Andrea Wassner
2012-13 Outbound to Faroe Islands
Hometown: Pensacola Beach, FL
School: Gulf Breeze High School
Sponsor: District 6940, FL
Host: District 1440, Faroe Islands
The Rotary Club of Torshavnar

Andrea's Journals

September 28, 2012

Today marks 2 months in the Faroe Islands. These 2 months have gone by so fast! I can't believe that someone right now is filling out the dreaded application that I filled out a year ago! I know how stressful the application is but it really is worth all the signatures and blue ink.

I knew that any country would be different but I didn't expect the Faroes to be THIS different!

Here's a list of some differences I have come across:

•  There are a lot of people that have grass roofs, yes grass roofs.

•  There are sheep and horses everywhere!

•  People eat pizza dough and pancake batter by its self!

•  There is no "C" in the Faroese alphabet.

•  Little kids cuss like grown men!

•  Everything is crazy expansive!

•  Staring is accepted. They really do stare a lot!

•  ð <-- this letter is utterly useless

•  It rains. All the time.

•  There are no thunderstorms. Ever.

•  Faroese people eat a lot of bread. And potatoes.

•  They put milk in their tea! (Not bad actually, just different)

•  They will put anything on bread and I mean ANYTHING!

•  Many people here smoke.

•  People drive like maniacs! But somehow there are no accidents.

•  15 minutes late is on time.

•  Faroese grammar is insane!

•  People inhale while saying the word “Yeah” and it has no specific meaning.

•  It is physically IMPOSSIBLE to gain weight here!

•  People here sing. Everywhere.

•  The bus system is great, unless it’s a school day, then it’s late. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like stopping at me stop.

•  Your English become terrible!

•  People are afraid to speak English most of the time.

•  People here put on “day clothes” and NEVER wear sweatpants and such around the house.

•  They always wear socks.

•  They tuck their pants into their socks.

•  No one says my name the same.

•  Egg drop soup scares them.

•  Most teens don’t have a curfew!

•  Drinking is socially accepted.

•  Licorice is disgusting!

•  People drink a ridiculous amount of coffee and tea.

•  Everything is up to date. Practically catalog ready.

•  Women here are stunningly gorgeous!

•  Everyone has blue eyes. My classmates call me “Brownie” because I have hazel eyes.

•  You don’t wear shoes inside.

•  Everyone here is related in some, shape, way or form.

•  If you have your license people will freak out because they don’t get one until they are 18.

Yeah, it’s a bit different than back home!

If you come to the Faroes you had better like bread and potatoes! That is literally the majority of the diet here. Traditional Faroese food is for a lack of a better word…terrible. Yes, I have tried whale. And no its not very good, especially dried whale.

Scandinavians are shy at first. And many people here are afraid to speak English in fear of messing up. While almost everyone here speaks and understands English, they mess up grammar quite a bit. Honestly, I think it’s so cute! The Faroese language gives me a headache on a daily. Things just sound so similar!! But when I do understand or speak it my class mates freak out!

In all honesty I don’t know how someone wouldn’t want to be an exchange student! To get to see a piece of the world (and in my case) a piece of the world that not many people even know exists! The most common question I am asked is why I chose to come to the Faroes.

An exchange is an adventure, and what better way to have an adventure than to go to a place that many don’t even know exists? Anyone can go to Italy, Germany and even Denmark, but how many people say that they went to the Faroe Islands?

It’s not without its trials however. Homesickness has started to set in. Though I don’t so much as miss “home” as much as I miss the USA. I have always been told that I should be grateful for all we have as Americans but I never knew how true that was until I went abroad. You will find a new appreciation for all that you have and everything you can make out of yourself. Coming to the Faroes has been an eye opening experience.

To the few people that know of the Faroes existence think that they are nothing more than murders. However, I have had the privilege to sit down and speak with people of all ages. From what I have seen, the Faroese people are a people fighting tooth and nail to preserve their culture.

The Faroes may not have as vibrant or colorful of a culture as say India, but they most certainly have their own unique way of doing things that add to their own little culture.

Going on exchange is no easy decision. How can I leave everything I’ve ever know? How can I leave my friends and family? How can I go to a country and understand nothing? How will I make new friends? How can I convince my parents?

The sooner you stop thinking about the how, what, when, where and why the sooner you will learn what “living” truly means! If you aren’t sure about going on exchange, there is a HUGE Rotary family that will tell you the facts and help. Really any student you ask is more than willing to help you! We were in your shoes a short 12 months ago and I promise any of us will be more than happy to answer any question you have.

Being an exchange student is like being on a roller coaster. You may scream, cry, laugh, lost, confused, lonely and be afraid, through the ups, downs, twists and turns. But at the end of it you want to go on that crazy ride again and again.

Unfortunately though, you only have a year so why not take risks and live a little? A year out of your life is nothing compared to the experience that year will have. I’ve only been here 2 short months and this couldn’t be truer.

I will eventually go back to my old life, though with a new prospective and new eyes to see the world, but I will go back.

However, until then I plan to live like the locals, learn all I can, and grow as a person. I have 8 more months in this beautiful country and I intend to make the most of it!

January 2013

I wrote my very first journal for RYE Florida a year ago, even though it seems like just yesterday. I have been in the Faroes for about 5 months. I won’t lie and say everyday has been a walk in the park, because it hasn't. I have days where I never want to leave and then there are days where all I want to do is go home. Sometimes all I want to do is fit in and be like everyone else. But I know that won’t happen because almost everyone in the country knows that I’m a foreigner.

I think one of the most important things an exchange student should know is that it IS okay to have a bad day. Just because you might feel a little homesick here or there doesn't make you a bad exchange student, it just makes you human.

One thing I can say is that in these 5 months I have learned so much about myself. Being able to take a step back and look in from the outside has given me a new look on the world.

Exchange isn't about going to school and making perfect marks nor is it about becoming fluent in the language. Exchange (in my opinion) is about discovering who you are. I know I have changed. I see the world more clearly, and I appreciate everything I have so much more. It’s the little things that keep me going honestly.

In that time though, a lot has happened. I switched families, went to a wedding, had Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas.

For Thanksgiving, the other American exchange student and I went to a friend’s (that happened to be English) and we made Thanksgiving dinner at her house. I must say we did pretty dang well considering we had to improvise and that every ingredient was in Danish! Regardless of all that, it was a great night!

I've gone to a wedding here as well. But it was very different from an American wedding. The bride and groom walk down the aisle together and kneel in front of the minister. They don’t exchange vows and the parents are not included at all. It isn't customary to wear wedding rings here and if they do they don’t exchange them at the wedding but rather they get them at a later date. If they do wear rings most people wear them on the right hand and the engagement ring is worn on the left, but I have seen wedding rings worn on the left.

One thing I learned about Faroese people is that when they say “Do you want to go for a walk?” they really mean “Do you want to go hike a mountain?” My host mom had asked me if I wanted to go for a “walk” with her sister…yeah our “walk” was to climb/hike half of a frozen mountain.

Now Christmas was just confusing. Starting on the first Sunday of December and up until Christmas day, you get a present on every Sunday from Santa. They celebrate Christmas on the 24th instead of the 25th and they don’t open gifts until after dinner…. So on Christmas, we went to brunch at my host mothers parents with most of the family, went to church afterward and then to my host mothers brothers house for dinner and to open gifts. We had good food; I think it was sweet potatoes, potatoes, duck, sauce/gravy, and then some toppings like chopped radishes. For desert we had rice pudding with cherry sauce and caramel. But with the rice pudding, they put an almond or two and who ever finds one gets a prize. But of course I didn't find it.

Opening presents was an ordeal in its self… I have never seen so many presents in my life! It was the Mt. Everest of presents! But then again there were about 25-30 people. First we “danced” around the tree and by dance I mean walking around it because there were so many people and singing Faroese Christmas songs. Then they wanted to sing one in English…only problem with that is I was the only one that knew all the lyrics…everyone was looking to me for the lyrics. So essentially, I was the only one singing and everyone was staring at me. Then the children literally attacked Mt. Everest! It took an hour and a half to get through them all! After all that excitement, we just sat around until it was someone’s idea to play a guessing game thing. I have no idea what was asked, so I just sat there and laughed at how mad people were getting from the game. We didn't leave until almost 2 am! The thing about Christmas here is that the y celebrate for 3-4 days... So the next night we were at it again but this time there were no presents and some not so great food. We had boiled sheep and sheep head as well as potatoes. I ate the potatoes… Traditional Faroese food typically makes me feel really sick; it must be the Viking in them that allows them to have such strong stomachs.

I have no idea what my family has planned for New Years… I’m sure it will be interesting though.