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Wandzilak Shares Danish Experience

Senior Elena Wandzilak, third from right, was one of 31 CHS students to travel to Denmark in April of 2012.

“Hallo Elena! In 3 days you will be in Aarhus! Maybe you have already packed your suitcase? This spring has been rather cold, so bring a warm jacket especially for the mornings. We are very excited to meet you, and please tell your mom and dad that we will take good care of you. See you Tuesday at the railway station in Aarhus. Best regards from Karen”

There were three things I noticed when I got this email back in April: One, Aarhus was going to be cold (I hadn't worn a jacket since February). Two, I was supposed to call my host mom “Karen,” not Mrs. Kofoed. And three, in exactly three days, I was going to be in Aarhus, Denmark, a city thousands of miles away. I was ecstatic, but I was nervous.

The nerves continued throughout over 24-hour cross-Atlantic travel - through the three flights, the layovers, and the train ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus. I could feel the apprehension rising, but when the train pulled into the station at 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, and I looked right into the face of Lotte and Karen, I knew that this trip was going to be worthwhile.

My host, Lotte, had stayed with me back in October, <when the Danish students visited CHS> so we merely slipped back into our easy friendship, joking and laughing. I told her about how we sat in the wrong seats on the train, and she expressed how she thought we were coming on the earlier train, so when the doors had opened and none of us had emerged, all of the Danes had had a little moment of panic. Her mom, Karen, asked me questions about the flights and if I was tired. Her worries about my lack of sleep on the plane reminded me of my own mom, and I felt comfortable in their little Mercedes, regardless of the rolling hills and windmills, harbors, and picturesque buildings that passed me by.

The next four days flew by. We went to classes at Aarhus Katedralskole, where I learned that the Danes knew more about American politics than I did. We visited an old war ship, the glass museum, a Viking museum, spent an afternoon in Ebletoft (a beautiful old town that reminded me of Disney World), went to the “old town,” and immersed ourselves in Danish culture. I fell in love with the freedom of their culture (students were allowed to go anywhere for lunch!) and with my Danish hosts. Claus and Karen, Lotte and Peter, Grandma and Rikke: all of the Kofoeds welcomed me to Aarhus with open arms and many questions. They fed me meal after meal of Danish food. My favorite being frikadeller (Danish meatballs), but everything I ate, including liver pate, was delicious, and they encouraged me to take multiple servings of it all.

On Saturday night, we attended the Danish equivalent of a prom, the Queens Ball, where they danced Les Lanciers, a centuries old partner dance. The history and traditions of Denmark are everywhere you turn, including the 800 year old school, and it was incredible to spend that week in a place where everything has a past. My favorite part of the trip easily happened when I was hanging out with Lotte. We were sitting at her kitchen table and laughing hysterically about something, and it hit me how close she and I had become. Whether we were shopping, visiting with her boyfriend, or just sitting watching tv, the bonds I formed with her and the other Danes will be friendships I will have for the rest of my life.

At the train station Sunday morning there were hugs and tears, and plenty of pictures. As we boarded the train, I looked out of my window and saw my Danish family and friends waving back with tears in their eyes. These people, this city, had welcomed us, and saying goodbye seemed almost impossible. The experience I had in Aarhus is one I will never forget, as cliché as that sounds. The trip opened my eyes to a different culture, but it also solidified the notion that “people are people,” no matter where you go. 

Written by: Elena Wandzilak, Senior, one of 31 CHS students to travel to Denmark in April, 2012.
Posted: May 23, 2012 by Paula White

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