August 9 Journal
I have been in Denmark for one week; it has felt like an eternity and it has felt like a brief second, all at the same time. It’s gorgeous here, and I still haven’t gotten over the view. My city, Kolding, is situated on the Kolding Fjord, and it’s spectacular. Across the fjord all you see is the old-fashioned homes scattered across the hill, and it looks nothing like America. I don’t think I have seen one piece of scenery that resembles the United States, and I really enjoy that. Also, my city has a castle. A CASTLE! That excited me to no end.
I suppose I should start at the beginning, in the airport. I will admit that I cried when I said goodbye. More like wept, actually. However, after getting to Detroit, I was fine. Although, as Caitlin already informed you, on the flight to Amsterdam we were stuck with a crying, kicking baby behind us, therefore we got zero sleep. Arriving in Amsterdam was great though, mostly because I had never been out of the country before. I almost died of happiness when the customs agent stamped my passport.
I can’t really remember anything interesting about my next two flights, all I remember is being tired. Unfortunately, when I arrived to Billund Airport in Denmark, the Rotarian that picked me up informed me that we were going straight from the Airport to Legoland (the amusement park made completely out of Legos). Of course, I wasn’t about to complain. Oh no! I am a Rotary exchange student. I was taught to adapt to any situation. But I will admit, I really did not want to go to Legoland. I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, and I was forced to march around a theme park for 4 more. I got through it, though. I am still alive.
Anyways, I will move on to happier things. This past week I have been living with my host counselor, and today is my first day with my host family. I love them already! They are really nice people, and I honestly am just relieved to be out of my counselor’s house. I detest living out of a suitcase. My host family consists of the parents, a 17-year-old son, and a 14-year-old daughter. They also have a 16-year-old son, but he is on exchange in Brazil. And I can’t forget to mention the dog, Zojka. I should probably move on to talking about the food. I love every piece of food here! The “Rotary 15” is definitely going to catch up with me fast. Even though I have only been here a week, I will try to make a list of some of the differences in Denmark:
Danes eat bread with everything. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want a snack, you eat bread. But the bread is delicious, so I don’t mind.
Danes also put anything and everything on their bread. Chocolate, cheese, liverpaste…
Danes do not have air conditioning. They open their doors and windows instead.
You do not acknowledge the person walking past you. If you smile or wave they will stare at you like you are crazy.
Drivers will stop for pedestrians, but they will not stop for other drivers.
People actually obey the traffic laws.
Drinks don’t come with ice.
Everyone here smokes (which I found strange, considering that they are so environmentally friendly)
Every house either looks like it was built in the 1800’s, or it looks like it’s from the future. It makes for very interesting juxtaposition.
Having a Hyggeligt day = sitting around with friends or family, eating and having a cozy good time. Hyggeligt is a wonderful thing.
September 17 Journal
Hej alle sammen!
So, I have been in Denmark for one month and 16 days. This past month and 16 days have been incredible, terrifying, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. The 2nd week I was here was one of the hardest weeks I had ever had. That was when it really set in. That was when I realized that I wouldn’t see my family or friends for a whole year. I realized that I would have to forget everything I am used to, and that I wouldn’t see Florida until the summer of 2010. No matter what anyone says, it never really hits you until you get here. And it hit me like a big yellow school bus.
Luckily, I am past that now. After that awful week, things improved tremendously. The next week was IntroCamp (A.K.A. the best week of my life). IntroCamp was when all of the 150+ inbounds in Denmark met for a week of Danish lessons, day trips, and all around bonding experiences. The first day there I met my new best friends, Kayla and Lily - both from New York. I also met so many other people, from all over the World: Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, etc... In between Danish lessons we went to the city Viborg, and went in a really old, gorgeous church. We also explored around Århus (the second biggest city in Denmark), going to museums and shopping. I made so many new friends that week; I don’t even want to think about next summer, when I have to say goodbye. Oh, and I failed to mention that before going to the IntroCamp, I got to see Agnete!! She was a Danish exchange student to Florida last year that my family had the pleasure of hosting. I missed her so much, and I was so excited to finally see her again.
Denmark in general is wonderful. Every day I get to look out my window and see a sprawling field, and then look out the other window and see Kolding Fjord. It still hits me sometimes that I’m in Europe (in a good way though). My life here has become normal. I wake up, catch two buses, go to school, talk to my friends (I have friends! Yay!), come home, and do it all over again. Also, every Monday and Wednesday I take Danish lessons in Kolding, and those really help me. Luckily there are 3 other exchange students (from a different program) taking the same language class; It’s nice having people around who understand how I am feeling. I love Denmark, though. I really do. I can’t thank Rotary enough for sending me here.
A small list of the differences in Denmark:
Staring is accepted
Denmark really is the happiest country in the World; my host dad is constantly whistling.
The school throws parties for the students (it’s bizarre)
People don’t get offended by anything here. (For example, when we had to dress up in costume for our class picture, two guys dressed as Nazi’s.)
Subway would be considered very unhealthy to these people.
People drive like maniacs, but are surprisingly very skilled at it.
They are unfathomably prompt.
Kids actually pay attention in class and listen to their teacher (shocking, I know).
The “Breaking News” in Denmark wouldn’t even make it into the newspaper in America.
If you come to Denmark, you had better love bread, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, and licorice.
Everyone can speak at least a little bit of English, except for bus drivers. Sometimes I have to play charades in order for them to understand me.
Tusind tak Rotary! Vi ses.
November 7 Journal
To begin, I would like to thank Rotary so much for giving me this opportunity. I couldn’t be happier in Denmark, and Rotary earns all of the credit for that.
I’ve done a lot since the last time I wrote, starting with my trip to Copenhagen (København for the Danes). One of my friends from school invited me to stay with her for 4 days in the capital, and I was pretty excited. I had never been (except for when I flew in), and the first thing we did when we got off the train was shop. Copenhagen has an extremely long shopping street, and I did some pretty nice damage to my credit card that day (sorry Dad). The next two days were spent sightseeing; even though my friend had been there multiple times, she didn’t mind taking me to all of the tourist attractions. I saw the Little Mermaid, went on a boat tour of Nyhavn, walked to the top of Rundetårn (Round Tower), and went to Amalienborg Palace. On the last day I was there, I met up with a few other exchange students for an afternoon of hygge. I really do consider the other exchange students to be my family.
A few weeks after Copenhagen, I went to a Rotary weekend in Holbæk with all of the 200 other exchange students in Denmark. It was a costume party in celebration of Halloween, and people got really into dressing up. Some of the costumes had me rolling on the floor from laughter. That was one of the best weekends I have had here, and I am always sad to say goodbye to the exchange students.
When it comes to school, I’m a pretty big fan. Even though it starts a little too early for my taste, I really like being there with my classmates. In two days I have to give a presentation on the welfare and health care system in America for my society class. I’m a little nervous, but I think that all those Rotary presentations I did made me ready for it. Luckily the teacher doesn’t mind if I do it in English.
As for my Danish, it’s coming along a little slowly. I can understand almost everything, and I can read a lot of it, but speaking it is really difficult. My American accent is so heavy, and I just get confused with the sentence structure. But the Danes really love when I speak Danish, so I try as much as possible.
Life in Denmark is wonderful, and really different from my life in Florida. I am much more independent here. I have to do things by myself, and I have to make my own decisions. It’s definitely an opportunity to grow up. The idea of leaving seems ridiculous, but considering that these last 3 months flew by, I know that I will be back in Florida soon, which means I need to take every opportunity I get here. I know that this is the experience of a lifetime, and that in the end I will have become a better person, and a stronger person. I will have done and seen more than most kids my age, and my view on the world will be permanently changed. Again, all the praise goes to Rotary, Al Kalter, Jody Davis, and everyone else who made this possible.
January 3 Journal
Hej alle, godt nyt år!
Hey everyone, happy New Year! Today, I have been in Denmark for 5 months and 1 day, and the fact that it is already 2010 blows my mind. Also, I figured that instead of having my journal be askew and messy, I should organize it into sections (the Danish way).
The school system in Denmark is completely different than the American system. Kids here graduate at 15 from efterskole, and after that they can either get a job, or choose to attend a secondary school. The secondary school closest to a High School is a Gymnasium, which is the school I go to. My school, Kolding Gymnasium, starts at the un-Godly hour of 8:05 in the morning, and ends either at 2 or 3:30 in the afternoon, depending on the day. My classes are different every day, and if the teacher doesn’t show up, the class is canceled. I like school here because you are given a lot more freedom and responsibility than at American high school. If you want to text during class, go right ahead; if you have to use the facilities during class, it is fine to just get up and walk out. Also, the lack of dress code and police officers shocked me a little bit as well.
The individual food eaten here is not very different from the US; it’s mostly the way it’s eaten. For example, the Danish frokost (or lunch). Basically, you have all the main ingredients to make a normal lunch: meat, potatoes, and vegetables. However, instead of eating them individually, you take everything and pile it on top of a piece of rugbrød (dark Danish bread). This puzzled me GREATLY the first time I had lunch here. Now, I am used to eating everything on bread; I even kind of like it now. Look at me, I’m adapting.
I moved to my 2nd host family in November, and it consists of my host parents and their 5 children. My new home is much closer to the school than my last house (it’s also closer to the mall, so that’s a plus). The family itself, however, is what I consider a learning experience. Exchange consists of ups and downs; I’m just figuring out how to make even the worst downs turn into ups.
En Sjov Liste (A Fun List)
Face piercings are not considered taboo in Denmark…
Neither is having bright pink hair.
Public transportation is faaantastic.
Dinner is not complete unless there are candles.
A small gasp is how you will be acknowledged. Very confusing the first time it happens.
Exchange students will become your family.
You will sleep when you’re dead.
The weight gain is no joke; so far its 10 pounds and counting…
When you’re told to be ready at 6, they really mean 5:45.
Danes sing everywhere.
Traveling to Germany or Sweden is no big deal to Danish people.
Big Brother is everywhere in Denmark.
Nudity is considered normal, therefore the TV censors nothing.
After showering, one must wipe down the faucets and walls so as not to leave water spots.
According to the Danes, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing (however, I beg to differ).
At first, Danish teenagers appear to be cold and distant, but if you give them a little while to open up, they will be your friends for life.
Unfortunately, after celebrating the New Year, I realized that I will be going home this year. So far, this has been the best experience of my life, and I hate knowing that I will have to say goodbye to my new life in only 6 months. However, I’m going to make the best of it for now, and I’ll be sure to document the rest of my exchange for y’all Rotary Florida! Vi ses snart!
February 23 Journal
I have gone through multiple stages over the last 6 months: overwhelmed, depressed, angst-ridden, happy, and completely in love. At the moment I am standing firmly in the last stage, blissfully married to the Danish culture. I love eating warm rundstykker in the morning, listening to the ever-popular techno music, actually dressing nice, experiencing real independence; I love overhearing a Danish conversation and knowing exactly what they are talking about. My class is wonderful, and I really feel like a part of the school. I have been told by many people that it will be strange not having me here next year, and that makes me both ecstatic and heart-broken, all at the same time.
Another thing I love: moving. I love moving. I love saying the word; it just sort of rolls out of your mouth. Last Thursday I got to experience the joy of moving; of packing up all your things and walking out the door, knowing that you will never have to see that long, white, ominous hallway ever again. My new house is out in the country, about 3 miles outside of Kolding. I live in a very old and very large farmhouse, with a million different rooms. My host parents have 4 daughters, two of which are married and moved away. The others are 19 and 17, and are two of the sweetest girls I have ever met. The family is so warm and welcoming, and they bake incredible bread (so that’s a plus).
I’m sure you would all like to hear about the things that I do here, but they have become so normal to me, I really don’t know if you would care. Basically, I go to school, hang out with friends, go shopping, eat, go to the gym (future outbounds, I recommend joining one; those Rotary pounds sneak up on you), have family time, and (of course) brag about Rotary.
Normally, I would make a list stating the differences between Denmark and America, but I no longer notice them really. Instead, I think that I will help out the future outbounds headed for Denmark (whom I am incredibly jealous of), and make a list of the things that might surprise and/or shock them. So this is for you future-Scandinavian exchange students!
You will eat bread everyday, 2-3 times a day. After the first week (when you get tired of eating bread for lunch) do not ask to have something different, they will look at you funny and tell you that there is nothing else to eat.
After gym class, if you choose to shower, you will have to do it with everyone. There are no walls or dividers in the showers. I hope you’re comfy with your body!
It is very fashionable for girls to wear leggings with long, skin-tight tank tops and call that an outfit. Yes, it does show off every line, wrinkle, and roll on their body, but it’s just how they do it.
You will see many people tuck their pants into very high socks.
Don’t be surprised if alcohol is served at your school. Velkommen til Danmark!
Don’t get scared when an adult gasps quickly while you’re talking. A quick gasp is how they acknowledge you.
Danish people pronounce “v” like “w”. For example, I live in Jacksonwille, not Jacksonville.
You have to be 18 in Denmark to drive, so if you do have your license, you will be very popular. (Not that you will drive of course, just the fact that you have the ability to drive. Remember those D’s)
If you want an automatic door to open, you will have to practically press your nose against the door. Except for the train doors, those you actually WILL have to press your nose against.
Ask your Rotary Counselor to invest in a DSB Wild Card for you. It makes traveling the country by train so much cheaper.
When you go into a grocery store, you will be trapped inside. The only way to get out is to buy something, or to press a button that opens a small gate, allowing you to leave.
Also, at supermarkets, they don’t bag groceries for you. You will have to bring your own bags or carry everything.
They will stare at you. EVERYONE! Your classmates, your family, random people on the street, etc… it’s very normal to stare in Denmark.
When you first meet your classmates, you will assume that they have no personality. You will assume that Danes are the coldest and most distant people you have ever met. But I promise you, they will open up to you, and you will discover that they are the sweetest and most caring people on Earth.
Værsgo! And don’t forget, have fun. It really is the best time of your life, and it will pass by quicker than you can imagine.
July 11 Journal
Hello RYE Florida, it’s been a while. Sorry about the wait.
I leave Denmark in 3 days, and it’s indescribably frightening. I am already preparing myself for the first breaths I take as I step out of Jacksonville International Airport; I have been told that I won’t be able to breathe. I am attempting to ready myself for the shock of driving through town again, and it only recently slapped me hard in the face that I have to go back.
I’m not angry that I have to go back. I’ve had a great year, and I always knew it would end. I’m not going to go into a depression when I get home, or hate everyone and everything. I’ve met so many people, and made so many memories. When I think back on my year, I know that it was the best possible decision, and that another year of American high school wouldn’t even come close to the things I learned on exchange. However, I’ve accepted that it’s over; that I have to go back. Do I feel like I’ve just left? Yes. Do I feel heartbroken when I think about the people I’ll probably never see again? Yes. Am I thankful for the time I had? Absolutely.
Tomorrow I will be saying goodbye to the other exchange students that I've become close to. That will break me for a little while. There is nothing and no one I will miss more than the exchange students I met here; we’re already planning a reunion.
To end this last journal entry, I will just say thank you in Danish. In all the possible ways you can say it.
Tak. Tusind Tak. Mange Tak. Tak for Det. Tak Skal Du Har. Tak for I Morgen. Tak for I Dag. Tak for I År. Tak for I Går. Selv Tak. Tak for Mad.