I arrived in Denmark a couple of weeks ago and now I feel I’ve adjusted to life here. I could have never imagined that such rich tradition, history, and culture is packed into this tiny country. But, the biggest impact I’ve had is the Danish sense of calmness and appreciation for “living in the moment.”
As I am sitting on the bus on the way to school watching the bright orange sun rise, I am given the time to reflect upon my experience thus far. I look out to the fields of tiny white flowers peeking through the grass, wild Christmas trees, and beautiful lakes. The scenery of Denmark accompanied by chirping birds and the scent of the morning air gives a sense of serenity and peace. Maybe this is one of the reasons, but I find that most Danish people are very relaxed and don’t get stressed easily. In fact, I realized, I haven’t truly lived in the moment until I got here.
The school schedule is unpredictable; however, students and teachers don’t complain. Without prior notice, teachers cancel classes or change our schedule, giving a sense of life constantly changing. There is no chaos, rather everyone just accepts it as normal and quickly adjusts their life accordingly. Another feature of this school is that lunches are very long. They last for about an hour, allowing for time to talk and hang out in a very relaxed atmosphere. The teachers don’t allow for cell phones while in the lunch room so the students really interact with each other. Some people even take walks in the forests to get some fresh air.
Also, the teachers don’t give out much homework. Even then, many students don’t finish their homework in time because they know if they miss the deadline, the teachers would accommodate. So, the students are not stressed about finishing homework. In fact, they are not concerned about achieving good grades. This could be due to the school system in which you get a second chance if your grades are not as good as others. All these may be factors to a stress free and more enjoyable, calm student life.
Being in this relaxed environment, I find myself at peace. This is what makes exchange so interesting. Here, I can hit a pause button on my daily Athenian routine and get to experience a completely new culture and lifestyle. I am living a life in ways I have not experienced at Athenian. I think I can get used to this, at least for a while.
Malia Smith says farewell to Denmark
Leaving Herlufsholm was bittersweet. It hurts to think that I will not be able to live the Danish lifestyle any longer. I am excited to know that I am coming home, however, re-energized by the many great experiences and lessons.
Now that I have experienced exchange, I thought it would be appropriate to give out some pointers for those who are thinking of applying. Of course, I cannot speak for everyone. You will have a different experience. Even if you end up at the same school as me, you will experience things differently. So please read this with a grain of salt.
Exchange gave me so many opportunities to grow as a person. I have become much more independent and self-sufficient. I made life-long friendships. Overall, I had an amazing time, in ways words cannot describe. However, exchange was not all just fun. I faced a lot of challenges. I learned from these challenges and so here are some tips based on my experience. 1. The first week will be rough, but it gets better.
For me personally, the first week was very hard, since I didn’t have any friends to rely upon. An easy way to start getting comfortable is to mingle with other exchanges (if there are any). As the days go by, you will become a lot closer to your new classmates and you will become a lot more accustomed to the environment that you are in. One thing that I found helpful was not to call home during the first week, especially when you miss those at home. Calling them will make you want to go home and see them even more.
- There is more school work than you think. (This only applies to students looking to go during the fourth quarter)
I was under the impression that I wouldn’t have much school work to do while on exchange; however, to my surprise, there was a lot more work than I expected. For sophomores, there are a couple of chemistry packets and of course this blog. Depending on your math and language classes, you may also have to keep up with those classes. I had to take a Spanish test covering the entire second semester after I returned. And don’t forget, the school where you go on exchange will expect you to do work too. I personally was assigned a lot of group projects at Herlufsholm. In addition, keep in mind that you are also trying to make new friends and experience the culture and the country where you are living. Your host and new friends may take you to places or events. You will likely find yourself busy with limited time after-school or on weekends.
- Bad experiences can be good.
I learned to take every opportunity that came to me even if I was skeptical about it. It may seem strange or uncomfortable at first, but I found that these experiences were most memorable. The bad experiences that result from good intentions are never that bad and can make for good conversation and stories to tell later. I found that what seemed to be bad experiences at the time often became funny learning experiences from which I gained a lot.