Julia Mannella

Denmark

Hometown: Clearwater, Florida
School: Saint Petersburg Collegiate
Sponsor District : District 6950
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Clearwater, Florida
Host District: 1461
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Otterup


My Bio


Hello, my name is Julia Mannella and I’m currently a Senior at Saint Petersburg Collegiate High School. I live in Clearwater, Florida with my mom, dad, brother, and my chocolate lab. I’m involved in the various clubs at my school, such as Interact, National Honors Society, and Junior Achievement. My biggest passion is teaching, which is what I do for a living. I’ve been a teacher’s assistant for almost four years and that will be one of the things I miss most while on exchange. Most people can’t say that they love their jobs at my age, but I LOVE my job. I like to have time to myself to do things like hot yoga and running outside. I love to travel and go on adventures, and I’ve always been that way. Before I was even a year old, my parents would bring me along on their vacations to places like New York, The Bahamas, and on cruises. If I’m not traveling, chances are I’m probably planning where I want to go to next. I think that traveling is the best way to learn about how the world works because it really opens your eyes and makes you recognize that your way of life is completely different from another cultures way of life. On this exchange, I want to build better communication skills, learn a new language, and expand my world view. I’m both nervous and extremely excited to live in Denmark, where it is definitely going to be a different way of living than Florida. I’m so grateful for this amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait for all of the adventures and learning experiences soon to come. It still feels like it’s all just a dream, and I can’t thank everyone enough for making this dream a reality.

My family greeting me at the airport

My family greeting me at the airport

My host sister and I wearing matching shirts

My host sister and I wearing matching shirts

All students to Denmark on exchange

All students to Denmark on exchange

Visiting a farm and feeding cows

Visiting a farm and feeding cows

Rotary meeting at a shooting range

Rotary meeting at a shooting range

One of the singers at Smukfest (Shawn Mendes)

One of the singers at Smukfest (Shawn Mendes)

Odense (3rd largest city)

Odense (3rd largest city)

My beautiful host family and I on our fall holiday

My beautiful host family and I on our fall holiday

My crazy host sister and I

My crazy host sister and I

A Rotarian took me to his how, which is to take care of cows. He let me give them their medicine when he found out that I want to be a nurse.

A Rotarian took me to his how, which is to take care of cows. He let me give them their medicine when he found out that I want to be a nurse.

my host sister and I trying new food on our vacation to Prague

my host sister and I trying new food on our vacation to Prague

The rough picture of me and my fish right before getting sea sick

The rough picture of me and my fish right before getting sea sick

All 140+ Denmark exchange students got together and celebrated Halloween

All 140+ Denmark exchange students got together and celebrated Halloween

A typical Danish birthday cake... full of Danish flags of course!

A typical Danish birthday cake... full of Danish flags of course!

FarFar during his birthday dinner

FarFar during his birthday dinner

Exchange friends and I went on a walk

Exchange friends and I went on a walk

Friends and I eating dinner all together before Christmas

Friends and I eating dinner all together before Christmas

My Danish lessons class on the last day of lessons

My Danish lessons class on the last day of lessons

Friends and I in Vejle

Friends and I in Vejle

Tivoli in Copenhagen during Christmas

Tivoli in Copenhagen during Christmas

This is a typical day in Denmark

This is a typical day in Denmark

My family and I had a day trip to Germany

My family and I had a day trip to Germany

Ski trip in Sweden (about 1/2 million Danes go in February)

Ski trip in Sweden (about 1/2 million Danes go in February)

We take in the sun as much as we can

We take in the sun as much as we can

My school class and I during our "studie tur" in Rome

My school class and I during our "studie tur" in Rome

One of our only "snow days" in Denmark with about 2 centimeters of snow

One of our only "snow days" in Denmark with about 2 centimeters of snow

Our district made it into the local newspaper!

Our district made it into the local newspaper!

My exchange friends and me

My exchange friends and me

My friends and I in Malmö

My friends and I in Malmö

My district in Denmark 1461

My district in Denmark 1461

Journals: Julia-Denmark Blog 2018-19

  • Julia, Outbound to Denmark

    I am officially in the last hundred days of my exchange and it is bittersweet to say the least. I have met such amazing people and learned so much. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I left the United States as a person different as I am coming home. I have learned not only about Danish culture, but about the culture of all of my friends I have made along this journey. When I left, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t even really know where I would live. All I knew is that wherever I went, I would have an amazing time.

    It hurts my heart to think that soon, this will end. However, in a way, exchange will never end for me because I know that I will always have my amazing and beautiful friends and family to talk to, no matter the distance. In fact, we are all already planning our future trips together. The beauty of exchange is that although it is just one year of your life, it stays with you forever. I will always remember all of the laughs I have had with my friends and family. I remember the many times I have said the complete wrong words in Danish, like giving birth to my friend’s verses following them or saying an inappropriate word instead of the color red to my host mom. I love having tea time and eating fastelavnsboller with my family, exploring the beautiful unseen parts of cities in Denmark with my exchange friends, soaking in all of the sun we can possibly get during the winter in parks, and dancing and singing Danish music with my classmates. These are moments I will forever cherish in my heart.

    I never really know what to write about in these journals because there is so much that happens while being abroad. I have had some highs and some lows, but in the end, it has been an unforgettable experience. My best advice to people would be to never say no. I have tried things I would have never done in the United States and having an open mind and being willing to do things that are a bit out of my comfort zone has allowed for me to make some of the greatest memories. Being open minded has allowed for me to take a ski trip in Sweden, explore some of Denmark’s most beautiful places, and make lifelong friends. The little bit of embarrassment or nervousness I may have felt is nothing compared to the great times I have had.

    January was a very hard month for me because it was very cold and dark without any snow. I had to go back to school, change families, and readjust to a new schedule. However, I still had a good month overall because I bonded with my family and was able to see my friends. February has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It became lighter outside and just a bit warmer. I went on a ski trip in Sweden for a week which was very fun. I was amazed when I found out that I was able to put my skis on at the house we were staying in and then ski in/out to go to the mountains. I was also able to see how similar, yet different Danish is to Swedish. It was quite confusing at times to go to ski lessons when the instructor spoke fast Swedish. When I told people that I was an exchange student, they were surprised that I could even follow her instructions. Seeing the snow made me feel a bit better because when I had left Florida, I thought I would live with snow when I was abroad, but we only had about three centimeters of snow the whole winter. After being in snow for a week, it’s easy for me to say I am so happy that there wasn’t that much in Denmark because I didn’t realize how annoying it was to walk in. I was also able to take a day trip to Malmö in Sweden with my friends, which was "hyggeligt". We were able to be tourists for the day. It was funny to see how different Swedish people are from Danish. For example, Danish people will not cross the street unless the walking sign is green, even if there are no cars, but the Swedish people crossed whenever they wanted.

    March has brought plenty of rainy days. I think it has rained for two weeks straight. Many of my exchange student friends and I have started to realize that we are coming towards the end of our exchanges, so we always try to make sure to enjoy my time here and keep busy. I go out with my Danish and exchange student friends on the weekends and spend time with my host family. We are trying to cross all of the things off of my exchange year bucket list, so saying I am busy is an understatement. My class trip was to Rome for about a week, where I learned more about Italian culture and was able to do this with the people I love, which made it all even more special. March is now over, and it is crazy that we are already in the month of April, but time flies by when you’re having fun.

    I sometimes forget how much my life has changed and how the lives of my friends and family back in the United States has moved so much slower than mine. These past seven or eight months have been full of more experiences than I have ever had in the past ten years of my life. I forget that I am abroad because it all just seems so normal to me, until someone asks, and I have to explain what I am doing. I watched a video on why students should study abroad and almost forgot that this is exactly what I am doing right now. I know when I come home, I will realize just how different the way of living is here, but now, I can say I have fully emerged myself in the Danish culture and I feel as if I am just a local, which is simply the best feeling.

    Click HERE to read more about Julia and all her blogs

  • Julia, Outbound to Denmark

    It has now been five months since I have arrived in Denmark. Since my last post, there have been so many new things I have experienced. November was a month full of change. There was physical change when it came to the beautiful colors of trees going from green to orange, and now being lifeless and grey. The weather has become colder and darker. The “sunrise” is at around nine in the morning and the sun “sets” by four, that is if the sun decides to come out. I go to school in the dark and I come home in the dark. It has been around negative two degrees to a high of about eight. However, despite the dull skies and cold weather, there is still light. In Denmark, Christmas starts in November. The streets are full of Christmas lights, gigantic trees, and even the grocery stores have 30-foot trees lit up outside. This helps a lot with keeping a positive attitude during toughest part of many students exchanges. In December, it gets even darker and colder, but believe it or not, I still have not seen snow in my city.

    December is one of the craziest months for people in Denmark. There are many traditions that I would like to bring back with me to the United States. For example, from the first of December to Christmas, I had a julekalander, where each day, I opened a door with a chocolate inside. There is also the julekalander show, where every day, there is one episode played until Christmas Eve, where the story ends. Most families sit together and watch it every night (very hygge). On each Saturday night leading up to Christmas, I hung my stocking up on the door of my room, and while I slept, the “elves” would come and put a gift in them. Then, on Sunday morning, I woke up and opened my gift. These are traditions that all lead up to the biggest night, which is Christmas eve. We ate until we can eat no more, then we ate again. We sang Christmas songs and ran around the tree, trying to burn off all of the food we just ate, trying not to vomit from being so dizzy. Then, to finish the night off, almost all families open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve (my family didn’t). Another popular Christmas tradition is something called a Julefrogost, which directly translates to “Christmas Lunch”. Ironically, it is almost never during lunch time. We sat together and ate food, like leverpostej, and, rugbrød, and ost. I had so many julefrogosts and I must have gained at least five killograms from all of the Christmas foods. The julefrogosts are popular for the days leading up to Christmas as well as the days after.

    New years in Denmark is also very big. I spent it with my family, where we ate food, talked, watched the queen give her annual speech, and danced until midnight. A popular tradition in Denmark is to “jump into the new year”, which is literally everyone rushing to find a chair or table to stand on in the final seconds prior to the clock striking twelve. Once it strikes twelve, we all jumped onto the floor together screaming “god nytår!”. Fireworks are INSANE. We lit off our own fireworks, and it seems that so did every other person in the country. The explosions of all of them made it sound like World War Three was about to begin. I don’t think any Fourth of July fireworks show will ever top off the fireworks in Denmark.

    After the new year, the excitement starts to die down, we prepare to go back to school, and for me, I prepare to say farvel to my first host family and halløj to my new family. I have just changed a couple days ago, so I don’t have much to say about it right now, but I know that my new family is amazing. Part of exchange is learning about the culture, so living with different people and learning how each family works is part of learning. I loved my first host family and I know my second host family will be just as great. I lived in “the city” of the town I live in, so everything was very close by. Now, I live out in the countryside, where I have to bike to get anywhere. However, the views of the fields make up for the trek it takes to get to the bus. My first family had three children living at home, but for this family, I am the only child at home. It was nice having brothers and a sister my age, but it is also nice to have more free time to spend out with friends. Basically, my living situation is now the opposite from last time, which is a good change to have.

    I will wrap this journal by saying that exchange is different for everyone. We all go to different cultures, have different families, and deal with stress in different ways. To all of the students who are currently preparing to go to their country, know that you will experience things far different than what you are used to now. You will change, whether you notice it when you are on exchange, or when you arrive back home. Exchange is not easy, and it is not this perfect life. There are times where every person thinks about what they would be doing back at home, but that is part of it. I have learned to appreciate my family, friends, and the Florida heat so much now that I don’t have it. When I go back to the United States, I will probably also miss the things Denmark has given me, but that is the beauty of it all. I came to Denmark as a bit of a shy girl, but now, I have learned to open up to people and make amazing friends who bring out the best in me. This is a year I will cherish forever, and I hope that so many more people are given this opportunity and take it in their lifetime

    Click HERE to read more about Julia and all her blogs

  • Julia, Outbound to Denmark

    Since my last post, I have experienced so much more culture, met new people, and learned more Danish. I have been writing in my journal everyday so that I can remember what I have done, because it is so easy to forget when we are constantly doing so much! My family and I have gone to cities nearby to see what they look like and explore, which is very nice of them. We have bonded so well, and I love them so much. I call my parents Mor and Far because they truly are my mom and dad. Fall seems to be a popular time to have a birthday in Denmark, so I have gotten to learn a lot about this tradition, and celebrated the fødselsdag of my host mom, two of my host siblings, and my Farfar’s (dad’s dad) and he is just so sweet.

    I have also gone to a lot of Rotary events and meetings and it is interesting to see the differences between Rotary in different countries. For example, a lot of times, my Rotary club will have meetings and do a “field trip”. I was able to tour a heste hospital (horse hospital) and learned about how they care for these animals when they are sick or injured. Some of the Rotary members have also invited me to join them with their own activities. I made homemade æblemost, where we picked apples off of the tree, washed them in cold water outside (my hands were numb), hand grinded them into small pieces, then hand juiced them the old-fashioned way. In the end, we would take the apple juice and put them into jars and drink it. There is no need for sugar or added anything, so it is as fresh as you can get.

    I also went on a fishing trip, which has been by far the most memorable yet most horrible experience so far. I went out on a fishing boat and sailed out to sea for about 6 hours. I’m pretty sure I was closer to Norway than I was Denmark! When I woke up, I got ready to fish, but it was very cold, windy, wavy, and dark. I was able to catch a fish and took a picture, but within about 30 seconds, I was getting sick off the side of the boat…. for a LONG TIME. The rest of the trip (9 hours) I slept to avoid getting sick again. In the end, I was very tired and miserable, but it is a trip I will never forget… plus I got to bring my fresh filleted fish home, which fed eight people!

    My exchange has been full of many adventures and many embarrassing moments. Besides waking up after sleeping through the entire fishing trip and everyone jokingly asking, “did you have a good nap?” I have also learned a lot about the way Danish doctors work. I fell down just six stairs and ended up passing out at dinner and getting a concussion, so now my friends and family always joke around and ask if I need help going up and down the stairs. We also had a district conference, where we do a flag ceremony, which is when all the exchange students walk on stage with the flags of their countries in front of many Rotarians from all over the district. Well, I was given the United States flag and again, fell on the stairs in front of everyone as the recorded us with their phones. After the event, I had the president of my Rotary club come up to me and joked that he had it on camera.

    Learning a new language is tough, and although at times I embarrass myself, those embarrassing moments are the best way to learn and remember! I learned very quickly the name for the woman’s bathroom versus the men’s bathroom because not every bathroom has a picture to go with the word. The word “herre” is for men and “dame” is for woman. However, I read “herre” like “her” and have quickly jolted out of the bathroom many times. Another easy mistake I made was saying “jeg er meget fuld” (fuld sounds like full in English) thinking I was saying I am very full. It turns out that “jeg er meget mæt” is the proper way to say it and that I was actually saying I am very drunk instead of full. I was also saying “I have to piss” instead of “I have to use the toilet” which was not the best thing to say to teachers. In the end, these are just a few of many mistakes I’ve made, and I know I will make plenty more, but that is the fun of being an exchange student.

    My advice to anyone learning a new language is don’t be afraid to try or to fail. The best way to learn is to practice. Especially in Northern Europe, where everyone speaks perfect English, it can be hard to learn when you have the easy way out: English. Now, even if I am nervous, I will still try to order food in Danish, buy groceries, and ask for directions in Danish. Worse comes to worse, I mess up! People will still appreciate the effort and trying makes a great impression.

    I have been in Denmark for almost three months now and it is crazy to think that one day, I will have to go back to the United States. When I was choosing between different countries about a year ago, I had this desire to go to South America where it is full of warm people and warm climate. Instead, I was chosen to go to Denmark, which is almost opposite of this. Yet, somehow, this country is the perfect place for me. Many of the exchange students come from South America, so I have been learning to dance like a Brazilian or give love like the Latinos. In August, when I had first arrived, I was commenting on how cold it is IN AUGUST. Well, fast forward to now in October, and it is going to be 0 degrees. YES, THAT MEANS SNOW IF IT RAINS. In fact, we actually had the first snow of the year in Jutland, which hasn’t happened in over 20 years. Although at times I question how I am going to survive the cold, windy, and dark winter here, trust me, it gets easier. I have learned how to dress warm yet keep up with the interesting Danish fashion. Let me tell you, Danes LOVE to look nice. Most wear nice shirts and dressy pants, which make me stick out wearing a baggy sweater and jeans. Being that I come from a climate with about a week of winter, I thought that people wore gloves, scarves, big boots, and fluffy coats. However, my friends in school tell me its more about fashion than staying warm. But this is just one of many weird things Danes do.

    Throughout my exchange, I have keeping a list of “Weird Danish Things” that I have learned. Some include:

    -Shower with everyone naked at school

    -Put butter or mayo on everything

    -Get drunk with teachers as bartenders- drinking culture is something that I didn’t know much about until living here. School parties are very popular, where students can drink alcohol, which is often served by their teachers. It was weird to watch students from my class playing beer pong with my math teacher.

    -Sing everywhere and about everything- there are songs for every occasion… very “hygge”

    -Follow ALLLLL the rules- The Danes take rules very seriously. At the beginning of my exchange, a woman was talking to me and yelling, but I didn’t understand her, so I just smiled and crossed the street when the walk sign was red (there were no cars) Now I know what she was yelling about!

    -Wear long socks with short pants- a very popular style here is wearing pants that in USA would be considered too short on us. Here, showing about 4 inches of your lower leg is normal… sometimes the guys have on tighter and shorter pants than I do!

    -Wear hats but don’t cover their ears- as I said, fashion is everything, so if a person does choose to wear a hat, it’s not to be warm.

    -Peeing out in public (even next to bathroom)- I think this is also tied with drinking culture, but this is more normal than you would think.

    -Jam and cheese on rugbrød

    -Bikes have the right of way more than walkers- I have almost gotten hit by more bikes than ever in my life. If you see a bike coming, you have to stop walking and let them go through, otherwise they will probably hit you.

    -So much candy, cake and chocolate milk- Danish birthdays are very big here and are full of cake, warm and cold chocolate milk, buns with cheese and jam on top, and lit candles at the table (very hygge)

    -They call ketchup “cold pasta sauce”- My host family also put mayo on for “flavor” (crazy I know)

    - Smoking cigarettes is very popular among people from around my age and older. People know it is bad, but they don’t really seem to care. I hate this because you can constantly smell the smoke and it sticks to your clothes, even if you weren’t the one smoking.

    So, as you can see, my life is continuing to be filled with new adventures each and every day. I sleep a lot more here because its tiring going between Danish, English, and Spanish, but it is all worth it in the end. I have made some of the most beautiful exchange friends, I have wonderful classmates, and an amazing host family. Many people are probably wondering how the whole homesickness thing is going, and I just want to say that it is different for every person. For me personally, I have had no homesickness at all. The closest thing to homesickness I have, is wanting certain foods, but when I am craving food I used to cook back in the USA, I just tell my host family I want to cook dinner, which they are always happy to hear. I have emerged myself in well with the culture and kept an open mind about everything, which is why I think I am having such an amazing experience. Granted, I know that I might experience some lows in my exchange, but the highs practically wash away the hard times. We have good days and bad days no matter where we are in the world, but building a support system of friends and family is what helps. Even if it is something small, like buying an overpriced pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and eating it with friends makes all the difference!

    Click HERE to read more about Julia and all her blogs

  • Julia, Outbound to Denmark

    It is hard to believe that I have been in my new home in Denmark for a month now because it feels like I have been here for a year. I arrived in Denmark, and within two days, my host family told me to pack my camping bags for about a week-long festival and get ready for Smukfest. I knew I was going to a festival, but I didn't realize just how big this one was. For the next five days, I got closer than ever to my host sister, Alberte (literally next to each other in a small tent) and now she is like a real sister to me. We do so much together and get along great. (we even have matching t-shirts that we wear to school) During Smukfest, I helped my host family with their pancake business, listened to famous Danish and US singers, like Post Malone, Shawn Mendes, and Kendrick Lamar, and certainly learned a lot about the Danish culture.

    After that crazy first week, I started at my new school. I'm not going to lie, the first day of school was really hard because I thought that people wouldn't want to include me because they already had friends, but I'm laughing now because my classmates are such amazing people. Every class I take is in Danish, even my English class, so it can be overwhelming at times, but my classmates always help me translate and include me inside and outside of school. For example, today we went to Odense (the third largest city) after school to get food at a cafe and go shopping. They have been helping me get more involved with the Danish culture, like going to school parties, trying new foods, and watching popular movies.

    Before I left the United States, Rotary drilled into my head “always say yes” and I never really understood what they meant until I got to Denmark. The first day I was here, I tried fried duck with mayo fries. Since then, I have tried warm liver, canned fish, pickled herring, and a bunch of different breads and sweets. Now, back at home, if someone told me to try something like warm liver, I would have quickly declined, but being here has made me more open already!

    My host family and Rotary club are very supportive. I am very close with my family and I feel like I can tell them anything. My host sister and I can get a laugh out of pretty much anything. She is like a sister I’ve never had. In Danish culture, there is a word called “hygge” (hew-gah), which means cozy time. When we “hygge” we usually light candles at dinner, watch movies with Danish candy, or do other relaxing family things. This has been one of my favorite things about Denmark so far because it has really helped me bond with everyone around me. My Rotary club is also very supportive and helpful. I have gone to two meetings so far, including one held at a shooting range. It was funny to be one of only two girls who were with the other members of the club. I feel like I am adjusting well to my surroundings and I know I couldn’t do it without the support of the people here in Denmark, as well as everyone in the United States that has helped me get here.

    In order to be an exchange student, you have to honestly be just a little crazy. If you think about it, I decided to pack just one suitcase of belongings, leave my family and friends for a year to go to a country that I have never been to, meet people who speak a language I don’t understand, and live with families I have never met. It sounds a bit crazy, but it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t realize what being an exchange student was until I went on this journey myself. The world we live in is so large and diverse, so why should we choose to only live our lives in one place? Being an exchange student is stepping way outside of your comfort zone, discovering a culture other than your own, and becoming a better person. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so grateful to call myself a Rotary Youth Exchange Student. Tusind tak Rotary (a thousand thanks) for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to continue to share my adventures in my new home in Denmark.

    Click HERE to read more about Julia and all her blogs

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