Alison Sigman
2011-12 Outbound to Denmark

Hometown: Oviedo, Florida
School: Oviedo High School
Sponsor: Oviedo Rotary Club, District 6980, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Nakskov-Ravnsborg, District 1480, Denmark

Alison's Bio

Hej- the first word I have learned in Danish so far. It means, "hello". My name is Alison, I'm 16, and a junior at Oviedo High School. I was born in Yangzhou, China, but at six months of age I was adopted and moved to Tennessee. Around eight years ago I moved again to where I live currently. It's a quaint little town called Oviedo. Right now I reside with my mom, dad, older sister, three dogs, and four cats. In case you couldn't guess, I love animals; dogs, cats, squirrels, the occasional skunk. I have very few exceptions.

One could say that I have a small obsession with the arts; music, drawing, painting, poetry, photography, etc. If it's classified as part of the arts, I'm into it. Oh, and I have an odd addiction to quotes and lyrics; just a fun fact.

I am sometimes quiet when I'm trying to take in something new or when I'm attempting to think things through, though it can sometimes can be misinterpreted as shy. Once I'm comfortable with someone or in my environment, then I am able to open up and talk quite a bit.

On the off chance you didn't catch the hint of where I'm headed on this exchange, it's Denmark. Now, it hasn't set in at all, but within the next few months I'm sure it will become completely real to me. From this experience I hope to find out a little bit more about the world outside the United States and maybe a little bit more about myself. Anyway, before this gets too long, I'd like to thank Rotary for this incredible opportunity.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I'm ready to lose sight of the shore.

Alison's Journals

August 7

First official journal entry from Denmark! I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious: I’m in Denmark! I’ve made it and I’m totally intact. I finally have escaped the overwhelming amount of mosquitoes and sweltering heat that is Florida. Basically, this is about as close to paradise as I think I’ll ever get. Right now it is not too hot, and not too cold. This plus a nice breeze and beautiful scenery is enough to let me die happy. I have a nice little bedroom in my first house and I really like it; no lie.

When I was first met by my host mother, Rikke, and sister, Julianne (my host dad, Lars, is a farmer and so he was working, and my host sister, Sofie, went to Spain for vacation) I couldn’t believe how nice they were! No really, I was mind boggled.

My host sister even got me a Danish flag and put my name on it! Today I helped my host mom make marmalade (it looks delicious, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased), took a bunch of photos, went for a tour of Nakskov, and took a walk with my host mom, sister, dad, and dog to the cemetery. Ok, so that sounds a bit creepy, but you have no idea how nice the cemetery is.

 There are trees and plants everywhere and it’s really nicely kept. I’m sure if my fear of cemeteries at night was a bit less acute, I would even sleep there, no dare needed. I went to the Horse Head yesterday, and yes, I’m allergic to horses, and no, there were no horses. The Horse Head looks like it came straight from a post card. They even have a mini beach there! It was wonderful. They also have a swimming pool around the area. Moving on.

My host family will sometimes ask me about some words that they don’t quite know in English, and many times when they do that I ask what it is in Danish. I’ve begun my stack of notecards with Danish to English translations on them like Scott (6980-woot woot) suggested. Anyway, I feel a bit scatterbrained tonight (as I am still recovering from a bit of jet lag) so I think this is it for now. See you again in two months!

October 16, 2011

which means that I am now on my third month. I tried thinking back to my first day in school a couple days ago, and it was so weird to do! All of the people in my class I at least know their personalities a bit now, but when school first started I had no idea what their first names even were, none the less what kind of people they were. I remember sitting there and thinking things like, "I wonder who in this class I'll become closest to," and "I wonder where I'll fit into in this new school." Everything was... for a lack of a better word, everything was so 'foreign'. It's funny how I have made some pretty amazing friends, and how normal everything here seems now.

Moving on.

So I think the two most popular, difficult, and at times annoying questions I get asked are, "So how is Denmark? What are you doing there?" How do you even begin to answer those questions? I don't feel like you can even give the default answers of "good" and "not much". Denmark isn't just good. It's been so much more. It's been amazing, awe inspiring, jaw dropping, and at the same time there have been times when I've had a terrible day, or I just craved home so unimaginably bad. As for the second question, I've done an incredible amount in two months. I have probably done more in the two months that I've been here than I could have even imagined doing in a year combined back at home. Therefore, I feel as if saying, "not much" is not only an understatement, but it's almost as if it's an insult to say so.

Back at home I always thought I was independent. Not to say that it was all in my head, but I was nowhere near as close to independent as I'm getting here. It's exciting how free I feel here. I really can feel myself slowly developing into a more independent person, and it both pleases and terrifies me. It seems that I've changed so much already here, and I still have seven months left to go. It's strange to even think about what kind of person I'll be when I get back. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I would like to take a second and apologize if I seem a bit incoherent. There are so many feelings and thoughts that I'd like to get across, that it's getting a bit hard to express any of them.

I guess I should mention that I'm with a different family than I was with when I wrote my first entry from Denmark. What to say about these people... I really do love all of them; my little brother, my little sister, the dog, my host mom, and my host dad. Before I knew it, they became family and have showed me what it's like for a family to act as a family unit. It'll be incredibly difficult to leave here in six weeks. Thankfully, they're only a bus ride away from where I'll be staying next, but still. I've been trying to avoid thinking about it too much, because it's just sad. I love my talks with my host mom when we're in the car or at the dining table. I love the hugs my host dad gives. I love the hugs and kisses my little host brother gives me, and how he always tries to teach me words. I love talking to my little host sister, and joking around with her.

As for my counselor family, I also feel like they're family. I always enjoy when I get to go over there, and hang out for a while. I think me and my younger counselor host sister (can I say that?) get along so well. We have a four year difference, and I never even notice it when we hang out. As for my older counselor host sister, she is so nice. She's patient and takes time to explain things to me, and help me out when I ask.

I've met so many incredible people here, and it's weird to think that without this opportunity I wouldn't even know they existed. I am so grateful to have this opportunity, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm learning so much about myself, and the world.

I know I'm missing some things, but I'd rather not write anymore paragraphs, so I think I might just list them in hopes that it makes this journal entry a bit shorter:

- The parties here are so much fun.

- The fashion here is impeccable.

- The cold is rapidly approaching, and I don't think I'm ready. Florida doesn't prepare you for these things.

- Smiling really does get you through anything. (I think I might be reiterating myself, but it's so incredibly true).

- It's really expensive, but I like the challenge of balancing things.

- Google Translate has become my best friend.

- I'm getting a better hang of the language and can now understand what people say sometimes.

- My Rotary Exchange friends are so amazing, and it's so mind boggling that I now know people from countries like Columbia, India, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil and Mexico.

- I've made a recipe book.

- I've gotten a lot better at being able to read Danish.

- My host brother and sister can now normally understand what I'm trying to say, because my pronunciation has gotten better.

- I've gotten A LOT fitter, and have learned that driving all the time back home has done me no favors.

Well I'm sure there's more, but I can't think of anything more. I'd just like to lastly thank again Rotary for this experience.

December 28, 2011

Well, I have done it. I've made it to and past Christmas here. Christmas here is not the same, but then again Christmas anywhere is not the same as it is for your next door neighbor. Some of the main differences to the Christmas I usually have and the Christmas here are:

- My entire family danced around the Christmas tree holding hands while selecting and singing Christmas carols out of a piece of paper folded up like a brochure.

- We celebrated it on the 24th rather than the 25th. MEANING: no waiting for 'Santa Claus'.

- People actually dressed up for the Christmas dinner.

Other than all that, it really didn't seem too different. I know that a lot of people here, not just exchange students, were disappointed with the lack of a white Christmas here. In all honesty though, I consider that one of my most blessed Christmas gifts. I'm really not ready for snow, and I've reasoned that the later it comes means the less time until it leaves.

It seems during the last two or so winters here in Denmark it has snowed for three months straight. Now, I'm all for seeing snow, but I'm already freezing, and I'd like to be realistic. I love Denmark, but I've been a Florida girl for the past nine years of my life. Of those six years I have seen snow for maybe three days of the year then I have gone back home to sweating during winter, and being completely content. On top of that, some of my friends in class are already betting how long I'll last when it does begin to snow. Needless to say, I understand that like it or not, soon I will be running into snow, but I think the later the better. Santa? Are you listening?

Anyway, moving on from there. My class is wonderful, and soon, we will be taking in nine other students who have switched from other classes. Thankfully I've at least seen all of the new ones, and I'm comfortable with the people already in class. So I'm not really worried. Actually, I might even venture to say I'm a bit excited.

It might be a bit late to announce, but I am now living with my new host family. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever met; and some of the most thoughtful. I am so thankful for having them as my second host family. In fact, I am so thankful for even being here. Rotary has definitely given me the best Christmas present I could have ever asked for.

April 4, 2012

Hej alle sammen!

Can you believe that I've been here eight months? Also, I'm now with my last family, and despite the end of my Danish language school (*let's take a moment of silence...) my Danish is still improving!

Well it was a sad day when I had to leave my last family because they had really become just that, my family. The only thing keeping me from not totally freaking out was the fact that this new family is only living about five minutes over; still, it was sad because it was the end of something. Now I'm with my new family, and I think I'm settling in nicely. I currently have one older brother and one slightly younger sister; both are only about a year difference. The entire family is really sweet, so I'm happy.

I believe during the last journal I said how we were getting nine more people added to our class, which makes the class total thirty. Well, they have been added and it really seems for the best. The class seems to have a better atmosphere, for the most part. That's not to say it wasn't great before... but it's improved with the additional people. I really do adore my class, so it makes it a bit hard to think about school being over in about a month, and more so this exchange being over in about three months. I try not to think about it because it's sad to think that all the friends you have will be moving on together through school for the next two years without you, and in the same way, you have to move on with your life away from all of them. So, in about three months, nothing will ever be the same. It's all a bit strange, and sad. At the same time though, I feel a bit accomplished that I do feel this way about everyone. I take it also as a great ac complishment that I've become close enough to the people, this country, and it's culture, to know already how much I'll miss it.

OK, moving away from such sad topics, let's talk about the weather. It is April, I'm freezing, and there's a chance of snow, or at least frost, tonight. Next to all of that, I've noticed that I find it warm when it's just 54 degrees outside. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me. I remember back at home I used to think it was freezing if the thermostat was down to 70 degrees. Thankfully though, we're on påskeferie (pronunced: po-skuh-fair-yuh; meaning: Easter Holiday), and so I think by the time the break is over, the temperature will be rising again. Hopefully, this time it will stay up.

I was so proud of myself, I feel the need to share. Before I left my last host family, the night before I cooked an entire three course meal. Everything was homemade, and it took me about three hours to prepare the order and what I was going to make, then about five hours to actually make the food.

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Appetizers:

Chicken Noodle Soup

Cornbread

Entrees:

Basil and Lemon Chicken

Mac N' Cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans with Garlic and Onion

Dessert:

Apple Pie

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On Monday (April 2), I gave my Rotary Presentation in Danish. It felt so good to hear from my counselor's (who have been with me every step of the way since I've been here) say that they were proud and impressed with my presentation.

I guess in closing I'd really, from the bottom of my heart, like to thank Rotary again for giving me this opportunity and in turn, these experiences.