Natalia Fernandez

Denmark

Hometown:Kissimmee, Florida
School: Osceola County School for the Arts
Sponsor District : District 6980
Sponsor Club:Kissimmee, Florida
Host District: District 1461
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Koldinghus

My Bio


Hej! My name is Natalia Fernandez and I am so happy to say that I'll be going to Denmark this year! I live in Kissimmee and am currently a senior Drama major at an arts school. Besides acting, I love to participate in school clubs such as The Technology Student Association (TSA), The International Thespian Society (ITS), The National Honor Society, and The Interact Club. I joined TSA my junior year and am currently the chapter Vice President. I received 3rd place in Debating Technological Issues and 1st place in Chapter Team (which consists of a written and oral test regarding Parliamentary Procedure) at the National Conference. In ITS, I have won superiors at district and state level for duet acting, large group musical, theatrical improvisation and ensemble acting. I have been a member of the Interact Club since my freshman year and have been the President since my junior year. I have a very big, loving family which consists of 3 sisters, 1 brother, 2 half-sisters, 3 half-brothers (one of which is on the way!), 1 step-brother, and 1 step-sister which, if you weren't keeping track, comes to the total of 11 siblings! Not to mention the fact that the ages of my brothers and sisters range from in the womb, to 24! In my free time I enjoy hanging out with friends by getting coffee together, going to the movies, shopping, and visiting Walt Disney World. I hope that by being immersed into the Happiest Country in the World, I can be able to speak and think in Danish, grow personally, experience a foreign education system, and make long-lasting friendships. I am so thankful for Rotary in giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity and my friends and family for supporting me every step of the way.

My first day of school at KG

My first day of school at KG

My living room with the greatest view of Almind outside!

My living room with the greatest view of Almind outside!

Me trying traditional Danish birthday cake.

Me trying traditional Danish birthday cake.

Some of my classmates and I all dressed up for the IB Welcome Party

Some of my classmates and I all dressed up for the IB Welcome Party

My fellow RYE student, Doris and I in Ribe (which the oldest city in Denmark)!

My fellow RYE student, Doris and I in Ribe (which the oldest city in Denmark)!

The view of Kolding from the top of the Koldinghus Castle.

The view of Kolding from the top of the Koldinghus Castle.

Downtown Leiden, Holland

Downtown Leiden, Holland

When I attended my first handball game. I was able to take a picture with one of the players, Lasse Andersson.

When I attended my first handball game. I was able to take a picture with one of the players, Lasse Andersson.

Panoramic of the top of ARoS

Panoramic of the top of ARoS

Journals: Natalia - Denmark

  • Natalia, outbound to Denmark

    Things are about to change. You’ve guessed it, I am switching host families in less than 24 hours. The thing about having to live with a family for about 4 months is that you make connections with the people you are living with and in turn you get pretty close with them in a short amount of time. What I have really liked about all of my host families is that I really feel like I’m part of the family. Everything isn’t perfect all the time, but that’s what makes it feel real. That’s something that tourists that go to foreign countries never really experience.With that being said, I believe I’m one of the lucky ones to really be integrated into the family life here which I feel is a big part of the whole cultural immersion. Very soon I will go through the phase of getting adjusted to living with a new family and everything that entails, but I’m also really excited to live with this next host family, and if things couldn’t get better, I’ll be living right next to one of my best friends that goes to the same school as me.

    Things are going just swell here and I am absolutely enjoying every moment I have here. This upcoming Wednesday I will be singing my school’s spring concert and I am honestly so grateful for the opportunity and really excited to be a part of it. Next Friday starts Easter Break and I’m excited to have adventures with my friends and my new host family.

    Last weekend I got the chance to visit Gram Slot and it was a great experience because the owner gave a private tour to me and my host family since my host mom knows the owner. It was really interesting to hear the history and stories about Gram Slot. Slot in danish means castle and this castle actually has many organic gardens and produces a lot of milk, vegetables, and other goods you would find in local stores in Denmark. They sell to Rema 1000 (which is a Danish grocery store) I believe.

    If you’re reading this not having gone on exchange and are still able to do so, please take the chance and do it. Get worked out whatever needs to get worked out because trust me, it is one of the best experiences of my life and you find out so much about yourself, the world and more about your home and host country.

    If you’re reading this as a parent of an exchange student, THANK YOU for whatever support you are giving your child, because you are making a huge impact in your child’s life.

    If you’re just interested in Rotary Youth Exchange and reading this, spread the word, because letting this generation experience a life abroad and having their lives changed will, in my opinion, transform the world for the better.

    For my dear exchange students, you know what I’m talking about when I say that it’s one of the best experiences of my life. Keep up the good work, because you are making an impact in the world no matter how small it may seem now.

    Another big thanks to Rotary, for making this possible for me and everyone else that has been on exchange, currently on exchange, and will be going on exchange. Rotary is an amazing organization and I’m so happy to be a part of it.


  • Natalia, outbound to Denmark

    Life is great right now. Everything is comfortable, but at the same time a little strange and uncomfortable from time to time. Getting to know people here has been so rewarding and meeting other students that go to my school that were exchange students to the states is one of the best things ever.

    I don’t think people realize until they go on exchange how much people can bond over food. It’s crazy. And I’m not gonna lie, I do love Danish food (except for rye bread) but I really miss Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, Five Guys, Cuban food and I could just go on and on. However, this isn’t suppose to be a blog about me missing food. This is about my journey here for the most spectacular year of my life so far.

    I had the best Christmas. Here it is celebrated on the 24th instead of the 25th of December and the festivities normally start in the evening. I went to my host aunt’s house in Fredericia in the afternoon and everything was starting to feel so hyggeligt as soon as I got there.

    They only use real Christmas trees here so it was so nice to have the smell of pine around the house. Normally back in Florida we would have real Christmas trees too, but what’s different is that Danes don’t decorate the tree until the 23rd. And many don’t use string lights, but candles. I thought it was pretty hazardous, especially since it is also tradition to dance around the tree but they have candle holders to put on the tree that don’t look like too much of a fire hazard.

    So now I can talk about the food that I’m going to miss when I go back to the States. We had a traditional Christmas dinner which consisted of white potatoes, caramelized potatoes, cooked purple cabbage, raw purple cabbage salad, roasted duck and brown gravy. Caramelized potatoes are the best thing ever and if you have never tried them before, you are missing out on one of the best culinary creations ever.

    So after we played some board games, then we also ate risalamande which is this rice pudding that has chopped almonds in it and you typically put cherry sauce on top of it. There is always one whole almond left in the risalamande and the one who finds it gets a present. I actually found the whole almond not at this Christmas dinner, but when IB department at my school threw an IB Christmas Lunch.

    I also had the opportunity to make lots of traditional Christmas treats called “konfekt” which consists of nuts, chocolate and marcipan. I don’t know what it is with Danes and licorice but I feel like they are the same when it comes to marcipan. I think I consumed enough marcipan to last me until next Christmas.

    I made konfekt with my current host family (who are so nice and wonderful human beings) and then I also got to make konfekt with my first host family and these paper Christmas stars that are used to decorate the Christmas tree or just used to decorate the house in general.

    The holidays are known to be one of the most difficult times for exchange students because they aren’t with their family from their home country. I could understand why people would experience that but for me, it wasn’t that hard. I really loved experiencing a Danish Christmas, even if it is a bit different than how my family back in Florida celebrates it.

    One of the hardest decisions I make constantly while I’m here is what I want to eat from the options I have and then the decision if I should have more potatoes or not. But don’t let that one statement fool you. Being an exchange student isn’t easy. I’m just glad that I have fantastic friends and host families to make things even more enjoyable.

    I think the best start of my Christmas vacation was when my friends and host family arranged a surprise birthday party for me. Never in my life have I ever had anyone do such a kind thing for me. And I had absolutely no idea that they were up to it. I think I cried for 10 minutes just because I was so in shock and so touched by all of the effort these people that I have only known for less than 5 months at the time did for me. I have gotten so close with people here and have made so many connections it kills me when I think about moving back. I’m excited to see friends again and to go eat at my favorite American restaurants, but I’m not excited about the fact that I’ll be thousands of miles away from so many people that have impacted me in a way words can’t express.

    New years was a fun time as well and I had a good time having a nice dinner with my host family, my friend Doris who is a Rotary exchange student from Taiwan, and friends of my host mom. Then I also had a great time at my friend Dasha’s house where we jumped into the New Year. Literally. We jumped off of a couch when the clock struck midnight. I also brought grapes so that I could bring one of my Spanish traditions to Denmark. It was a fun night filled with irreplaceable memories.

    Now I’m starting to get the hang of things as well as the bus system, so that’s nice. My Danish is progressing and I’m understanding a lot more now. I’m just really enjoying my time here. The saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” is 100% accurate. I can’t believe it’s already been 5 months since I’ve left the states to move to Denmark. Everything goes by so fast and even now when I’m in the “slower months”, where it’s suppose to be a bit boring, dark, and just moving at a slower rate, I still think things are going by really fast.

    Oh and to address my next point. IT IS SO DARK HERE. Practically all the time I feel that it’s dark. Whenever the sun comes out it’s so nice but when I go to school in the morning it’s dark. When I go home from school it’s dark. When it’s not dark, that time period doesn’t last for very long. Coming from the Sunshine State, it definitely took a little getting used to. The winter hasn’t been too harsh and it hasn’t been that cold compared to previous winters in Denmark. However it’s still pretty cold to me since I never experience winters to begin with. Overall I’m happy. I am the happiest I have ever been in a lot of aspects and I think when someone gains this worldly view, everything seems to change.


  • Journals: Natalia - Denmark

    What’s “normal” in the US, I’ve discovered, isn’t really “normal” here in Denmark.

    I’ve been in Denmark for almost 11 weeks now and I can honestly say that these have been the most incredible weeks of my life. So much has happened within the time I have been here and I feel like I am not the same person that got off of the jet in Billund. So far I’ve visited Ribe, Esbjerg, Aarhus, Skagen, Aalborg, and Copenhagen as well as being in Leiden, Holland. I was so happy to be chosen to go to the BonaMUN conference with my school and I had an absolutely wonderful time there discussing international problems and finding solutions to these conflicts.

    What’s “normal” in the US, I’ve discovered, isn’t really “normal” here in Denmark. But that’s not to say that the US is weird, because I do think Denmark is weird in its own way. Food wise, they eat so much potatoes and bread, but I’m not complaining. All of the meals here are homemade and I absolutely love it. I mean of course I miss eating out half of the time, but I feel like there is more of a healthier lifestyle promoted because of this. Instead of eating chips or processed sweets between class, it’s more normal to eat whole cucumbers or carrots which is pretty cool. But if you are reading this now thinking that if you lived in Denmark for a whole year you would lose weight, think again. Sure, most people bike everywhere, but with all of the candy, cakes, pastries and cookies, it’s pretty easy to gain a bit of weight. My host family as of now has made sure I’ve had my fill of danish licorice, sweets, is (ice-cream), kage (what danes refer to as almost all baked goods) and palaeg chokolade (thin chocolate put on bread and butter). I am forever grateful of everything that min værts familie (my host family) has done for me and I know that making the transition to my next host family won’t be easy.

    Transportation is a very big difference for me because I’m so used to driving my own car to and from places. As said before, they use bikes a lot as well as the bus and car. It really depends on how far away you are from everything. I’m going to be honest, Europeans use bikes very differently compared to how we would back in the states, but I’m determined to bike like a true Dane by the end of the year.

    Another difference for me is the class schedule varying from day to day. Some classes can get cancelled, others added in within a days notice and it is never the same combination of classes as well. At the most, there can be 4 classes per day and they last for about an hour and a half each. I really enjoy my classes for the most part, and I especially like my Social Science class because we discuss things like the USA’s health care system which is interesting to hear from a Dane’s perspective.

    So, the big question is, haven’t I been freezing cold in this Scandinavian country so far? Well, not exactly. It has actually been quite warm for Danish weather in regards to the fact that it is in the middle of October as of now. Apparently this year the summer weather has lasted much longer than normal, but I’m perfectly fine with that! It has rained quite a bit though which I’m somewhat used to because I’m from the not so sunny “Sunshine State”. I think what I’m really not used to is the rain being cold instead of warm like in Florida.

    About two weeks ago I gave a short presentation on my two months in Denmark and the majority of it was på dansk (in Danish). The great part about it was that I could actually be understood for the most part and all of the Rotarians smiled while I spoke so I either really impressed them or they felt so bad for me that they all they could do is smile. I’m hoping it was the first scenario, though! All of my classmates in school are very supportive of me when I attempt to speak Danish, so it’s a really nice environment to be in. I have grown so close with my classmates already that I know it’s going to be extremely hard to leave them in a matter of just 8 months.

    Denmark is my home. The thought of leaving home scares me, but I know that when I do leave here, the people I have met, the places I’ve been and the memories I have made will stay with me forever.

  • Journals: Natalia - Denmark

    So I have been in Denmark for 5 days now and I still can’t believe that I am in another continent starting my year long journey. Even though it has been challenging at times, I am absolutely loving it here. I started at Kolding Gymnasium (KG) this past Monday and I am already having such a great time. Getting to know my classmates and being welcomed into the school by getting “sut” written on my forehead (which translates to pacifier in English) and have a lei put on me as well as going through a fun obstacle course was a fantastic start to my days at KG. I am in the Pre-IB class which means all of my classes are in English instead of Danish and I have classmates that have either studied abroad before or are interested in doing so. It’s great to be surrounded by people that want to pursue the same interests as myself and they are very willing to help me learn Danish as well. I've always heard that Danes are very qu ite and reserved compared to Americans, and even though this is true, once you get to know them they are the best people in the world to be around.

    Today I had a very fun class called “Folkedans” where you learn how to do traditional Danish folk dances. In a gym consisting of all of the first year students at KG and it was probably my favorite class because a lot of my classmates including myself had no idea what they were doing and it was all taught in Danish so even though I didn't comprehend the majority of what was spoken, I was able to pick up a few words here and there. In other news, the house that I am staying at in Denmark is very beautiful and very Danish, and it is already feeling like home. I love my host family and the city I live in called Almind and just about everything here. The weather is pretty warm for Danish summer weather and I’m trying to enjoy every second I can because soon it will be much colder and darker! I suppose I’m in the “honeymoon phase” of my exchange as of now, but I know that even in the days ahead when things get a bit rocky, I will be constantly reminded that I am getting a once in a life time experience that I will surely not take for granted.

    I am so thankful that Rotary has given me this opportunity because I wouldn’t be able to experience anything like this on my own. I was also able to attend a Rotary meeting this past Monday and I got the chance to introduce myself as well as thank the club for what they have done as my sponsor Rotary club. Since it is a club that meets for dinner, I had a very traditional Danish dish that consisted of pork, potatoes and gravy which was all so great to have and a bit different compared to a normal dish in the U.S.. I am noticing many differences here in Denmark and it's quite eye opening to be in a new place while truly immersing yourself. I can’t wait to share more about my adventures in Denmark in my next journal as I am embracing this exchange with open arms. Vi ses!


RSS Feed