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

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