After no sleep for about 34 hours straight it is finally time for bed. Maybe I’m in a sleep-deprivation haze, but the experience thus far has been unreal. I cannot believe that I am really here in Denmark with twenty-seven classmates on the Denmark-US Exchange. Nete (pronounced “Need-uh”) and I are already getting along wonderfully! As she exclaimed, “I was thinking that this exchange would be lots of meaningless conversations and awkward laughing… but it is going to be so much more than that, I can tell!”
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
I should start by describing what happened today, my first day here.
As the bus pulled up to the school, the crowd of our Danish exchange partners came into sight cheering and waving American flags. As we hopped off the bus, each of the Americans found his or her Danish partner.
Experiencing Helsingor Gymnasium, the Danish school, was surprising. It differed from my high school more than I expected. Everything from the layout (separate buildings, more spread out) to the cafeteria (tiny with little selection) to the walls (sporting legal graffiti) to the classrooms (more casual, with couches in some) reminded me that I was in Denmark, not the USA. But although the buildings might differ, the students are the same—curious, excited, and a little bit nervous.
I can’t believe this is really happening!
It’s halfway through the exchange, and Nete and I are devising plans for my permanent stay in Denmark. I cannot imagine leaving!
One of the most striking aspects about the exchange is the significance of small instances. Minor points of a day turn out the defining features, and inconsequential occurrences end up the most memorable.
Likewise, language is a point of fascination for Nete and me. One of our favorite things to point out are the nuances; for instance, earlier we were laughing about Nete’s mix-up of the lyrics of Michael Jackson’s “Liberian Girl” with “librarian girl”.
A few days ago, we boarded the train to Copenhagen, and I soon arrived at Denmark’s famous city! Usually cities are not described as beautiful, but the adjective fits Copenhagen. It is clean and quaint, while also bustling and efficient. I notice that Danes live life more thoroughly and closely. People are real.
Nete and I stopped for some coffee and cake at a café (Danes just love coffee and cake), and we discussed the question: “Is Denmark the happiest country on earth?” Danes are thought of throughout the world as the happiest population. However, Danes themselves counter this assumption. As Nete observed today, “I don’t like calling all Danes happy, because that is like calling all vegetables green.”
Where to begin? The last day of the trip has felt like ten weeks—maybe because I am writing this at 3:55 a.m. Not that I mind!
The past ten days opened my eyes to new sights—beautiful architecture, glassy waters, calm towns, bustling Copenhagen. The past ten days opened my ears to new sounds—the Danish language, public transportation arriving and departing. The past ten days opened my heart—to a girl who was supposed to be my exchange partner but turned out to be my new sister across the Atlantic. The past ten days opened my mind to another world—one filled with steamy coffee and content people. The past ten days dispersed lingering reservations about trying new things or embarking upon unknown experiences. It is unusual for a high school junior to take the leap away from his/her studies into another country, but I am so glad that I did.
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