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.

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