroner, with the exchange rate being about 5 kroner to every 1 US dollar, roughly. The climate has been relatively nice. When I first arrived in August, it was the latter part of summer, so most days were warm and cool in the evenings. With fall now setting in, the days are much cooler, and very windy. In Denmark it does not rain, at least not like back home. It mists; just enough to mess up your hair and your shoes. I have yet to see a thunderstorm. It rains, and winds gust as if in a hurricane, but yet no thunder. I have been told from now on most days will be overcast, cold, windy and rainy. Wonderful I think, but then again it can be wonderful if I’m home and cuddled up with a blanket and hot coffee. I am looking forward to the holidays. Most Danes are relatively modern, not many go to church other than baptisms, confirmations, or Christmas. But those traditions they do have, they adhere strictly to them. With Danes, once you have been accepted, you’re not like family, you are family.
Denmark is composed of a lot of countryside, with scattered cities throughout. My city of Svendborg is one of the largest of the smaller cities. Its population is around 35,000 people. Everything is conveniently close, and available. The downtown is pretty good size, but can still be covered on foot. We have a train station, harbor, library, several schools, tons of cute shops and boutiques, as well as chain brand stores, a McDonalds, handful of bars and clubs, great pizza shops, grocery and department stores, and just about anything else you could need or want. I really enjoy my town. It’s not too big or too small, kind of like the Goldilocks story, “just right.”
Family Life “Familie Liv”
As you may or may not know, I will be living with four different families over the course of my exchange. I think this is to better one’s exchange by giving the chance of adapting, learning, and growing with different kinds of families, who live in different places, have different views, and essentially lead different lives. In essence, this idea is ingenious. It not only benefits the exchange student, but also the families. In the end, more people are touched and experience the wonders of an exchange.
It is my first host family who I am living with now. They are wonderful people who I absolutely adore. There is a father, mother, sixteen year old daughter, and one fat cat whom I have named Mr. Kitty. They also have three older sons, who are in their twenties and live elsewhere in Denmark. We live on a farm with pigs, chickens and two ponies. It's nice living on a farm, for it has been ages since my own family has had farm animals. However, I could do without the strong stench of swine first thing in the morning when walking to the bus. My host mom, Helle, works in a fabulous purse boutique in the city, while my host dad, Hans, spends most of his time harvesting or with the pigs. My host sister, Signe, is a darling of a host sister. We got along famously right away and now we are the best of friends. She actually spent a year in Canada on exchange last year, so is fluent in English and familiar with all the North American amenities that Denmark doesn’t offer. While living here, I have given her some cooking lessons in exchange for Danish lessons. I make dinner for my host family every Wednesday, which they really love. May I suggest that to any other exchange students, for it is a sure way to win the heart of your host mum!
As far as family life goes, we pretty much go about as a normal Danish family would. It’s as if I’m not an exchange student or stranger at all, but instead I’m a real member of the family. It’s a fantastic feeling, one that I don’t feel will ever end, and one I can only thank my exchange for. At night, we all watch television together, drink tea, and eat cake. It’s is the essence of “hyggelig,” the Danish term which can not be directly translated, but means warm, cozy, good-feeling.
I have already met two of my other host families. Both of which seem great, and I don’t think I will have any problems becoming just as close with. They too, have host siblings who I go to school with. All speak English if necessary, but I encourage them to speak Danish to me. So, in general, my family life is great, and I can only look forward for more to come.
I must admit, I never expected to enjoy school so much, especially when I don’t understand half of what is being said. However, I really am enjoying school and I absolutely love my class. In Denmark, the school system is quite different. First off, there is no “high school.” There are Gymnasiums, Efter skoles, Business skoles, and Technical skoles. Gymnasiums are the ones most similar to that of a normal high school. It is average curriculum with multi-subject courses offered. It is a three year program and is public. Efter skoles are usually attended before going on to a Gymnasium or further education. It is a type of boarding school where you live on campus with other kids your age in dorm-like residence. It is thought to build life skills and encourage development and maturity. Business skoles are really self explanatory where business skills are built and developed. Most of the student body is male whereas in the Gymnasium there are more females. In technical schools, the subjects of science, art, and mathematics are explored for specialty careers and scholars.
I attend Svendborg Gymnasium. I am in the second year, class 2.a. Although I would be a senior back home, they usually place exchange students in the second year. This is because while the first year “freshmen” are too busy getting adjusted and comfortable to really bother with an exchange student, the third year “seniors” are busy preparing for excruciating exams and applying to universities. I have no complaints being placed in the second year. We actually get a class trip, in the spring, where every class raises money to travel abroad for a week or two. My class is going to Barcelona, Spain. A trip I hope to attend, for it would be an amazing time to bond with my class and travel even more.
Well, in school, I have about ten courses; English, Danish, Spanish, Biology, Mythology, Religion, Ancient History, Social Studies, Physical Education, and Geography. The schedule is also quite different and a bit confusing. It is set up in increments of two weeks. Depending on the day, I may have one to 4 classes. The longest day lasting from 8:00 am to 3:15 pm. Classes are one and a half hours long, with a 30 minute break between each class. When I told you my class was “2.a,” it was because you are with the same people all day. It is only the subject, room, and teacher that changes. You do everything together as a class. You walk to class, you scrape through class, and you have break and lunch as a class, all together. My class has 21 students, with only 5 of them boys. Like I explained, Gymnasiums have more female students than males. It's okay though, because the guys we do have are more than enough entertainment. Now, you’re probably puzzled on how I get through class, being that all the lessons are in Danish, and I don’t speak Danish. Well, I draw pictures. No, I do attempt to follow. But it can be extremely difficult at times. As frustrating as it can be to not be able to participate, I try anyways. And I really think my classmates respect me for that. They know I must not be able to understand anything, and yet I still act like I’m interested. The teachers understand as well, most of them put no pressure on me at all, while others encourage me to participate, even if I have to respond in English.
I feel as the year goes on, and I learn more Danish, it will of course become easier, and I look forward to that.
Ahh, the wondrous language of Danish… My theory of the evolution of Danish is as follows, “Danish was formed by Vikings whom were constantly drunk and thus slurred their words while making many up.” Surprisingly, most Danish people would agree with my theory. Their alphabet is the same as ours with the addition of three extra letters; æ, å, and ø. Danish is said to be a very confusing and challenging language to learn. I agree. However, I find myself not having as much trouble learning it as I had previously predicted. Currently, I attend Danish lessons every Wednesday from 8 to 1:30. That may not seem like a lot. But trust me; speaking, listening, and comprehending a foreign language, especially one like Danish, for 5 hours straight is no easy task. I also speak Danish when at home. My host family is very helpful and patient when conversing with me. I watch Danish television, and when watching English television, it is with Danish subtitles. They are actually quite beneficial and have really improved my reading skills. So far, my Danish is fair. I read Danish the best, can understand conversations second best, speak it okay, but when it comes to talking directly with someone, forget it. It’s as if I freeze on the spot, and all the hours of Danish lessons, all the children’s books read, everything just flees my brain. Luckily, I have found that Danish people in general are very accepting and patient. They merely chuckle and find my confusion cute and amusing. How happy I am to be of some entertainment.
In school, when asked by my friends if I would like for them to speak in English or Danish, I replied Danish. They asked why, and I told them I would rather have trouble fully understanding, maybe only catching a few words, but build on learning the language, than knowing exactly what they’re saying but not benefiting me at all. They agreed and so far it has not been a problem. If I don’t understand something they are talking about, they simply brief me at the end in English. At least that way, I listened to all they had to say in Danish and may have caught a few words, which in turn is better than none.
Let me first start of by saying that European fashion in general rocks! Danish fashion in particular is fabulous. Basically, it's sophisticated meets chic. Every girl wears tights or leggings. That is a daily fashion essential. Second must is a scarf. Scarves are not only for girls either, guys sport them too. But, I’ll explain the guys later. I own seventeen scarves myself; yes it has begun to be an obsession…
Black is also very basic, yet trendy. If someone wore all black in Denmark, it would not be seen as gothic or even emo, but stylish and fashionable. It’s chic and modern. A typical Danish outfit would be a cute dressy top long enough to be worn with just tights. Then it would be paired with heels, boots, or flats. Accessorized with a scarf and a number of different hair styles. Of course in the winter time, fashion changes slightly with the temperature. So a jacket would be accompanied by Ugg boots and legwarmers.
Not all males in Denmark are gay, they are merely well dressed. This can be a common misconception by foreigners, I being one of them. Guys here are simply more stylish than those in the States. They care about their appearance. Sure, sometimes it is too much, but generally just enough. An average look would be fitting jeans, fitting top, possible cardigan, scarf, nice shoes, and styled hair. I find the Danish guys to be quite attractive. This may just be my weakness for blondes with blue eyes, but I’ll also give credit to their fashion sense.
Cultural Differences “Kulturelle Forskelle”
I could probably go on all day about the cultural differences. I must admit, I did not expect there to be that many, because Denmark is European. Well, I was very wrong. I think to make it easier on myself and for your viewing benefit; I’ll just make a short list of those which come to my mind:
• Adolescents are given much more responsibility and freedom.
• There is no drinking age, but the age to purchase alcohol is 16.
• Drinking is a huge part of the Danish culture; it is viewed as casual, family oriented.
• Many young people smoke (about 90% I would say)
• Danish people eat a lot, more than back home. They have about 2 to 3 (full plate) helpings at meals.
• They walk or bike everywhere. This would explain the ability to eat so much, while still being fit.
• Every car is manual, and they are crazy, fast drivers.
• The driving age is 18, and it is very expensive and hard to get a license. Thus, most teenagers bike or bus.
• They treat bikes as cars, and will literally brush the side of a biker on the road. For the person biking, this can be terrifying enough to pee your pants.
• They like to sing. Whether it be at a birthday party, luncheon, Rotary meeting, whenever, they sing.
• They eat a lot of fish, pork, potatoes, bread and licorice. Luckily, I am not a vegetarian nor do I care about carbs, my host sister however is and does, sucks for her.
• They are coffee fiends. I now drink about six cups a day.
• Denmark is very expensive. The only things cheap here are phones and alcohol.
• Light switches to bathrooms are always on the outside of the room, very annoying when you are in a rush to go, and you forgot to turn the light on.
• There are no grocery bags. You bring your own reusable bags, and if you don’t, then you’re carrying everything.
• Almost all Danish beds are twin size, pity for me who had a full back home.
• The furniture, architecture, and general Danish design are very modern and contemporary. Every house is catalog perfect.
• Water is as expensive as soda, beer, and everything else. There is no free water with meals.
• I am convinced there is a Danish gene, which blesses everyone with beautiful looks. Whether you are six or sixty, if you’re Danish, you’re gorgeous.
• Regardless of the fact that it only takes about 6 hours to drive from one side of the country to the other, Danes will complain if they have to travel two hours (as if it was all day).
• Every Danish person will make you say “Rød Grød med Flød,” because you will sound stupid saying it, and they will laugh.
Problems I’ve had “Problemer jeg havde”
Really, I have been a lucky ducky. I have not had many problems so far. I have yet to be homesick, I get along very well with my family, I have made many friends, I love the culture and people in general, so “why do I have this section?” you ask. Well, I want to tell everyone about my encounter with the Danske Edderkop! (Danish Spider) You see, in Denmark, there are many bees, flies, and spiders. There are at least two to three spiders in every room in every Danish home. They are not big spiders, quite tiny actually, and have been known to be completely harmless. That is until I show up.
I had only been here two weeks when I was bitten by one of these spiders. It is something completely unheard of in Denmark. But of course, it happened to me. I suppose it bit me during my slumber because I don’t recall such an event, I merely woke up one morning with a mosquito looking bite under my arm. I brushed it off as no big deal; after all I am from Florida, the capital of millions of mosquitoes. Well, after a couple days it got a little sore, and a bit swollen. I looked at the forgotten bite and found it to be the size of a quarter and inflamed. Puzzled, I showed my host mom, and she thought it might just be a little irritated but instructed me to keep an eye on it and let her know how it goes. Well another few days went by with it getting worse and worse, but with me being the new exchange student I didn’t want to come across as the little baby who can’t take a bug bite. So I hid the infected wound until my host mom noticed me favoring my left arm. She asked to see it, and when I showed it to her she was relatively shocked to see just how bad it had gotten. It had grown five times the size, and formed a knot under the skin. It was extremely sore and red. She decided it would be best to take me to the local doctor to have him check it, for it was clearly infected. He confirmed the suspicion and said it was either an insect bite or spider bite. I freaked, but remained cool, thinking that all I needed was a little Penicillin.
About 4 days went by, and the bite just got worse. The Penicillin was obviously not working, and I was beginning to get worried. We went back to the doctor and he too was surprised at how bad it had gotten. He told me I needed to go to the hospital and have it lanced. At this point I was hysterically crying. I mean, come on, what are the chances that in my third week in a new country I would be bit by something, have it infected, and need to go to the hospital. I think it was really the thought of being in a foreign hospital with doctors speaking in a language I didn’t understand, handling sharp instruments, unknowing if they use anesthetics, all combined that freaked me out. It was all of that, without my mom, my real mom. My host mom was great through the whole thing, completely reassuring and doing her best to comfort me. But, it just wasn’t the same.
So, we went to the hospital, but because Denmark is under universal healthcare the wait to see the doctor would be about five hours. Those five hours were like torture for me, not knowing what they were going to do or how they were going to do it. We returned when they called, and we saw the doctor. Luckily, she spoke English well, and even reminded me of my doctor back home. She examined the bite, and told me it was indeed a spider bite and that it would have to be lanced. Lanced meaning cut open and let the poison drain. I was mortified. But, then she continued to tell me it wasn’t ready yet. I would have to wait another day or so for it to mature, and then do it myself. Goodness gracious, could my luck get any worse? Well, being the hardcore kid that I am, I did it myself, just like she told me to, and sure enough it healed within a few days. Yes, it hurt like hell, but I knew it would be better than having my arm amputated. Haha… so that is my story of the danske edderkop and my awesome exchange student survival skills.
Other than that, Denmark has been wonderful and I love it so.
Life back home “Liv tilbage hjemme”
As I have said, I’ve yet to be homesick. I find myself to be very lucky of this, because many of my exchange student friends I have spoken to are or have been. I however, have had no problems being able to call or email with family and friends without feeling sad or depressed. It merely makes me feel happy to hear how well they are doing, and to tell them how well I am doing. After all, I know that I only have one year here, and then I’m going back home. So, I feel it’s more important to enjoy all I can, and take advantage of my time in Denmark.
I miss my family and friends tons, don’t get me wrong. But I know that the year I have here is precious, so embrace it as much as I can. For everyone reading this, I miss you and love you! “Jeg savner dig og jeg elsker dig!”
Lastly, thank you Rotary for making this exchange possible. Dow “Peace.”
January 10 Journal
Hej venner og familie,
Knus fra Danmark! Hope everyone is doing well both back home and on exchange. Let me first give my apologies for not writing in some time. However, I hope the amazing stories and adventures I am about to tell will make up for it. I figure it builds a sense of anticipation and excitement. Plus, it gives me far more to talk about.
Well, I have been quite busy (to put it lightly). Exchange, I must say, is one of the greatest experiences I have had in life so far. I try my best to describe the feelings and thoughts I have to my friends and family, but they never seem to come out right. It’s as if the experience of being an exchange student changes both your mind and soul. It certainly has changed the way I think of many things, and my perception of the world. Thus making only fellow exchange students capable of sharing these changes and experiences with.
I’m already seriously considering writing a book based on my year abroad. My host sister, Silje, and I have already begun making our own cookbook combining both American and Danish into our own delicious creations. I’ll be sure to credit Rotary somewhere in the Dedication. Haha.
So, in the past several months, life in Denmark has only gotten better and more exciting. Denmark as a country is ideal in my eyes. I know in my heart I will one day live here, again. The culture is rich with so much history and tradition. For example, during “Juletid” (Christmas time), there were so many little traditions, I could barely remember them all. The entire month of December is filled with Christmas spirit and anticipation. Just walking through town, you can see the glow on people’s faces; knowing that soon everyone will be together for the holidays. My family, in particular, is very into the spirit of Christmas. Practically every day, the house was filled with the scent of Christmas cookies and spices reminding the nose of how wonderful Christmas is. I’m not afraid to admit I gained more than the normal amount of weight over Christmas break. Instead, I completely embraced the numerous new and diverse delicacies. I also made a copy of every Danish dish recipe that was a must-have for Christmas. So, next Christmas, is going to be awesome; American and Danish!
During December, Danes tend to go the extra mile when it comes to keeping themselves entertained and busy. It’s a way of keeping their minds off the miserable weather (which I will tell about later), so I have been told. Also, instead of one special feast on Christmas night, there are these lunches called “Julefrokosts.” They include many Danes (both friends and family), tons of food, lots of drinks, and sometimes these fun little games where you can win presents. Quite frankly, it is a genius idea, and one which I certainly plan to take back home. I attended several Julefrokosts of my own. One exclusively with my class; everyone had to bring a certain dish which we drew from a hat. Another was with my host dad’s family on Christmas Eve. Then it was only two days later when we had another with my host mom’s family; that included 23 people and continued until the wee hours of the morning. By the time Christmas was over, and the house was reasonably back to normal, I was ready for a vacation from vacation, haha.
Spending Christmas away from home was far easier than I expected. Although I have been lucky enough not to experience homesickness in the time I have been here, I felt maybe as though the time of the season would bring back far too many memories of home for me to avoid depression. I have my host family to thank for this. They have been amazing by far. And instead, a part of me felt as if I was indeed home; home in Denmark.
Here, Christmas is celebrated more on December 24th, rather than the 25th. It is the 24th when you have the great Christmas feast, and also when you open presents. However, “Danes work for their presents,” is what I like to say. After Christmas everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to hold hands and begin dancing (really walking steadily) around the tree whilst singing traditional Christmas songs. I found this task to be a bit challenging. So, I participated by being the backup humming. Then with the last song “Nu er Jul igen,” you begin running (still holding hands) around the house, into each room singing. By the time we returned to tree, everyone was panting and laughing hysterically. Now it was time to open presents. Everyone gathered in the living room, each bursting with happiness and excitement. I adored all of my gifts, all which will be sure to remind me of Denmark in the years ahead. The next morning, I made my mom’s traditional apple doughnuts, which she makes every Christmas morning. My host family loved them and said they would adopt the recipe too. Then they gave me one more present. “A present from Santa,” they said, “he must have come during the night, and knew you were here.” I was thrilled, and felt that little piece of being home resurface again. The remainder of the day was spent watching Mamma Mia with my host sister, singing along to the songs at the top of lungs; wearing our pajamas all day long, haha. Christmas this year will certainly be a special one in my heart, and one which I could never forget.
Friends I have made here will be with me for life. Both Danish and fellow exchange students. My class continues to be a wonderful asset to getting through a day of school. They make it fun and one could even say, enjoyable! Haha. They invite me out to coffee after school, and movie nights with the girls. We speak in both Danish and English, and they assure me I’m doing wonderful in the language.
I have yet to have a full dream in Danish, which I am so greatly looking forward to. But lately, they have become half and half. So, I suppose that must mean that I am making some sort of progression? I can watch “Go’Morgen Danmark” (which is like the Danish equivalence of the Today show) and almost fully understand it. I have recently been purchasing my favorite movies, only with Danish subtitles; for when I come home, I can watch them and revive my Danish!
With it now being winter here, the weather is expectedly quite cold. And with the temperature being measured in Celsius, it has lately been around -4 degrees. This past week, it snowed 3 times, and the ground remained blanketed with a quilt of white until the weekend. My friend Siri, from Australia, and I made a snowman after the first snow. Only, it was no normal snowman, oh no. It was a Viking snowman of King Harold Bluetooth (the Danish king who conquered and ruled Norway in the 500s). It was very impressive, if I do say so myself. We continued to spend the day playing in the snow and then sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace. It was utterly “hyggelig.”
Every day, I feel like I’m growing; growing into a more mature, more social, and far wiser person. Denmark has become a part of me. It is of my being. Regardless of how cliché that may sound, it is completely true. I not only love Denmark, but respect it. I even defend it, as though it is of my own origin. Thanks to Rotary, Denmark is a second home.