I have to confess to bragging about my eighteen year old granddaughter Billie. At the beginning of this year Billie went to Denmark as an exchange student. She has embraced the culture, become fluent in the language and is having wonderful experiences both academically and socially. Having seen the effect of living with host families, travelling with other young exchange students and flying the flag of her home country makes me want to see many more young people follow this exciting path. I would encourage all parents and grandparents to investigate this path towards fulfilment and maturity. Below is part one of Billie’s story and she has promised to send us a copy of her final ‘Letter to Rotary’.
LETTER FROM BILLIE
I feel like I start every report in the same way- since we last spoke a lot has happened. Each time I write it, I vow that next time I’ll start in a different way, and yet each month it feels more and more true. I’m always baffled, looking back, at everything that’s happened. I do more in every month than could be expected of a year, and yet weeks roll past like seconds.
So to start off with – this month I switched host families to my final family, Svend and Bettina Christiensen. I’ve heard from many other exchange students that you should expect to have at least one host family that’s a bit of a struggle, but for me that hasn’t been the case. Every host family I have lived with has been Incredibly different In their preferences, habits and interests, but all three are caring and sweet and always looked after me like they would one of their own.
This most recent host family live in the centre of my town right near the bus station which is really helpful, especially in the mornings when I can fit in a run before school. My host father really enjoys watching sport, and since his family are pretty disinterested I think he’s really glad I share his enthusiasm. He has VIP season tickets to every Aalborg ice hockey and football match, and so far I’ve been to every one. Of course, I am better acquainted with football, and of the two games I have a better appreciation of it, but the ice hockey matches
are really different to anything I’ve seen before, and the atmosphere in the stadium is really great.
One of my favourite things about school in Denmark is that it feels more like a second home than a prison. The way we learn each day is far more enjoyable, and I actually look forward to Monday like I look forward to Friday sitting in our class couches is so cozy, and the teachers and students treat each other with similar respect and care.
Some days after school there Is the option to stay and study and drink coffee together, and more often than not students choose to stay. Another thing that contributes to the awesome atmosphere is all the traditions at school recently we have had both ‘itrcedsdag’ as well as the ‘kagekoncerrance’. ltrcedsclag Is a day dedicated to P.E, when the classes all dress up and then take part In different sport matches to win the cup at the end of the day. I was in a football team with some other girls In my class and It was for sure one of the best days of the year so far. Our class was dressed up as tennis players in matching white polos, and our team finished second which we were very happy with.
The boys in our class also chose football, and they won the cup for our class which we were all very happy about. It was especially funny because they had all gathered the night before at one of their houses, and some had not slept a single wink (a fact the teachers didn’t want to be reminded of after their team was beaten five goals to nil).
That night we had a school fest, and our class all dressed in matching black and danced. The kagekonkerrance was a day dedicated to making cakes – we all gathered at a girl from my school’s house, and baked. Our class decided to make a Chinese themed cake, but I get the feeling they’re a little confused about the difference between Asia and China … we made cakes that looked like sushi, and Thai stir fry. We didn’t win the competition, but we had a great day all the same.
Just on this weekend, we had the district rotary meeting. On the Friday night my class held a ‘cosy night’ at a girl’s house, so I turned up to the conference with about three hours of sleep under my belt. My friend Leo from Brazil was just explaining a similar situation to me in the breakfast room when a Rotarian came over and told us that we’d been chosen to team up and give a speech for ten minutes in Danish to the whole of North Jutland Rotary. We had an hour to prepare. My hands were shaking behind the lectern, but the speech actually went very well, and all the Rotarians were really thrilled with our Danish skills.
The head of the entire district came over afterward and said that we were some of the fastest to learn Danish that he’d ever seen, and that we could consider ourselves booked for any future speech giving that might come up. I’m not sure if I’m happy or terrified. Perhaps both.
Afterward, all the exchange students went to a bowling alley, and Leo and I were teamed up again, this time with three newbies. We won and I was very happy with getting a run of three strikes. Apparently Leo could do better though, because he managed to get one of the highest individual scores the alley had ever seen and so they gave him a shirt. We decided we make a pretty good team, and we’ve begun to organise a tour of all the best spots in Aalborg city for all the newbies.
It’s sinking in now that it’s going to be over very soon, and if it’s even possible I’m going to try even harder to make the best of every moment I can.
Thank you for everything so far!