2023-24 Greta, outbound to Denmark

Oct 29, 2023

Journal Entry #1, 10/29/23

Hej!

I have been in Denmark for a few months now, and everything is going smoothly. My host family is lovely, and school isn’t too difficult. I can understand most of what the teachers are saying, so I find myself able to (for the most part) figure out the assignments needed. My fluency in Danish is also coming along, but I don’t find myself using it often as it is usually easier to speak in English. I often need to remind people that I can keep conversation in Danish just fine.

In recent events, my birthday came and went, and that was fine. The musical I played in a band for has ended, which is quite a shame as I grew to be quite close to those people. I have been playing in a different band on Thursdays, so all is not lost. Finally, I will switch out of the Grundforløb (the testing course for the 1st graders), and go into the second grade music class. I already know many people from this class, so I am rather excited.

I have just received information that I now have two other host families, which is nice. I have bought an IKEA whale and he is my child, and my friends here seem to enjoy his company as well whenever they come over. I am friends with Danes and other exchange students alike and have found little issue with finding people to bond with, other than the fact that everyone is always busy, so scheduling time together must be done in advance. Danish culture, while unique, borrows heavily from American culture (as most of the media they consume- YouTube, movies, and music- is American). There is a mix of Danish and American music and so I can recognise a lot of things that I thought would be more foreign. The people of Denmark, with their enjoyment of American culture, have lots of questions for me. Most of them, due to their nature, I must choose to ignore.

Additionally, nearly all of the boys here remind me of my father, because they all play the guitar and make terrible jokes (terrible in a good way, I think). I have yet to be homesick, for the most part, other than longing for my friends and cats. It is a shame to think I may never see many of them graduate, and thus possibly never again in my life, due to my absence.

Life goes on here, and that’s just fine. I have no complaints about this lovely country and these lovely people. As reserved as they may be at first (generally), I’ve found lots of great Dnaish friends here who have made memories with me I think I will remember forever. I appreciate and love them all very much, and have already cried about going home. I seem to cry less here, and life seems more positive. There is little drama (maybe it’s a cultural thing?) and so I am not often worried about social positions. Perhaps this is why I am so content. I will miss people with their Mr. Worldwide dances and silly little questions when I leave.

Journal Entry #2, 1/16/24

Hejsa!

It has been months since I have written (sorry), but I find there is so much to speak of, and not nearly enough time to write about much of anything at all. My last journal was in October, and many things have changed (though many have stayed the same). I find writing about my experiences to be a mild relief, as many people here seem to be heavily interested in what I think of things. Nearly every time I meet someone, they ask things including.

“How is school in Denmark compared to the United States?”

“Do you like Denmark?”

“Do you have (…) in the US?”

As for the first question, school here is much more relaxed. Whereas I would be at the school building until 7pm in the US with extracurricular activities, worrying about competitive colleges, and (mildly) fearing (some) teachers, it is totally the opposite here. Extracurriculars are sparingly associated with the school itself, so you get to meet people from outside of school in after school activities. Students here, while paying attention to their futures, don’t seem overly stressed about being “the best”, whereas many of my American friends feel pressure from college applications during High School. Here, people often take a year off before college, the the pressure of a competitive resume is not as prevalent. Teachers here are greeted by their first names, rather than a title. It makes the learning feel a little more personal. Additionally, coming from such a large school to a (in my opinion) small one (though it is one of the larger ones in Sjælland), leads to every teacher knowing and caring for their students. This isn’t to say that teachers in the US don’t, rather I’ve noticed it’s nearly excessive here. Teachers are willing to take time out of their day to help you, and genuinely have a passion for their subject. My history teacher here has a podcast where he takes all of his historical knowledge and encourages students to listen to it if they’re passionate about history as well.

As for the second question, I do like Denmark. I wish to go to university here, if I can, and really have a life here. Many cultural aspects, such as never sitting near someone on a bus if there’s an open seat, bring me joy. Families are often strongly bonded, and hugs are ample. The weather (though many hate it), is my favorite. Currently, there is snow and gray skies- and the sunset is always beautiful over the forests and grasses near my residence. I also enjoy that people simply do not take themselves seriously. Failure is not seen as something to be condemned, but rather something to be learned from. Additionally, even if I do miss Dekalb County Farmers Market, there is a large immigrant population here that makes for ample international food opportunities. For example, there is a bazaar near my school, which has all sorts of things for me to try. I really ought to find some recipes

That’s another thing, too. I’ve (kind of) learned how to cook here, as eating out is expensive. I often find myself cooking for my friends or their families- it gets me on a good page with many people. Just last night I made moules marinières with lemon risotto for my friend Charlie (whose actual name is Alexander- many people have the same name here so I often just call them something else so nobody gets confused. There are like 4 different Lucas’ that I am friends with, who I call Twocas, Lookie Pookie, Lucas, and John.) It wasn’t bad. Additionally, I’ve been keeping up with my music, and just today I have a lesson on the soprano saxophone. Yippee! The best part of Recent Greta Activities, however, have been nights in Copenhagen with my friends. Every now and then, I invite friends to go ice skating or listen to jazz on a random night. It’s almost always spontaneous, and always joyful.

Christmas was joyful, but mildly exhausting, as were so many new people to meet. The whole extended family got together on Christmas Eve (when Christmas is celebrated here), we ate flæskesteg (pork), brune kartofler (brown, caramelized potatoes) and rødkål (red pickled cabbage). Afterwards, the family held hands, danced around the tree (who I named Kraul), and sang songs. I knew a few of them from my friends, but was a little lost. Even then, it was still probably one of my best memories. New year was spent at my friend Anna’s house, where she hosted a small gathering. On new years, people jump of couches and into the New Year (which was a little scary with the number of people on one couch), and watch the Queen’s speech (this one was special because she declared she was giving the crown to her son!). The coronation of the new King and Queen was about two days ago. The holiday season also consists of many Juleaften, which are get-togethers with lots of food. Whilst fun, I fell asleep at two of mine because of so many new people. Additionally, for anyone going on exchange at any point: constant translating is super tiring, but helps language skills.

Speaking of which! Whilst I don’t think purely in Danish, and there are many words I do not know, I am able to hold a conversation fairly well. Everyone seems super impressed, as Danish is rather difficult to learn (as pronouncing everything is rather difficult). I often have to tell people to speak Danish with me, as they either: A) want a faster conversation, B) feel bad watching me try to pronounce “ø”, or C) don’t believe I can speak Danish after a few months. Spelling/Writing is nearly a different language in regards to Speaking/pronouncing, so I somewhat agree. Sometimes I catch myself speaking or thinking to myself in Danish and can’t quite believe I understand any of it. I have been able to understand teachers for a bit now, however more complex subjects such as religion are challenging (for example, I don’t know the word “crucifixion” in Danish).

As for my second host family, they are wonderful. I do not connect as much with my host siblings as they are older than me and not entirely interested in being besties with a 17 year old, however they are kind. My host parents are very sweet, and when I’m not too tired at dinner, I find we can have a good conversation. They are going to the United States for a month to drive across the country for a month, and I have pointed them in some good directions, such as Buck-ee’s when driving through Texas.

Besides all of this, I am extremely thankful for everyone here and everyone who helped me to be here.

Tak skal i have og hej hej!

Greta