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Categorized | Featured, News

A Life Abroad: My Experience as an Exchange Student

This is part of a series of articles from Megan Grattan, a junior from Cedar Springs High School, and currently a foreign exchange student in Denmark.

 

It’s hard to believe I am halfway through my stay here in Denmark. I have learned so much about Denmark, and Europe itself, within the past three months.

Megan Grattan at the Baltic Sea in Copenhagen during a recent school field trip in Denmark.

Megan Grattan at the Baltic Sea in Copenhagen during a recent school field trip in Denmark.

Denmark isn’t exactly the biggest country out there. In fact, it is significantly smaller than the state of West Virginia. There are only about 5.5 million people living here, while there are over 8 million living in New York City alone. It’s strange to think about! Denmark directly borders Germany, and many Danes travel to Germany to buy goods because items are much cheaper. Therefore, it is common for people to know German here.

Danish is the main language in Denmark. It has been noted to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. From first-hand experience, I’ve learned this very quickly. Danish is composed of the English alphabet, only with three additional letters, Æ, Ø, and Å. These letters are extremely challenging to pronounce for all foreigners.

When foreigners first arrive in Denmark and begin learning Danish, we are constantly teased when we try to pronounce a common tongue-twister: “Rødgrød med flød” (a Danish dessert). It is flat-out embarrassing, and even painful, trying to say it! By far, pronouncing words is the most difficult. Though many words are identical to English, almost none of the words are pronounced similarly.

When I first came here, I would come home from school with splitting headaches from hearing so much Danish in one day, since I was yet completely unfamiliar to the accent. After a while, being surrounded by a language you can’t understand isn’t so difficult. I’ve learned how to take notes and learn things in school. Of course, Google Translate has been a big help!

Communicating with others is never very challenging. Danes learn English from when they are about 8-9 years old. They watch many American television shows and listen to our music, so English comes very naturally to them. The worst part, however, is meeting people. The Danes, along with most Europeans, are not as open to meet new people as they are in the United States. Europeans are very closed people, and don’t appreciate being approached unless necessary.

Having everyone speak English here has been great, since it is easy to share stories and ideas with almost everyone. Europe is simply amazing, and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone already. I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store for me.

 

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