The time had come; the annoying ring of a new message had rung through my speakers like the shot heard around the world. The message that would change my life for the next year had arrived and it said I was going to Denmark! Denmark wasn’t my first choice but one year later I wouldn’t have it any other way!
During my stay I had three amazing host families and all of them were unique and gave me a picture of what family life around the world is like. From living in the country on a small recreational farm to the center of the city then back into the country to a Folkehøjskole (boarding school.) The time with each family had it’s ups and downs and the important thing is to remember that they are there for you. My host parents were all truly great and some of the most generous people I'd ever met. I think that they were the difference maker for my exchange.
School in Denmark is very different from school in North America. Your class mates can typically be between ages sixteen and nineteen in one class. Your class is like a big family, you do everything together during the day. You have every subject with the same people all day, you eat together, and you study together and hopefully after the day has finished you hang out together. It’s a very tight knit social network! I was very fortunate to experience more than one type of schooling in Denmark, going to a Gymnasium, which is more like a North American high school, and to a Folkehøjskole, which is an experience unique to Denmark.
The language may seem difficult on paper with words like rødgrød med fløde (red berries with cream a national desert) and selvfølgelig (meaning “of course” or “certainly”) but as soon as you step off the plane you can understand a little of what’s going on around you. The main thing to remember is SPEAK DANISH! It’s so easy to just forget because most people you meet will be able to speak English and will be excited to practice with you. You just have to politely remind them that you’re here to practice Danish not English!
My host Rotary club was great; they are a sunrise or a breakfast club. I attended every meeting, which were held every Wednesday at seven o’clock in the morning. That’s tough for an eighteen year old trust me! (but totally worth it.) Meetings weren’t that different from Rotary in Niagara Falls. They always had breakfast and a speaker from the community. Our meetings were held in a dining room in one of the local parks; no matter what time of year it was absolutely beautiful just looking out the window with a landscape covered in snow or beautiful summer blossoms. Just like my club at home there were men and women Rotarians. Be prepared to speak for your club at the beginning and end of the year once in English and once in Danish (the final test!) It’s a great opportunity to practice your Danish and it’s also a good chance to impress people with what you know!
No matter where you go your Rotary Youth Exchange will be a life changer. It has the possibilities to open doors that would never have seemed imaginable. With a once in a lifetime experience like this, all you need to do is have the best time possible and remember to say thank you to your Rotary club because without them it wouldn’t be possible!
Student: Hunter Pederson
Sponsoring Club: Niagara Falls