Scout International Student Exchange Program
My host family and I at the airport.
In July 2015, I received confirmation that my application for the Scouts International Student Exchange Programme had been accepted, and at the end of the year I would be travelling to Denmark as a South Australian Ambassador for Scouts, to live with a Danish family for 6 weeks.
Early November I met my host brother Markus via skype. They spoke English really well, which was lucky for me as I spoke no Danish yet. The only word I knew was ‘Tak’ which means thank you.
On the 29th of November, I left from Adelaide airport en-route to Denmark. We first flew to Melbourne in order to meet up with the other Aussies and together travelled for another 22 hours to eventually arrive in Copenhagen, Denmark. Some met their host families here at the airport, whereas I and a few others caught a train to other towns/cities in Denmark. After 3 hours I eventually arrived in the city of Aarhus, and was greeted by my host brothers: Markus and Alexander. My Danish Adventure had begun!
Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I became involved in daily Danish life through attending school, scouts and other family events and activities. It was fantastic to be able to be immersed into Danish and Scandinavian culture through learning about and taking part in traditional festive celebrations throughout the Christmas season. Although it was quite similar, the greatest cultural difference was the food. I found that their meals either contained fish or pork. Around Christmas time they generally eat alot of ‘rice pudding’ that contained lots of cream and almonds. Furthermore, they also have a lot of cheese, salami and traditional rye bread. At Christmas, as a family we danced around the Christmas tree, something very different to what is done in Australia.
The biggest shock I had upon arriving in Denmark was the cold. Even though I expected it to be so, I was still quite shocked at how freezing it really was. As my time in Denmark progressed, I found that the weather was warming up with the highest reaching a top of 10 degrees! We would often travel to school in the dark as the sun didn’t rise until 8.30am and then spend after school in the near dark also as the sun would set around 3.30pm. So different to Australia where we get so much sunshine. In my last week in Denmark the temperature suddenly plummeted and on the last few days, we were treated to storms, and quite considerable amounts of snow. Here, it was great to be able to go out tobogganing on some local hills and have great snowball fights right after school. This was quite exciting for me, seeing as I have never seen snow before!
Despite these new cold experiences, I did really come to miss the Australian heat and noticed that I really took it for granted when I was back home.
Whilst in Denmark, we as a family toured around to some amazing places and sightseeing locations. We road tripped around to the 3 highest points of Denmark (The highest being a whopping 170 metres high). We drove across to the West coast of Jutland to where the family’s holiday house is and explored the frozen beaches of White Sand City. We also popped down to Germany for a day and made our way across to Sweden for a weekend on a remote Swedish island to celebrate (Swedish) Christmas with the extended family.
On my final weekend, we went to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark to see the famous landmarks and sights here. We toured around the city and visited places such as The Palace to see the changing of the guards, the City Hall, The Round Tower and Nyhavn.
One of the biggest differences of Denmark compared to Australia is the school system. Over there high school is called ‘Gymnasium’ and runs from year 10 through to year 12. Rather than choosing individual subjects, students must choose a ‘line’ where the subjects are already set and decided. Whether that be a science, music, technology etc. Also, students are older by the time they finish school being 19 or 20 by the time they graduate.
One of the most difficult things I found whilst being in Denmark was the difficulty taking part in some general day-to-day activities. This was due to the fact that I had a very limited understanding of the Danish language. This was only an issue at school, however most of the students in the class did come up and have conversations with me in English, or translated what the group was talking about.
The Danish scouting system is very similar to Australia. We met once a week and took part in construction projects, or cooking over the fire. Our group for some reason was only boys- One of the only ones in the area. I was told that in the summer months the group did quite a lot of water activities as the hall was right next to the beach.
I treated my host family and new school mates to some of the culinary delights of Australia. Tim Tams and Fru-Chocs were a big hit with everybody. Vegemite was not liked by anyone and some were not even game to try it. I cooked Lamingtons, meat pies and even some kangaroo. Yes, we found frozen kangaroo in a supermarket in Denmark! It wasn’t cheap but definitely worth it for a little taste of Australia.
After 6 weeks of spending time and seeing all around the amazing country of Denmark, I with the other Aussies flew to England to spend a week in London. This meant that we had to part ways with our host families which we had become so attached to, over the past 6 weeks. A few tears were shed, but unfortunately we did have to leave.
Our accommodation in London was at the Baden-Powell House and here we met up with the other Scout Exchange students who had been staying in England. For the next 5 days we toured around London, seeing the sights and taking in what it had to offer with the help of Becca and James; two Rovers from England. We generally spent the morning as a large group seeing the main tourist attractions, and then splitting off into smaller groups for the afternoon, where we could go and do as we please throughout the city. We explored places such as the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Abbey Road and attended events like West End Theatre shows and Harry Potter World.
After spending the week in London, it was finally time to depart and head back home to Australia. The long flights via Dubai and Sydney meant that good sleeps were to be had. It was a bit of a shock to come back into the mid-summer heat after spending most of the time in sub-zero temperatures.
Overall, SISEP was by far one of the most amazing opportunities I have been able to experience within Scouting and Venturers! To be able to be overseas in another country for almost 2 months was fantastic, and to be immersed within a different culture was a fantastic new experience.
By Samuel Abdilla
Leah and I. The two South Australians before we left Adelaide to go to Denmark!
The city of Aarhus from the harbour.
Exploring the Old Town in Aarhus
Me cutting down the Christmas tree
The street in Odense where the famous writer H.C. Anderson was born.
My classmates completing an assignment during their lunch break at school.
Celebrating Christmas with a family dinner.
The island which we stayed on in Sweden.
The local lake which had frozen over in the cold weather.
Seeing snow for the first time. On one of my last days in Denmark.
We came across the rare ‘hair ice’.
Big Ben was one of the many sightseeing attractions we saw in and around London.
Oxford Street in London at night.